Il Raval it is one of the most multi-ethnic neighborhoods in all of Barcelona, welcoming many communities of different cultures and nationalities.
Known in ancient times as barri xino (Chinese district) was for a long time one of the most degraded areas of the city center, until, starting from the 90s of the twentieth century, a slow urban recovery of the area began, transforming it into one of the most popular tourist areas of the city.
Currently the Raval is a neighborhood with a particular character compared to the others: ancient and modern, Spain and the world, everything mixes together in Barcelona, offering a result absolutely worth discovering.
History of the Raval
La Raval word comes from the Andalusian Arabic arrabád, which indicates an inhabited area outside the city walls.
Indeed the Raval was located beyond the medieval city walls, in a predominantly agricultural area.
In the fourteenth century, King Pere III decided to build a new wall beyond the stream on which the Rambla now stands, in order to protect an area that was beginning to urbanize.
The goal was to create a new neighborhood with enough arable land to support the city in the event of a siege, and to find space for a range of health services, such as hospitals, leper hospitals and orphanages, away from the densely populated neighborhoods of Barri Gòtic of La Ribera.
Starting from the sixteenth century, other space was occupied by the construction of numerous convents, which lasted until the second half of the nineteenth century: in this period the Spanish state decided to appropriate land and religious buildings (the desamortizaciones), thus allowing the urban expansion, the public use of numerous buildings, and the auctioning of a large amount of land.
For this reason walking in the Raval you can see numerous buildings of religious origin, today used by the community for various public purposes.
The availability of cheap land, very close to the city center, led the Raval to experience rapid industrial expansion, with the construction of a large number of factories, and the consequent increase in the working population.
During the XNUMXth century, the increase in population density in the neighborhood combined with the proliferation of factories they convert the barrio into an extremely degraded area, making it one of the most dangerous in Barcelona, a condition that continued throughout the Franco period.
La The neighborhood's rebirth begins ahead of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, with the beginning of a substantial urban redevelopment, capable of bringing numerous permanent tourist, cultural and artistic structures into the district, such as the MACBA, the CCCB, the University and the Biblioteca de Catalunya (the latter located inside of the old Hospital de la Santa Creu), as well as the opening of new squares and streets, such as the recent Rambla del Raval.
Visit to the Raval: recommended itinerary
From Plaça de Catalunya (metro lines 1, 3, 6 and 7, or the tourist bus stop of the same name, blue and red lines), start going down the Rambla: the Raval extends on the right side of the street.
After a few meters take carrer Bonsuccés, at the end of the block you will find, at number 3, the convent of the Bonsuccés, from which the street takes its name. This convent was built in 1626, but has undergone considerable changes over time and today only the main building remains, of which the access door remains intact, with the original shield of the time. Behind the building extends a square, once the ancient patio of the convent, where you can admire what is left of the ancient structure of the convent.
Returning to carrer del Bonsuccés, after the intersection the road changes its name, becoming the carrer d'Elisabets. Along the road, after about fifty meters on the right you can find the ancient house of Mercy, from the second half of the XNUMXth century. It is an ancient religious hospice, with a college and an adjoining church: the entrance next to the main one contains a pediment with a sculpture from the Baroque era.
Plaça dels Àngels: MACBA and CCCB
Continuing along the carrer d'Elisabets, you get to the Plaça dels Àngels: in this square there are two of the major contemporary art centers in Barcelona: the MACBA and the CCCB.
Il convent of the Angels it was founded by the Dominican fathers in the XNUMXth century. The church retains its Renaissance façade, but it has some elements typical of the previous Gothic period, such as the large ceiling supported by pointed arches. The complex is completed by three rooms and the XNUMXth century chapel del Peu e de la Creu, which preserves an ancient plaster sepulcher. The old convent church is used today as a space for MACBA temporary exhibitions.
Il CCCB, or Centro de Cultura Contemporanea de Barcelona, is located next to the MACBA, in Carrer de Montalegre, and is housed in the old Casa de la Caritat. The late 700s palace served as a charity center, and is built around a large central patio known as el Pati de les Dones (women's patio).
Continue your visit to the Raval by returning to the Convent dels Àngels (basically the first building you saw upon entering the square), and continue along the road, precisely Carrer dels Àngels. Continue for two blocks to the end of the street, arriving at Carrer del Carme. Turn right and then immediately left into Carrer de les Egipcíaques.
Library of Catalonia and Sant Agustí
The complex of buildings that rises to the left of the road is theold Hospital de la Santa Creu (not to be confused with the new, from the modernist era), the main seat of the Biblioteca de Catalunya.
