Raval has long been known as the roughest part of central Barcelona. Being outside of the city walls which used to divide Barcelona, Raval was the playground for prostitutes and drug dealers. The feeling of being on the dark side still exists in some parts of Raval and you do have to be aware of pickpockets in and around the backstreets, but many of the shady areas have now been cleaned up. In 2000 the Rambla de Raval replaced a whole slum block which is now filled with bars and an array of Middle Eastern takeaways and kebab shops. Raval is also known as a popular hangout for a chic crowd of bohemian types including writers and artists. Picasso was known to have lived there for a while in the 1960s and it is said that Ernest Hemingway could have been found slumped over a glass of absinthe in Bar Marsella. Visiting Raval by day
A wave of immigration has also significantly changed the area of Raval; the southern end is made up of immigrant communities from Pakistan, China, North Africa and the Philippines. There are many shops and restaurants catering to the new population giving the southern end of Raval a distinct character. The northern end of Raval closer to Plaza de Catalunya is much more progressive, the MACBA (Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona) has created an area with many other galleries as well as small boutiques.
Mercat de la Boqueria in the centre of Raval is not to be missed, on entering you will be greeted by a feast for the senses. It is rich in colour and smells with every kind of produce you can imagine; fruit, vegetables, ham, meat, cheeses, fish and seafood, sweets and nuts. You can enjoy the hustle and bustle by taking a seat at one of the tapas bars or restaurants around the edge of the market and tucking into some of the freshest produce you will find in Barcelona. Unlike any other district of Barcelona, the Raval experience has now been considered by some to be so unique that a new name has been coined “ravalejar”. This concept captures aspects such as wandering randomly through the streets, experiencing the huge cultural diversity through the smells, colours, people and huge variety of activities taking place at any one time.
Visiting Raval by night
There are numerous bars and restaurants catering to a more adventurous crowd of tourists and locals in particular along Carrer de Tallers and Carrer de Joaquín Costa where the bars fill with students nightly. The old buildings have been restored retaining their historic charm; whether it be an old laundry room, brothel or workshop evidence of their history is very much apparent in some of the districts more quirky venues.
How to get there
With Raval being right in the centre of Barcelona the best way to get there other than walking of course is using the metro. L1, L2 and L3 all stop within Raval with Catalunya to the north, Liceu in the centre and Drassenes to the south.