Ash
Written by Ash

El Raval Barcelona – Things to Eat, Drink, and Visit

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Timeout dubbed it a “gentrified gem” but for locals El Raval Barcelona has yet to fully shed its reputation as the drug and prostitute epicenter of the Catalonian capital.

Yet I wouldn’t advise on skipping it out.

With so many great things to see in El Raval and a unique vibe all to its own, you’d be missing out on a great chance to understand Barcelona and all it has to offer. So let’s do this right.

Hands in your pockets, we’re going in!

El Raval Barcelona

El Raval is part of the Ciutat Vella (‘Old City’) along with the Born,  the Gothic Quarter, and Barceloneta.

The neighbourhood is flanked by a variety of metro stations like Liceu and Drassanes (green line L3) – it’s also easily reachable from Universitat (red line L1), Sant Antoni (purple line L2) and Paral-lel (green line L3 and purple line L2).

From Plaça de Catalunya going down the famous La Rambla you’ll find it on your right.

El Raval Map

Why Visit El Raval?

  • It’s Barcelona’s most ethnically diverse neighbourhood.
  • There’s a great selection of kitschy bars.
  • It’s the cheapest of Barcelona’s central neighbourhoods.
  • Raval is home to a big portion of Barcelona’s best museums.
  • There’s lively nightlife.

What to See in El Raval

MACBA

The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art is (to some) Barcelona’s Tate Modern or Centre Pompidou. Here you’ll find over 5000 works from modern art kingpins like Tapies, Iglesias, Fahlström, and more.

There are also great variety of rotating exhibitions relating to photography, sculpture, and painting.

Hours: Mon to Fri (11:00 am to 7:30 pm), Sat (10:00 am to 8:00 pm), Sun (10:00 am to 3:00 pm), closed Tues.

Prices: €11.00 adults (online), €8.80 for students (ticket windows).

MACBA
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Secrets of the Old City Guided Tour

It won’t be specifically focused on Raval but you’ll duck into it for a bit.

For me there’s no better way to get your hand on the pulse of the history, the current political situation, and the future of Barcelona than this wonderful walking tour (video preview here).

You’ll roll with one of the best guides in the business: local Texan Alvaro.

Prepare to be ‘edu-tained‘ at La Rambla, Boqueria Market, Barcelona Cathedral, Plaça Sant Felipe Neri, the Augustus Temple, the Jewish Quarter, and much more.

You’ll also get an old Picasso haunt, one of Barcelona’s sweetest snack stops, and street art galore.

Tours run daily at 10:00 am and last around 2.5 hours.

GOTHIC QUARTER TOUR
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The CCCB

The CCCB Cultural Centre is one of Barcelona’s most visited arts and exhibition centres. Just like El Raval itself, if there’s anything cultural that’s up to be exposed or debated you’ll find it here.

Some exhibitions have been called everything from inspiring to disturbing but I promise you one thing: you won’t be bored! There’s also free wifi in the public study room.

If you’re in town for the World Press Photo exhibition make sure you attend.

Hours: Tues-Sat (11:00 am to 8:oo pm), Sun and holidays (11:00 am to 7:00 pm).

Prices: €6.00 for one exhibition, €8.00 for two exhibitions, kids under 12 free.

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A tip: MACBA and CCCB tickets can be purchased as part of the articketBCN pass – this includes many of Barcelona’s best museums at an astonishing 45% discount.

Palau Guell

It’s not quite the Sagrada Familia basilica or Casa Batllo but Palau Guell is another of the great works of the Catalan wonder architect Antoni Gaudi.

This mansion/’urban palace’ built for the industrialist Eusebi Guell was famous for entertaining high society guests and it shows. The recent restoration completed in 2011 makes it as decadent as ever.

Fans of Antonioni may recognize it as the backdrop to Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider meeting in The Passenger. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

Hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm (April 1st – October 31st). Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 5:30 pm (November 1st – March 31st).

Price: €12.00 (or €9.00 with the Barcelona Card).

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Rambla Del Raval

This famous palm tree-lined promenade is the center-piece of Raval life.

There are tons of bars to grab a drink but it’s also noted for its variety of kebab shops – these shaved meat emporiums are the greatest preemptive hangover cures since not drinking!

