Timeout dubbed it a “gentrified gem” but EL RAVAL has yet to fully shed its reputation as the drug and prostitute epicenter of Barcelona.
Hands in your pockets, we’re going in!
Where is El Raval?
You’ll find El Raval just off the famous Rambla at Liceu metro station (green line L3) – it’s also easily reachable from Universitat (red line L1) and Paral-lel (green line L3 and purple line L2)
OK, so it has a bad reputation with locals. They say Raval has changed for the worse but the truth is it’s always been a working class neighbourhood with substandard housing.
The low rental prices have attracted migrants who have given a lot of character to the area but the flip-side is it’s become Barcelona’s drug and prostitution Mecca. This is usually at night however and only confined to a few streets.
I’ve heard it called dirty, disgusting, embarrassing… and it kind of is. My only advice? Don’t let the seediness spoil the whole watermelon. I mean what are you gonna do? Read People magazine and eat at Wendy’s until the end of time? Take a fuckin’ chance! (George Carlin)
The truth is you’ll probably never be in any physical danger. You won’t get robbed using common sense to avoid pickpockets. And nobody is going to force you to buy drugs or sex, are they?
Why You’ll Like El Raval
- Barcelona’s most ethnically diverse neighbourhood
- A great selection of kitschy bars
- Cheaper than most other Barcelona barrios
- Lively nightlife
El Raval Sights
It’s not quite the Sagrada Familia or the Casa Batllo but Palau Guell is classic Gaudi. This mansion built for the industrialist Eusebi Guell was famous for entertaining high society guests and it shows.
The recent restoration completed in 2011 makes it as decadent as ever. Fans of Antonioni may recognize it as the backdrop to Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider meeting in The Passenger.
The MACBA (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art) is (to some) Barcelona’s Tate Modern or Centre Pompidou. They’ll explain it better than I: a complex vision of contemporary culture, in which today’s art becomes a key element for understanding current social, economical and political dynamics.
The CCCB Cultural Centre is one of Barcelona’s most visited arts and exhibition centres. Some exhibitions have been called everything from inspiring to disturbing… but I promise you one thing: you won’t be bored! There’s also free wifi in the public study room 😉
Rambla Del Raval
This famous palm tree-lined promenade is the center-piece of Raval life. There are a million bars here to grab a drink but it’s also noted for its variety of kebab shops – these shaved meat emporiums are the greatest preemptive hangover cures since not drinking!
There’s also a massive cat here! Yes, Fernando Botero’s work of art is a great meeting place for locals and it’s not uncommon to see people climbing it as the night gets older.
Also, if you you’re on a budget. You can eat 6 or 7 mini sandwiches and get a true pint of beer for less than a tenner at the Spanish institution 100 Montaditos.
Bars in Raval
There’s a great mixture of bars in Raval but the common theme would be cheap and unpretentious. You can’t go wrong doing a bit of a crawl down Carrer de Joaquín Costa – with so many great bars you might only get half way!
Marsella – Carrer de Sant Pau, 65 . A simple throwback. This bar looks like a prohibition area speakeasy that hasn’t been renovated since the 20’s. Hemingway drank here. Everybody gets absinthe with a bottle of water and a sugar cube. It’s fun to experiment with the levels of water and sugar, but take it easy!
Betty Ford’s – Carrer de Joaquín Costa, 56. Retro, quirky, great atmosphere. Named after an alcohol rehab clinic in the USA, this ‘dive bar and grill’ could get anybody off the wagon with their specialty cocktails – oh, and their burgers might be the best in town! Try the blue cheese one and wash it down with a fine local beer called Krut. Happy hour is from 9 to 11.
Tavern L’Ovella Negra – Carrer de les Sitges, 5. A Catalan institution. There’s no messing around here – it’s a massive bar with bench seating where you’ll meet lots of people… drunk people. Proper pints are only 2 euro. It’s a favourite with students. Good for pool or foosball.
Freedonia – Calle Lleialtat, 6. A hidden gem. On Thursday there’s the famous open mic night where you’ll see anything from comedy to Spanish guitar to rap – a lot of the performances are in English. You’ll pay a small one euro entry fee but it’s worth every penny. Try the strawberry mojitos.
Bar 33 i 45 – Carrer de Joaquín Costa, 4. It’s an art gallery. It’s a cafe. It’s a bar. Just go there. Lounge on the leather couches and get a spritz (Italian cocktail with Aperol and white sparkling wine) for just €2.50.
Restaurants in Raval
A Tu Bola. Carrer de l’Hospital, 78. Cheap and creative gourmet street food. Bolas (meat or veggie balls) stuffed in pitas or mounted on polenta with ridiculously fresh ingredients. Mexican chipotle pork, Asian satay chicken, and falafel are highlights here.
Pizza Circus. Carrer Nou de la Rambla 40. Massive slices of wood-burning oven pizza for only €2.50. Grab yourself a prosciutto e rucola slice and down a cold beer. One of the best by-the-slice joints in the city.
Palo Santo Tapas Bar. Rambla Del Raval, 26. An intimate tapas bar with personal service. You can get full and have a bottle of wine for €25 (two people). All the Spanish classics are here but the aubergine with honey can’t be avoided. Get the sangria (I know, I don’t have to tell you).
Moti Mahal. Carrer de Sant Pau, 103. An Indian restaurant rich in flavours. Good prices. Harrison Ford ate here when he was in Barcelona! The cheese naan and any of their curry dishes will have you begging for more.
Bismillah Kebabish Raval. Carrer de Joaquín Costa, 56. This may be Barcelona’s best kebab. Homemade naan bread stuffed with your favourite shredded meat and topped with fresh veggies and homemade chili sauce. Do it!