All posts tagged: Raval

One of Gaudís houses at Passeig de Graçia.

48 hours Barcelona

Barcelona is one of those cities, where you rather stay than leave. It‘s not a surprise, that  again and again travelers strand in this bustling metropolis – you‘ll hardly find another European city, sticking its toes into the warm Mediterranean Sea while at the same time carrying a cultural crown on the head. The authentic, stunning architecture of the Gothic Quarter, the vibrant, trendy subculture, the traces of Picasso and Gaudí, making the heart of any art fan beat faster – Barcelona is a seductress, mastering her trade with perfection. So how about 48 hours date to get a little foretaste? If you don‘t believe in love at first sight, you probably going to be convinced of the opposite.

View of the city.

Day 1 – flaneurs and night owls

A classic date usually starts with a coffee and a first glance – in this case, it‘s the view of the ocean panorama, unfolding behind the rolling seafront of the city. There‘s no better place to have breakfast and do some people watching. Side by side hide the Cafés in the shade of the palm trees, tourists from the nearby hotels mingle with tanned locals, longboarders and fitness junkies. You feel yourself drawn into Barcelona‘s pulsating atmosphere immediately- it seems to be an endless summer.

After this first impression, it‘s time for a little stroll along the promenade. Barcelona‘s famous harbour is only a stone‘s throw away and the view is fantastic. At least as impressive as the yachts and sailboats is the facade of the Maremagnum Shopping Mall, where you find yourself reflected in front of the ocean. As tempting as it might be, the shopping will have to wait – you normally don‘t get a diamond ring at the first date.

The facade of the Maremagnum shopping centre.

Afterwards, it gets a bit more turbulent- on Barcelona’s most famous road section La Rambla. You may hate it or love it – but you can‘t leave the city without risking a look. Surrounded by restaurants and souvenir shops, it marks the border between the district Raval and the Gothic Quarter. It‘s like a colorful open-air-circus with all the wandering travelers, mime artists and caricaturists. If you fed up by the hustle and bustle, you can loose yourself in the narrow streets of the Barrio Gothic or the Raval.

After this tour, it’s time for a lunch break – you should never be hungry on a date. Right at the end of the Rambla, you stumble upon a huge hall, where the voices of the traders and the smell of fresh food is already seeping through the gates.La Boqueria, Barcelonas market hall, dates back to the 11th century and leaves the after-taste of culinary diversity and the Spanish culture. Gossiping and haggeling residents push through the stalls. The huge selection of fruits, vegetables, meat and fish makes the decision hard – it‘s best to take a little of everything and sit down on the shady square behind the hall to enjoy a delicious picnic.

Good vibes in Barcelonas streets.

By now, the ice should be broken and romance is requiered. Located just outside the town on a hill, the Parc Güell not only attracts with the wonderful view over the city. Antonio Gaudí created it 1900 – 1914 on behalf of the industrialist Eusebi Güell, who envisioned a English garden with 60 different villas. After completing the third house, the financial resources were used up – perhaps to the benefit of the park. Surrounded by Mediterranean vegetation are Gaudí’s dazzling artworks scattered along the path . You can gaze at the skyline from the platform. It‘s the perfect place to chill out for a bit.

After the descent of the hill, it‘s already time for a first (or maybe also a second or a third) cocktail in one of the many bars on the way back into the city. As you know, the way to the heart is through the stomach, and it‘s time for a dinner, giving the first day the icing of the cake. You can eat everywhere in Barcelona – but the awards of the Michelin Guides are the most trusted. For those looking for a fancy spot, the hotel restaurants Enoteca, Àbac and Moments offer delicious meals. A bit more casual, but still full of atmosphere is the restaurant Lasarte. Bargain hunters are going to be happy in on of the countless cheap tapas bars in Raval.

Musicians in one of the streets of Raval.

