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Barcelona Travel Guide

  • Photo: © Zach Nelson / Fodors Travel

El Raval

El Raval (from arrabal, meaning "suburb" or "slum") is the area to the west of La Rambla, on the right as you walk toward the port. Originally a rough quarter outside the second set of city walls that ran down the left side of La Rambla, El Raval used to be notorious for its Barri Xinès (or Barrio Chino) red-light district, the lurid attractions of which are known to have fascinated

the young Pablo Picasso.

Gypsies, acrobats, prostitutes, and saltimbanques (clowns and circus performers) who made this area their home soon found immortality in the many canvases Picasso painted of them during his Blue Period. It was the ladies of the night on Carrer Avinyó, not far from the Barri Xinès, who inspired one of the 20th-century’s most famous paintings, Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, an important milestone on the road to Cubism. Not bad for a city slum.

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