The Raval neighborhood forms part of the old city of Barcelona and is located opposite to the Gothic quarter from Las Ramblas to the south-west of the city. Its bounds are Plaza Catalunya in the upper part, Las Ramblas, Ronda Sant Antoni and Ronda Sant Pau. The Raval is one of the most interesting neighborhoods of Barcelona city centre for holiday accommodation as well as for sight seeing, shopping and night life activities. The most significant fact about the Raval is the tremendous transformation process this neighborhood has been going through since 1994, and to a larger extent since the great real estate boom that Barcelona has experienced during the first decade of the current century.
The history of the Raval district
While historically the Gothic quarter and the El Borne quarter used to accommodate the middle and high classes of the old Barcelona, the Raval together with the Ribera used to be the place where the humble families of Barcelona lived, especially after the industrial revolution. In the 18th century, the Raval use to be the industrial district ancient Barcelona, converted into a working class residential area later on in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the past, this part of the city was notorious for prostitution and criminal activities, making it a place where the regular citizens of Barcelona normally avoided. It is called by the locals “el Barrio Chino”, which means “Chinatown”, for an unknown reason as there were hardly any Chinese immigrants in Barcelona until recently!
In the last quarter of the past century, large amounts of immigrants flooded into the Raval, many arriving from Pakistan, North Africa, South America and eastern European countries, making the neighborhood an exciting mixture between the authentic old Catalan/Spanish way of life and the culture of immigrants, all living together in harmony. The plural character of the neighborhood has inspired many artists and bohemians who established themselves there. All neighbors lives in harmony and there is no social tension of any kind. On the contrary, the tranquil life in the Raval is used as a model for integration of immigration in other parts of Spain.
The regeneration of the Raval
The big turning point in the evolution of the Raval, and which has converted it into perhaps the most exciting place to spend a holiday in Barcelona, is the city hall regeneration program that was launched in the mid 90’s of the last century. As part of this program, vast central areas of the neighborhood were expropriated and its inhabitants were relocated. Entire streets have been demolished to allowed new constructions and urban development.
In the heart of this district, where Sant Geronimo street used to exist, a new beautiful Rambla was constructed, named today “Rambla del Raval”. In addition, the new Modern Art museum of Barcelona (MACBA), which was designed and constructed by the famous Richard Meier in 1995 and considered one of the most important Modern Art museums in Europe, gave further importance to the area. But the Rambla del Raval and the MACBA weren’t the only regeneration motors of the neighborhood. In this context it is important to mention another very important cultural institution of Barcelona, which was located in the center of the Raval: the Contemporary Cultural Centre of Barcelona, known around the world as the CCCB. Also the introduction of some of the faculties of the local universities in the Raval gave it new and fresh breeze of young population.
After the regeneration activities of Barcelona Town Hall came the private investors and other urban developers, who have contributed tremendously to the impressive transformation of the Raval into the new trendy area of Barcelona city center, especially among bohemians, artists, musicians, multicultural personalities, foreigners and other new type of habitants, which this neighborhood has never known before.
The real estate boom of the last decade together with the city hall initiatives and private investor activity has converted the Raval into a trendy and unique social and cultural centre, which differs from the other quarters of the old city in its modern and renovated infrastructures.
As opposed to the Gothic quarter and El Borne, the Raval enjoys wide and very accessible streets, better car and pedestrian circulation, the apartments are normally easier to access and enjoy more sun light and it is much less crowded during the tourism season. In terms of safety the Raval has been under strict police control, especially thanks to the enormous police station that was built in Nou De la Rambla Street. The intensive law enforcement activity in the neighborhood has made it as safe as other parts of Barcelona.
The Raval from the holiday accommodation perspective
The Raval, in most of its parts, is one of the best choices for renting a short term apartment in Barcelona. The streets are wide and you can get with a car to almost all the buildings entrances. It is less crowded than the Gothic quarter or the El Borne. It is also less noisy and the night life scene is very trendy. You will find on every corner a grocery shop and you have everything you might need during your short term visit within few steps from the flat. It’s in the very centre of the old city, which means that you will be within minutes walk from the all the main tourist attractions of the old city.
However, its notorious history and the relatively high presence of immigrants in its streets might deter some of the visitors to choose the Raval as first option for their accommodation. Furthermore, some of its streets still might seem rough to the visitor, but in those locations we at Apartime.com do not advertise holiday apartments.
What to do in the Raval
Even though the Raval quarter is separated from the Gothic quarter (el Gotico) and the El Born (El Borne) quarter, both are within short distance walk, so all the attractions and sites in the old city are reachable by foot.
In the Raval you will find the MACBA museum, the CCCB center, the amazing Palau Guell, the Maritim museum (el Museo Maritimo), the History Museum of Catalunya, The Boqueria Market and many other sites.
For more information about the Raval, it’s sites, bars and restaurants, clubs and other attractions, please visit our “Apartime Barcelona Guide”, where our staff has prepared for you some unique and exclusive information about the city of Barcelona.