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Journeyman Guide to Three Barcelona Neighborhoods:
Elegant, Ancient & Hipster-Hot

The Raval...

I love GaudiFinally, the Raval. This is a quarter falling roughly below the Grand Via on the north and the Ramblas on the east. In the middle ages the Raval was outside the most ancient city walls, and was developed with monasteries, ancient churches, the medieval shipyards (the Drassanes, which can be visited today as part of the maritime museum complex). In recent decades the neighborhood deteriorated into a hotbed of prostitution, drugs and other less than salubrious pursuits. Most recently, this gritty quarter is evolving rapidly into a multicultural neighborhood and hipster hangout that is a mash-up of emerging designers, trendy shops, small clubs and bars, traditional and cutting edge restaurants and cultural institutions. It has a vibrancy and energy that is appealing and fun.

One cultural draw in the Raval, just a couple of blocks in from the Ramblas, is the Palau Guell. This stunning mansion was designed by Antoni Gaudi the Guell family who were major industrialists in late 19th century Barcelona. The mansion has been open to the public since 2011 following a major renovation. It is a UNESCO Heritage site. The 12 Euro entry fee is well worth the experience of exploring this multi-floored building (including the roof with its fanciful ceramic turrets, chimneys and excellent views). Gaudi made liberal use of steel, iron, and glass within the mansion that became home to this cultured family. One of many highlights is the central music room where the Guell's hosted frequent concerts and which has its own pipe organ. On the half-hour Catalan organ music plays filling the house with sound and encouraging you to imagine, just for a few moments, that you are a guest for a performance in these splendid surroundings.

Bar Canette, just around the corner from the Guell Palace, is your stop for a superb meal drawn from the Catalan larder of uber-fresh fish, meats, and tapas-y dishes. I loved an order of Cadiz style shrimp tortillas to start off (thin crispy, eggy shrimp fritters) and devoured a main dish of sweetbreads with sweet fresh shrimp and chanterelle mushrooms. The large menu provides lots of choice for meat or fish lovers in tapas or full portion sizes. The atmosphere is bustling and fun. Jot down the address: Career de la Unia #17.

Walking into the Raval, if you wind your way to Carrer Elizabets you will find this street that is the current shopping epicenter of the emerging, trendy Raval. In one block near the Casa Camper hotel (hip and a great choice) you will find three shoe stores that sell fashionable shoes made in Spain by hand. The Camper shoe brand also has a shop here, as well as in the Eixample. Clothing stores with designs from up and coming Catalan designers line the street. Dos Palillos, a new restaurant by a former El Bulli chef de cuisine, is located at Carrer Elizabets #9. Dos Palillos, with one Michelin star, features a fascinating fusion of Japanese and Catalan food. You can snack tapas-style at the bar or enjoy full tasting menus inside or outside on a small terrace across the street. You can spend 5 to 6 euros for an inspired dim sum dish or up to 90 Euro for a multicourse tasting menu.

The Barcelona Center for Contemporary Culture is nearby as is a new indie-cinema complex and the Contemporary Art museum (Contemporary Art museum barcelona). Head a little deeper into the Raval and you will find Filipino and Pakistani shops alongside hipster shops and bars. An excellent traditional Catalan restaurant just off bustling Career Joaquim Costa is Ca L'Estevet where the welcome is warm and the food is delicious and very fairly priced. Ca L'Estevet is located at Carrer Valldonzella #46. Delightful place!

Taste, explore, experience. Barcelona is an endless feast.


Tips from a local ...

I love GaudiMy friend, Journeywoman Lucretia told me about this issue you are preparing about Barcelona. I do live here, so these are some of my tips. We've got everything... and some of it free. This is what Barcelona citizens with a tight budget do: www.forfree.cat/en. I do recommend Cultruta for guided tours in Spanish. Why? Because I booked the Secrets del Born and enjoyed it a lot! Restaurants I like: 4gats (expensive), Nostrum (cheap, like Catalan fast food), Can Culleretes (old Catalan one). Find public transport routes at TMB (is worth to register here, because of the strikes, so they tell you which days the buses or the subways is not working). P.S. Take Bus 46 to/from El Prat Airport.
Grelda, Barcelona, Spain


Best views of Barcelona ...

LocomotiveOur favorite site in Barcelona is Montserrat. It is a mountaintop chapel and monastery located 30 minutes outside the city. Take the train right from the city and it delivers you right to the base of the mountain. You then take a tram ride to the top of the mountain. The views of the city are so amazing. Highly recommended for a half- day trip outside the city.
Luci Willits, USA


The pleasures of paella ...

LocomotiveI enjoyed Paella a few different ways, both in Barcelona and in the lovely seaside town of Sitges, a short train ride away. I managed to find a lightweight, stainless steel paella pan in a hardware store on a Barcelona side street for a fraction of the price I saw it for in a department store. Luckily, I had a large suitcase at the time!
Debra, Toronto, Canada

 

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