An excellent example of how a place can help to breathe new life into a city neighbourhood, this hotel also offers comfort, style and sought-after extras like a rooftop terrace with a pool and panoramic views and a popular Sunday brunch.
Owned by the Spanish Barceló chain, this hotel might have seemed a bit of a gamble when it was built in the late 2000s. The reason? Its location in the centre of El Raval neighbourhood, perhaps best described as a rough and ready area that tourists (and not a few locals) had previously tended to avoid. However, nowadays the barrio has undergone a notable but not totally suffocating gentrification process, and the hotel has much to commend it both in terms of local amenities and the Barceló Raval's own services. From your first sight of the building, a dark-coloured ellipsis with a metal mesh-like cover, to the moment you see the views of the city from its rooftop terrace, this is a place full of visual treats. Pops of strong colour, vibrant lighting, 360-degree panoramas of Barcelona… the list of memorable sensory experiences is long. There are three types of room, with the pricier ones being those with more floor space and better views, but they all share the big windows, technological touches and more than a nod to quality and comfort. One of the hotel’s biggest draws is its stunning rooftop, which includes a plunge pool and from where you feel as though you can see the whole city; while literally at the other end of the building, the B-Lounge offers creative tapas, cocktails and one of Barcelona’s first, and still most popular, brunches.
Location: While El Raval has changed a lot since the days it was known as one of the seedier sides of the city, there are still places that flatly refuse to undergo development, making it an intriguing and authentic place to visit. If you’re vigilant with belongings and use your common sense, there’s absolutely no reason not to enjoy this spot to the full: cultural centres like the CCCB and MACBA, the neighbourhood hub of Rambla del Raval, and bars and restaurants old and new are all within walking distance, as is the world-famous La Rambla street with its market, opera house and numerous shops.
Filmoteca: Fans of serious cinema will love the custom-built, government-funded ‘Filmo’, found just a few streets away from the Barceló Raval. The programme includes seasons of productions by globally renowned auteurs and much-loved classics. Standard tickets cost just €4, while the Filmoteca’s bar-restaurant, La Monroe, is great for a pre- or post-film drink and snack.
La Central del Raval: This is a bookshop set up in in a former chapel on a largely pedestrianised street that's also home to a number of independent designer boutiques. With close to 90,000 books in its catalogue, the ample store can keep bibliophiles happy for hours. It’s also great if you’re looking for souvenirs or gifts of the stationery kind, with irresistible notebooks, calendars and canvas bags among the range.
Ofis/Sifó: These next-door-neighbours that share owners and an Italian-Argentinian ambience are, respectively, a daytime eatery (for breakfast, lunch and supper) and an evening cocktail bar. In the case of Ofis, for lunch you can choose any two of six dishes on offer plus a glass of wine and dessert for a great price. Over at Sifó, which is open from Thursday to Saturday, the walls are decorated with the soda syphons left behind by the previous occupants and it’s a popular place for a drink and good music.
Frankie Gallo Cha Cha Cha: One of our favourite recent openings in El Raval, FGCCC is where you’ll find some of the best pizzas in the city. You should definitely try the streaky bacon option (‘cansalada’; the meat is cured in-house), which comes without tomato but with amazing mozzarella and a base to die for. Despite the dedication to quality ingredients, it’s a more than affordable place to eat out.
Good for: Visitors looking to combine comfort, cocktails and a taste of what this city was like before it became one of the most popular destinations on Earth. As even the larger rooms only take a maximum of three people (although they do have a number of adjoining rooms that together sleep four), this is not one for families except perhaps those with very small children.
Amenities: Free WiFi, Plunge pool, Bar, Restaurant, Minibar, Laundry, Gym, Room service, Rooftop terrace.
Time Out tip: If you buy a ticket for the nearby MACBA, a contemporary art centre that hosts several exhibitions simultaneously, you can enjoy entrance as many times as you like for a calendar month, giving you the time to really savour them as well as the incredible building housing them.