Bar Marsella at C/Sant Pau, 65 was built in 1820 and is possibly the oldest bar in the city- It doesn’t look like it has been cleaned since.
Picasso and Hemmingway are said to have drunk here, and Woody Allen chose it as unoriginal choice in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Whatever the case, these days any authenticity has been marred by the invasion of tourists looking for the real Raval experience. In fact, Bar Marsella has become like a museum town, a safe cliché of the old Chinatown, where desperate people lived desperate lives. The American owners even refuse to clean the cobwebs and grime to keep up with appearances. If you really want to feel the authentic scene of pimps, prostitutes and
thieves try any of the filthy bars on the Rambles side of C/Robadors.
On the upside, and setting aside my cynacism for a moment, the decor is wonderully preserved, with the dark fag-smoke stained walls darkly lit by ornate electric chandeliers, making the the bar, if not the clientele, hark back to a Bohemian, decandant past. It is is also worth visiting as it is one of the few bars in Barcelona to sell absinthe.
In short, worth sticking you head in but don’t be taken in my the atmosphere being anything else than it is.
Places in El Raval