El Raval | Barcelona Bus Turístic

Due to the El Corte Inglés Race, Sunday 7 April, the Red Route and some stops on the Blue Route will be affected between approximately 09:00 and 14:00. Information available at the stops.

El Raval

The past and future of Barcelona

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This district with its maze of small streets has left its past of marginalisation behind to become a new centre of culture in Barcelona. As one of the city’s oldest districts, El Raval was the site of Barcelona’s first factories, proletarian revolts and brothels, while now it is home to many of the city’s most modern museums and establishments.

Why visit El Raval?

El Raval dates back to the 14th century, when the Black Death significantly reduced the city’s population and the land that became available as a result was used to construct convents and monasteries and to grow crops. The district became well known and grew around the Carme Convent, the Nazareth Monastery and the Colom Hospital, forcing King Peter the Ceremonious to order the construction of a new city wall to protect the area as it was starting to be developed and contained vulnerable services like hospitals, orphanages and leprosariums.

From the 16th century the convents and monasteries located near La Rambla multiplied and became the dominant element of the district until in the 18th century large factories started to be built, such as Vapor Bonaplata, Spain’s first steam-powered textile factory, in 1832. This period saw a proliferation of factory houses, which unified manufacturing and housing in a single space, whose industrial architecture is now conserved as cultural heritage.

This growth in production facilities, along with the proximity of the port and the outbreak of the First World War contributed to the degradation of the district. This was the birth of El Raval as a cosmopolitan, seedy and marginalised area, where new drugs like cocaine could be obtained and jazz and tango music became the soundtrack of cabarets and brothels. It was a time in which authors like Francisco Madrid, Juli Vallmitjana and Josep Maria de Sagarra designated El Raval as the city’s red-light district due to the marginality and poverty evident on its streets. Some emblematic bars still survive from this period, like London Bar, a dive bar with live music; Bar Marsella, where absinthe is served; and Bar Pastís.

These bars bear witness to a part of history that is becoming an increasingly distant memory. Today El Raval, delimited by Carrer de Pelai, La Rambla, Plaça del Portal de la Pau, the Port of Barcelona, Avinguda del Paral·lel, Ronda de Sant Pau, Ronda de Sant Antoni and Plaça de la Universitat, is a vibrant and multicultural district that in addition to bars and restaurants is home to two of Barcelona’s most cutting-edge museums, the CCCB and the MACBA, in addition to cultural temples like Gran Teatre del Liceu and the Library of Catalonia.

 

How do you get to El Raval?

From the Plaça de Catalunya stop on the Blue Route of the Barcelona Bus Turístic, if you go down La Rambla as far as carrer de l'Hospital, you can go into the Raval district to explore its maze of streets.

 

For the most curious of you

  • Did you know? The inhabitants of Barcelona have a verb, "ravalejar", meaning to stroll through or hang out in El Raval. It is the only district to have its own verb!
  • Local’s tip: Don’t leave without taking a stroll along La Rambla del Raval. It is not as enchanting as La Rambla, but it is equally cosmopolitan and full of terrace bars.
  • A must: To understand the past of the city and observe new trends.