A weekend in…
The many-sided El Raval
On the other side of the always-busy La Rambla, enter El Raval, the third and last district of the old town, or Ciutat Vella. Compared to the other two neighbourhoods, El Raval welcomes significantly fewer tourists – and that is mostly to do with its ques
The one building in El Raval that every tourist knows of is the Mercat de Sant Joseph, commonly referred to as Mercat de la Boqueria. This authentic market is located on La Rambla and is the most atmospheric spot in town to purchase fruit, vegetables, meat, bread or just to sit down at a bar for a tapa and a beer. Even though the huge hall is usually packed with people, many of its vendors struggle to survive. As the market’s corridors are mainly filled with tourists who stay in hotels, traditional outlets like butchers and vegetable parlours don’t manage to sell much of their fresh products to them. Nonetheless, a stroll past the colourful stalls is an absolute must. The mouthwatering smells and delicious-looking products will sure leave you hungry.
La Rambla 91. Free entrance. Open Monday to Saturday, 8am to 8.30pm.
THE OTHER MARKET
Right outside of El Raval, in the modern Eixample, you’ll find the Mercat de Sant Antoni. After nine years of restorations, this gigantic market reopened in 2018. On the outside, its brightred metal walls with elegant, yellow decorations immediately catch the eye. On the inside, over 53,000 square metres of shopping pleasure await you. In addition to 52 regular market stalls, it also contains 105 clothing shops, 72 book stalls, a supermarket and even a fitness centre. Look up to discover its beautiful orange ceiling with its lightgrey metal skeleton as well.
Carrer del Comte d’Urgell 1. Free entrance. Monday to Saturday, 8am to 8pm (but try to go early in the morning, definitely not between 2pm and 4pm and you’ll get the best odds of most stalls being up and running).
FROM HOSPITAL TO LIBRARY
In 1401, the progressive city government of ‘el Consell de Cent’ (the Council of One Hundred) decided to build a free hospital for the poor, centralising the services of six alreadyexisting hospitals. They built the Hospital de la Santa Creu (the Hospital of the Holy Cross) in the centre of the new district of El Raval. The hospital would serve until 1926, after which all the patients were transferred to the modernist Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau (for more information, scroll ahead to page 54). Today, the building houses the national library of Catalonia, which you can only visit as part of a group. Everyone can, however, visit its courtyard for free. Its thick walls, fragrant orange trees and delightful balance of sun and shade make it a great spot to pass some time with a book or to have a siesta. The garden is also considered the border between the so-called upper and lower Raval. When you enter on one side and leave on the other, it is hard to believe that you are still in the same neighbourhood.
Carrer de l’Hospital 56. Free admission to the garden all day. Groups can book a guided visit to the library for €25 for groups of up to 25 people. Both groups and individuals can enter for free on 23 April.