One of the two neighbourhoods bordering La Rambla is the famous Gothic Quarter. On the other side of this street is the other el Ravel. This neighbourhood isn’t quite as old as it’s neighbour nor as famous but still worth a look. We heard about it from one of the staff at our hotel, a Filipina like my wife. It made sense to take a morning and stroll through it, especially as we had planned to visit the nearby Mercat de Sant Antoni.
While not as old as the Gothic Quarter there are still several narrow streets to wander about listening to the sounds, sights and smells of the area. In addition, parts of the area like Ronda de Paul and Ronda de Sant Antoni resemble the nearby L’Eixample District with its wide tree lined boulevards and stately buildings with their distinctive wrought iron balconies.
It is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Barcelona. Today it is home to about 50,000 people, many born elsewhere. It has always been a neighbourhood of immigrants. Originally it was informally known as Barrio Chino or Chinatown. Now there are South Asians, South Americans, Filipinos and Eastern Europeans living here, many of whom work in the shops and restaurants of the neighbouring more touristy areas. My wife even found several Filipino business that cater to the 5,000 or so countrymen of hers that work and live in Barcelona.
While the Gothic Quarter to the north is known as a tourist attraction, el Ravel has had another reputation. During the last century it was best known for its nightlife and clubs including many of an adult nature. With this came prostitution and crime. While many of these clubs have long since gone sadly the crime remains.
Most travel sites post numerous warnings about going into this neighbourhood especially at night. This is probably true but I found it perfectly safe during the day if using normal precautions. In fact, I would say the absence of large numbers of tourists made it a bit safer as that meant fewer pickpockets and other similar types around due to a lack of potential victims.
The lack of tourists also means that prices here are a bit cheaper. The shops and cafes cater more to the residents than visitors and this is reflected in their costs. While there is no great selection of souvenirs, other items are readily available and there are worse places to grab a coffee or lunch at. The el Ravel district is probably not for everyone, but then that is one of the charms of Barcelona, there is always something for every taste.