The sleek Museu d’Art Contemporani (MACBA) sits near ramshackle tenements; Asian groceries sell spices next to what were once Europe’s most decadent brothels; art galleries share narrow streets with smoky old bars – this is a traditional working-class neighbourhood in flux. Since the 1990s it has been undergoing an enthusiastic urban renewal. Not surprisingly, this has sparked a real-estate boom that is now acting as a magnet for the city’s young, hip crowd.
This dramatic, glass-fronted building was designed by American architect Richard Meier. An eclectic array of work by big-name Spanish and international artists is gathered in this contemporary art mecca (see Museu d’Art Contemporani and Centre de Cultura Contemporània). Excellent temporary exhibitions display everything from mixed media to sculpture and photography. Opposite stands the Gothic-style 16th-century Convent dels Àngels, built by Bartomeu Roig for the Dominican Tertiary Sisters. This is now used by Capella MACBA for temporary exhibitions, but long-term plans are to extend the galleries and exhibit some of MACBA’s collection here permanently.
Housed in the 18th-century Casa de la Caritat, the CCCB is a focal point for the city’s thriving contemporary art scene (see Museu d’Art Contemporani and Centre de Cultura Contemporània). It hosts innovative art exhibitions, literature festivals, film screenings and lectures. A medieval courtyard is dazzlingly offset by a massive angled glass wall, artfully designed to reflect the city’s skyline.
Av de les Drassanes • 10am–7:30pm daily • Adm, free from 3pm every Sun • Santa Eulàlia sailing trips: 10am–1pm Sat (advance reservations needed) • www.mmb.cat
Barcelona’s seafaring legacy comes to life at this museum (see Museu Marítim), which reopened in 2015 with new high-tech displays after renovations. Admire the dramatic Gothic arches, where the royal ships were once built, and the full-scale replica of the Real, a 16th-century fighting galley. You can also explore the Santa Eulàlia, a 1918 schooner moored at the Moll de la Fusta, and even take a sailing trip in her around the seafront on Saturdays.
C/Nou de la Rambla 3–5 • Open 10am–8pm Tue–Sun (to 5:30pm Nov–Mar); last entry 1 hr before closing • Adm • www.palauguell.cat
In 1886, Count Güell asked Gaudí to build him a mansion that would set him apart from his neighbours. The result is the Palau Güell, one of Gaudí’s earliest commissions. The interior is darker and less playful than his later works, but stained-glass panels and windows make the most of the light. The rooms are arranged around a huge central salon topped with a domed ceiling. The charming roof terrace hints at the glorious rooftops like La Pedrera.
This pedestrian walkway, lined with palm trees, started as an attempt by city planners to spark a similar environment to that of the famed La Rambla. The striking, conical Barceló Hotel, with its panoramic rooftop terrace, and the sleek Filmoteca, a film archive complete with café and cinema, are signs of the area’s gentrification. Halfway down the street, Botero’s huge, plump bronze Cat usually has several neighbourhood kids crawling over its back. Trendy bars and cafés mean the Rambla del Raval rivals its more famous cousin for snacking and people-watching.
This long avenue was home to the city’s liveliest theatre and cabaret halls at the turn of the 20th century, and, despite being badly bombed in the Civil War, it remains the centre of the theatre district. The area is currently undergoing a resurgence, spearheaded by the restoration of the landmark El Molino music hall, which dates from 1898 and is once again a venue for concerts and shows (see Performing Arts and Music Venues). The street hosts a number of festivals and there are plans to turn the century-old Teatro Arnau into a museum of the performing arts.
Looking for vintage blue-and-white French navy tops once favoured by the likes of Picasso or bootleg CDs of Madonna’s European tour? Along Carrers dels Tallers and de la Riera Baixa in the heart of El Raval are several vintage music and clothing shops selling everything from vinyl and the latest CDs to original Hawaiian shirts. On Saturdays, Carrer de la Riera Baixa has its own market (11am–9pm), when its stores display their wares on the street.
Pl de Salvador Seguí 1–9 • 93 567 10 70 • www.filmoteca.cat
The Filmoteca – the Catalan film archive – occupies a huge, sleek contemporary building just off the Rambla del Raval and has played a large part in the ongoing regeneration of this neighbourhood. It has two screening rooms and shows a varied and interesting programme. This includes film cycles dedicated to the finest directors from around the world, documentaries, plenty of Catalan films, and special events for children. It’s extremely popular, not least because prices are very reasonable. There is also a great café which has a library, a documentation centre and an in-demand outdoor terrace. On the first Sunday of the month, a flea market is held in the square outside.
Entrances on C/Carme and at C/Hospital 56 • Courtyard open 9am–8pm daily
This Gothic hospital complex, now home to the National Library and various cultural organizations, dates from 1401 and is a reminder of the neighbourhood’s medieval past (see La Capella). Visitors can wander in a pleasant garden surrounded by Gothic pillars, but a reader’s card is needed for admission to the library. The chapel has been converted into a wonderful contemporary art space.
