El Raval lies in the heart of Barcelona and forms part of the labyrinth that is known as Ciutat Vella (Old Town). It’s an area bursting at the seams with artists, creative professionals and the city’s more salubrious characters – making up a rich and alluring tapestry for any visitor.
Formed in the 14th Century, Raval was created as an extension of the city. The industrial revolution brought factories to the area and with them high-rise tenement buildings, squalor, vice and high mortality rates. During this time it was one of the most densely populated areas in Europe and the strictly working class neighbourhood was known for its criminal underbelly. In the 1980s, as the city geared up for the Olympics, the government began to clean up the area, making it ready for the eyes of the world.
Now, Raval is known for its nightlife, with bars, cafes and restaurants at every turn. While some of Barcelona’s barrios can feel a bit like tourist ghettos, Raval has managed to maintain its authentic flavour. Part of its charm is the wide spectrum of life that call it home. Traditional Catalan family-owned businesses with dark dusty interiors hold their own against colourful bohemian boutiques and brand new hipster cafes.
As dramatic shafts of sunlight illuminate its cobblestone alleyways and lively street life, you quickly discover that Raval is a wonderful place to wander. Here are some of its highlights.
EAT + ART
It’s impossible to pass this intriguing cafe without being drawn inside. The decor is exotic and homely, which, as the owner Masud Naderi explains, “is the perfect reflection of the neighbourhood itself”.
A musician from Iran, Masud has travelled the world and tells the story of his life through the knickknacks he’s amassed on his journey. It was a labour of love for him to find the right objects to fit his vision and to create a harmony between these disparate elements where anyone, from anywhere, could feel at home.
The cafe has a fantastic collection of teas and offers a daily selection of sweet delicacies and cakes, as well as a full menu of Spanish and Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Open all day and until the early hours of the morning, this makes for a great place for an intimate drink.
Carrer dels Tallers, 76, 08001 Barcelona | +34 93 667 49 00 | tallers-76.com
IN THE AREA (SIX-MINUTE WALK)
This museum offers a regular selection of changing exhibitions, and was central in the reinvention of Raval from a no-go area to hipster hub.
Plaça dels Àngels, 1, 08001 Barcelona, +34 93 481 33 68, macba.cat/en/
DRINK + THINK
The now-legendary London Bar opened in 1910 and was, in its heyday, frequented by stellar characters such as Hemmingway, Dali and Picasso. Although its belle epoch has passed, it’s well worth a visit to soak up the decades of history that are revealed in its faded grandeur and beautiful Art Nouveau decor. The walls are adorned with newspaper clippings and photos that tell of the pub’s illustrious past, and a trapeze swing above the bar tantalises clientele with a vision of how much of a spectacle the London Bar must have been.
Long since synonymous with live music in the city, over the years this bar has hosted some of Spain’s biggest and best. Although it no longer has the huge stage, it still welcomes bands every night to play to a varied crowd of locals, expats and visitors.
Carrer Nou de la Rambla | 34, 08001 Barcelona | +34 933 18 52 61
IN THE AREA (TWO-MINUTE WALK)
Palau Guell is one of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi’s greatest masterpieces. Located just off the city’s main thoroughfare, it’s a must for any itinerary.
Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 3-5, 08001 Barcelona , +34 934 725 771, palauguell.cat/en
SHOP + SIT
Located on Carrer d’Elisabets, one of Raval’s liveliest streets, is Camino, a sweet and stylish shoe store that’s proud to promote locally made footwear and accessories. The natural tones and materials used to furnish the shop reflect Camino’s focus on craftsmanship along with traditional materials and methods.
As well as selling a tempting array of fashionable, yet durable shoes, Camino offers a selection of bags and clothes. The great thing is that everything you see in store was made in Spain – the majority of it in Barcelona. Their ethical and philosophical ethos is to support craftspeople with an authentic story and unique vision.
In Spanish camino means ‘way’ and the founder, Chad Weidmer, formed Camino with the aim of creating a meeting point for all those people looking for something different; a different way to create, a different way to sell, and a different way to buy.
Carrer Elisabets, 13 | Barcelona 08003 | +34 93 177 15 97 | thecaminostore.com
IN THE AREA (FIVE-MINUTE WALK)
Flax and Kale
New to Barcelona’s food scene, Flax And Kale is a mostly vegetarian place that’s flourishing – with a constant stream of diners giving it a vibrant atmosphere.
Carrer dels Tallers, 74, 08001 Barcelona, +34 933 17 56 64
Words: Kaye Martindale
Images: Geoff Brokate