Modern and contemporary Barcelona, as explained by El Born

27/02/2024 - 11:55 h

Ajuntament de Barcelona

The former market becomes part of the network of MUHBA sites.


The site of the former Mercat del Born is embarking on a new chapter in its history, becoming part of the network of facilities making up the Museu d’Història de Barcelona (MUHBA). The narrative of the site that explains what Barcelona was like from the Roman era through to the present day will centre on the Modern age (roughly from the 15th century to the 18th century) up to the point the city hosted the Universal Expo of 1888.

The new chapter in the life of the site, which will include the legacy of the stage immediately before this change, has been designed by the geographer, historian and director of the MUHBA, Joan Roca i Albert, together with an advisory team of 24 people and the support of a social and institutional working network.

The building housing the former market, built in the 19th century, was one of the first iron and glass constructions to be erected in Europe and has become one the biggest archaeological sites on the continent, with a surface area of nearly 8,000 square metres, illustrating what Barcelona was like in the 17th and 18th centuries.

This double connection that the building has with the 17th and 18th centuries will shape its future use, serving to clearly explain the history of the city during this period and adding all the information that has been found and systemised in recent years. All this, with the context of the European situation in that period providing essential information to understand what was going on in Catalonia at that time.

The changes at El Born will set out a new museum narrative, which we will see the results of between La Mercè 2024 and Santa Eulàlia 2025. Next year will see the exhibitions and the different spaces at the facility revised and updated, with the building offering a new look in 2026.

What will be the most visible changes? The Sala Castellví, which housed the bar and restaurant, will become the temporary exhibition hall. This space will be inaugurated with the exhibition “Europa urbes, 1500-2000”, where we can see a comparison of the evolution of European cities from the end of the Middle Ages to the early 21st century.

Permanent exhibitions at the new Born will be housed in the Sala Villarroel and the Sala Casanova. The former will host the exhibition “La ciuitat gremial, Barcelona, 1700”, offering a vision of the city between the years of 1500 and 1700. The latter will enable us to see what the industrialisation process was like in Barcelona, how the city became the global centre of urban planning with Cerdà, the development of El Born and the Parc de la Ciutadella, and the Universal Expo of 1888, which shaped the future progress of the city just as the 20th century was about to begin. For its part, the Sala Moragues will continue to be used as a function hall.

The subsoil at the former market, occupied by the archaeological site, will also see some changes to make it more accessible to visitors and boost the information on the Rec Comtal, the old water channel that once supplied the city.