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El Raval

October 2015 | Trends | Style district | Barcelona

The site of convents, cabarets and the city’s first university. Once Barcelona’s Chinatown, its atmosphere is now both waggish and cool.
  • Street of El Raval
  • Mercat de la Boqueria
  • CCCB
  • Drassanes Reials de Barcelona
  • Plaça dels Àngels
  • Hotel España

Never an aristocratic place, it arose outside the city walls in the Middle Ages. El Raval began as an area of vegetable gardens and then buildings seeking isolation –convents and a hospital– sprang up. After the demolition of the walls to make room for the growing population in the industrial revolution, it became the home of  families  from the countryside who came to work in the factories. Ever since it has been one of Europe’s most densely inhabited urban districts and now, with its multifarious charm, it is one of Barcelona’s most visited areas.

Don’t let yourself be deceived by its humble origins, however: El Raval has a great deal to offer visitors. If you’re looking for history, here you’ll find one of the best preserved Romanesque churches, Sant Pau del Camp, with a tiny cloister that Fine Arts students have been painting since the times of the young Pablo Picasso. The church of Sant Agustí, for its part, combines features of the Baroque and Neoclassical styles. Likewise, the Catalan Modernista style has left its mark here in the magnificent Palau (Palace) Güell, one of Antoni Gaudí’s first buildings, and the Hotel España, an architectural jewel by Lluís Domènech i Montaner which goes back 150 years and was recently restored. At the picturesque Carrer del Carme, one of the neighbourhood’s most famous streets, stands the venerable Royal Academy of Surgery and Medicine with its fascinating “Anatomical Theatre” – a round dissection room with a marble table in the middle surrounded by tiers of wooden seats. It may be a tad spine-chilling but visiting it is like travelling back in time.

On the edge of El Raval, right on the seafront near the emblematic statue of Christopher Columbus, lie the Drassanes Reials, a splendid set of Gothic structures that formed the city’s shipyard in the 13th century. These buildings are now the location of Barcelona’s fascinating Maritime Museum.

La Boquería is a world-celebrated market hall. No visitor to the city should miss its uniquely colourful stalls laden with fruit, cheese and fish, and its little tapa bars.

Of course, not everything here is history. El Raval contains some of the city’s foremost modern art spaces. At the bottom of the Ramblas stands the acclaimed Santa Mónica Arts Centre, while the pluridisciplinary Barcelona Contemporary Culture Centre (CCCB) and the prestigious Barcelona Contemporary Art Museum (MACBA) are located by the popular Plaça dels Àngels,  a square that is one of the favourite spots of professional and amateur street skaters from around the world.

Today, design shops, signature restaurants, and modern and century-old bars share this district with traditional little shops and exotic ones of nearly all the world’s cultures that have now become a part of the city, creating a cosmopolitan potpourri that gives El Raval its unique personality.
 





 

We recommend:

Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona · MACBA

 Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona · MACBA

Plaça dels Àngels 1
T: 93 412 08 10
Sant Pau del Camp

 Sant Pau del Camp

Sant Pau 101
Reials Drassanes

 Reials Drassanes

Avinguda Drassanes s/n / Portal de la Pau 1
T: 93 342 99 20
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