There’s also a massive cat here! Yes, Fernando Botero’s work of art is a great meeting place for locals and it’s not uncommon to see people climbing it as the night gets older.

Also, if you you’re on a budget. You can eat 6 or 7 mini sandwiches and get a true pint of beer for less than a tenner at the Spanish institution 100 Montaditos.

sagrada familia passion façade under construction sagrada familia passion façade under construction
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Restaurants in El Raval

If you don’t fancy anything below be sure to check out our article on Barcelona’s best restaurants.

Louro

€€€ Area: La Rambla | Carrer del Caputxins 37 | Metro: Liceu (L3) | Website

Louro is probably the only restaurant I’d recommend on the famous La Rambla – but that’s not to say this is a big fish in a small pond. It’s one of my favourite modern Spanish restaurants in the whole city.

Here the seafood-rich Galician fare gets a creative/avant-guard twist with the added bonus of some of the most concise and friendly service in the business.

Some of the highlights here are the smoked sardines, crunchy octopus, scallops gratin, Galician beef filet, and the highly underrated calamari sandwich – not to mention their elite and unique cocktail offerings like the blackberry mojito.

As this place is always PACKED I’ve set up a quick reservation system directly with the restaurant (no money down, with reservation priority via my blog) by clicking the blue button below.

LOURO
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Arume

€€-€€€ | Carrer d’En Botella 11-13 | Metro: Sant Antoni (L2) | Website

I never shut up about this modern Spanish restaurant where tradition and adventure meet. Forget El Raval, this is one of the best spots in the city. For the (singular) seafood paella alone I’d hit this up once a week.

In particular you’ll find dishes native to Galicia but spiced up, like the fried octopus with seaweed and potato foam with paprika oil. Or the Galician clams with green curry.

Not into seafood? The Galician beef filet with smoked cheese sauce says hello.

One more no-brainer: grab a blackberry mojito.

A Tu Bola

€ | Carrer de l’Hospital 78 | Metro: Universitat (various) | Website

Here it’s all about cheap and creative gourmet street food. Try yourself some bolas (meat or vegetarian balls) stuffed in pitas or mounted on polenta with ridiculously fresh ingredients.

In addition to your order you’ll get some pickled veg, hummous, and a warm pita – how nice! Mexican chipotle pork, Asian satay chicken, and falafel are highlights here.

Fresh, tasty, and well thought out.

Moti Mahal

€€ | Carrer de Sant Pau 103 | Metro: Universitat or Liceu (various) | Website

It wouldn’t be Raval without an Indian tandoori restaurant rich in flavours and low on prices.

After three days in Barcelona eating Spanish food you’ll be dying for some cheese naan and any of their spicy curry dishes. So grab a prawn jalfrezi or a butter chicken and dine like royalty.

Harrison Ford ate here when he was in Barcelona.

Palo Santo Tapas Bar

€€-€€€ | Rambla Del Raval 26 | Metro: Liceu (L3) | Website

An intimate tapas bar in Raval with personal service.

You can get full with a bottle of wine for 25.00 (two people). All the Spanish classics are here but the aubergine/eggplant with honey or Serrano ham with artichokes can’t be avoided.

Looking to wean off Spanish food? There are also smoothies, burgers, and things like the mouth-watering burrata cheese. The bonus here is that the cocktails are amazing.

Bismillah Kebabish

€ | Carrer de Joaquín Costa 56 | Metro: Universitat or Sant Antoni (various) | Website

When I lived in El Raval this was my go-to last minute dinner spot.

One step into the premises and you’ll see the chicken spits rotating a level above the typical kebab place. The chicken is later grilled with veg, wrapped in fresh naan bread, and squirted with homemade yogurt sauce.

The tandoor oven also makes great chicken skewers while a small buffet table with a mean chicken curry offers a few ethnic comfort staples. All piled high with flavoured rice and fresh veg.

And guess what? None of the dishes cost more than €6.00.

a spread of modern tapas at season restaurant in barcelona spain a spread of modern tapas at season restaurant in barcelona spain
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Bars in Raval

There’s a great mixture of bars in Raval but the common theme would be cheap and unpretentious.

You can’t go wrong doing a bit of a crawl down Carrer de Joaquín Costa – with so many great bars you might only get half way!

