Take a Walk on La Rambla in Barcelona

by Gray Cargill on July 26, 2011

La Rambla

La Rambla

Every city needs a street where locals and visitors alike can simply stroll, people-watch, grab a bite to eat and spend a sunny afternoon. If you’re traveling solo and you want to be around other people, if you want to put your finger on the pulse of a city, head to these places. In Paris, it’s the Champs Elysees, in Burlington, it’s the Church Street Marketplace. In Barcelona, it’s La Rambla. (Or Las Ramblas if you prefer.)

La Rambla dates back to 1766, when it was created along the wall of the medieval city. It’s not even one mile long, so it’s an easy stroll. It’s a very wide avenue with lots of room to “ramble,” which is a marked difference from some of the ancient, narrow cobblestone streets of the Gothic Quarter (I recommend experiencing both). La Rambla has a tree-lined pedestrian walkway running down the middle, bordered by two one-way streets for automobiles and businesses on the other side of those.

La Rambla

La Rambla

I recommend you make this walk from the top to the bottom, from Placa Catalunya to Port Vell, because the view at the end of that walk is a treat. I also recommend you do it during the day, because it can get a little crazy at night. If you insist on walking it at night, you probably don’t want to walk all the way to the Port; the area below the Liceu Opera House turns into the red light district at night. And be vigilant when walking down this street at any time of the day. It’s a notorious hangout for pickpockets. (Five minutes after I started down La Rambla, I heard my first cries of “Policia! Policia!” I couldn’t see the woman doing the yelling, but I could picture her in my mind’s eye, reaching into her purse for her wallet and finding it missing.)

Flower market on La Rambla

Flower market on La Rambla

Starting at Placa Catalunya, head down La Rambla de Canaletes. Along your walk, you will see flower stalls with brilliant flowers in every color, people selling birds, gelato stands, street artists who will draw your caricature for a price, spraypainted “living statues,” costumed performers–some of the most bizarre I’ve ever seen–and little outdoor tapas cafes, where you can stop and get an overpriced bite to eat along with a pitcher of sangria.

Living statue on La Rambla

Living statue on La Rambla

But don’t be so distracted by what’s happening at street level that you miss out on the unique and gorgeous architecture along the way, such as this dragon:

The Dragon

Dragon and umbrella

Off La Rambla are two side tracks: The first is Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (La Boqueria for short), a fresh foods market. La Boqueria was packed with people when I walked through. Aside from the very colorful fruit stands, there are stalls selling a diverse range of foods from candy and nuts to bread to fish. The countertop cafes offer a quick and inexpensive bite to eat. I didn’t care for the market as much as others seem to. I’m sure it’s just some personal olfactory quirk of mine, but I couldn’t stand the smell of the ham sellers’ stalls. So I took some pictures and left pretty quickly.

Fruit stand at La Boqueria

Fruit stand at La Boqueria

The second point of interest for me was Placa Reial, a beautiful plaza just off La Rambla. I loved this plaza. The colors and architecture and palm trees reminded me of San Juan. There were some attractive fountains here, little sidewalk cafes with tables and umbrellas, and clusters of tour groups like ducklings around their mamas.

Placa Reial

Placa Reial

At the foot of La Rambla, you will come to Port Vell, a wide open space with a view of the Mediterranean and a monument to Christopher Columbus, Monumento a Colón. (Barcelona is where Columbus made his triumphant return to Spain after discovering the New World.) Your walk doesn’t have to–and shouldn’t–end here.

Rambla de Mar

Rambla de Mar

Keep walking, across the Rambla de Mar, a pedestrian bridge that connects La Rambla to the marina full of bobbing sailboats,  towering cruise ships docked at port, and the Maremagnum (a large shopping mall on the water). The bridge is very cool-looking, as it’s a swing bridge (meaning it can swing open to let ships pass through). There are quite a few benches down here where you can sit and enjoy the cool breeze off the water on a hot day, or the view any time. Your reward for making this trek? Views like this:

Ship in Port

Port Vell

Gray August 31, 2011 at 9:37 pm

I have to admit La Boqueria didn’t charm me as much as the Mercado San Miguel in Madrid did, Christine. But for photography, yes, it’s a great subject. If only it weren’t so crowded….

GRRRL TRAVELER August 31, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Beautiful shots, Grey! Within the shots alone, you’ve nailed my 4 high points of La Rambla! Pet shops, flower shops, street performances and La Boqueria. La Boqueria was my grand highlight of that street– the colors in that market are exquisite and all the assorted things you can discover in candies, fruits, egg sellers, etc… for me it was a visual delight. Didn’t eat at the counter cafes though they definitely caught my interest. I visited that market about 3x. Mostly for photography though.

Gray August 10, 2011 at 5:32 am

I think renting an apartment is definitely a direction I would go in next time, Jenn. That way, I can do a lot of cooking for myself, too.

jenn August 10, 2011 at 4:59 am

been there and i looooved it! it,s really a city to fall in love with and i liked it even more than paris!! things you should defenitly do is renting a bike, in that way you can explore the whole city wihtout paying so much for a tourist bus or sometinhg.. another advise is to rent an appartment instead of booking a hotel! its sooo much cheaper! i rented one with barcelona home and they were very nice..

Gray August 1, 2011 at 9:10 pm

You’re very welcome, Carrie. Glad you liked it. 🙂

Carrie August 1, 2011 at 11:54 am

This is so interesting! Thanks for the excellent information.

Gray July 30, 2011 at 6:39 pm

It’s a Barcelona “must do”, Marsha. 🙂

Marsha July 30, 2011 at 1:20 pm

So colorful and lively! I love places that seem like socio-cultural touchstone. I wouldn’t mind a ramble on La Rambla myself..

Gray July 28, 2011 at 11:25 am

@TheloniusBlack – I’m so jealous!

TheloniusBlack July 28, 2011 at 9:41 am

Thanks for the photos that allowed me to take a walk down La Rambla but also a walk down memory lane after living in the beautiful city for a year.

Gray July 27, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Thanks, Bob.

Bob Crunch July 27, 2011 at 12:53 pm

All of these pictures are beautiful! I really love the dragon.

Gray July 27, 2011 at 11:09 am

LOL, Kirk, I can’t promise she’ll be there when you are. 🙂

Gray July 27, 2011 at 11:08 am

I think you would, Sabina. I feel like I see living statues everywhere I go, but I tend to go to more touristy areas than you do.

Bluegreen Kirk July 27, 2011 at 9:05 am

I love walking through different areas of places I have never been before. It really allows you to see and absorb the surroundings. Sounds like I need to take a walk on La Rambia. Though I must admit I felt like Neo from Matrix staring a the tall lady in the first photo.

Sabina July 27, 2011 at 6:04 am

This sounds like an area I would also love. Living statues are the best! I’ve only seen them in New York, though. I’ve never been to Spain but would really love a trip there.

Gray July 26, 2011 at 7:04 pm

@Kent – Hee. I can’t stop yet. So many more posts to write….

@MarkG – Agreed! I know I certainly was aware at all times if people were walking too close to me. I bought a PacSafe day bag before I left and wore it across my body at all times.

MarkG July 26, 2011 at 11:22 am

“But don’t be so distracted by what’s happening at street level”

Don’t be distracted at all!

Here are some of the stealthiest pickpockets in Europe.

Always be vigilant. Keep your wallet/purse securely hidden inside clothing and ensure that your bag is securely attached to you (preferably hanging around your front or under a jacket/coat.

Kent @ No Vacation Required July 26, 2011 at 9:33 am

Love La Rambla! Stop it with these posts making me want to get back to Barcelona.

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