The first encounter with Barcelona could now come to an end, but it‘s more likely that you already crave for more – and the city becomes even more alive just after dark. The clubs and discos now open their gates for night owls and crazy dancers. No matter what day it is, there‘s always something to celebrate. Everyone‘s tastes are diffrent and there‘s plenty to chose from. Chaotic nights at Razzmatrazz with more fun and less memories, dancing with the mixed crowd at the legendary Apolo Club or swinging your hips to Hip Hop grooves  at Otto Zutz. As the name suggests, suit- and highheelswearers can be found at Bling Bling and Shôko. No matter where you end up, there‘s always enough time for a nightcap at the beach. The first night together is ticked off.

Day Two – hangover and storybook romance

It is likely, that the second day after a long night does not begin quite as lively as the first one.  Nevertheless, to get on your feet, catch a metro to Passein de Graçia – a huge All-you-can-eat hangover buffet with cold and warm food awaits you at La Vaca Paca. Don‘t worry, you can leave your sunglasses on, that makes it easier to watch the passing crowd. Barcelona is not only a world- but also a shopping metropolis and Passeig de Graçia is the right place to fill up your bags. The warm up phase is finished now and the city will ensure, that you don‘t return with empty hands. If you‘re tired of strolling, you can gaze at Gaudís colorful houses just a few meters up the street.

One of Gaudís houses at Passeig de Graçia.

If you long for a bit more peace and atmosphere after this shopping marathon, it‘s now time for a journey through the subcultural heart of the city. The Raval has long been considered as a ambiguous neighborhood, populated by prostitution and crime – now its about to become the new scene-district of Barcelona.Cultural diversity is the key word and everything from kebab shops to authentic Asians can be found. Charming cafés and cozy bars have joined this colorful mixture and the Hipsters and Bohemians of the city empty the first pitchers of Sangria on the terraces. Get lost in the tiny, narrow alleys and watch out for the great tapas bars, hiding in the shadows of the houses.

No matter, whether you feel hangoverish or not, there‘s one more sight to be discovered. La Sagrada Familia may not be a beauty, but it‘s a sign of the variety and versatility of the city. Yes, exactly – its yonder monumental church, always hiding behind scaffolding. In 1882, the architect Francisco de Paula started the project, a year later Gaudí took over the ongoing construction. To this day, countless hands have left their traces in the architecture of the church, recognizable by its unusual appearance.

Street artist in the city.

After this second, eventful day parting moods will come up. It‘s probably unnecessary, but Barcelona has one last ace up his sleeve to finally wrap you around the finger. Even from a distance shine the lights of Montjuïc Mountain into the darkness – you simply have to follow them until you come to the grand palace, where the fountain of Montjuïc spews the water high into the air.  When the darkness has fallen over the park, you can witness a stunning spectacle consisting of countless, colorful lights and huge columns of water. Just grab a bottle of wine and a picnic basket and enjoy the view of the sparkling city. A farewell forever is thus impossible.

A sailing boat at the Port of Barcelona.

A man waiting in front of his shop in Raval.

Eight hours walk trough Barcelonas Raval…

Mission: One day and one night in Barcelona, 8 hours of time, sniffing out one district until I know every hidden spot.It‘s ten in the morning, I‘m sitting in a small bar, a cup of coffee and a sandwich in front of me, trying to swallow the hangover from last night – I just couldn‘t resist the alluring nightlife of Barcelona. It was worth it and I cannot waste my day – I‘ve got nine hours left before I‘m going to catch my train back home and my curiosity screams louder than my buzzing head. Also, I feel quite twitchy, because the city once again trapped me and even tough I really love the quietness of the little villages, I sometimes need this bustling atmosphere – I‘m normally living in the middle of Berlin.

Some of the houses are very close to each other.

