El Raval, considered to be the most controversial neighbourhood of the city, is part of Barcelona’s district Ciutat Vella (Catalan for “Old City”), along with the Gothic Quarter, the Born and the Barceloneta. Why controversial? The area houses numerous bohemian bars, trendy restaurants, is home to some of the best museums in all Barcelona, yet it also has a reputation of a “sketchy” nightlife atmosphere with pickpockets, prostitutes, and drug dealers. Is it still possible to convince you to visit it? I hope so, as I highly recommend it!
Culture in El Raval
Not so long ago, El Raval was an area where locals from other parts of the city wouldn’t go to, though the plan of the City Council to clean it up and attract different than usual crowds seems to be working. Increasing the culture specter in El Raval resulted in opening such modern attractions as the Museum of Contemporary Art Barcelona (MACBA) and the Center of Contemporary Culture Barcelona (CCCB). As MACBA quite proudly states, it’s “Barcelona’s own take on the Tate”. You know the only way to find out if it’s true, right?
The culture trip in El Raval doesn’t end there – find an opera house “Gran Teatre del Liceu”, “Museu Marítim de Barcelona” dedicated to the Catalan maritime history and a former monastery yet still a church today “Sant Pau del Camp”. Nowadays Barcelona wouldn’t be Barcelona without Gaudí’s masterpieces everywhere, and the mansion “Palau Güell” is Gaudí’s jewel in El Raval. Visit these cultural treasures and stroll along the Rambla del Raval and you’ll see the area in new colors. Much brighter ones for sure!:)
Trendy bars – that’s what you will not miss out on in El Raval. From the oldest bar in Barcelona “Marsella”, which once served Picasso and Hemingway, to the quite cheap and therefore a student favorite “ Tavern L’ovella Negra”, lively bar culture is a thing of El Raval. Bars everywhere prove that, but the biggest concentration of them can be found in Joaquím Costa street, which you can spend the whole night in!
Some other places to check out: “Betty Ford’s” for the best burgers and cocktails, “Casa Almirall” for the best vermouth with a skewered olive.
Shopping in El Raval
El Raval can be considered the cheapest area among the Ciutat Vella, and such a pot of arts and cultures, so reasonably priced boutiques, discount stores, vintage boutiques, artsy design stores is what you will find here if you are up for a shopping spree! Stroll along the Joaquím Costa street and the streets surrounding it and find some hidden gems!
Even though in the past El Raval could be considered the “sketchy” area to avoid, it has been stepping up its’ game and has become a trendy cultural center. And yes, you might experience a bit more “raw” lifestyle than in the rest of Barcelona, but I suggest looking at it simply as a unique edgy vibe of the area, and it might surprise you. In a good way of course!
If you are looking for accommodation in Barcelona, my offer is the beautiful Parlament Balconies apartment! Located not in El Raval, but just next to it, it is a very central apartment and will be a perfect option for a big family or a group of friends!