The Raval is a fascinating and thrilling area of Barcelona, but it also has a darkerside that you should be aware of. It's definitely not the safest or cleanest place in Barcelona, but it has a different personality and character that makes this place a must-see experience.
The word Raval comes from the Arabic a-rabal, which means the outskirts. Formerly, El Raval was an agricultural area outside the medieval city walls.
Nowadays, it is a quarter of the city with a special character in which past and present coexist in an amazing way.
If you’re a seasoned traveler, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this area if you’d like to experience an authentic atmosphere in Barcelona. However, if you are particularly sensitive to street noise, this may not be the area for you.
What's your appeal to El Raval? The area is vibrant, historic, authentic and full of character. It's a vibrant, multi-cultural neighborhood with a wide range of fascinating cafes, restaurants and bars. The area is also considered quite artistic and fashionable as it hosts a wide variety of art studios, galleries, the famous MACBA (Modern Art Museum) and the CCCB.
Top things to see in the Raval
Convent de Bonsuccés
This convent was built in 1626. Unfortunately, only a small part of what it was is still standing.
The building that is still standing has five floors and is topped at the top by a gallery of arches. The entrance door still bears the old coat of arms and is the work of Miquel Perelló.
Today it is the headquarters of the Ciutat Vella district. Attached to the building is a beautiful interior courtyard, one of the most charming squares in this area.
You can sit on its benches or have a drink on one of its terraces and admire what remains of the convent complex. After this stop, we continue our itinerary into El Raval.
If you like to buy vintage or original clothing, El Raval is the perfect area for you. Unlike other areas like the Eixample with its huge brand name designer labels, Raval is where you can find independent, privately run apparel shops that you can't find anywhere else.
El Palau Güell
One of the most incredible works of Gaudí is the Palau Güell.
This monument has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1984.
The palace was commissioned by Count Eusebi Güell to a young Antoni Gaudí to house his private residence.
In this project, the architect unleashed his overflowing imagination, combining the typical structure of medieval Gothic palaces with innovations such as the parabolic arch, so characteristic of his work.
The façade is a clear contrast between the sobriety of the grey marble and the brightly colored glazed ceramic decoration of the roof chimneys. It is worth noting the impressive work of forging, of which the four bars of the flag of Catalonia stand out.
The roof that covers the interior space of the main floor is a marvel, you will see how the light filters through small openings simulating a heavenly dome.
Equally impressive is its exterior façade, decorated with different materials including wood, wrought iron and glazed ceramics.
- Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 2.30pm.
- Closed on public holidays.
How to get there
Address: Nou de la Rambla, 3 Barcelona.
Contemporary art museums
If you keep walking along carrer Elisabets until the end, you will reach Plaça dels Àngels. In this square you will find two of the most important centers of contemporary art in the city, the Macba and the CCCB.
The MACBA is the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona designed by the American architect Richard Meier.
This museum has reused the space of the old Church of Convent dels Àngels, located in the street next to the square, Carrer dels Àngels. They converted the old church into a temporary exhibition space called the Capella MACBA.
Even if you are not usually into museums we recommend checking out the MACBA, its contemporary exhibitions won’t disappoint you.
Monday to Friday: 11 am – 7.30 pm Tuesdays (except public holidays): closed Saturdays: 10 am – 8 pm Sundays and public holidays: 10 am – 3 pm
General admission: 11 € Discount admission: 5 € / 8,80 €
If you plan to visit also other attractions, discover the Barcelona card that will give you access to over 25 of Barcelona’s best museums and attractions. Save money, be flexible and enjoy free public transportation with a 3, 4, or 5-day card.
Right next to the Plaça dels Àngels you will see Carrer de Montalegre, where another contemporary art museum is located. The CCCB or Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona occupies the old Casa de la Caritat, or House of Charity, of the city.
The house dates from the late 18th century, when it served as a charity center, of which its original structure around the large central courtyard, the Pati de les Dones (Women’s Courtyard), remains.
The CCCB is a multidisciplinary cultural center that deals with the core issues of contemporary society through various languages and formats, with a comprehensive program that includes large thematic exhibits, series of conferences and literary meetings, film screenings and festivals.
Discover more about the current exhibitions and the pricing on the official website of the CCCB.
Recinto del Hospital de la Santa Creu
The hospital is located between Calle del Carme and Calle Hospital.
