into Barcelona

El Born, Barcelona, Spain Book from Eur130

Reviewed by Tom Bell
Contemporary apartments in Barcelona’s trendy El Born district, plus quirky walking tours for foodies, designers and culture vultures
What marks these apartments out from all others is that the people who run them offer truly groovy tours of the city, with insiders showing outsiders Barca’s best-kept secrets. You can stalk the streets in search of food, wine, shops and art, or bar-hop with people in the know; there are even tailored tours for those with kids in tow. We thought we’d seen it all before, but our walking tour exhilarated us like no other and made our stay in the city.

These 49 apartments are wrapped up in the mazy ancient alleyways of El Born and the Gothic Quarter. El Born is one of the chic-est areas in town, full of cool bars, restaurants and boutiques. To complete a hat trick of reasons to come, it’s a walk from the sea (the city’s fishermen used to live here) and, in summer, clubs, bars and restaurants open up along the beach. Split between mostly 18th-century buildings, the apartments are all close to each other, with 1 or 2 bedrooms, a living area and kitchen, and perhaps a small balcony or roof terrace. Good value for money and you’ll feel like a local.

Highs

  • The stylish interiors are just the ticket
  • You get more flexibility and space than a hotel room, with an optional breakfast delivery service; great for families and groups of friends
  • Brilliant location with restaurants, tapas bars and boutiques on your doorstep - and staff are full of tips and recommendations to help you explore
  • Great prices for a European city and, unusually for apartments, you can book for just 1 or 2 nights
  • Fun walking tours that uncover some of the city's hidden gems

Lows

  • El Born and the Gothic Quarter are popular at night, so expect some noise - and occasionally sounds from adjoining apartments
  • Beds are a bit hard and not huge; bedrooms in the Sant Pere apartments are windowless and have single beds
  • No parking in pedestrianised zones - taxis can drop you off 100m-200m away
  • Cooking facilities are limited in some apartments, and basic supplies (condiments, washing-up liquid etc) are often missing, but there are plenty of shops and places to eat out nearby

Best time to go

Barcelona is buzzing all year, except perhaps the last couple of weeks in August when many of the shops and bars in El Born and the Gothic Quarter might be shut. December to February can be chilly, although the Catalans embrace the Christmas/New Year period with gusto. If you want warm weather without overbearing heat, visit in May, June, September or October.

Our top tips

Take a leisurely stroll down to Barceloneta beach. It's a great place to escape the city heat, and in summer you'll find bars and alfresco restaurants strung out along the seafront. Parc de la Ciutadella park is another wonderful spot for a lazy afternoon, with lawns, fountains, a lake and a zoo to explore.

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Family
Foodie
  • = Makes the grade
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Apartments
  • 49 1- and 2-bedroom apartments
  • Self-catering (restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Concierge Service
Room: Mercat del Borne 2-bedroom apartment

Rooms

The apartments are split between converted 18th- and 19th-century buildings in the very charming and intimate El Born area - on the Paseo del Born, Carrer Esparteria, Carrer Vidreria, Carrer de la Pescateria and Plaça del Mercat. A 10-minute walk away, in the equally central Gothic Quarter, are more apartments on Carrer Sant Pere.

Paseo del Born 1-bedroom studio apartments

Esparteria 1- and 2-bedroom apartments

Vidreria 1-bedroom studio apartments

Sant Pere 2-bedroom apartments

Mercat del Born 1- and 2-bedroom apartments

Pescateria large 1-bedroom apartments

Features include:

  • Internet access
  • Satellite tv
  • Internet access
  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Full kitchen
  • Fridge
  • Hob stove
  • Toaster
  • Washing machine in most
  • CD player/stereo in most
  • Oven and microwave in most

Eating

The self-catered nature of the apartments means you have the flexibility to prepare your meals as and when you fancy; breakfast delivery can also be arranged for an additional charge. Kitchen facilities in each apartment vary - see below for full details:

Paseo del Born 1-bedroom studio apartments

Esparteria 1- and 2-bedroom apartments

Vidreria 1-bedroom studio apartments

Sant Pere 2-bedroom apartments

Mercat del Born 1- and 2-bedroom apartments

Pescateria large 1-bedroom apartments

Note that basics such as tea, coffee, condiments and washing-up liquid are often not provided in the apartments, so you may have to stock up when you arrive. When it comes to food shopping, there are plenty of little grocery stores in the area, as well as the fantastic markets of La Boqueria and Santa Caterina, both brimming with fresh produce.

The area also has heaps of tapas bars and restaurants - you won’t have to walk far to find one (though you may have to queue). On the loveliest little square in El Born, Plaça des Olles, is Bar Restaurant La Catalana, where you can relax in the shade of cream parasols and dine on delicious squid. We also had an unforgettable meal at Espai Sucre (Princesa 53, tel: +34 93 268 16 30) - a sweet little place, in more ways than one. You get a small main course, then 4 puddings followed by a superlative selection of home-baked biscuits, jellies and chocolates. Our first course, duck breast in a chocolate sauce, was as good as anything we ate in Barcelona.

