If you want to be at the centre of everything in Barcelona, then you want to be on Las Ramblas. Probably the city’s most famous street, and its number one place to people-watch, this 1.2-kilometre-long tree-lined boulevard – its name means ‘the avenues’ – divides the old city from the once suburb of El Raval.
Las Ramblas connects Placa de Catalunya at its north end with the Christopher Columbus monument at Port Vell, the redeveloped harbour at its south end. To its east is the Barri Gotic, the labyrinthine old town, whose attractions include the Placa del Rei, the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia and the Placa Sant Jaume, where the President of the Generalitat de Catalunya has his office. To its west is lively, eclectic El Raval, which has long been known for its nightlife and cabarets, and unfortunately sometimes for crime. It has a large immigrant population and plenty of restaurants and bars.
Las Ramblas had glamorous beginnings. It was originally a sewage-filled stream bed separating the walled city from the El Raval suburb. In 1377, the city walls were rebuilt to include La Rambla and El Raval. The stream was diverted outside the new walls and La Rambla became a street. Over the centuries it became one of the city’s focal points, used for festivals, markets and sports with the first tree planted in 1703.
Things to see and do
Las Ramblas can be divided into different sections, hence its plural name – although it is also often referred to as La Rambla. It is lined with endless shops, restaurants, and cafés and bars where you can watch the street traders, performers, flower market and general bustle. There are also several museums such as the Centre d’Art Santa Monica, a contemporary art museum, the Wax Museum, home to personages from Albert Einstein to Francisco Franco, and the Erotica Museum which is exactly what it says.
Other notable buildings include the imposing Palau de la Virreina, which hosts art exhibitions and cultural events. The Liceu Theatre, where opera and ballet are performed and the busy La Boqueria market can be found there, as can the Teatre Principal, Barcelona’s oldest theatre, founded in 1568 and rebuilt twice since. There’s also the ornate 19th-century Font de Canaletes fountain, whose inscription says that whoever drinks from it will return to Barcelona, and a pavement mosaic by Joan Miro.
Down a side street off Las Ramblas is the palm-tree-filled Placa Reial, where you’ll find a number of restaurants and some of the city’s best-known nightclubs. At weekends, there is a stamp and coin collectors’ market here.
Book one of our hotels near Las Ramblas and not only can you spend as much time as you like in this fascinating street, you’re in an excellent central location for exploring the rest of the city too.
Placa de Catalunya
Generally considered to be centre of Barcelona, the 50,000m2 Placa de Catalunya is also the point where the old town and the 19th-century Eixample district meet. It is the confluence of some of the city’s most important streets – the upmarket Passeig de Gracia, the trendy Rambla de Catalunya and the shop-studded Portal del Angel plus six metro lines. Filled with fountains, sculptures and expanses of grass, the city often hosts live music during festivals. It is also home to the El Triangle shopping centre and a branch of El Corte Inglés.
Things to watch out for
As with all busy, touristy areas, be aware of pickpockets and bag snatchers. Keep your eye on your belongings at all times and keep them close to your body.
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