Living statues, overpriced terraces, and people. Lots of people. The world famous promenade Las Ramblas is a spectacle that you have to experience at least once during your visit to Barcelona.
What you will find in this article
- General info about the Rambla
- What to do at Las Ramblas?
- The different Ramblas (indeed there are more than one!)
- Insider tips
- The history of the famous street
Las Ramblas: what is it and why is it worth visiting?
The Ramblas is a large, pedestrian avenue that runs from Barcelona’s sea front to the central Plaça Catalunya.
Hundreds of years ago, the city of Barcelona was only what today is known as the Gothic quarter, and the Rambla is where the city wall stood.
Today it separates the neighborhoods of El Gótico and El Raval.
La Rambla is always busy and lively. It is a tourist hotspot, always full of people strolling among its dozens of kiosks, flower stalls, artists, living statues, terraces, restaurants, and shops.
As is often the case with touristy places, a lot of the establishments along the street are shabby and of low quality, but you should still visit to take in La Rambla’s unique atmosphere.
9 Must-sees and do’s at Las Ramblas
What: A monument in honour of Christopher Columbus, built in 1888 for the World Exhibition. If you take the elevator to the top you can enjoy a spectacular view.
Where: Columbus is located at very bottom of La Rambla, near the port.
What: One of the most beautiful squares of the city, an enclosed courtyard with pillars around the edges and a fountain in the middle
Where: Roughly half way down the avenue, on the left hand side.
What: An ice cream parlor by Jordi Roca, pastry chef of El Celler de Can Roca, twice named best restaurant in the world.
Where: Right next to the Liceu theater, on the right hand side going down the avenue.
What: Barcelona’s most important theater and opera house, the place to come for classical music and the performing arts.
Where: La Rambla 51-59.
What: Escribà is a local-favorite pastry shop that makes unique, custom cakes.
Where: La Rambla 83.
What: The most important market in town is a treat for your eyes and taste buds. You will find products from all over the world and restaurants serving great food.
Where: La Rambla 91.
Palau de la Virreina
What: An urban mansion turned museum that hosts many interesting exhibits focusing on the history and art of Barcelona.
Where: La Rambla 99.
Arts Santa Mònica
What: Arts Santa Mònica is a space for art, culture and creativity. The exhibits are mostly free.
Where: La Rambla 7.
What: Barça fans come here to celebrate the victories of their club. According to the legend, if you drink the water from the fountain you’ll fall in love with Barcelona.
Where: In front of the H&M shop on number 131.
Where a lot of people come together, so do pickpockets. This is true for the entire city, but especially for La Rambla. Keep a close eye on your things.
Some people will offer you a rose or to read your hand, never accept this because it’s a trick to distract you and steal from you. Stay friendly, but be firm.
Food and drinks on the Ramblas
As a general rule, you should avoid the bars and restaurants on La Rambla because they are of poor quality and ridiculously overpriced. Some establishments can charge up to €10 for a beer or a Coca Cola, which sell for around €2.50 elsewhere in Barcelona.
That said, there are a few exceptions and places worth visiting.
One is Café l’Opera, right across from the opera house El Liceu. An old grand café where you still get the ambiance of the Rambla from the old days.
Ultramarinos (La Rambla, 31) has a varied menu with many Spanish classics as well as international dishes. The quality is good and the prices are fair.
If you have a sweet tooth head to Escribà for yummy cakes and petit fours.
There is also a large supermarket, Carrefour, where you can buy many non Spanish products that are not available in most local supermarkets in Barcelona.
And of course there is La Boquería! Get yourself a fresh juice, sandwich or salad and eat it on the square behind the market.
Plenty of cozy terraces and restaurants can be found in the side streets off the Ramblas: on Carrer de Bonsuccés for example or on the square Plaça Reial.
A nice place to have lunch is Lobo, in the Raval neighborhood (Pintor Fortuny, 3), And a favorite for tapas is My Fucking Restaurant at the Carrer Nou de la Rambla 35.
Let’s start with a frequently asked question: is it called La Rambla or Las Ramblas?
