So, you are looking for a perfect itinerary for the neighborhood of El Raval in Barcelona? Or perhaps you’d rather know what El Raval is? Well, look no further, Internet Stranger! El Raval is the historic neighborhood on the western side of the famous street known only as La Rambla. It is here that you can find markets, contemporary art, mind-blowing architecture, and the wonders of HAM CONE. If you have only one day in Barcelona, you could do worse than to spend it here.
Breakfast: La Boqueria
Address: Plaza de la Boqueria
Hours: 8 AM-8:30 PM Most Days, Closed Sunday
La Boqueria is possibly the best market in the world. Certainly it is one of the top five markets I have ever been to. When the doors open at 8 AM, you are free to rush in and feast your senses on the tastiest fruits, hams, cheeses, and candies that Barcelona has to offer. At least you can feast three of your senses for free. If you want to touch or taste things, you’re going to have to pay for them.
Every morning I treated myself to a different fresh fruit juice from one of the fruit sellers in the market. You can get something very tasty for 1.5 Euros, although some sellers charge more for the fancier kinds of juice. During my stay in Barcelona I had mint limeade:
Blackberry and coconut:
and pitahaya juice, which is a kind of cactus fruit.
But juice alone does not make breakfast. You will want something to eat! I recommend that you stop at Bar Pinotxo for a tasty little pastry and cafe au lait. As you can see, it’s just a small counter near the entrance to the market.
Just wait cagily for a seat to be available and then jump on that seat and order. I tried ordering in Spanish, which worked, but there were people around me ordering in English and they didn’t have any trouble. I ordered a xuixo, which is an insanely delicious ball of fried dough covered in sugar and stuffed with custard. That is literally everything I look for in a pastry.
You will be tempted to stay here and wander, but don’t! We will come back here later in the day, so resist the temptation.
Morning: Palau Guell
Address: Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 3-5
Hours: 10-5:30 Daily, Closed Monday. Summer Hours 10 AM-8PM
Price: 12 Euros
Most cities have several favored “children”, as it were, men and women whose image and inspiration still permeates the city. In New York City, you could start with Teddy Roosevelt and Fiorello LaGuardia but you could add many others to the list, Copenhagen has Kierkegaard and Hans Christian Andersen, and even small St. Paul, Minnesota has Charles Schultz and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Most cities would have trouble picking just one representative of their home.
But in Barcelona, the architect Gaudi stands alone as king. His buildings are the most popular attractions in the city, and it is his vision of the beautiful that has helped make Barcelona what it is today. La Sagrada Familia might be his most famous building, but as an introduction to Gaudi, you could do much worse than the Palau Guell.
The Palau Guell is very easy to explore because an informative audio guide is included with the price of admission. The AG told me the Palau was built by Gaudi for wealthy industrialist Eusebi Guell, in a similar manner to the way in which Frank Lloyd Wright built the Robie House for Frederick Robie. However, unlike the precisely planned Robie House, Palau Guell is a delicious mishmash of almost every architectural style imaginable. Would you like some classical arches? Behold the basement:
How about some Islamic inspired detailing just outside a chapel?
Would you be more interested in a ceiling that is trying to murder you?
We’ve got Medieval stained glass…
and an Art Nouveau fireplace.
Not to mention whatever madness is going on with the roof.
Travelerette Treasure: Anyone who says that their favorite part of the Palau is something other than the roof is lying. What makes the roof such a special treasure is that it is covered with these amazingly colorful jiggimabobbers. You can spend hours staring at them and wondering what Gaudi was trying to say. Perhaps here he was trying to say, “There’s a reason Christmas trees are green and not rainbow color.”
Travelerette Tip: Reapply sunscreen before going on the roof. You’ll thank me later.
Early Afternoon: La Boqueria
Address: Where you left it this morning
You thought we were done with La Boqueria? Foolish mortal! We will never be done with it! After you explore Palau Guell, it will be time for lunch. I suggest you take your time and gently explore each part of the market before you settle on your choice. You can always go back to Bar Pinotxo for lunch tapas, but were I you, I would stop by one of the purveyors of jamon and purchase HAM CONE.
