A little rough around the edges it may be, but El Raval is the Barcelona neighbourhood that everyone is talking about.
Get lost in the narrow, typically Catalan streets and stumble upon truly unique shops and fashion designers in the backstreets of El Raval. Street concerts are commonplace during the day and the district comes alive during the night when you can feel the real pulse of Barcelona.
Once a no-go zone for tourists, the neighbourhood still suffers from a bad reputation but the city has worked hard to clean up its act. This has not been without its controversy though, as old tenement buildings have been knocked down to facilitate the building of art centres and hotels.
It remains one of the most densely populated areas of the city and has a big multicultural population, which adds significant diversity to the shops and restaurants on offer.
Two of the city’s main markets are located on the edge of El Raval: La Boqueria and El Mercat Sant Antoni. If you want to buy some fresh fruits, vegetables, or meat, or if you just want to sample some typical Catalan plates, tapas or fresh juice drinks, these two markets are worth the visit.
MACBA Contemporary Art Museum
Combining straight lines and curves in a memorable modern building, MACBA is dedicated to works from the second half of the 20th century. In 1986, Barcelona City Council invited the North American architect Richard Meierto take charge of the project for the new museum.
The museum opened to the public in 1995, well after the 1992 Summer Olympics for which it was planned. In 2014, the museum acquired a converted 15th-century chapel and two large halls, as well as the central Plaça dels Angels square.
Sant Pau del Camp
This small Romanesque church along the Carrer de Sant Pau is a haven of peace, a chance to escape from the hustle and bustle of El Raval. Its thick stone walls enshrine the mysteries and wonders of a primitive architectural style steeped in symbolism which hint at the days when convents dotted the Barcelona landscape. Don’t miss the splendid monastery cloister with polylobulate arches.
Shopping in El Raval
Whether it’s vintage clothing, local food or unusual gifts you are after, Raval is the neighbourhood for you with many independent shops tucked away on the narrow streets.
Full of hidden musical treasures, Dosmil2000 is a vintage electronic store located on Carrer de Valldonzella. On the same street and close to the Universitat metro stop is Holala! is a large vintage clothing store with a focus on the 80s. Carrer de Joaquín Costa is home to yet more interesting stores such as the cosmetic haven Les Topettes and the Wilde eyewear store featuring a great selection of sunglasses.