Las Ramblas Barcelona, one of the world’s most famous streets! They say when a man’s tired of London, he’s tired of living and I think the same could be said about this diverse and elaborate boulevard which runs through the heart of Barcelona. The “emotional hub” of the city, this is normally the first port-of-call for Barcelona tourists and when you see the sheer amount of activity crammed in, you can see why. A study in 2007, reported that around 80 million Barcelona tourists walk up and down the Ramblas every year. This long tree lined street has grown and expanded over the years, meandering for 1.2 kilometres down towards the sea. Originally Las Ramblas was a river which is where the name Rambla comes from. “Ramla” in both Catalan and Spanish refers to “water flow” and derives from the Arabic word “Ramla” which basically means “Riverbed”. The Arabs didn’t occupy Barcelona long enough to leave any architectural impressions, but the names “Rambla” and “Raval” are distinct remains of their time in BCN.
For those with a little knowledge of the Spanish language, you may be thinking “How can one street be called “Las Ramblas”, which is plural?” Well, you would be right in thinking this, “Las Ramblas” is made up of five individual ramblas(es)or streets. The Canaletes, Estudis, Sant Jospe, Caputxins and Santa Monica Ramblas, each are named after the relevant churches which are located along the streets.
Famous and infamous for many things, you will find almost anything you could wish for somewhere along the Ramblas, if not on Las Ramblas itself, you certainly will on one of the many back streets which lead from it. An abundance of tapas restaurants on La Ramblas, cafesand bars provide the perfect setting to sit and absorb the atmosphere. In fact, Las Ramblas is so well known for this that there is a word in the Spanish vocabulary for it, “Ramblista”, a person who spends the day on the Ramblas, people watching and generally just absorbing the hustle and bustle of Barcelona life. With the world’s most photographed street performers,living art, flower stalls, craft stalls, fashion shops, museums and theatres there is plenty of things to do on Las Ramblas.
Many of Barcelona’s famous landmarks are situated just off Las Ramblas. Placa Reial located about half way down the street, offers some of the most famous restaurants and nightclubs in Barcelona, constantly buzzing from dawn till dusk. La Boqueria market, also known as Mercat Sant Josep is a world renowned indoor market situated right next to the Licue metro stop. At the top of Las Ramblas is the grand Placa de Catalunya. Catalunya square occupies some 50 000 square metres and is widely considered to mark the city’s central point. This is also the connecting point between the old Barri Gotic part of the city and the 19th century Eixample. At the lower end of Las Ramblas, towards the waterfront, you will find the Columbus monument. This 60 metre tall, iron column is a local meeting point with Christopher Columbus standing proudly on the top of the column, pointing out to sea. A not so well known fact is that there is a lift inside the column, taking you to a panoramic view of the city, ideal for Barcelona photography.
For an in-depth look, make sure you check out our other blog articles. Although the list of things to see on La Ramblagoes on and on, Gaudi’s Palau Guell and the Barcelona Maritime Museum are worth mentioning. As well as our Barcelona insider articles and blogs, the “Barcelona La Rambla Tourist Information Center” located at 115, La Rambla, Barcelona offers plenty of Rambla informationand Barcelona guide books, open 9am-9pm.
Back in the day, before La Rambla was one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, it was a little less romantic. A functioning sewer stream, it pumped sewage in to the Caganell lagoon. This gave it the nickname “The Caganell” which basically means “The shit stream”, and during the Middle Ages became a breeding place for malarial mosquitoes, nice!
La Ramblas Barcelona is a living, breathing, 24 hour market where anything is possible. SuiteLife Barcelona take a closer look at the people who call this famous tourist destination their office.
Let’s face it, if you’re looking for things to do in Barcelona, you will with-out-doubt find yourself on Las Ramblas at some point. As mentioned in our first Rambla Blog, the people working on this street are diverse, charasmatic and to be honest, a little strange!