C/Sant Pau 101 • Open 9:30am–noon & 3:30–6:30pm Mon–Fri, 9:30am–12:30pm Sat; Mass 8pm Sat, noon Sun • Adm
Deep in the heart of El Raval is this Romanesque church (see Església de Santa Maria del Mar), one of the oldest in Barcelona. Originally founded as a Benedictine monastery in the 9th century and subsequently rebuilt, this ancient church boasts 12th-century cloister.
Choose an exhibition that appeals at either MACBA or the CCCB, the city’s two most important institutions of contemporary art and culture, which sit right next to each other. Watch the skateboarders on the Plaça dels Àngels or relax in the café overlooking the courtyard. Take C/Joaquin Costa down to the Rambla del Raval where you can stroll beneath the palm trees and admire Fernando Botero’s Cat. The Rambla is crammed with cafés and restaurants: pick one for lunch, or head to the popular café in the Filmoteca, located just off the Rambla.
At the bottom of the Rambla, turn right on C/Sant Pau towards the charming Romanesque monastery of Església Sant Pau del Camp. Admire the simple church and its miniature cloister with delicately-carved columns. Then walk back along C/Sant Pau, turning right when you reach the Rambla, then left on C/Nou de la Rambla. At no. 3 stands Gaudí’s remarkable Palau Güell, an extravagant mansion that was one of his first commissions for the Güells. It has been beautifully restored, with its lavish salons and charming rooftop open to visitors. Kick off the evening with an absinthe at one of Barcelona’s oldest bars, the Marsella, before heading to the nearby Bar Muy Buenas, which boasts restored Modernista decor.
C/Pintor Fortuny 27 • Closed Sat & Sun
Emerging and established artists, local and foreign, are shown at this cutting-edge contemporary painting, photography and sculpture gallery.
C/Guardia 10 • Open 4:30–11pm Tue–Sun (to midnight Fri & Sat), closed Aug • www.miscelanea.info
Miscelanea is an artists’ project with a multidisciplinary space. At the entrance is a gallery, hosting temporary exhibitions by emerging local and international artists. Downstairs is a shop, selling design objects, original arts and prints, and above the shop is a café with free Wi-Fi.
C/Ferlandina 18 • 93 317 80 41 • Closed Sat pm, Sun & Mon
Part boutique, part art gallery, Siesta sells unique ceramics, jewellery and glass art. It also hosts exhibitions.
C/Pintor Fotuny 30 • Closed Sun
A tempting homewares emporium stacked floor to rafters with lovely decor items and bright textiles.
C/Peu de la Creu 25 • Open 11am–3pm & 4–9pm Mon–Sat
This lovingly-curated shop, run by an expat Australian, sells a selection of mostly locally-made gifts and crafts, from stationery to jewellery and bags.
C/Hospital 56 • Opening times vary, check website • www.lacapella.barcelona
C/Peu de la Creu 24 • 63 68 05 703 • www.imanolossa.com
Original lamps, jewellery, and mobiles are made from all kinds of upcycled treasures at this studio, run by a young designer.
C/Hort de la Bomba 6 • Open 5:30–8:30pm Thu–Sat • www.laxinaart.org
The latest contemporary art features at this innovative gallery started by four local artists in the late 1990s.
C/Pintor Fortuny 30 • Closed Sun
Some unusual designs – from jewellery to paintings to lamps – are all on display in this eclectic shop.
C/dels Àngels 16 • 93 302 10 16 • Open 11am–2pm & 4:30–7pm Mon–Fri; closed Aug • www.roomsd.com
This commercial gallery is dedicated to cutting-edge design, principally for the home. International creators are represented, along with up-and-coming local talent.
C/de Ferlandina 20 • 93 182 43 87 • Open 11am–9pm Mon–Sat • www.vintagekilo.com
This fabulous vintage store, also selling old posters and bric-a-brac, operates on a weight system: you pay per kilo, depending on the clothing category you choose.
C/Tallers 73 • Open 11am–9pm Mon–Sat
Rummage for an outfit at this three-floor vintage store, with everything from original silk kimonos to army pants and colourful 1950s bathing suits.
C/Joaquim Costa 62 • Open 10am–2pm & 4–8pm Mon–Fri • www.fustam.cat
Discover second-hand furniture, lighting and decorative objects from around the world in 1950s, 60s and 70s styles, all of them completely restored at their own workshop.
C/Tallers 11 • Closed Sun
The speciality here is classic rock – the wall art depicts The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. One floor houses CDs, the other vinyl.
C/Joaquin Costa 2
This dimly-lit boudoiresque boutique is lined with vintage sunglasses, from aviator shades to pairs of cat’s-eye specs from the 1960s.
