Historically known as Barcelona’s red light district, Raval has undergone something of a rebirth over the last decade and is now the city’s bohemian hub of creativity. From contemporary art exhibitions and trendy restaurants to vintage boutique stores and lively nightlife, here’s what to see, do and eat in what is undeniably one of Barcelona’s most exciting neighbourhoods.
Start Your Day with a Beautiful Brunch
Raval is loved for its trendy cafes and restaurants, and one of the best times to eat here is at brunch o’clock. Head to the classic Marmalade Restaurant & Lounge for hearty brunch classics like eggs Benedict, huevos rancheros and galvanizing Bloody Marys. The ultra-hip Caravelle serves speciality coffee and colourful dishes like Moroccan-style baked eggs with avocado, and coconut French toast with strawberries and ice cream. For something altogether more healthy, visit Flax & Kale for plant-based flexitarian dishes and cold-pressed juices. Now that’s the way to start the day!
Explore the Famous Vintage Shops
Raval is a mecca for vintage fashionistas and there are countless little boutiques and stores to explore on and around the famous shopping streets Carrer de Tallers, Carrer de la Riera Baixa and Carrer de la Riera Alta. However, there are a couple of stores you simply can’t afford to miss! Check out the huge Holala! Plaza for funky shirts, t-shirts, jeans, jackets, dresses and shoes from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. They also stock an impressive selection of retro paraphernalia, like old computer games, roller-skates, skateboards, homewares. Lullaby Vintage Store is another extremely popular option, with rails and display cabinets overflowing with vintage haute couture and jewellery. If you’re on a budget then don’t miss Kilostore, where you can buy pre-loved treasures by weight. Leave space in your suitcase and get ready for bargains galore!
Indulge at Ravals Legendary Bars
Raval is praised for its dynamic nightlife offerings and is home to some of the oldest bars in the city. Stroll down the bustling Carrer de Joaquín Costa, which is lined with famous bars like the bohemian Casa Almirali, which was founded in 1860, the retro Olympic Bar and trendy Betty Fords. Drink a shot of flaming absinthe at the unfathomably ancient Bar Marsella, where the likes of Hemingway, Dali and Picasso used to hang, or prop yourself up at bar in Boadas, which is the oldest and most magical cocktail bar in Barcelona.
Ramble the Rambla del Raval
There’s nothing better on a sunny day in Barcelona than taking a stroll along the palm-fringed Rambla del Raval. Lined with terraces and trendy bars and restaurants, it’s an excellent place to wander and grab a drink in the sun. Don’t miss the iconic Gato de Botero (or “Raval Cat” as it’s affectionately known), which was designed by famous Colombian artist Fernando Botero.
Get Your Culture Fix
It was the introduction of art and culture that transformed Raval from a place to avoid into a must-see barrio. Two of the most important cultural institutions are the mind-expanding avante-garde Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and the the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), where you can enjoy everything from contemporary art to photo exhibitions and audio visual performances. If you’re a film lover then you won’t want to miss the Filmoteca de Catalunya, which celebrates the art of historic and modern day cinema.
Museu Marítim de Barcelona
Dive into Barcelona’s ancient shipyard, which now houses the fascinating Maritime Museum. The building itself is worth a visit, with its huge gothic arches, while the intricate models and full-size boats tell the tales of hundreds of years sailing the Mediterranean.
Discover Gaudi’s Eerie Palace
One of Antoni Gaudí’s least-known architectural masterpieces can be found in Raval. The spooky, castle-like Palau Güell was built as an ornate family home for the powerful businessman Eusebi Güell, who also employed Gaudi to design Barcelona world-famous Park Güell in the north of the city.
Visit La Boqueria
Barcelona is renowned for its colourful food markets, but there’s no denying that the biggest and most impressive is La Boqueria. Although the main entrance opens up onto the famous boulevard of Las Ramblas, the market itself sits in the Raval barrio. Wander the stalls and stands to see the traders working their magic, and be sure to take a pitstop at the fabled Pinotxo Bar for a few traditional tapas and a vino.
Enjoy Rooftop Sunsets
Located on the leafy Rambla del Raval, the Barceló Raval Hotel has one of the most spectacular rooftop terraces in all of Barcelona. Jump in the lift and head up to the top floor for 360-degree views across Barcelona’s spectacular skyline. Grab a drink from the bar and watch the sun dip behind the horizon –simply stunning!
Hungry for more?
Join one of our food tours and let us take you on a culinary adventure through the ancient streets of Barcelona to uncover the sights, smells, flavours and stories of this one-of-a-kind metropolis.
September 1, 2018 | Words by Ben Holbrook for Eye On Food Tours