Street art and street performers line Las Ramblas in Barcelonaand create a truly unique vibe with-in this beautiful city. True enough, you will find street performers in many other European cities but Barcelona is some how the authority on this “industry”, and you will see an incredibly high level of professionalism here, this is Art after all. For those of you who are not familiar with these street performers, imagine a living, human statue/mime of the strangest kind. Last night, I saw a man painted entirely white, wearing his favourite white hat and a pair of white “Y- fronts” sitting on a toilet, reading the local paper- YES, in the middle of the street! What I find strange about this, is that he probably does this 8 hours a day, 5-7 day’s a week, who was his career advisor? Is he really making more money doing this, than he would be working a “normal” job? Does he pay taxes on his income? and if so, what is his job title? Or did he grow up dreaming that one day, he’d be able to sit on a toilet all day, in public AND get paid for it? This is Barcelonaafter all and anything goes, no questions asked.
Some of these Barcelona street artists have been doing this job for years and there must be photos of them in photo albums around the world, right now there is somebody uploading their “2010 summer trip to Barcelona” photo album to Facebook, with their friends adding witty one liners to photos of some guy dressed as Tarzan on Las Ramblas! I can’t imagine Las Rambla with out these crazy and sometimes beautiful street performers and it certainly doesn’t look as though they are going any where soon, another one of those strange little things that happens in Barcelona city and becomes intertwined with everything else, one feeding off the other.
The Rambla dels Estudis or Rambla dels Ocells (Street of the birds), has markets selling birds and other animals. I’m not sure of the legalities but once again, this is Barcelona so anything goes! Fish, tortoises, dogs, hamsters, lizards, rabbits and some say baby crocodiles, although I’ve never seen them myself are all available to buy, although for obvious reasons, these don’t make good Barcelona souvenirs for tourists!
Las Ramblas florists offer a more romantic service, selling beautiful fresh cuttings all day long. Known as the Rambla de le Flors (yup you guessed it – Street of flowers), they literally add colour and vibrancy to Las Rambla and a sweet floral scent. Apparently, the famous artist Ramon Casas and the philosopher Serra Hunter, both married florists from the La Ramblas.
Towards the bottom of Las Ramblas you will find Barcelona artistsshowcasing their paintings and with the fierce competition, you will find some really high quality paintings for seriously low prices. Remember “all that sparkles is not gold”, so don’t spend all your money on a painting by an aritst claiming to be “world renound” unless you know your artists well. Remember, they do this all-day-long so don’t feel rude asking for money off, especially if you are buying a few Barcelona paintings. I tell my friends that these paintings of Barcelona are ideal souvenirs and definitely more original than the generic Barcelona T-shirts I see being snapped up all over the city. The same can be said about buying most things from shops on La Ramblas. I bought my nephew a Barcalona football shirt, it wasn’t labelled with a price so I asked how much it was, “€55” he said. I walked out the door and he chased me out, I offered him €25 and we settled on €30. You are nothing but a tourist to them and they will try and get as much money out of you as possible, don’t let them!
As well as the Barcelona paintings for sale, you will find the artists lined up offering portraits and caricatures. There are many of these cariacature artists on Las Ramblas so be sure to drive a hard bargain when agreeing on a price (best done BEFOREHAND).
Amongst all the hustle and bustle on the Ramblas, you will find the promoters. These people work on Las Ramblas all day and night encouraging you to come to their pub (or “puff” as they pronounce it here), restaurants and nightclubs. Don’t be too quick to dismiss these people, many of the flyers they hand out offer free drinks, discounts or free entry to the Barcelona nightclubs. Nights out in Barcelona can get pricey so these extras can really save you a pretty penny.
Las Ramblas by night is a different story and I suggest you take care with yourself and your belongings. You will find some shady characters stroll past and without making eye contact ask, “Marijuana, Cocaine, Hashish?”. For obvious reasons, I suggest you ignore them and act as if you haven’t even noticed them, even making eye contact will encourage them to pester you. These people move in the same circles as the pick-pockets in Barcelona and are also linked to the prostitution in Barcelona. Most of these “unsavoury characters” hang out around the bottom end of Las Ramblas, towards the port and as long as you don’t stop when they try to speak with you, you will be fine.