Barna Brew

€€ | Craft beer | Carrer Parlament 45 | Metro: Sant Antoni (L2) | Website

What do you get when a Londoner and a Cypriot meet in the UK and end up in Belgium?

The answer is great beer. These two friends actually entered a prestigious Belgian beer contest as amateurs and not only did well – they won the whole damn thing.

Now they’ve taken their talents as pros to Barcelona.

The on site brewery churns out half a dozen originals as well as two seasonals, unique takes on Belgian classics. Throw in a delicious paired food menu and this is the Barcelona beer spot.

Marsella

€ Classic dive bar | Carrer de Sant Pau 65 | Metro: Drassanes (L3) | Website

A simple throwback, this dusty bar looks like a prohibition-era speakeasy crossed with a Texan saloon. It hasn’t been renovated since the 20’s. People say it’s Barcelona’s oldest bar and that’s easy to believe.

Hemingway drank here. There’s beer and wine but most get absinthe with a bottle of water and a sugar cube. It’s fun to experiment with the levels of water and sugar, but take it easy!

A great place to really loosen up before going to Barcelona’s best clubs.

Betty Ford’s

€€ Value cocktails | Carrer de Joaquín Costa 56 | Metro: Universitat (various) | Website

Retro, quirky, and a great atmosphere.

Named after an alcohol rehab clinic in the USA, this ‘dive bar and grill’ could get anybody off the wagon with their specialty cocktails – oh, and their burgers might be the best in town! Try the blue cheese one and wash it down with a fine local beer called Krut.

Happy hour is from 9:00 to 11:00.

Tavern l’Ovella Negra

€ | Cheap student drinks | Carrer de les Sitges 5 | Metro: Universitat (various) | Website

There’s no messing around here – it’s a massive bar with bench seating where you’ll meet lots of people: drunk people drinking mini beer kegs, ‘panther milk’ (a bottle of alcohol-infused milk with cinnamon), and sangria.

Proper pints are only 2 euro. It’s a favourite with students and good for pool or foosball.

Take the lads here for a Barcelona stag do with insta-laughs.

Casa Almirall

€-€€ | Old school | Carrer de Joaquín Costa 56 | Metro: Universitat (various) | Website

Super hipster Barcelona has swallowed up traditional establishments by the hundreds, but this El Raval bar has been going strong since 1860. This is easily the best bar in El Raval for history and local vibes.

The tradition here is the vermut (a spiced wine drink). I can also say the Serrano ham plate here is one of the best in the city.

The Mediterranean-style bar snacks and tapas here are second to none.

Bar 33 | 45

€-€€ | Funky cocktail | Carrer de Joaquín Costa 4 | Metro: Universitat (various) | Website

El Raval’s drinking street keeps giving with this bar. That’s also an art gallery. And a cool cafe.

At any rate just go there and get a spritz, an Italian cocktail with Aperol and white sparkling wine, for just 2.50.

In reality 33 | 45 is  two bars in one, a trendy cocktail bar at one end and and sofa-heavy lounge room on the other. If you can’t decide what kind of an evening you want, start out here and let fate decide the rest.

a pan of seafood paella at bodega joan restaurant in barcelona spain a pan of seafood paella at bodega joan restaurant in barcelona spain
Get a paella tasting menu at the legendary Bodega Joan!

Hotels in El Raval

Here I’ve narrowed 143 properties down to only four from luxury to value.

If you’re not sold on El Raval as a neighbourhood then check out my article on the best areas to stay in Barcelona. You can also sort through the other 140 best El Raval hotels via Booking.

Still in doubt? You should also consider signing up to Airbnb and their discount homestay website for some of the best deals in the city.

Casa Camper Hotel

☆☆☆☆☆ | €€€-€€€€ | Carrer d’Elisabets 11 | Metro: Catalunya

This design hotel lives by the motto that luxury lies in simplicity, authenticity, and health.

Here it’s about minimalist design from its space clearing vertical hanging gardens to the mini-lounges with working tables, sofa, and balcony. Forget the mini bar, here there’s the forward thinking 24 hour buffet called Tentempié.

The solar-powered water heating means you’ll use 50% less energy than competitors.

