Lying just to the west of Barcelona’s famous Las Ramblas Boulevard, and home of the gleaming Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), the Raval is a once-tatty ‘barrio’ (district) that is rapidly cleaning itself up. Historically working class, today new boutiques, art galleries, bars and restaurants are springing up in this inner-city neighborhood at a rate of knots but neglected corners still retain an earthy air and a multicultural blend of Catalan, Arabic, Romanian, Indian and Indonesian cultures. Besides MACBA, the narrow alleys of El Raval are home to the ornate Gran Teatre del Liceu – one of Europe’s foremost opera houses and adorned with Japanese-style decoration – which opened in 1847, Antoni Gaudí’s twisting, fluid Palau Güell and the Romanesque beauty of ninth-century Sant Pau del Camp, the oldest church in the city. Contemporary additions to the Raval include the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), which sits adjacent to MACBA and is an innovative exhibition space fashioned from a 19th-century poorhouse; close by is the smooth concrete façade of the Filmoteca de Catalunya, where art house movies are shown. The district is also site of Barcelona’s magical food market, La Boqueria, which has its main entrance on Las Ramblas.
El Raval is in Barcelona’s Ciutat Vella (Old City) and there are certain streets in the district that are still unsafe at night. Take the Metro to Liceu.