All-in-all, Las Ramblas is full of colourful characters, some you will love, some you will hate and some will just out right confuse you. Keep your wits about you and enjoy!
La Boqueria Market in Barcelona, also known as Sant Josep Market, has been called “The greatest market in the world“.
La Boqueria market is said to be the biggest market in Europe and is synonymous with the historical culture ofLas Ramblas and Barcelona as a whole. Like many European markets, La Boqueria, on Las Ramblas is more than just another “place to buy food”. It is more of a showcase for Spanish culture on a much grander scale, celebrating the Barcelona cultureand history. Spanish seasonal produce is traded here and offers inspiration for local Spanish chefs in the city. The best food in Barcelona will typically be linked to this market in some way shape or form, it’s not here as a tourist attraction, it’s a living, breathing, functioning, essential necessity.
Originally an un-regulated open air market, the Sant Josep Market was a far cry from what you see today. Created in the 18th century, the market gained popularity and competition between traders grew, rapidly and fiercely. Traders would fight and arguments between the older greengrocers/butchers and the younger “newbies” were common. Change was inevitable and the markets near the two squares merged into one, La Rambla de Sant Josep. The bird shops and florists on La Ramblas that we wrote about in our Rambla blog #2, were built surrounding the new space and salesmen in the market used to give flowers to customers when they bought something. Goes to show, even in the old days, people loved a little something for nothing. This also shows how directly Las Ramblas was influenced by La Boqueria. Las Ramblas started as an extension of La Boqueria market, although, nowadays you would be forgiven for thinking it was the other way around.
The layout of the Boqueria market is well thought out, you enter via the main entrance off Las Ramblas where you will be met with the salesmen and woman trying to sell you sweets, and fruit juice drinks. To be fair to them, they don’t give you a hard time and you don’t feel that you have to buy anything. Beyond the sweet stalls and my personal favourite, chocolate stalls, you will find the butchers stalls. Carnes Serranp, stalls 142-143 is one of the few butchers in Barcelona who still stock Horse and Bull meat. A few of the more peculiar stalls offer sheep’s heads and cow tongues. Petras No 867 specialise in edible insects and is worth a visit for you curious SuiteLifers. The central area of the Boqueria market is called “Illa De Peix” (Island of fish), and here you will find all kinds of strange and wonderful Spanish seafood. LIVE crabs and lobsters move slowly around the ice trays and are as fresh as it gets!
1914 saw the modernisation of La Boqueria, a metal roof was installed and prompted the other aesthetic and decorative improvements which soon followed. With fish and sheeps heads flying around the market, sanitary improvements were greatly appreciated by the people who worked in the Boqueria and customers alike.
Personally, what I find most interesting about La Boqueria and markets in general, is the way families continue the tradition and family business for years and years. La Boqueria market is entwined with the city’s history and the families who live here. The present salesmen are of the third and fourth generation of families who have worked in the Sant Josep market since it’s conception in the 18th century.
So, you’ve booked your flights to Barcelona, or you already live here, and you wanna know about the great Barcelona architecture you can see along the city’s most famous street, Las Ramblas!
Architecture in Barcelona is big and beautiful and Las Ramblas offers some tasty treats for those interested in Spanish and Catalan architecture. As with most of the architecture in Barcelona, the ground floors are generally built for retail, so don’t forget to look up to see the full extent of the beautiful designs. This blog will give you loads of info on some of the best architecture on Las Ramblas
Lets start with the Gran teatre de Liceu, an impressive opera house opened in 1847. Originally a convent, this is a classic story where life imitates art. Some what of an anomaly, The Liceu Theatre was not funded by the Monarchy as all other opera houses in Europe, but funded instead by a group of private share holders. Known as the Societat del Gran Teatre del Liceu (Great Liceu Theater Society) and you may notice a few differences in the design of the buildings architecture, lack of a Royal Box being one of the key indicators of this peculiar but spectacular Catalan theatre.
