The barrio of El Raval unfolds south from Carrer Sant Pau toward the port district of Drassanes. Currently Barcelona's hippest urban area, El Raval is a traditional working-class neighborhood in flux. As the boutique hotels and contemporary art galleries embue it with a new kudos, it retains an edge that the more touristy and gentrified areas lost years ago. The narrow streets, once rife with characters from Barcelona’s underworld—prostitutes, pimps, strippers and drug dealers—have been cleaned up and are filled with an upbeat crowd now.
Start with a visit to the fine building and fascinating temporary shows at the contemporary art museum the MACBA, then take to the surrounding streets, which are full of historic buildings, atmospheric bars, galleries, boutiques and cozy restaurants.
Barcelona is generally a safe city but unfortunately suffers from pickpockets—watch your bags.
Take sunscreen in the summer months and stop for refreshments.