Barcelona is a city that’s divided up into lots of little distinct neighborhoods. Part of the fun of exploring the city is getting to know each one of those district’s personalities. But some of them are cooler than others, and one of the very coolest neighborhoods is El Born.
Last month, I was invited on a very unusual tour through El Born with FotoRuta. The tour couldn’t have been a better fit for me, as it combines two of my favorite things – Barcelona and learning about photography! Basically, professional photographers guide you through a visually fascinating neighborhood, and on the way they help you improve your photos to get the shots that you want.
Anyway, El Born is pretty much the perfect neighborhood for anybody hoping to get interesting photos of Barcelona. It’s colorful, quirky, and so Barcelona. The whole district has got a combination of traditional looks and a new, hip vibe, and the result is a fantastic mix.
That’s the reason that El Born is a popular neighborhood for both locals and visitors alike. When I was looking for an apartment, I would have loved to live here. (I ended up in the other cool kid neighborhood, Gràcia).
El Born is packed full of tourist draws like the Picasso Museum and Santa María del Mar church, as well as some smaller hidden treasures like the Convent de Sant Agustí (a convent turned civic center) and quiet plazas adorned with delicate ironwork lampposts and bold street art.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that you could spend all day taking photos of El Born and still be left wanting more.
Speaking of photos, like a lot of new photographers, I often think I’ve gotten a much better photo than I actually have. It can be really, really frustrating to download your pictures and see your big ideas have translated into mediocrity.
Luckily, I came away from the afternoon with FotoRuta feeling more satisfied with my photos than ever before. I couldn’t wait to get home to see the shots that I’d come up with. When I did look at them, I had lots more interesting shots than I usually do. This doesn’t always happen to me, but when it does, it’s so gratifying to look at a batch of photos and realize that they’re a real improvement.
Part of that improvement comes from having spent 30-40 minutes in a single square playing with different angles and perspectives. At first, I felt a bit silly and shy. Everyone else on the tour had very professional-looking cameras. I awkwardly clutched my borrowed camera and nervously took a few shots.
But once I chatted a bit with the guides, I felt way better. Alejandro and Fran checked in on everyone and patiently answered all of our questions, no matter how basic. They also asked to see some of your shots on the way, offering suggestions for how to improve them or pointing out why one shot was better than another.
Things that I liked didn’t always look quite as good to a professional eye, while a few things I might have overlooked at home were better ideas than I thought.
That little confidence boost meant I started feeling more like a photographer, which meant I started seeing parts of the Born in a new light. The brash street art would be fun to shoot, but maybe it would be even better if I captured another element in it too – so I tried waiting for some cyclists to bike through. The resulting shot wasn’t perfect, but I was proud of it for the idea.
Or maybe a shot of a pretty building would be more interesting if I could find some kind of frame for it. Yep, I was pleased with this one too, even though it’s not perfect either.
At the end of the tour, we all shared and discussed our pictures with a cold beer. Each of the 9 people on the tour got a different perspective on this little neighborhood – I was shocked by the variety (and admittedly outright jealous of some of the photos that I wished I’d taken!). And it turned out to my relief, most people on the tour were just hobby photographers like me.
Overall, I had a fantastic afternoon out with FotoRuta. It was a different way to get to see some of Barcelona, and it was way more fun than a regular photography workshop. Plus, your photos will definitely improve. (You can check out their website for a list of all the tours they have). I’d love to try their iPhone tour too – that sounds like a blast! I’d recommend them, no matter what your photography level.
(One note – as the tour is focused on photography , this isn’t a guided walk through Barcelona’s top sights and history. You get to see some very cool stuff, but it’s not your typical Barcelona tour. I think that’s a plus, but if you’re looking for the ‘top 10’ stuff to get your bearings in the city, then there are different tours that would be a better fit).
Here are a few more highlights of El Born neighborhood:
The beautiful Convent de Sant Agustí:
There are always lots of kids out and about in Barcelona’s squares, no matter what neighborhood you’re in:
Kids playing in the Convent de Sant Agustí:
A man probably on his way from work:
Men having a conversation outside a bank:
The city’s starting to change from day to night:
A motorcycle zips through the darkening streets:
A woman walks down one of the illuminated streets:
Thank you very much again to FotoRuta for inviting me along on their tour! This was one of my favorite travel/tourism experiences of the year, no exaggeration.
I try not to write too much about specific tours, because otherwise my blog would become one big advertising space. But I would have written about this tour even if I hadn’t been invited – it’s really fun. I know I’ve written more about things like this in the past year, but as always, I’m keeping all the opinions completely honest (even though they are usually very positive, they are always sincere).