The opening ceremony on the 4th of April 1847 saw the Liceu Theatre open as the biggest opera house in Europe, with some 3500 seats! From it’s initial augmentation, the Liceu theatre suffered many pitfalls, and it’s amazing that it’s still here today.
Tragically, the Liceu Theatre was seriously damaged by fire on April 9th 1861 and the skills of architect Josep Oriol Mestres were called upon to implement a rapid restoration. The “re-opening” a year later, left only the original Façade, entrance hall and foyer, the rest being newly built. The Lieceu Theatre cruised along for the next few decades until catastrophe struck in 1893. During the opening night of the opera Guillaume Tell, two bombs were thrown into the Liceu theatre by the infamous anarchist Santiago Salvador . Sadly, 20 people were killed and many were seriously injured. Again, the Liceuwas renovated and reopened on 18th January 1894. The seats where the people were killed were not used for many years after. the following years were realtively quiet but by no means easy. The Spanish civil war caused such financial instabililty that The Liceu theatre was nationalised and renamed Teatre Nacional de Catalunya (Liceu Opera House – the National Theatre of Catalonia). Only in 1939 was it returned to it’s original owners. Once again, The Leceu Opera House returned to some level of normality until 1994 when there was yet another fire! The building was destroyed and the only option was for the theatre to become public in order to raise the money needed for the third rebuild. Hence the next name change The Fundació del Gran Teatre del Liceu (Liceu Great Theater Foundation). So when you visit The Leceu Theatre, see if you can notice the original features and the battle scars of this fascinating and historically rich Spanish Theatre.
Palau Guell is a beautifully crafted Palace, designed by Antoni Gaudiand is some what of a Barcelona secret. Known best by die-hard Barcelona architecture fans, Palau Guell is interesting because it’s the only building Gaudi completed and little has been changed since. It’s nice to think when you look at Palau Guell, you are seeing exactly what Antoni Gaudi saw when he stood back, looked up at his work and thought, “Yes, that’s it, it’s finished, it’s perfect!” At least that’s what I imagine he thought. Antoni Gaudi is of course mostly famous for his work on Passieg de Gracia – La Padrera, Casa Batlló and the un-finished Sagrada Familia.
The Güell Palace was built for Eusebi Güell who wanted a home on Las Ramblas Barcelona. And yes, it is the same guy who asked Gaudi to design Parc Güell too, uber-rich indeed! Eusebi Güell lived in the palace until 1906 and then moved to his house in Parc Guell, where he lived until his death in 1918, not a bad life though hey! The Palau Güell was then passed onto Eusebi’s daughter, Mercè Güell i López and was used as a police station during the Spanish Civil War.
Historically, the Boqueria market has played a very important role in the development of Las Ramblas and also Barcelona as a whole (Read the Ramblas Blog #2 for an in-depth look & video). The architectural design of the Boqueria is interesting as it changed slowly over the years, matching the needs of the traders, function over form. What you see today however, is a beautifully designed masterpiece and well worth a visit.
If you are in-to monuments and statues, this 60m column will blow your socks off! The statue of Christopher Columbus celebrates the location of where he returned to Spain after his first voyage to the Americas. It was here that he communicated with Queen Isabela and Ferdinand after his most famous of trips. The Christopher Columbus statue in Barcelona was sculpted by Rafael Atché and shows Columbus pointing out to sea or to “The New World”. This has caused many arguments as people believed he should have been pointing in-land to Spain. Standing at 7.3m tall, this is an impressive piece of Spanish architecture.
So SuiteLifers, these are a few of the Architectural highlights, but by no means all!
Las Ramblas has a way of surprising you every time you go and we would love to hear about your experiences. Leave a comment here or check-out our Facebook page!