Visit chef Albert Raurich at the restaurant Dos Palillos – he used to be head of house at El Bulli, voted the world’s best restaurant. Here you’ll find delicious Spanish classics with an Asian twist.

Facilities: fitness centre, bar, restaurant, bicycle rental.

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Barcelo Raval

☆☆☆☆ €€-€€€ | Rambla del Raval 17-21 | Metro: Liceu

Yes I know, another design hotel in central Barcelona isn’t breaking news.

Yet the attention to detail here is amazing. You’ll get a super comfy bed and even get your own choice of pillow hardness. Throw in huge plasma TVs, air conditioning, a Nespresso machine, and state of the art design and you’ve got an urban paradise.

And we haven’t even mentioned the breath-taking roof terrace with pool. It’s also only 400 metres from La Boqueria: arguably the world’s best food market.

Facilities: spa, gym, massage, tanning salon, sauna, room service, snack bar, restaurant.

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Andante Hotel

☆☆☆ €€ | Rambla del Raval 17-21 | Metro: Drassanes

Those looking for value without skimping out on the quality will find a home here.

The stylish and modern rooms and their super-sleek wood flooring are more four star than three, but your wallet won’t be complaining. Guests love the rooftop pool with amazing view, great customer service, and varied buffet breakfast.

Being in the lower part of Raval it’s only a 20 minute walk to the beach.

Facilities: fitness centre, infinity pool, room service, laptop safe, soundproof rooms.

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Caledonian

☆☆☆ | €€-€€€ | Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 574 | Metro: Universitat

This hotel has a strategic position in that it’s outside of the tourist chaos of the city centre and yet totally reachable to most things by foot. From the airport it’s easy to reach with the Aerobus getting off at the third stop: Plaça Universitat.

Otherwise you’ll be able to get bus 46 to Plaça Espanya and get the metro from there to Universitat (red line L1).

Another 8.2 rating.

CALEDONIAN HOTEL
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tourists listening to tour guide alvaro garza in the gothic quarter barcelona spain tourists listening to tour guide alvaro garza in the gothic quarter barcelona spain
Discover the secrets of the old city with Alvaro!

El Raval Shopping

First off, if you’re looking for chain shops you best consult my article on the best shopping in Barcelona. In Raval it’s all about discount shops and boutiques at reasonable prices.

For these items I suggest heading to Carrer del Carme, Carrer del’Hospital, and Carrer Joaquin Costa.

Here you’ll find a wide range of shopping opportunities from antique stores to books to precious stones. In particular is the funky ‘Camden’ type street full of record shops and vintage clothes stops on Carrer de la Riera Baixa.

In need of an internet cafe to print out your attraction tickets? El Raval is your place.

Is El Raval Safe?

OK, so it has a bad reputation with locals. They say Raval has changed for the worse but the truth is it’s always been a working class neighbourhood with substandard housing.

The low rental prices in El Raval have attracted migrants who have given a lot of character to the area, but the flip-side is it’s become Barcelona’s drug and prostitution Mecca. This is usually at night however and only confined to a few streets.

I’ve heard it called dirty, disgusting, embarrassing… and it kind of is. My only advice? Don’t let the seediness spoil the whole watermelon. I mean what are you gonna do? Read People magazine and eat at Wendy’s until the end of time? Take a fuckin’ chance! (George Carlin)

The truth is you’ll probably never be in any physical danger. You won’t get robbed using common sense to avoid pickpockets. And nobody is going to force you to buy drugs or sex, are they?

Sorted.

  • July 13, 2018 at 7:06 am
    Ashley
    How is the seediness level if I walk along Carrer de l'Hospital from Arume to the Liceu stop around 11:30pm-midnight? What about the street in front of the Sant Agusti church that runs parallel to La Rambla?
    • July 13, 2018 at 2:17 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Ashley, The seediness is mostly on La Rambla itself after 1 or 2 am and Rambla del Raval and the backstreets to the west of it. I would say you'll be totally fine... obviously there's a chance of some seediness but I wouldn't worry :) Ash
  • July 21, 2015 at 1:16 am
    Bob Charles
    Great read Ash. Might have to have a look at a couple of your other blogs, especially El Gotico one of my favourite places in that beautiful city.
    • July 22, 2015 at 7:16 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Thanks for the kind words Bob! I aim to please ;)
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