La Rambla is Barcelona’s busiest street and extremely popular among both tourists and residents. Some 1.5 kilometres long, La Rambla has a car-free central lane surrounded by high trees. Featuring a rich variety of kiosks, stalls and street performers, La Rambla is a hive of activity from early morning to late at night.
Originally, the Rambla was a small river that flowed just outside of the city limits. In the 16th century, convents and a university were built on its banks. Three centuries later, the city walls were pulled down, and even more buildings constructed on the banks of the now dried-up stream. The original buildings were destroyed, but are still commemorated in the names of the five segments of La Rambla. This is why the locals often refer to the street as Ramblas (plural).
Rambla de Canaletes
The first Rambla, which starts at Plaça de Catalunya, is the Rambla de Canaletes. The name is derived from the 19th century Canaleta fountain. The expression ´he drinks water from Canaletes’ means that someone is from Barcelona. Legend has it that those who drink from the fountain will always return to Barcelona.
Rambla dels Estudis
Next is the Rambla dels Estudis, named after a 16th century university, the Estudis Generals, which was demolished in 1843. This segment features various noteworthy buildings, such as La Reial Acadèmia de Ciències i Arts. Interesting detail: This theatre is home to the city’s first public clock.
Rambla de Sant Joseph
Rambla de Sant Joseph is better known as the Rambla de les Flors, or ´flower rambla´. This segment ends on a small square, the Plaça de la Boqueria, which features stunning mosaic paving created by the famous Barcelonese artist Joan Miró.
Rambla dels Caputxins
The fourth Rambla is the Rambla dels Caputxins, with the Catalan modernistic Gran Theatre del Liceu as its highlight. Further along the Rambla you´ll find a gateway to the Plaça Reial, a 19th century square designed by Antoni Gaudí. Straight across is the enchanting ‘Palau Güell’, one of Gaudí’s first residential buildings. Its parabolic shapes provide a foretaste of Gaudi´s later works, such as the famous Park Güell.
Rambla de Santa Monica
The final Rambla is the Rambla de Santa Monica, named after a convent which was later transformed into a museum, the Centre d’Art Santa Mònica. This Rambla leads to the sixty-metre high Columbus Monument. At the very end of the Ramblas, you’ll find Maremàgnum, a complex with shops, an IMAX theatre and even an aquarium.
The Ramblas are the lively and vibrant heart of Barcelona’s city centre, and a great place to spend an afternoon or evening at one of the cafés sipping a glass of sangria. Talented street performers and their spectacular acts offer ideal photo opportunities and lots of entertainment. The long street also features a wide variety of souvenir shops, (tapas) restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and clothing shops. Less obvious but equally popular are the many pet shops selling birds and other small animals.