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Exploring Barcelona Part 1: El Raval

Old City BarcelonaBarcelona is located in the Catalonia region of Spain. Catalonia has its own culture and language that sets it apart from other parts of Spain. Barcelona is the region’s capital and has many different areas to explore. If you are a tourist, chances are you will spend the majority of your time in the Ciutat Vella, or the “old city” district. Here you will find an endless array of tapas bars, cafes, shops, and the distinct Spanish style of architecture. Ciutat Vella is split into a series of neighborhoods each with its own flavor and energy. The neighborhood of El Raval lies on the western side of La Rambla, the city’s most famous avenue. It was once known for prostitution and crime but is now experiencing a renaissance. It has become a hot spot for nightlife, restaurants, and culture.

The northern edge sits just below the University of Barcelona.  Next to the University is the Center for Contemporary Culture and the Museum of Modern Art.  The area is packed with bohemian types sipping coffee con leche, reading, and cruising on skateboards.  If vintage clothing is your thing this is the area for you. The prices are comparable to American vintage shops and they are abundant.  The clothing ranges from your average thrift shop gear to formal wear. It is also easy to get a vegetarian meal here if you are feeling overwhelmed by the Catalonian pork fetish.

Dining here runs the gamut.  For more contemporary food, titillating cocktails, and a cool vibe try Dostrece Restaurant.  They put a modern spin on Catalonian classics and the ambiance cannot be beat.  If you have dreams of suckling pig and bacaloa (salt cod) in a traditional setting go no further than Rincon de Aragón.  Every employee greets you as you enter the door and they truly make you feel at home.  Jamón hangs from the ceiling and the open kitchen displays the delicacies being prepared. If you are a foodie seeking the authentic this is the place.

El Raval has many layers to uncover and wandering its streets could occupy you for days. One other hidden gem is the Hospital de la Santa Creu. It no longer serves as a hospital but encloses a gorgeous courtyard that should not be missed. Reaching El Raval by car is easy as you can access it from Plaça de Catalunya a central square, head down La Rambla and then head west down any side street.  So arrange a rental car in Spain and get out there and start exploring!

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