Built in the 1414th century to bring together six pre-existing hospitals in Barcelona in one place, far from the urban center of the time, the hospital was one of the first public hospitals in Europe, and certainly one of the longest-lived, remaining in operation continuously. from 1929 to XNUMX: his most illustrious hospitalization was probably Antoni Gaudí, who on 10 June 1926 was transported here after being hit by a tram, and died there two days later.
The complex is made up of a series of buildings extensively remodeled over the centuries, but which retain a clear Gothic imprint.
At the end of Carrer de les Egipcíaques, turn left into Carrer de l'Hospital, and enter the first door on the left: the internal courtyard opens immediately to the visitor's eyes, in a quiet place a few steps from the Rambles.
Proceeding along the courtyard you can reach the patio, with its orange trees. The monumental staircase, with a small statue of San Rocco, which leads to the access to the library. The grate on the window to the right of the staircase is from the XNUMXth century, placed on what was the old hospital pharmacy. Entering the patio you can appreciate a XNUMXth century fountain and a XNUMXth century Baroque cross.
The Gothic balcony, accessible from the library, develops around the patio on the first floor.
Access to the library is free, but you must register at the entrance. Entrance hours are from 9:00 to 20:00 Monday to Friday, and from 9:00 to 14:00 on Saturdays. The library is closed on Sundays.
Exiting again in Carrer de l'Hospital turn left, and continue along the road: passing you will see the Romea Theater, one of the busiest in the city. Opened in 1863 under the name of Teatre Català, the Romea brings local authors to the stage, giving great prominence to the Catalan language.
Continuing along the Carrer de l'Hospital, you will immediately reach Plaça de Sant Agustí, the ancient seat of the convent of the same name, of which only the church remains.
The convent was built in 1750, and the current square forms its internal patio. Used as a barracks by the French army during the Napoleonic period, the convent of Sant Agustí was expropriated by the Spanish state in 1835, to use its space for other purposes: the Romea theater, next to the square, is one of the buildings built on the space acquired.
The church, in Baroque style, has experienced a rather troubled history: during the Spanish Civil War it was set on fire and looted repeatedly. The incomplete façade was never finished, giving the church a decidedly particular aspect.
Rambla del Raval and Sant Pau del Camp
Built in 2000, the Rambla del Raval is part of the ambitious urban redevelopment plan of the Raval: to open the space necessary for the construction of the huge tree-lined avenue it was necessary to tear down 5 blocks of buildings. Once certainly degraded, today this area of the Raval is an attraction for residents and tourists, considerably improving the quality of life in the neighborhood.
Just cross the large roundabout to see the Raval cat, the work of Fernando Botero, who has found its permanent home in this corner of Barcelona after being moved several times.
Go back to Carrer di Sant Pau, on the other side of the Rambla del Raval, and continue for just under 100 meters: on the left you can begin to see the church of Sant Pau del Camp: the building is part of an ancient Benedictine convent formerly located outside the city walls.
The church of Sant Pau is in Romanesque style, probably built before the year 1000, with a Greek cross plan and three apses side by side.
Note the barrel-vaulted ceiling and the central brick dome. The real treasure of the church, however, is its cloister: probably built in the 3th century, then later to the church, it shows clear Muslim influences with its 5 or XNUMX lobed arches, finely worked, a probable reference to those of the Aljafería of Zaragoza . The capitals, of Romanesque inspiration, have floral or zoomorphic motifs, as well as some historical representations.
The church of Sant Pau is flanked by the diocesan house, from the 100th century, with a large garden converted into a public park. Leaving the church, go back along Carrer de Sant Pau to the street immediately after the church garden, called Carrer l'hort de Sant Pau: after about 300 meters the street intersects with Carrer nou de la Rambla; take the left and continue walking for XNUMX meters, until you reach one of the numerous buildings designed by the modernist genius of Antoni Gaudí: the Palau Güell.
A UNESCO monument since 1984, the Palau Güell was commissioned by Count Eusebi Güell as a private residence to a young Gaudí, who used his imagination to recombine the medieval Gothic style with the typical innovations of his style, including the extensive use of parabolic arch, and the use of various materials for finishing, such as iron, wood and its trencadís. The Palau Güell is located at number 5 of Carrer nou de la Rambla.
Pablo Picasso, during his Barcelona period, he began his blue period in a studio located in the opposite building, and used to wander around the neighborhood in search of inspiration among its popular environments.
It is enough to continue for a few meters along the same road to reach the Rambla dels Caputxins: 200 meters on the left you can reach the Liceu metro station (line 3).
