Hotel Barcelo Raval: designer chic in Barcelona’s Raval disrict

If you were in Barcelona ten years ago and came back for a visit, you’d never recognize the Raval district. Once populated by squatters, prostitutes and drug dealers, it’s now a trendy, up-and-coming area, and like the neighboring El Born, it is attracting designer boutiques, wine bars, expats buying expensive apartments and that sure sign of gentrification – the estate agent.

But because the Raval had always been the home of  Barcelona’s “alternative scene”, it retains a gritty, bohemian character. That’s why it is surprising to find a new 186-room design hotel called Hotel Barcelo Raval in the neighborhood that locals and visitors once shunned. As one of my Barcelona friends observed, it looks like a spaceship that has been dropped into the neighborhood. The building has an elliptical shape and its glass windows are encased in what looks like a net of iron. This allows the light to enter the rooms but does not allow people in nearby buildings to look in. Many people in the area hate the architecture of the building and feel that it does not belong here, but I love it. I think it looks fabulous and gives the Raval a needed facelift.

The lobby is absolutely stunning with large white tubular units hanging down like stalactites, funky designer chairs, lamps and sofas, backlit walls and cozy corners.

The rooms have mood lighting, glass-encased bathrooms with powerful showers, iPod docking stations, flat screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. Each room is stocked with local magazines like Time Out Barcelona so that you can find out where to eat out and shop in the city, as well as check the local event and concert schedule.

The location is perfect: it is on a lively tree-lined square within walking distance from El Born, which has a lot of good restaurants, tapas bars and wine bars, especially around the Plaza Santa Maria del Mar. The Raval itself has a lot of good cafes and bars, especially on the Rambla del Raval.The hotel is close to the Plaza Catalunya (15 min walk) and the Boqueria market (5-10 min walk, which one must not miss). The highlight of the building is the 11th floor rooftop terrace where you can enjoy a 360-degree view of the city. There is also a tiny swimming pool and a bar which opens at 7:00 pm.

Hotel Barcelo Raval
Rambla del Raval, 17
Barcelona, Spain
+34 93 320 1491
www.barceloraval.com

NOTE: Although the date of this post is 5 July 2010, I updated it on 3 October 2010 to reflect our experiences during our stay from 14-17 September 2010.

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About Esme Vos

Esme Vos is the founder of Mapplr, a travel site featuring boutique hotels, luxury resorts, travel guides and restaurant reviews. You can find her on and Twitter.