The street actually has several sections, each with its own name, hence the use of the plural form ‘Las Ramblas’. La Rambla is the whole street, and it usually how locals refer to it.
The word ‘rambla’ comes from the Arabic language, and means a dry riverbed that refilled and flowed into the sea when it rained.
So how many individual Ramblas are there?
Rambla de Canaletes
The first hundred meters of the Rambla is called the Rambla de Canaletas. A famous fountain is placed here, the Font de Canaletes where barcelonistas celebrate the victories of their beloved FC Barcelona. It is said that who drinks from this water will always return to Barcelona. The side street Carrer del Bonsuccés leads to the trendy hotel Casa Camper and the MACBA.
Rambla dels Estudis
The second part of the Ramblas is named after the university that was once situated here (estudis means studies). Unfortunately the university was destroyed but will find the building of the Real Academia de Ciencias y Artes, with Barcelona’s first electric clock on the facade, and a little bit further down the church Iglesia de Betlem.
Until 2010, this area was full of pet shop kiosks, but these were banned because of the bad conditions the animals were kept in. Now souvenir stands can be found on the promenade. At the Ramblas dels Estudis there are also two of Barcelona’s best hotels: Hotel Montecarlo and the classical Hotel 1898.
Rambla de les Flors
Once you see the flower stalls you know that you’ve arrived at the Rambla de les Flors (the flower rambla). Here you’ll find the Palau de la Virreina and the famous market of La Boquería, next to the Eurostars Ramblas hotel.
If you walk into the Gothic quarter via the umbrella house you will arrive at the idyllic Plaça del Pi. The street Carrer de l’Hospital leads to the Rambla del Raval, with the Hotel Barceló Raval.
Rambla dels Caputxins
Don’t forget to look down because there is a beautiful piece of art by Joan Miró. The Barcelonese artist created a colourful mosaic here, you will discover his signature on the floor tiles. A few meters further you’ll spot the opera house Teatre del Liceu, completely renovated after the big fire in 1994 and right across the modernistic Café de l’Òpera.
Going towards the end of the Rambla dels Caputxins there is a street at your left called Carrer Ferran that will take you to El Born passing by Barcelona city hall on Plaça Sant Jaume. A little further down you will arrive at the Plaça Reial on your left.
Opposite Plaça Reial you’ll find Carrer Nou de la Rambla, with the famous Palau Güell at number three.
Rambla de Santa Mònica
The last part of La Rambla leads you to the Maritime Museum and of course the Columbus statue, Mirador de Colom. If you cross the busy street you will arrive at a walking bridge that will take you to the shopping mall Maremagnum.
Rambla del Mar
In the extension of the Ramblas the walking bridge (named Rambla del Mar which means Rambla of the sea) connects the Portal de la Pau with the pier Moll d’Espanya, where shopping centre Maremagnum and the Barcelona Aquarium are located.
Construction and history of the Ramblas
In the 13th century Barcelona was much smaller. The old Gothic quarter was the entire city, and the Rambla were located just outside the city walls.
Back then there was a dry river bed which ran along what are now Carrer Balmes and the Rambla to Plaça de la Mercè, where it ended in the sea.
In 1377 new city walls were constructed including El Raval and so the Rambla became part of the city.
In 1440 the stream was redirected and buildings were constructed which resulted in the Ramblas becoming the city’s central “spine”.
It was also in that period that several religious buildings were built. Later, in 1703, the first trees were planted along the Rambla.
With Barcelona’s transformation into an international tourist destination, La Rambla has become one the city’s highlights.
Millions of people visit the famous street and that has caused a lot of changes in the past few decades.
The Rambla today
The Spanish poet Féderico García Lorca once said about the Ramblas, ‘it’s the only street in the world of which I wish would never end’, but it’s not a secret that the Rambla today in 2018 has become the domain of tourists, and not everyone is thrilled with that.
The locals tend to avoid it as much as possible, and even tourists are wizening up and spending their time elsewhere.
Bad restaurants, souvenir shops, large crowds, and lots of noise… but despite all of that, La Rambla still has a unique atmosphere.
Attractions near La Rambla
There are many attractions near La Rambla: