|Rambla de Raval in the heart of the Raval Barrio|
This article will attempt to highlight the good and the bad of one of Barcelona's most controversial and yet interesting neighbourhood.
There are so many sides to the vibrant area known as El Raval that it makes it a real challenge to write this article. Raval is an interesting and exciting area in Barcelona however it also has its darker and seedy side that you ought to be aware of. It is certainly not the safest or the cleanest area in Barcelona but it does have a special personality and character all of its own that makes this area a compelling visit.
|A street in Raval|
If you are a seasoned traveller then I would have no hesitation in recommending this area if you want to experience an authentic and stimulating Barcelona neighbourhood. If, however, you are not comfortable with walking through seedy areas or if you are particularly sensitive to street noise then this may not be the area for you.
El Raval is part of the second stage development of historic Barcelona and used to be densely populated until the city walls were removed around the turn of the 20th century and the Eixample area was built. The Southern most part of the El Raval, near the port also used to be famous as the city's red-light district. However in 1988 the government started a huge urban regeneration project and invested a lot of money in cleaning up the area and it has become more modern and safer. However even after this urban clean up there are still locations within Raval that are unsafe at night. There are also localised areas where prostitution continues.
|Picturesque Street in Raval|
So what is the appeal to El Raval? The area is vibrant, historic, authentic and full of personality. It is a lively, multi-cultural neighbourhood with a huge variety of tempting cafes, restaurants and bars. The area has also become fashionable being host to a wide variety of art studios, galleries and trendy bookshops, not to mention the imposing MACBA (museum of modern art) and CCCB which is the neighbouring exhibition centre.
Clothes shopping is also a pleasure in El Raval thanks to the little one-off boutiques that line some of the streets giving you a truly unique shopping experience. Unlike the Eixample with its large branded name designer labels, Raval is where you find the small privately owned shops selling clothes you can't find anywhere else.
El Raval is alive all through the day and night so you will never be without an eatery to entice you in the early hours of the morning.
El Raval offers a central location within walking distance of many of the other popular areas such as the Gothic Quarter and Eixample. The nearest metro stops are on Las Ramblas, Barcelona's most famous street which runs up one side of El Raval.
Staying in El Raval also means that you are situated between two of Barcelona's famous food markets, La Boqueria on Las Ramblas and Mercat Sant Antoni. Both places are worth a visit to stock up on fresh fruit to get you through the day or to sample Spain's delicious chorizo or Jamon Serrano.
In terms of location El Raval gives you good access to many of the city's main attractions which are within walking distance. However the area can be noisy so be careful if you are easily disturbed when sleeping.
The Raval is a prime area for pick-pockets and other unsavoury characters so it is worth being wary when in the area, especially at night. Don't wander down any unlit alleys and be watchful of your belongings everywhere.
I love El Raval but it isn't to everybody's taste. It is real, it's not that clean or beautiful, and its certainly not the safest neighbourhood in the city but it does have so much personality and character that it should be a crime not to visit this area.
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