The Rambles

The Rambles (3)

The Rambles is Barcelona’s most famous street. It is an enjoyable stroll though the heart of the city, and links two of its most important points: Plaça Catalunya and Plaça Portal de la Pau in which the monument to Christopher Columbus is situated. 

Until the 19th century, when Barcelona broke down its city walls, the city consisted only of the Old Quarter, and The Rambles was the only wide street in the whole city, although it was little more than a path and a stream, bordered by convents and city walls, which owes is current name to the Arab Word “ramla” which means “arenal” or “sandy ground”. At the beginning of the 18th century the area began to be urbanised and towards the end of the same century The Rambles had been transformed into an avenue. Neoclassical palaces were built on both sides together with Renaissance convents which gave the street a noble feel. Meanwhile the people of Barcelona made the new tree-lined avenue their own and turned it into one of the cities best known landmarks. 

“Ramblear” or stroll down the Rambles is one of the favourite pastimes of the people in Barcelona. Only in the Rambles will you find human statues, musicians, dancers, jugglers, mime artists, poetry sellers mixed among the people of the city and the tourists.  

Get ready for a surprise at every turn, have a drink on one of the many café terraces, have a caricature of yourself done, or just slow down and look around you.

One small piece of advice: as in all big cities where there are lots of people, there are also pickpockets, so be especially careful. 

Throughout its length of 2 kilometres, this street has five different names. Starting out from Plaça Catalunya and heading towards the sea, the first place we come to is the “Rambla de Canaletes”, a name which comes from the fountain on the right hand side. Considered a symbol of the city, at first glance it may be deceptive to the visitor. But its history justifies its fame, since the origin of the present day drinking fountain lie in the old drinking troughs which existed in Barcelona when it was still a walled city. Legend has it that whoever drank the water there would always return to the city. It is also well known as the point of celebration for the victories of Barcelona Football Club. 

In any case the fountain has become a meeting point for both visitors and local people. 

The next stretch is the “Rambla dels Estudis”, so-named for its links with the University, built in the mid-15th century and converted into barracks by Philip V. It was finally demolished in 1843. On this stretch, at the corner of the carrer del Carme, is the Baroque church of Mare de Deu de Betlem from the 18th century, one of the best examples of the Catalan gothic style, with a large nave and a spacious interior. Although a fire in 1936 destroyed much of its original beauty, it is worth stopping to look at this temple whose nave is often used for temporary exhibitions. 

If we continue down towards the sea we come to the “Rambla de Sant Josep”, named after the old convent of Saint Joseph. But it is better known as the “Rambla de les Flors”, of flowers. During the 19th century it was the only place in the city to buy flowers. The large number of stalls makes this a very pleasant colourful part of the street. The stallholders turned this part of the Rambles into an improvised place for discussion by intellectuals in the 19th century. The impressionist painter Ramón Casas, one of its most frequent participants, met the flower girl who would later become his wife here. 

This is where the majority of the international news and book stands are located, and they stay open 24 hours a day. And there are also the street artists, musicians and the famous human sculptures which require only a coin to see them in motion.  

On our right is the Palau de la Virreina and a little further down the aromas and hubbub indicate another point of interest: the main entrance to the famous and picturesque Boqueria market. This is the most famous market in the city and is an essential place to visit, both for its architecture and its atmosphere. 

At the end of the Rambla de les Flors, on the left, is one of the most original buildings: the Casa Bruno Quadros. It is better known as the Umbrella House since it was for the sale of umbrellas that its owner became a millionaire, and several umbrellas decorate the façade. Also including the figure of a Chinese dragon, the building is both original and eccentric.

The next stretch is called “Rambla del Centre”, also known as the “Rambla dels Caputxins”, after the old convent of hooded monks which once stood there. The beginning of this stretch is marked by a genuine piece of open air art: on the ground you can see an enormous mosaic work by the artist Joan Miró. 

A few metres further along we come to one of the most unmissable buildings in the city, especially for opera lovers. This is the Gran Teatre del Liceu, faithfully rebuilt following a great fire there in 1994. Just in front of the Liceu is the Café de l’Opera, one of the oldest in Barcelona, and frequented by tourist and intellectuals. 

A little further down brings us close to the Palau Güell, one of the first works by Antoni Gaudí.

Finally, we reach the last stretch of The Rambles, known as the “Rambla de Santa Mónica”. Past the Arc de Teatre which forms the entrance to the Barrio Chino, we come to the Santa Monica Arts Centre, just next to the church of the same name. This centre was originally a convent and today functions as an exhibition centre.

Towards the end of The Rambles we find the old Drassanes or dockyard building, the largest medieval building of its kind in the World and the most significant civil gothic building in the city. The building is currently open to the public and part of it is occupied by the Maritime Museum. 

The end of the Rambles is marked by another exceptional monument: that dedicated to “Cristòfor Colom”, known to us as Christopher Columbus. It commemorates the fact that the Explorer was first presented to the catholic monarchs in Barcelona before setting sail for America. It has become one of the symbols of the city. 

During this pleasant stroll, as well as artists, stalls, shops and restaurants you will find several different points of tourist interest. Check you map to select the audio guides. Take your time and walk back up to the top. 

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