Do you have any doubts? Barcelona has only one. A treasure hunt in El Raval!

Do you have any doubts? Barcelona has only one. A treasure hunt in El Raval!
June 15, 2015
The mystery of one of the shortest streets in the world, located at Raval neighborhood, whose name is simply “Dubte” (Street of the Doubt)

“Head southwest on Carrer del Carme toward Passatge del Mil-vuit cents, slight right onto Carrer de la Riera Alta, Turn left onto Carrer del Príncep de Viana.”
That is what your smartphone will give you in order to find the smallest street in this big city. All these names were, of course, names of streets that probably, if you are not from Catalunya, you would barely understand. First of all, you should know that carrer means street. The Smartphone directions seemed easy to understand and follow. According to the suggested route it would take 8 minutes to get undoubtedly to the street of the Doubt, without any doubt! Do you know what? It took us 4 hours!

Walking into the veins of El Raval causes a lot of distractions and surprises. You may already be aware of this neighborhood due to many pieces of advice alerting people not to go in, but if you want to reach The Doubt Street you will definitely need to immerse yourself in this colorful neighborhood.

As soon as you start the journey from Las Ramblas, you should not miss going into a building called Hospital de Sant Pau i de la Santa Creu, a 15th-century palace which formerly served as a hospital and hospice. You can see a lovely patio with benches, a terrace and in a discreet corner a small Gothic church and a Flamboyant Gothic doorway . "It is one of the best Catalan Gothic buildings, dating from 1401," a University student told us. Today this gothic palace houses the Biblioteca de Catalunya and also Massana, one of the most renowned art and design schools in Europe. Few people know that in this old hospital is where the great Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí died in 1926 three days after he was run over by a tram.

On your way to 'The Doubt Street' you can find everything! Raval seems like another city full of hundreds of exotic bars, restaurants from too many regions of the world, grocery stores, butchers, barbers, bakeries, dairy stores, drugstores, perfumeries, fresh juice stalls, vintage stores, shoe shops, jewelers, hairdressers, hardware shops, bio-product stores, supermarkets, herbalist shops, contemporary culture workshops and an amazing street parade of weird characters.

After wandering around the cobbled and noisy streets, we finally reached our destination. We were standing in front of the Carrer del Dubte. We had read something about the origins of the name but we were very curious about what locals would tell us. We spotted three old men chatting outside a grocery store and thought maybe they would know more about this wondrous piece of Raval.

"People from almost all over the world, the adventurers, have passed through this street," said one of the old men, "Only the curious wanderers come. They come in search of the answer to the mystery of 'Carrer del dubte', but when they leave they do it basically with the same questions, without any answers, as they were when they arrived. They walk through El Raval to see the street, and once they are here, they value and appreciate all the worthy emotions they have lived in their journey to the unknown street."

That answer didn’t dampen our eagerness to know the truth and so we insisted to hear their stories. We wanted to find out who named this street like this and after all, why he did it.
“It comes," the old men then continued, "from three peasants discussing where the water jet was coming out of the fountain from, because each of them was certain that it was coming from the water veins passing underground their own fields. This has always been the same in history of mankind; every man believes he is the owner of things that have no owner. They could never clarify the mystery and everybody in El Raval started to call this source, not the street, as the source of the doubt.”


“I do not agree with you," replied wearily one of the three old man, “First of all, our neighborhood did not belong to El Raval. The Raval," he continued, "started just behind the big entrance gate to Hospital Street. In the XIII and XIV centuries a couple of walls were built to outline the limits and some of the interior streets were planned. In those days around this spot, where we are now, there were two houses used as brothels; the original plan was to build more houses in this area (pointing with one of his hands) and to be delimited by one street that would start just from here to over there in this direction. The problem was that there were already some houses built, in a random order, and that would have made it difficult to trace a larger street. As you can see, this corner-street-wall, no matter how you want to call it, seems to belong to the main street of Riera Alta (pointing to the opposite side) but people always had a real doubt if this part of the street belonged to Cendra Street, to Princip de Veana street, to Riera Alta street or even to Requesens Street that is just behind. So they concluded to call it Street of the Doubt.”

The other old man thoughtfully replied, “I do not agree with any of the stories, I know the right one, those are legends.” This old man took a little pause, coughed for some seconds and continued, “Some years ago it was the demolition of the city walls and Ronda de Sant Antoni appeared thanks to pulling down several buildings, and so the Street Dubte was established. This building (pointing to the street of the Doubt), in the center of the Plaça, was urbanized again, shaping the Plaça del Dubte. This facade remains standing and was one of the sidewalks of this small street that opened in those days a new square for trade. Everybody had doubts where and what to trade and traders called this Plaça ‘Doubt’, and so the street in front of it, was called ‘Doubt’ too. That’s it!”

Listening to those stories, we did not know whom we should believe. At any rate, we had enjoyed almost an hour chatting with the three men who were feeling proud to tell us their legends about how this place appeared on the map of Barcelona.
Before you leave the neighborhood with the same doubt, there are many more curiosities you can discover while still in Raval. Go to Rambla del Raval, which today is a wide pedestrian zone with a lot of cafes, bars, shops and restaurants, and look for a big bronze cat! This unique sculpture was placed in different parts of the city until it reached this area. If you are aware of the Colombian artist Botero, you will immediately recognize that this piece of art belongs to him.
And if you want to know one of the best kept secrets of this authentic barrio, locals will advise you not to miss one of the oldest and historic bars in Barcelona. Yes, we talk about Bar Marsella; where you cannot go without trying an absinthe. No wonder why it was a favourite place of Hemingway and Dalí! Remembering Oscar Wilde’s quote, "After the first glass of absinthe you see things as you wish they were. After the second you see them as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world,” you will understand why this nearly 200 years old bar is a must!
And what about the Carrer del Dubte? In the end, we can only say that thanks to the treasure hunt you have to play to reach it, you will get acquainted with probably the most bustling quarter of Barcelona which you will adore!
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