El Raval is a district in the old centre of Barcelona. It is situated between the world famous boulevard of La Rambla, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes and Avenida Parallel towards Montjuic.
El Raval has been densely populated in the beginning of the 19th century. Those days Barcelona was only able to expand within the old city walls. Most new inhabitants that were pulled towards prospering Barcelona found their first home in El Raval since they were not able to pay the high rents in neighbouring Barri Gotic.
Not a lot has changed in that sense and thus El Raval today is a vibrant, multi-cultural district full of authentic personality. However, some areas of El Raval are considered rather unsafe at night. Especially pick-pocketing and prostitution have become problems although a large urban regeneration project in the 1990s has improved the situation.
El Raval is not as chic as Eixample and it definitely lacks the big brand boutiques. But there is a huge variety of shopping, bars, cafes and restaurants that create a unique urban experience. Small, independent shops offering uncommon clothes, cheap food stalls and hidden bars – this is the Raval experience. Even late at night, there is always a place being open that will serve you a cold beer or a snack.
From a tourist perspective, the first things to see in El Raval probably are the modern art museum MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona) and the centre of contemporary culture CCCB (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona). Around them, local artists show their works in small shops and galleries.
For those who adore the Spanish cuisine, a stroll over one of El Raval’s beautiful markets is a must. You can choose between Mercat Sant Antoni in the western part close to Gran Via or Mercat de la Boquería, directly on la Rambla. Typically for a harbour city, both places offer you all thinkable varieties of seafood. But even if you are not into fish, there are plenty of fruits and vegetables as well as local specialities like Iberian ham and Catalan Butifarra sausages.
And since it is difficult to wander through a district of Barcelona without paying a visit to any modernista work of Antoni Gaudi, you should not miss the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Palau Güell. If you are walking down la Rambla you will find it in the lower parts on your right hand side in El Raval’s Carrer Nou de la Rambla.