There is no other district in Barcelona that is as strong in its contrasts itself as El Raval. On one hand, there are still some locations with drug dealers, prostitutes and a lot of migrants, on the other hand there are more and more places with artists, youths, small boutiques as well as bars and restaurants.
El Raval used to be the city’s red light district marked by poverty and low life quality. Its second name is still Barri Xino – said to be under Chinese conditions – and as already mentioned, there are still some unattractive places. But on the other side, there is no other district that is that authentic and multi-cultural as this part of Barcelona.
In 1988, the Catalan government started a huge urban campaign investing a lot of money in cleaning this area. First, they built the MACBA
(Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona). It was supposed to seem like a stone thrown into water – and it worked. Around the building, there were built other cultural centers as the CCCB. The MACBA gave the district a developing push. Today, it hosts primarily art of Catalán artists, but also from international artists as Anselm Kiefer.
Right next to the building, there is the CCCB
(Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona) located in the former building of mercy. The building, where once poor people were feeded, is today a place for presentations, projects, and exhibitions. From 6th November until 8th December, it hosts the World Press Photo 14.
Palau Güell, rooftop terrace
As a matter of fact, El Raval has its own Gaudí building as well. In the Carrer Nou de la Rambla, you find the Palau Güell
built by Antoni Gaudí in the end of the 19th centry. This house is the former residence of the industrialist Güell and his family who lived there until 1936. For 12 Euro you are able to visit the whole building, starting in the cellar, the former stable, and going continously upstairs, ending on the rooftop terrace with its colourful chimneys. At the latest, when you leave the Palau, there will be one Gaudí fan more in the world.
If you are looking for a nice place to spend some peaceful moments, the Eglésia Sant Pau
might be perfect for you. The former monastery, built in the 10th century in the open country, opens his doors every day from 10am to 12 noon. It is not a very touristic place, and if you want to escape the noises of the city for a bit, don't hesitate to visit it.
Another nice place for a break is the Antic Hospital Santa Creu, where Gaudí passed away after his tram crash. The beautiful courtyard is similiar to a park where everyone comes together. You will see students, tourists, parents with their children as well as old people. There is also a nice café in the courtyard called El Jardí
If you want to go for a little shopping trip, the Carrer del Carme invites to stroll along small boutiquets and designing shops. It is a nice way to enjoy another part of the lively neighbourhood El Raval.
A nice place for dinner or lunch, is la Fabrica Moritz
where you can get good food for a low price. When you go for it, you should definitely taste the house-made beer.
However, you should still have in mind that there is also a dangerous part in this district. So, if you feel insecure especially at night, please spend a few Euro and take a taxi through the district to get safe to your destination.
El Raval is multi-cultural and historic; it is lively, vibrant and authentic; it is fashionable as well as a cultural center. It is a district full of personlaity, and always alive. But it is still the most dangerous part of Barcelona.
Did this opposing district of Barcelona convince you?Do you want to get to know more about it? Go for it, and enjoy the vibrant and authentic atmopsphere.
One Day in El Raval
You could start your day at the monastery Sant Pau enjoying the peaceful atmosphere. Your next stop might be the Palau Güell, only 5 minutes walking distance away. After diving in Gaudí's past, you could start your way to the CCCB, strolling first through the streets, entering the Antic Hospital Santa Creu and having a break at El Jardí.
After ambling along Carrer del Carme you could visit CCCB spending a few hours there. To finish off with the day, you might go for dinner at Fabrica Moritz.
If you are still keen in doing somethings afterwards, you might make a sortie into the London Bar which once hosted Picasso and Hemmingway.
© image Palau Güell: synes (flickr)