Inside you will see a beautiful courtyard, with benches and a discreet terrace on a corner.
The hospital complex was made up of several buildings, which are now being reused for new purposes. It is one of the best buildings of the Catalan civil gothic, dating from 1401. It was active until 1929, when it was moved to the new site of the Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau, designed by Lluís Doménech i Montaner.
Inside the enclosure you will find The Library of Catalonia, located in the place where there was the administration, the kitchen and the laundry of the hospital.
In front of it, La Casa de la Convalescència, where the patients recovered completely.
Next to this house you will find the Royal Academy of Medicine and the old chapel of the hospital. Today the chapel houses an exhibition centre. Leaving the Hospital street in direction to La Rambla, you will see some interesting ancient shops, such as the Sastre i Marquès pharmacy, designed by the modernist architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch.
In the same street Hospital, next to the street Junta de Comer you will find the Teatre Romea, one of the most active theatres in the city, you will always find nightlife around it.
Following Hospital Street, if you take Jerusalem Street on the right, you will find yourself at the back of the mythical Boqueria Market.
Rambla del Raval
La Rambla del Raval is the widest and most modern avenue in the neighbourhood. It was built in the year 2000, for which it was necessary to demolish no less than five blocks of houses.
At the foot of this Rambla you will find the famous and gigantic sculpture of the Cat of Botero. This great avenue changed considerably the image of the neighborhood, and today is one of the streets with more night and day life.
Here you will find office buildings, new hotels, restaurants serving Catalan, Pakistani and Indian cuisine and several bars.
Monastery of Sant Pau del Camp
The Monastery of Sant Pau del Camp a is a roman monastery in the heart of Barcelona.
It was a former monastery of the Benedictine order that was located outside the city walls, hence the reference in its name “del Camp” means from the countryside. The building is surrounded by a garden in which is the old abbey house, built between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but completed in the eighteenth.
The church is small in size and the interior is covered with barrel vaults, the typical roofs that characterize Romanesque art.
Two old Visigothic marble capitals located on the church’s façade stand out.
If you are in the neighborhood it is definitely worth a visit, especially the cloister built in the 13th century.
It has a single entrance, with curious arches formed by three or five lobes, of clear Arab influence and inspiration.
The arches rest on small double columns and their capitals show a great variety of decorative motifs: biblical themes, hunting scenes, plant or animal motifs and much more. If you look closely you will even find mermaids, warriors and monsters from other times.
It is a real wonder where time seems to have stopped, as if it had remained isolated throughout all these centuries, oblivious to the bustle and evolution of the neighborhood.
La Casa de la Misericòrdia
La Casa de la Misericordia, dating from the end of the 16th century, was a religious hospice in medieval times, consisting of three buildings: the hospice, the old Sant Guillem d’Aquitània School and the annexed church.
Despite the fact that the building has been restored on several occasions, you can still see the original façades of the church, which can be accessed from Carrer Elisabets.
Look at the front of this street, you will see a pediment with a small image of the Baroque period.
The other doorway is in Plaça Vicenç Martorell. It is Renaissance and has a simple triangular pediment with no sculptural decoration.
Convent dels Àngels
The convent of the Angels was founded by the Dominicans in the 16th century. It was built by Bartolomeu Roig.
The church preserves its Renaissance façade but still retains elements of the previous Gothic style.
These motifs stand out mainly in the interior of the church, where you will see fully Gothic vaults and ogival arches.
The complex is completed by three rooms and the annexed chapel of the Peu de la Creu, from the 16th century, which preserves a Holy Sepulchre made of plaster.
Staying in the Raval area
Staying in El Raval also means that you are located between two of Barcelona's famous food markets, La Boqueria on Las Ramblas and Mercat Sant Antoni. Both locations are worth a visit to stock up on fresh fruit to get you through the day or to sample the tasty Spanish chorizo or Jamon Serrano.
In terms of location El Raval gives you good access to many of the city’s main attractions within walking distance. However, the area can be noisy, so be careful if you are easily disturbed when you sleep.
The Raval is a prime area for pickpockets and other unsavory characters, so it’s worth being careful when you’re in the city, particularly at night.
In our where to stay section you will find several hotels but these two are our favorites close to this area:
- The Mandarin Oriental - for a unique luxury experience