What am I going to do, with this little time and in a city, which seems to birm with liveliness? The benefit is, that I already know, where I want to spend my day. I‘m not a big sightseeing fan, I‘m anyway to small to catch a glimpse on a building between all the tourists. It‘s the district Raval, located south of the Rambla and looking like the shape of a fist on the map, which is attracting me. A few years ago, rarely any visitor would have come here and Raval appeared to be the contrary of the  dazzling tourist promenades of Barcelona. Prostitution and crime were on daily occurrence, the general conditions of living were disastrous and the educational level was low. It was not till the city started to improve these conditions after the death of Franco, that Ravals dark face became a little more friendly. Bit by bit, a vividly subculture of young people developed and charming, little cafés and bars found their way into the district. Even if there‘s still a rough wind blowing trough some of the streets, Raval is now presented as one of Barcelonas most scenic quarters.

A few years ago, Raval was famous for prostitution and crime.

But that‘s not the main reason, why I‘m so curious about exploring it – I‘m normally living in Berlin Neukölln, which could be the identical twin of Raval. Therefore, I‘m also seeking for a little feeling of home in the outland – which would make it impossible for me, not to return to Barcelona for a longer time.
One hour later, after I managed to escape the crowd walking up and down the Rambla, I finally find myself in the chaotic tangle of narrow streets, which demand full concentration of my groggy head.
It‘s astounding, how quite the place all of a sudden becomes – I feel like slipping into a cocoon and the rest of the world is unable to follow me. But it‘s not only the silence, which is diffrent. Little by little, greengrocerys and cornerstores replace the shops, where the tourists are usually buying their souvenirs.

There are rarely any tourist in Raval.

I neither have a travel guide nor a citymap, that‘s why I decide to wander around aimlessly.    The streets soon become more and more narrow, some of the houses are built so close, that their balconys almost touch each other. Colorful shirts and dresses flutter on clotheslines above my head. The alley in front of me is now almost deserted, I can hear kids screaming and the noise of a hoover. On the contrary of the crowded Rambla, Raval seems to be more honest and I can find marks of the everydaylife of it‘s inhabitants almost on every corner. As I‘m used to it from where I live in Berlin, I soon notice, that there are diffrent areas in this district. The deeper I get into it, the more I betake myself into the cultural melting pot.
The silence merges into a noisy soundscape – I walk into alleys, in which market stalls and greengrocherys line both sides of the path. Women, wearing headscarfs, fill up their shopping bags and tattle with each other, children are playing at the roadside. When the first kebab shop appears, it finally reminds me of home.

The kebab shop reminded me of my home.

A few streets further down, the first graffitis appear – the evidence, that I slowly walk towards the subcultural heart of the Raval. Cafés and bars are scattered all over the place, the terraces are full of young people, wearing sunglasses and drinking carafes of sangria, the smell of incense sticks and creativity seeps out of the shop – doors.The apartments are mostly populated by students, flags and posters stick to the grey walls.
Altought the atmosphere of Raval is very colorful and seems to birm over with agility, it‘s impossible to walk trough this district without catching a glimpse into it‘s ugly face. I cross areas, in which the silence gives way to a ambience of depression – the air is so stifling hot and sticky, that I don‘t even want to breath it, piles of rubbish line the road like termite hills. The plastering comes of the walls, windows are broken or not even existent. The gazes of the few people I meet, are distrustful and grumbly – I put my camera and my note book into my backpack, otherwise I would feel like a sensation – seeker, looking for the most touching evidence of incapacity.

Raval is very rich in contrasts.

This seems to be the place, where the older inhabitants of the Raval went. Or better said: they where banished, from where they were living before, when more and more students moved into the cheap flats and the rental prices started to rise. That‘s the other side of the picture: subculture and scenic spot on the one hand, gentrifictation and uprooting on the other.
After eight hours, I finally break out of the cocoon – the chaotic chrush on the Rambla seems even more artificially to me. I don‘t want to draw a conclusion after this day – the Raval is anyway to multilayered and rich in contrast to describe it with only a few words. But I‘m clear in my mind about one matter: Barcelona has stolen a little piece of my heart and I have to fetch it back.