The world-famous ‘La Rambla de Barcelona’ (also known as Las Ramblas) is without doubt the main street and the most famous street in the city. 2km in length, stretching from the Plaça de Catalunya all the way to the sea, it attracts thousands of tourists each day, who flock to see the many attractions and places of cultural and historical interest that it has to offer.
All about Las Ramblas
The word ‘Rambla’ comes from the Arabic word ‘ramla’, which means ‘torrent’, ‘stream bed’ or ‘sandbank’, and this is because the path of La Rambla was originally a stream bed, known as ‘Riera d’en Malla’. It was usually dry but was an important drainage system in the wetter seasons of spring and autumn. This river was diverted when the city’s walls were extended in the 15th century; various monasteries were built along the new wall’s path (although most of them have since been destroyed), and the La Rambla therefore began to look very different. Over time it turned into a street, which eventually became a favourite place for the locals to stroll, and it certainly improved the image of the area.
La Rambla has changed a huge amount over the years, and now you will find many restaurants, souvenir shops, ice cream parlours, flower stalls, and small shops in the centre of the street selling jewelry and hand-made articles. There are also painters who set up in the street and sell their works, also creating caricatures for tourists who are prepared to pay, and also the famous human statues, dressed up in all sorts of costumes, who entertain the tourists and who would be happy to have their picture taken with you, in exchange for a tip of course!
Because of its importance in the geography of the city and its central location, La Rambla is frequently used as the site of many of the city’s celebrations and festivities. A notable example of this is the festival of La Diada de Sant Jordi, which takes place annually on 23rd April, and when it is traditional to give roses and books to loved ones. La Rambla is then full of book and flower stalls. The Festes de la Mercè (the Barcelona annual festival) on 24th September, is also celebrated along La Rambla, and many festive events are organized.
The Five Ramblas of ‘La Rambla’
Although its name is officially ‘La Rambla’, it is very often referred to in its plural form, as Las Ramblas in Spanish or Les Rambles in Catalan. This is because the street is made up of five different sections, each with its own name. All forms are used of course, and everyone in the world will know what street you’re talking about, however you refer to it.
RAMBLA DE CANALETES
This is the highest part of La Rambla, nearest to the Plaça de Catalunya, and it’s named after the famous Font de Canaletes, which can be found in this section of La Rambla.
RAMBLA DELS ESTUDIS
This section is named after the University (Universitat or Estudis generals), which was situated in this section in the 16th century.
RAMBLA DE LES FLORS
This section is known as the Rambla de les Flors (in English Rambla of the flowers) because it was reportedly the only place in Barcelona where flowers were sold in the 19th century. There are still several flower stalls in existence, where you can buy all sorts of plants and bouquets of flowers.
RAMBLA DElS CAPUTXINS
This section, also known as the Rambla del Centre (as it’s the central section of La Rambla), is named after the Capuchin Monastery which stood in the current Plaça Reial. It was the first section of the street to be converted into a walkway, and you’ll find such well-known attractions as La Boquería – one of the best markets in Barcelona – and el Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona’s opera house.
RAMBLA DE SANTA MÒNICA
The former convent of Santa Mònica gives its name to the section of La Rambla which is closest to the sea. This is where you will find the street artists and well-known human statues who entertain passers-by.
RAMBLA DE MAR
It’s true that we’ve already told you that las Ramblas is made up of five sections and not six, but just after passing the Christopher Columbus statue you’ll find the area known as the Rambla de Mar, an undulating wooden footbridge that crosses the sea and takes you to the ‘Moll d’Espanya’, Barcelona’s pier where you can find the Maremagnum shopping centre and the aquarium.
What to look out for as you stroll down La Rambla?
Of course there are hundreds of places to look out for as you walk along La Rambla, some of historical significance, but as the street is usually so crowded with tourists it’s easy to miss things.
The ice cream parlour Rocambolesc is the brainchild of the chef Jordi Roca, one of the three Roca Brothers, who are proprietors of one of the best restaurants in the world, El Celler de Can Roca, and Jordi Roca was successful in designing its excellent dessert menu. So this is how Rocambolesc evolved, a gourmet ice cream parlour offering Jordi Roca’s exquisite creations, and we’re sure that you’ll be amazed and impressed by it. Don’t hesitate – go and try one of his ice creams!
Dirección: La rambla 51-59, Barcelona. (Next to the Gran Teatre del Liceu)
From Monday to Thursday: from 11:00h to 0:00h.
From Friday to Sunday: from 11:00h to 1:00h.
Located on the lower part of La Rambla, close to the Christopher Columbus monument, this craft market, which was first set up in 1977 and was initially known informally as the Fira dels Hippies (‘The Hippies’ Market’) is the perfect place to buy something a little quirky or different, that you won’t find in the shops along La Rambla itself.
Opening hours of the marketSummer: Saturdays from 14:00 to 22:00. Sundays and public holidays from 12:00 to 22:00. The rest of the year: it also opens on Fridays from 14:00 to 22:00.
In spite of the fact that La Rambla is only 2km in length, it can take several hours to get from one end to another, partly because it’s always so busy but mainly because you will want to stop off to look at the many sights along the way.
On the ground floor of the Palau Moja you’ll find a space which promotes Catalan heritage. It’s the ideal space to spend a few minutes, as it has three areas which could be of interest to you:
Promotion and sale of typical souvenirs from Barcelona and Catalunya
Restaurant offering specialities of Catalan cuisine
C/ (street) Portaferrisa 1, Barcelona (there’s also an entrance on La Rambla)
from 10:00h to 21:00h
from 08:00h to 12:00h (just the gastronomic area)
Places of interest along La Rambla
The Arts Centre of Santa Mònica
THE ‘CASA BRUNO CUADROS’
THE CANALETES FOUNTAIN + info
GRAN TEATRE DEL LICEU + info
PALAU DE LA VIRREINA
Barcelona Cultural Institute’s Image Centre
LA BOQUERIA MARKET + info
This is a large open area in the middle of La Rambla, where there’s a mosaic designed by Joan Miró on the pavement. In spite of its size, you can easily miss it if you’re not looking out for it, due to the amount of people walking over it!
Hotels, apartments and other accommodations in La Rambla
La Rambla by day and by night
As with many squares and streets in Barcelona, you will have a very different experience walking through La Rambla by day as you would by night. Each walk will have its own charm and benefits, although we find that by day it’s so crowded with people that you might not be able to enjoy what the street has to offer as much as you would like. In the evenings it’s slightly quieter, but still with a great atmosphere, so you might prefer to plan your visit accordingly.
Whether by day or by night it’s still one of the most touristic locations in Barcelona, and unfortunately this makes it one of the most targeted areas for the pickpockets too. Do take precautions and keep an eye on your belongings, especially cameras, mobile phones and valuable items.
It’s worth venturing further afield past the sights and sounds of La Rambla, because there are some very charming narrow streets which lead off it. We recommend that you explore them, because they often go un-noticed by the tourists who are set on visiting La Rambla from top to bottom, and some of the streets are much quieter than La Rambla itself.
La Rambla, Barcelona.
How to get there
Metro: Catalunya (lines 1 and 3), Passeig de Gràcia (lines 2, 3 and 4), Liceu (line 3) and Drassanes (line 3).
Bus: lines 7, 16, 17, 22, 24, 28, 47, 141 and tourist bus.
FGC: Catalunya and Diagonal.