Features include:

  • Children meals
  • Cooking Classes
  • Food and wine
  • Full kitchen
  • Fridge
  • Hob stove
  • Toaster
  • Walk to restaurants
  • Breakfast delivery by arrangement
Eating: Esparteria 2-bedroom apartment
Activity: La Pedrera

Activities

The apartments are all within easy walking distance of the Paseo del Born, the sights and sounds of the Gothic Quarter, the famous thoroughfare of Las Ramblas, Parc de la Ciutadella, and the beach of Barceloneta.

If you want to get to know the city, into Barcelona will tailor-make some of the best city tours you could hope for: leisurely strolls around hidden gems, undertaken in very small groups with wonderfully knowledgeable guides. There’s a whole raft of tours to choose from, so enquire when you book. Here are a few examples to whet your appetite:

  • Walking tours around the backstreets and architectural delights of El Born and the Gothic Quarter - a great way to get to know your surroundings at the start of your visit. You might discover ancient hospitals, a hidden ballroom, tiny bars with sawdust on the floor, even a groovy lollipop shop where you can watch multi-coloured sweets being made
  • The Bohemian Barcelona by Night tour, which takes you though Chinatown and El Raval, a beautiful old district that’s on the up, but which has not allowed its colourful past to be whitewashed from its present
  • Shopping tours led by ex-fashion designer Lisa Richardson and her Milanese business partner Niki, both of whom are undoubtedly cool but not painfully so. Whether you want haute couture, one-off homewares or vintage fashion, they can lead you to Barcelona’s best names, as well as places you never knew existed. Tours can also include a visit to the city's famous flea market in Gloriès
  • Gaudí tours to Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, and Modernisme tours leading you through Miró’s Barcelona and up to Mies van der Rohe’s famous Barcelona Pavilion on Montjuïc Hill
  • A gastro tour around hidden food shops and La Boqueria (one of Europe’s finest markets), where you can rub shoulders with the city’s best chefs, who all come here to buy their grub
  • Tapas tours, which encompass the market and finish with a hands-on cooking class in your apartment, before you sit down to scoff the spoils with a bottle of something local
  • A wine tour to the vineyards of the Penedes region, south west of the city. You have a full day of tasting, with lunch at a traditional restaurant and a stop at a Cava vineyard set in blistering countryside

If the above all sounds a touch tiring, then stay put and be pampered. Makeovers, facials, pedicures, hair cuts and massages can all be arranged at your apartment.

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Kids activities nearby
  • Cooking Classes
  • Food and wine
  • History religious
  • Museum
  • Nightlife
  • Private guided tours
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Wine tasting
  • Shopping

Kids

i-escape's Best for Kids Awards 2014
Winner: Best For City Breaks
> See the full list of winners

Carrie, who runs these apartments, is also the brains behind www.mumabroad.com and knows everything you could ever need to know about children and Barcelona.

The apartments are a great option for families in Barcelona, set near Parc de la Ciutadella (home to Barcelona's zoo, and site of an annual children's festival, La Tamborinada, held each May) and close to Barceloneta beach. The various sizes and layouts on offer provide plenty of flexibility for families, and the tailored tours available through into Barcelona are a fun way for visitors of all ages to discover the city - child-friendly options range from themed Columbus tours to seafront tours on scooters.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

The 2-bedroom Mercat del Born apartments work well for families with 1 child as they each have a double bedroom and a single bedroom. Another good option are the 1-bedroom apartments in Esparteria and Vidreria, which have sofabeds in the living areas.




For larger families, the 2-bedroom apartments in Esparteria are a great option (some have bunk beds), as are the 2-bedroom apartments in Sant Pere, which have 2 bathrooms. All of these have a double sofabed in the living room, so can sleep up to 6 people in total.




Some, but not all, apartments have a bathtub, and baby cots are available in all apartments on request.

Babysitting:

English-speaking babysitting is available by arrangement through an agency. See Rates; book in advance.

Baby equipment:


  • Cots

  • Highchairs

  • Bottle warming

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

The kitchens are well equipped but note that they don't have blenders for baby food; some of the smaller apartments have no microwave or oven, either. You can buy everything you need nearby; there are also child-friendly eateries within walking distance, and you can book breakfast delivery or order takeaway.

Kids Activities nearby:


  • Playground in Plaça Palau

  • Parc de la Ciutadella (zoo, boating lake, plenty of room to run around)

  • Barceloneta beach

  • Maritime Museum (complete with full-size replica warships)

  • Gaudí's fairytale architecture at Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell

  • Cable-car rides up Montjuïc
  • Light shows at the Font Màgica on Montjuïc (days and times vary according to season; check in advance)

  • Barcelona Aquarium

  • Tibidabo Amusement Park (perched on a hill overlooking the city)

Families Should Know:

Some apartments are duplex, although stairgates can be provided on request. Other apartments are reached via a steep spiral staircase which may be difficult to negotiate with buggies and toddlers.

Distances:

  • Airport: 30 minutes
  • Hospital: 15 minutes
  • Shop: 1 minute
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

8/
Rooms
10/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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