Pl Castella 2 • Closed Sun
This huge shop in the heart of the Raval sells second-hand clothes, furniture and bric-a-brac.
C/Valldonzella 52 • 60 726 57 57 • www.laprincipalretro.com
Set in a charming old dairy, this chic boutique has a fantastic range of vintage clothing for men and women.
C/Tallers 15 • 93 481 32 94
A vintage-style shop selling 1950s frocks, cats’-eye sunglasses, flirty Bardot tops and much more.
This small but well-stocked record and CD store focuses on alternative music from decades past. Visitors can hum a few lines of a song and the owner will track it down.
C/Peu de la Creu 16 bis • 647 63 26 94 • Open noon–2:30pm & 5–8pm Mon–Sat, closed Sat in Aug
Furniture and home decor from the 1950s to 1970s is sold in this funky showroom. Smaller pieces include light fittings, lamps and ceramics mostly from Italy and Germany.
C/Joaquin Costa 33
The Modernista doors swing open to a young, friendly crowd at the city’s oldest watering hole. Founded in 1860, the bar has many original fittings, plus eclectic music and strong cocktails.
Intimate and welcoming, this gay-friendly bar is a great place to start the night. There are excellent cocktails – including a great mojito – and light snacks.
C/Riera Baixa 22
Formerly an old-fashioned neighbourhood bar, this is now an appealing boho-chic tavern with a small terrace. Wine and cocktails accompany delicious tapas.
C/Sant Pau 65
This-dimly lit Modernista bar (see Marsella) serves up cocktails and absinthe to regulars and first-timers.
Las Ramblas 31
Once a cinema, this huge space has been converted into a drinking and dining destination with bright graphics and retro furniture. It serves creative share plates – try the tuna tataki – and an excellent selection of cocktails.
C/Joaquin Costa 56
Named after the Hollywood set’s favourite rehab and detox centre, this kitsch, laid-back cocktail bar has a soothing 1950s chill-out vibe.
C/Arc del Teatre 3
Big-name DJs spin techno and electronica, but for a boogie to classic 1980s hits, head for the second floor.
C/Tallers 1 • Closed Sun
A smooth little cocktail bar, Boadas was founded in 1933. It continues to mix the meanest martinis in town for an elbow-to-elbow crowd.
C/ Requesens 2
This bar-club puts on live gigs, from jazz (Wednesdays), to Cuban (Thursdays), flamenco (Fridays and Saturdays) and pop-rock (Tuesdays and Sundays). There is a €10 cover charge, which includes a drink.
C/del Carme 63 • €
A charming Modernista-era bar, Muy Buenas has been meticu-lously restored. It serves spirits and wine made exclusively in Catalonia along with plates of local cheese and premium chacuterie.
C/Pintor Fortuny 31 • 93 317 98 92 • Closed Mon & Sun eve • €
This spot near the MACBA museum has become a favourite for weekend brunch and long coffee breaks. The menu changes regularly but is likely to include delicious huevos rancheros, filling soups and creative salads. Lots of vegetarian options too.
C/de la Cera 49 • 93 441 11 87 • Closed Sun • €€
Run by three consecutive generations, this restaurant has been preparing its family recipes since 1929. The food is simple and delicious, and the fixed-price lunch menu is a bargain.
C/Begara 2 • Closed after 6:30pm daily • €
A spacious café with its floor fitted with natural wood, La Esquina serves delicious all-day brunch and light lunch fare such as pulled pork tacos and Caeser salad.
C/Jovellanos 2 • 93 317 18 29 • €
Come here for excellent, imaginative vegetarian fare, such as crêpes with artichokes and brie. The set lunch Monday–Friday is great value.
C/Pintor Fortuny 22 • 93 318 63 80 • Closed Sun eve • €
A quiet, modern café serving good coffee and some of the best cakes in town, including vegan options.
C/de Hospital 78 • Closed Tue • €€
A local favourite, A Tu Bola is well known for its fish, meat and vegetable balls served between bread with a range of dips and sauces.
C/Jerusalén 6 • Closed Sun • 672 17 60 68 • €€
Tucked behind the Boqueria market, this convivial little Italian restaurant-bar serves a frequently-changing menu of modern Venetian cuisine.
C/Riera Alta 4–6 • 93 442 39 66 • €
A loft-style bar providing cocktails, snacks and meals in the evenings (stir fries, fajitas, fish and chips), plus a great brunch at weekends.
Ronda Sant Pau 55 • 93 441 10 46 • Closed Sun eve, Mon, 2 weeks in Aug • €
Traditional cuisine with a creative touch in elegant surroundings. Good value fixed-price menus.
C/Lleó 1 • 93 302 21 06 • Closed Sun eve, Mon, 2 weeks in Aug • €€
Despite the name, this eatery serves superb Catalan cuisine. Try the fresh fish of the day or classic Catalan dishes such as pig’s trotters.