This Raval district guide will walk you through the streets of the most intercultural and colorful neighborhoods of Barcelona.
El Raval district, the most contradicting and most densely populated city area, is marked by Plaza Catalunya on the north, borders La Rambla on the east and delimited by Ronda Sant Antoni and Ronda de Sant Pau on the Southwest. Broad Avenue Parallel marks the district on the South.
Narrow streets which usually reject to caring sun beams become a perfect setting to play with you sensitive imagination. The atmosphere is quite nerve-racking, especially in the night; nevertheless, the district is safe and has a lot of gems to explore.
El Raval History vs Nowadays
It’s dirty and ugly reputation is closely related to the history of the area. El Raval started its formation behind defensive walls of Old City and was made up of small markets and farms to supply the city.
Later on, the Industrial Revolution of 1850 brought there many immigrants, who lived in shabby slums and couldn’t afford to live in the city.
As you may guess the area became a perfect ground for criminality proliferation, especially taking into account close location to the port. So the low part of El Raval became a heart of sex industry with the plethora of brothels, drug trafficking, robberies and all kinds of crimes a wicked mind could imagine.
As you enter the district, walls of the old buildings radiate with all the stories they have seen. That’s why you make a sigh of relief when you leave the area.
Much of Raval has changed a lot: ongoing regeneration schemes have dramatically altered the social, environmental and economic characteristics of it.
Many of slums have been demolished, cheap hostels closed, or some replaced by big internationals, like Barcelo Raval(one of my favorite roof terraces with views!), video surveillance and even new police stations have been set up.
Unfortunately, all these measures don’t prevent ongoing petty crimes nowadays. Nevertheless, I am not trying to scare you away, just trying to persuade you to be attentive and reasonable, while exploring the area, especially late at night.
I guess, the description makes it pretty clear that travelers with children should consider another district for accommodation. You might be interested in quiet and residential Gracia or centric and refined Eixample Esquerra.
Nevertheless, if you want to feel a real multicultural scent and drawn into diversity in it’s good and bad embodiment, in case you are an experienced traveler or a fearless romantic, El Raval is an interesting idea to choose your shelter in.
It is centric and always surprising. Wandering around you will be bouncing into small authentic shops, pretty galleries and cozy eateries with charming terraces. But don’t be too random there are some sights you shouldn’t miss and some are to be avoided.
MACBA and CCCB
Going down Carrer l’Hospital, the main road in the upper part of Raval, you will bounce into the finest center of urban culture in Europe addressed to social and cultural development.
Right there you might feel like visiting MACBA, which collection starts from 50-s with its material abstraction and “follows the evolution of European pop, the avant-garde of the sixties and seventies, the centrality of the word and poetic experience and the return of photographic figurative.”
Along with contemporary collection, the museum embraces temporary exhibitions, including works of emerging artists.
Despite MACBA became a main player on the city contemporary playground, its cryptic minimalism may seem too popularized for you if so find other alternatives in Barcelona Museums.
As for art, visit Carrer Riera, where many local artists have set up their studios and small shops. In fact, the area is very appealing to art students, who prefer bohemian charm and heterogeneous ambiance to prim and proper Example (or this explanation is just a good excuse since majority can’t afford to rent a flat in the area for fat cats).
While walking along Carrer l’Hospital, you have this slight premonition that there should be a hospital somewhere here. And your deductive reasoning is not mistaken. A civil gothic architecture building, which attracts the eye one the right side of the street is exactly what you are looking for.
The former Hospital de La Santa Creu
It was built in XV century with the idea to unite six hospitals in one site. The hospital was maintained by monks, as a Christian duty, they provided a free treatment to anyone who asked for it. The hospital was functioning until 1926.
One of its last patients was Antoni Gaudi, who died there three days after he had been hit by a tram.
Now the building is occupied by the State Library, Royal Academy of Medicine and the old hospital chapel, which is now an exhibition space. A cozy patio is a perfect spot to make a break in the shadow of orange trees and perceive the mystery of the district.
For a reason, I have dropped the name of a famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. After all, the city breathes with its name on every corner, and El Raval is not an exception.
Just a few steps off La Rambla on the Carrer Nou de la Rambla you will see a magnificent art nouveau building. Palau Güell, which resembles Venetian palaces with its front facade, is one of the early works of Antoni Gaudi.
But Gaudí was not only an architect and an engineer, he also was a creative designer, who decorated the house with the impressive ceramic, stained glass, and stonework. All the magnificent interior is also the achievement of the genius. So if you find yourself nearby on a rainy day, don’t hesitate to drop by.
Gato de Raval (El Raval cat)
On the eastern end of La Rambla del Raval, you will find a cute and fat piece of figurative art of the Colombian sculptor Fernando Botero. The cat roamed about Barcelona and finally found its home in Raval, significantly expanding district’s sights of interest.
This pretty creature with exaggerated forms and metal whiskers is believed to bring you good luck and prosperity. You just have to perform a number of easy moves. Approach the cat from behind, find a proof that the cat is a male creature and rub it carefully:)
Keep on rubbing until you feel you got a little luckier.
They say you can’t find an authentic Flamenco in Barcelona. It is partially true. The majority of places offer a mock, rather than a real passionate gypsy dance.
Nevertheless, in the area, you can bounce into a couple of spots where you can experience authentic Flamenco. Check out Robadors 23 and La Rouge.
They don’t have shows every day, but if you are lucky (rubbed well the cat) or if you figure in advance the timetable, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the show.
Where to eat in Raval
You will not stay hungry in Raval, even during the siesta time. There is a versatile choice of places from chic and expensive to hipsterish and affordable. The article where to eat in Raval will answer your question.
Where to stay in Raval
Oh, yes, my adventurous friend! I knew you that this mysterious and ambiguous district is captivating for your darker side. Check out Ramblas Boqueria Apartments, though located in Raval but safe and calm to make your sleep tight and profound.
Here’s the virtual tour of one the apartments with 4 bedrooms with enough space to accommodate 10 guests, if you’re still not convinced about it!
The good, the bad and the ugly… EL Raval is the place to experience it all. Remember to pay a couple of visits to local bodegas to try homemade vermouth. Don’t lose yourself in a tipsy spree, sensibility is the key in this district.