My trip to Barcelona in December 2015 included a couple of touristy things for a change, first up was the El Born Cultural Centre.
The building in use now was the old Mercat del Born, which was designed in 1873 and opened in 1878, as is the case within Barcelona as a market for the local area.
I was aware a number of years ago that the old market building was going to be turned into a Library (if that had happened in the UK, it would have closed down again…) and whilst undergoing renovation, they discovered underneath extensive medieval ruins, of the part of the city classed as La Ribera. It is still called this today, though most tourists will only know it by the name El Born, which actually is only a couple of streets.
La Ribera as was, was basically destroyed after the Siege of Barcelona in 1714, which lost Barcelona almost 20% of its size at the time to make way for La Ciutedella (Citadel fortress) to enable the Spanish conquerors to maintain control over the city.
September 11th 1714, is the date that Catalunya lost its independence, which is one of the current major issues within Catalunya and Spain, as there are massive demands from a large number of people within Catalunya to regain this independence. The date is also their National Day.
The date of opening as the cultural centre was 14th September 2013, inside the ruins have been preserved and you can tour these at a cost, though you can come into the centre for free for a look around. Also, there are a number of exhibitions on, some permanent and some temporary, and the cost for these was €6 which included a mobile phone guide (with a hired phone) with headphones, and you have to leave a passport or similar so you don’t run off with the phone…
The permanent exhibitions show what Barcelona would have been like in 1700 and the progress to the Siege of Barcelona, it is a fascinating insight into local history and should be a must for anyone wanting to find out what the city was like three hundred years ago, and the fight that ensued to try and remain independent.
As well as the exhibitions and the ruins, on one part of the building is a large book and gift shop and also a bar restaurant called El 300 del Born run by the brewery Moritz. No idea what the food is like but the beer is half decent and not as gassy as Estrella Damm, and was very reasonably priced considering if you went to most of the bars local to the centre it’d probably cost a lot more.
Time wise, if you do the exhibitions as well as following the guide round the ruins (not the ruins guide as such as that has to be booked), you can easily spend two-three hours in here, then time for a beer or two.
Next up will be the Catalan History Museum.