La Ribera and El Born, Barcelona Travel Guide
Sant Pere and La Ribera Summary
- Hitory-rich neighborhoods with gorgeous 14th- to 18th-century architecture
- Hopping dining and shopping district
- The Mercat del Born has some of the most impressive ruins in all Barcelona
- Major attractions like Santa Maria del Mar Basilica and the Palau de la Musica Catalana
- Easy access to tranquil Ciutadella Park, upscale Eixample neighborhood and lively La Rambla
- Pedestrian-friendly despite the fact that there are few sidewalks (especially in La Ribera area)
- The Picasso Museum has some of the painter’s most important works housed in a stunning Renaissance building
- Public transportation only available on the perimeter of the area
- Mostly narrow streets with no sidewalks (but little traffic)
- Only indoor (expensive) parking available
What It's Like
Like the Gothic Quarter, Sant Pere and La Ribera have gorgeous centuries-old architecture and narrow streets. The vibe is also somewhat similar to the Gothic Quarter's, with a vibrant mixture of cutting-edge and old. Here, stunning stone-and-wood buildings tower over skinny cobblestoned streets lined with designers boutiques, tiny restaurants full of character, and hole-in-the-wall cafes.
Stagnated for years, La Ribera (and El Born -- its “neighborhood within a neighborhood”) is now one of the hot spots in town, where young and old locals mingle with tourists in bars and taverns housed in 18th-century buildings. El Mercat del Born, a beautiful glass and iron market built in the late 19th century, has some of the most stunning ruins in all Barcelona, and 14th century Santa Maria del Mar Basilica is not to be missed.
Sant Pere, La Ribera’s neighbor to the north, feels slightly less historic and more traditional, with the same narrow streets lined with small shops and tiny cafes, but with a somewhat more contemporary, middle-class neighborhood ambiance.
The major attraction in the neighborhood aside from the cobblestone streets and the good shopping and dining scene, is arguably the Palau de la Musica Catalana, a magnificent Modernist concert hall built in the first decade of the 20th century. The Santa Catarina Market, a huge marketplace with a stunning design located right on the border of Ribera and Sant Pere neighborhoods, is a wonderful place to spend part of a morning taking a look at all the fresh produce used in the wonderful Catalan cuisine. Just make sure you have good walking shoes with you -- walking is the best (and almost only) way to explore the area. Having a car here is far more frustrating and expensive than taking the subway to one of the stops in the perimeter of the area and walking around.
Where to Stay
The area around busy Via Laietana might be the most convenient for those willing to be equidistant from most attractions in La Ribera, Sant Pere and the Gothic Quarter, but this spot lacks the charm of other streets deeper into the neighborhoods. Hotels along this thoroughfare are mostly mid-range chains with no character and little local flavor.
For easy access to stunning Modernist architecture, lively La Rambla area and upscale Eixample neighborhood, stay in Sant Pere. Those who don’t mind trading natural light for good bargains and small boutiques might prefer La Ribera. El Born offers easy access to Ronda del Litoral (and the airport), beautiful Ciutadella Park, and the hopping waterfront.