There is a bohemian vibe to the Raval neighborhood, Barcelona’s most colourful district. Raval is where it all happens, the good, the bad and even the ugly. With trendy shops, fantastic food, cool bars, contemporary culture and an endless amount of wonderful characters.
El Raval’s history
Barcelona’s Raval neighbourhood has so much history, it was bordered in by the city walls until 1859 and is now bounded by La Rambla, Carrer Pelai, Ronda Sant Antoni, Ronda Sant Pere and Paral·lel. Which makes it a brilliant location. The area which had been the site of fields and convents until the mid-19th century, saw the construction of textile mills and workers’ houses. As a result of its industrialisation and proximity to the port, the Raval became a neighborhood with a high immigrant population, where social problems were a commonplace. And it was because of this that the area was named the Barrio Chino (Chinatown) in 1925, more lately renamed the Raval. The lower part of Raval, near the port, used to be famous as the city’s “red-light district”.
Until 1988 when the government started a huge urban regeneration project and invested a lot of money in cleaning up the area. The efforts made by Barcelona City Council since the 1990s to clean up and improve living conditions in Raval neighborhood, by building new streets, such as the Rambla del Raval, and creating institutions which have had a major impact on its social and cultural life, such as the CCCB and MACBA, have given Raval back its reputation and prestige.
MACBA & CCCB
MACBA is definitely worth a visit, the museum for contemporary art in Barcelona. It has works from artists all over the world and they offer tons of exhibitions, changing every three to six months. MACBA is one of the most famous places for skaters, you will see the square full of skaters from early morning till the late hours of the night. The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) is also a great place to check out. This venue is one of the most prestigious in the world. The CCCB is run by a team of people who take charge of programming, producing, managing and communicating cultural activities.
Rambla del Raval
This gorgeous street is lined with palm trees on both sides. Walking down Rambla del Raval, you will see a giant cat. Fernando Botero’s playful statue “The Cat”, is a true symbol of this part of town. You will find these streets lined with urban art, cafes, bars and restaurants.
The district’s regeneration has also provided the impetus for smart bars and restaurants to settle down, and now as well as classic drinking dens like Bar Marsella is located off the bottom of Rambla del Raval. This old bar was loved by the legendary Picasso and Hemingway, particularly for its absinthe.
If we still haven’t convinced you to visit Raval, then maybe Antoni Gaudí can. There are plenty of Gaudí masterpieces to see in Barcelona but in El Raval you can find the beautiful Palau Güell. Palau Güell, is an amazing palace built for his patron Eusebi Güell between 1886 to 1888 on Nou de la Rambla. Today this amazing building is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. This incredible architectural work by Antoni Gaudí is known as one of the most magnificent buildings of its time, and of the entire art nouveau movement. You can join our tour though El Raval to learn more about this beautiful piece of history.
Unfortunately, the famous architect died in this very district. After being hit by a tram, he was mistaken for a tramp and taken to the local public hospital, the old Hospital de la Santa Creu where he died three days later. The hospital today houses the Catalan library, art schools and other cultural organisations, but you can visit its peaceful courtyard, a lovely little oasis in the middle of the city.
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