Barcelona areas - El Raval - in Ciutat Vella district

Barcelona areas - El Raval
Map areas Barcelona

El Raval is a neighbourhood (barrio) in the medieval Cuitat Vella district of Barcelona. Ciutat Vella means 'old city' in the Catalan language. El Raval is the artsy, bohemian, slightly edgy part of Barcelona's old medieval city.

El Raval is considered safe during the day, but some parts of the Raval mostly near the port, are a bit disreputable after midnight.

On the whole it is a vibrant and authentic area of Barcelona's old city that brings life and colour to Barcelona. 

Many tourist blogs translate the Cuitat Vella as the 'gothic area,' but actually there are several neighbourhoods in the Cuitat Vella district. One of these is El Raval. The Ciutat Vella includes the neighbourhoods of the El Raval, el Born, Barrio Gótico and la Barceloneta. 

El Raval area of Barcelona 

El Raval was originally an area of markets and gardens outside the medieval city wall of Barcelona. The city wall was on the left of what is now the walking street La Rambla. In those times La Rambla was a stream outside the old city wall.

The markets, gardens and convents of the Raval later developed into factories and workers tenement blocks which eventually make the Raval one of the most densely populated areas in the world - and one of the worst workers ghettos in the world too.

Today however, El Raval is probably the most multicultural neighbourhood in Barcelona attracting creative, fun, edgy and artistic residents and also a few unsavoury characters too.

The lower part of the Raval nearest the port was the notorious part, where one could find the most unsavoury characters in the times when it was known as the 'Barrio Chino'  Back then the Raval was the area bordering on the port where dock workers and visiting sailors went to have a good time. Barrio Chino was known as the roughest area in Barcelona with a red light district full of brothels and bars.

Picasso frequented the Raval brothels in his youth in the early 20th century when the Picasso family lived in Barcelona. The name Barrio Chino did not originate from any kind of Chinese connections, but the name came from a journalist in the 1920ies, who used the name to describe the area after seeing a movie about San Francisco's Chinatown, and the name stuck.

Today the Raval has wide mix of communities. There is a big Moslem community, mostly of Moroccan and Pakistani origin alongside a Philipino community as well as the Catalans and a growing international community.

Raval restaurants are neo-hippy, ghetto-trendy and many other variations that have a reputation for some of the tastiest food in town. For residents and visitors there is an plethora of yoga schools, art galleries, cultural workshops, boutiques with influences from every corner of the globe.

El Raval tourist attractions and sights 

El Raval has several minor tourist attractiona.

Modern art museum MACBA

Modern art lovers will enjoy the MACBA Museum of Contemporary Art designed by American architect Richard Meir.  The MACBA has a large open square that is popular with Barcelona's skateboard community.  


Culture lovers will also appreciate the CCCB Centre for contemporary Culture ilocated in an 18th century building and next to the MACBA museum. The CCCB hosts many major art and cultural festival festivals.

Barcelona's most famous food market Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, usually just called La Boquería, is just inside the Raval with the main entrance on La Rambla street. You can also visit the oldest hospital in Barcelona where the famous architect Gaudi died after being struck by a tram in 1926.

Antic Hospital Sant Creu

Death mask of Anton Gaudi in Barcelona 
You can visit the Antic Hospital Sant Creu which is an former 14th century hospital and where Barcelona's famous architect Gaudi passed away after being struck by a tram in 1926.  Above is his death mask which is not in the old hospital but in his house museum in Park Guell.

You can still find herbal and medicinal shops near the former infirmary.

Palau Güell

Near the port in the Raval area you can find a famous by Gaudi called the Palau Güell which is a recently restored modernist palace. 

Palau Guell

Events Raval area

Raval has an annual Raval Festa Major neighbourhood festival in July and a cultural festival Festival Raval(s) in November

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Last Updated on Friday, 23 November 2018 10:54