When in Barcelona, a stroll on the central street, La Ramblas, is mandatory. It is the central boulevard which cuts through the heart of the city centre. It is a vibrant and lively promenade filled with Barcelona action at its best.
The tree-lined pedestrian street stretches for 1.2 kilometres. Start walking from Plaça de Catalunya and end the walk at the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. And make sure to gawk around. For there are sights, sounds and smells to savour. And be careful, as this touristy boulevard has abundant pickpockets and can get a little seedy during the nights.
La Rambla is not just one but five streets in succession: the Rambla de Canaletes, the Rambla dels Estudis, the Rambla de Sant Josep, the Rambla dels Caputxins and the Rambla de Santa Mònica. Together they form the 1.2 km long boulevard which runs from Plaça Catalunya to the Mirador de Colom by the waterfront. The Rambla is considered the dividing limit between the Old Town (Gothic Quarter) to the east of the street, and the Raval neighborhood to the west. It feels strange to know that historically, it was a large sewer which served to evacuate the waters from the surrounding mountains and separated the walled Old Town from the adjacent suburbs.
I decided to give you all a pictorial tour of Las Ramblas.
The region of Catalunya has its own distinct language, history and culture from the rest of Spain. It has often been at odds with the Spanish government in Madrid. Start your walk from the north of La Rambla- from the Plaça de Catalunya. It is a large square in central Barcelona that is generally considered to be its city centre. The central Catalonian square is dotted with fountains, statues and plenty of pigeons.
On this path you can see the Francesc Macià memorial. Francesc Macià was President of Catalonia who tried to declare independence for this region in 1931. This inverted staircase monument represents the shape of Catalunya. It was designed by Josep Maria Subirachs.
As you walk down towards La Ramblas you are reminded of Paris. The pedestrian boulevard is reminscent of Champs-Élysées in Paris. On your right you will find the Fountain of Canaletes. They say if you drink from here, you are guaranteed to return to Barcelona. I did that!
On the right, a small lane leads to the Roman necropolis-a 2000 year old tomb lined road, which led to the Roman port of Barcino.
Along the promenade’s length are kiosks that sell newspapers and souvenirs, other kiosks selling flowers, street traders, performers, and pavement cafes and bars. The most beautiful sight on the street is the Rambla of Flowers. Florists sell flowers, seeds and saplings.
Soon after, you will come across the local market place, La Bouqueria. An explosion of colours and smells of food will hit your senses.
While in Spain, do take time to enjoy the gastronomic delights. Tapas bars are recommended. As is the seafood paella.
The Ramblas is famous for street performers including human statues.
While in Barcelona, do make time out to see the fascinating architecture of the place. Barcelona’s cathedral is a few blocks away from La Ramblas. Other sights too are within walking distance. Antoni Gaudi was called God’s own architect. Between 1984 and 2005, seven of his works were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Casa Batlló is one of Gaudi’s masterpieces built in 1877. Much of the façade is decorated with a colorful mosaic made of broken ceramic tiles. This is called as trencadís. Casa Milà, also called La Pedrera was also built by Gaudi. It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1984.
Towards the end of the walk you will reach the Christopher Columbus Memorial and the old harbour.
The Columbus monument is a 200 foot column built in 1888 to commemorate his stop in Barcelona after his first trip to America. The scupture on top of the monument by Rafael Atché is said to depict Columbus pointing towards the New World with his right hand, while holding a scroll in the left. It is a commonly held belief that instead of pointing to the west towards the New World, the statue points east towards Columbus’s supposed home city of Genoa. This, however, is not true, as the statue points south-southeast and in effect is pointing at a point somewhere near the city of Constantine, Algeria. To point at Genoa in northern Italy the statue would have to face east-northeast and point up the coastline. It is more likely that the statue simply has Columbus pointing out to the sea underscoring his achievements in naval exploration.
I got some stunning shots of the old harbour at Port Vell. And we ended our walk with a nice meal and drink at the mall at the harbour. The mood was mellow indeed!
The Spanish poet Federico García Lorca once said that La Ramblas was “the only street in the world which I wish would never end”. It is a fascinating walk and I would suggest you start exploring Barcelona from this street.