The Raval neighborhood of Barcelona is probably the city’s most infamous neighborhoods. El Raval was unofficially known as the Barrio Chino, Chinatown, not because it was an actual Chinatown but apparently because it was considered a less than great neighborhood. Zeis remembers El Raval neighborhood as the neighborhood not to go to. Prostitution, nightlife, cabaret and crime were part of the neighborhood. Though some petty crime still exists today, other things have certainly changed. Today El Raval is one of the most multicultural and lively neighborhoods in Barcelona. Various cultures come together to add to local flavor. This is reflected in the many bars and ethnic restaurants El Raval is known for.
In addition to the cultural melange, there has also been an influx of art and design in recent years. Here you will find MACBA or the Modern Art Museum of Barcelona as well as Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona. Many skateboarders come to hang out and practice their skateboarding tricks around here. So much hanging out happens here that the locals have created the term Ravalejar to refer to all the socializing.
If you take the time to stroll this neighborhood you will be greeted by a large Botero cat sculpture. Many creatives have made El Raval their home and so you will find art studios, galleries and trendy bookshops. Some other notable sites in the neighborhood include the old wall and gate of what was at one time the medieval city, Portal de Santa Madrona. La Boqueria, the most famous market in the city can also be found in El Raval. As with many artsy neighborhoods, El Raval is also the place to find the little boutiques that carry the unique and one of a kind in fashion.
Though El Raval is still not considered one of the safest neighborhoods in Barcelona, it does definitely have a rich history and vibrant, colorful presence worth experiencing.