The duration of the walking tour is about 2 and a half hours, excluding the visit inside the MACBA or CCCB.
The Raval offers an endless choice of bars and restaurants, offering really wide possibilities; an interesting starting point to end the tour could be to go back to the Boquería market, and to stop in one of the many kiosks inside.
Is it a safe neighborhood?
The Raval is a fairly safe neighborhood, however it is advisable to be very careful near the most crowded areas, especially around the Rambla, where the snatching of tourists is the order of the day: avoid carrying shoulder bags to the side, and keep your wallets and valuables safe.
Where to eat in the Raval
Restaurant Pau Claris 190
Un small, well-kept restaurant, seats about 30, with staff who also speak Italian to facilitate understanding and choosing the best dishes. Lots of tapas to try based on meat or fish, or traditional cuisine always with variations for those who prefer a cuisine vegetarian or vegan, always maintaining the traditional taste of fresh ingredients and served with a particular dish, ideal for giving a different tone to the dish.
A note worth mentioning are the excellent homemade desserts.
- Type of cuisine: Catalan with offers also for vegans and vegetarians
- Prezzi: high-end
- Reservation required: si
- Address and nearest metro: Pau Claris 190, Barcelona - Metropolitan Provence
A local modern and young, with tables both inside and outside, which offers its guests a particularly special menu rich in detail, with the use of very sophisticated ingredients suitable for every type of palate.
Do not miss the tasting of local cheeses on a cutting board or with compositions made in order to be able to enjoy every type of taste and aroma. The staff are professional, attentive and multilingual ready to list the joys of the menu and accompany the customer to the most suitable choice for their palate.
Not only food but also drinks, with a rich supply of local wines recommended directly by the owner for accompany the specialties in the most correct way.
- Type of cuisine: Spanish with meat, fish and local cheeses
- Prezzi: medium-high range
- Reservation required: si
- Address and nearest metro: Carrer Vilamari 9-15 - Barcelona - Accessible by taxi or bus
Un simple place outside but well furnished inside, albeit very small and always with a queue outside. Recommended for those who love spicy and elaborate cuisine, looking for new tastes and letting themselves experiment. Trained and competent staff who guide the customer to choose the dish of the day or to the specialty that he or she may prefer most according to his personal taste.
Always rely on the staff also for the choice of the right wine, house or Spanish brands highly coveted.
A note to highlight is the homemade dessert for which it is worth worth waiting for a table.
- Type of cuisine: Mediterranean and Spanish, meat - fish - risotto and pasta
- Prezzi: middle band
- Reservation required: recommended
- Address and nearest metro: Carrer de la Cera, 23 - Barcelona - Metropolitana Sant Antoni
Un small and delicious place, with professional and multilingual staff who guide you towards the choice of the dish of the day, usually based on fish. The menu is ricercato exactly like the details that can be found inside the restaurant, much loved by locals but also by tourists, for the kind of friendly and jovial atmosphere that is created every night.
In this place reservations are recommended because you always tend to want to dine inside, to taste the specialties or to taste some variations recommended by the chef.
- Type of cuisine: Mediterranean with house specialties based on fish
- Prezzi: middle band
- Reservation required: recommended
- Address and nearest metro: Carrer Parlament, 54 Barcelona - Metropolitana Sant Antoni
Domino Bar by Bierzo food
Un local characteristic with rustic furnishings, especially indicated for its trained staff - friendly and attentive to the needs of each customer. Ideal for lunch or dinner, with a characteristic and fun after dinner for groups of friends on vacation or for couples who want an evening in total relaxation.
A note to highlight, in fact, are the many cocktail that you can choose during the evening, always excellent and with various ingredients, good to accompany the ordered dishes or to drink alone as an aperitif. Getting advice from the barman is always a great idea Domino Bar.
- Type of cuisine: Italian and Spanish with alternation of pizza, fish and traditional dishes
- Prezzi: middle band
- Reservation required: preferable
- Address and nearest metro: Carrer de les Flors, 16 - Barcelona - Metropolitana Sant Antoni
A Tu Bola
Un small place who has paid the right attention to the details of the furnishings and in the choice of the multilingual and highly trained staff. Despite the low price range, only the freshest ingredients chosen personally by the chef can be tasted here.
Fun atmosphere is suitable for those who want to taste many different dishes in continuous evolution prepared by a professional kitchen team with delicious variations for everyone.
- Type of cuisine: Typical Spanish products also suitable for vegans and vegetarians
- Prezzi: low end
- Reservation required: si
- Address and nearest metro: Carrer de l'Hospital, 78 - Barcelona - Metropolitana Sant Antoni