What is HAM CONE? HAM CONE is a paper cone filled with ham. You can get it at any stall in La Boqueria that sells ham. Mine was jamon de pata negra, which is why it is so dark. Observe:
La Boqueria is also an excellent place to pick up something sweet. I first stopped by this candy store and bought some pate a fruits:
Then I stopped by the Vicens nougat stand and bought a “nougat de creme brulee”, which is rich nougat coated with an egg yolk and burnt sugar mixture. I never knew that was something I needed to eat, but now that I’ve tried it, I don’t know how I ever lived without it.
Late Afternoon: CCCB
Address: Carrer de Montalegre, 5
Hours: 11-8 Most Days, Closed Mondays
Price: 8 Euros
At this point in the afternoon, it will be nice to get out of the sun and into a museum that stays open fairly late. CCCB is a contemporary art museum and cultural center with a regularly changing rotation of special exhibitions. Many of these exhibitions are more political than one expects even at a contemporary art museum, such as one called “Piso Piloto” on the difficulty of creating affordable housing in Barcelona and Medellin, Colombia.
Part of the exhibition was recreations of the kinds of rooms that people could expect to have in poorer neighborhoods. Highly interesting, but not what I expect to see at a contemporary art exhibition. I would be more expecting diamond encrusted sharks or a light installation. But maybe this kind of explicitly political work is more in line with what artists who claim to have a social conscience should be doing anyway?
Travelerette Tip: I strongly suggest getting the Barcelona Art Pass if you will spend more than a couple of days in Barcelona. It includes admission to 6 of the best museums in the city, including the CCCB, for only 30 Euros, which is about half off what you would pay for each museum individually. The pass is extremely easy to buy through the website, but if you forget, you can buy the pass at one of the museums.
Early Evening: Explore El Raval
I’m a big believer in taking some time at the end of the day to explore, and El Raval has a number of little square and side streets that make it perfect for wandering. You never know what kind of wonders you will find. I myself met a giant cat…
And I learned how to say Dog Day Afternoon in Spanish.
But what is Spanish for, “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart.”?
If you get tired, you can walk to the Placa de Catalunya and sit with a book until you are ready for dinner. It’s not far at all.
I can’t guarantee that guy with the hose will still be there, though.
Address: Carrer de Sant Antoni Abat, 52
Hours: CLOSED MONDAY
Reservations: Trip Advisor
Sesamo is, mildly unusually for Spain, a vegetarian restaurant. However, just because you won’t find any meat of the pig doesn’t mean that the food isn’t authentically Spanish. I started, as I normally did in Barcelona, with some sparkling cava wine and a bottle of water. Then I ordered some pa amb tomaquet.
Pa amb tomaquet is Catalan for bread with tomato. Really it is bread with a mashed up tomato, garlic, oil, and salt mixture squished on top. I recommend ordering it at every single restaurant you possibly can. You will surely not regret this decision.
I noticed that some of the food on the menu at Sesamo was Middle Eastern influenced, which is appropriate since Spain was under Islamic rule for such a long period of time. I chose for my entree this varicolored cauliflower head topped with hummus, pine nuts, and pomegranate seeds.
I’m about as far from being a vegetarian as a person can be, but that was still an incredibly satisfying meal.
Travelerette Tip: Keep in mind that Sesamo is really popular and even on a Tuesday night there were no tables available in the main dining room. As long as you don’t mind eating in the bar area up front, you should have no problem as a solo diner or couple. However, if you do book ahead you can get a 7 course tasting menu for 25 Euros, which sounds pretty amazing. I will have to try it next time.
And That’s a Perfect Day in El Raval in Barcelona
What are your favorite things to do in El Raval in Barcelona? Is there someone who is more famous in Barcelona than Gaudi? HAM CONE? Please leave your thoughts below!
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