Las Ramblas Barcelona Essential Guide and important Advice
A description of Las Ramblas of Barcelona
Ramblas in Catalan language means bed stream, and that is what it was until de end of 1300s, when as a result of the construction of the second medieval wall it was transformed into a major thoroughfare that quickly became a very popular site for markets and festivals. Las Ramblas stretch 1.2 km. (0.75 miles) from its broader section near Plaça Catalunya (Catalunya Square), to the narrower and somehow seedier lower part that end in Christopher Columbus Monument and the old harbor. It hosts a variety of shops, artists, and a parade of colorful characters that make a stroll through it a unique experience.
To walk up and down Las Ramblas Barcelona has been a local pastime for 600 years; at the beginning the visitors were merchants, nomad theater crews, guild-free artisans and their clients. In the 1800s, when major construction happened through the whole city, it became gentrified. A current scene in that period would be the high bourgeoisie going to attend the functions at the local opera house located in the street, (Teatre del Liceu, still in place), sharing the boulevard with poets, bankers, scammers, aristocrats, young singles and assorted go-getters. That strolling and mingling tradition has continued to modern days, many here at CityTellers remember Sunday mornings, when as well-dressed children and with the whole family we spent glorious hours walking, checking on people, shopping at stalls and ending the walk facing the ocean.
Why that tradition? We in Barcelona have been strolling in La Rambla not for the beauty of its buildings and sites which are fine, but more for the pleasure of people watching and interacting with a variety of people very different from us and each other. To the point that in Catalan language there is a verb generated from this street; “Ramblejar”, meaning to go up and down La Rambla, or walking without clear direction nor objective just for the pleasure of looking the human display around.
What to see in Las Ramblas
You will find two forms of name this boulevard La Rambla in singular and Las Ramblas in plural. People in Barcelona tend to use the plural form of Las Ramblas as different sections of the boulevard have different personalities and traditional names. The upper part starting in Plaça Catalunya (Catalunya Square) and going down just two blocs is named by the locals “La Rambla de Canaletes” in singular, as there is where the water channels in the middle age ended, (canaletes in Catalan language). It is broader than the rest and now holds the famous Canaletes fountain were followers of FC Barcelona come to celebrate its victories.
The following section named Rambla del Estudis, (of the students, as the university used to be located here) and runs just short of the famous Boqueria market. Next is The Rambla de la Boqueria or de Les Flors (Flowers) for the many flower stalls; here we will find the famous market (La Rambla 91).
Also unknown to most people, there is a round mosaic from cubist genius Joan Miro, (close to La Rambla number 71), just there in the middle of the pedestrian area, if you look carefully you will find one tile signed by Miro, and also the Opera house (Teatre del Liceu, La Rambla number 51).
Afterwards comes ‘Rambla dels Caputxins’, where you will find a peculiar house that in 1800s was a shop were you can still see a façade full of umbrellas and its own dragon, (la Rambla number 82). Also there is the entry to the classy Plaça Real (Royal Square) full of terraces. (La Rambla 41). The last section is Rambla de Santa Monica, a seedier area particularly at night that would lead you to the harbor.
Neighborhoods around Las Ramblas
As we described in our post “Gothic Quarter Barcelona, a historical guide”, Las Ramblas divide two very different medieval quarters of historical Barcelona, facing the Plaça Catalunya, at the right we find the Gothic Quarter, at the left we find the Raval.
Barri Gotic is a true wonder, the largest medieval urban area in Europe and full of millenary corners, palaces and charming squares. An excellent thing to do in Barcelona is to explore it in conjunction with Las Ramblas either by yourself or with the experience of a good guide like our introductory tour to the city, the Gothic Quarter Tour.
From its inception the Raval has been a more humble area, without that many major historic buildings. It is a neighborhood full of popular stories and legends and now university buildings, funky and ethnic shops and narrow humble streets. The Raval area close to Plaça Catalunya is being gentrified and holds an interesting mix of trendy and funky stores and bars were students from nearby university go. The closest to the opposite end, the harbor, the buildings become humbler, streets less clean and some streets can become seedy, and so do Las Ramblas themselves.
Advice and Safety in Las Ramblas of Barcelona
Las Ramblas is a fun entertaining display of faces, characters and behaviors, and to stroll it has been a main social local activity, however as any major touristic attraction there are some few things to consider.
The main advice is to avoid eating and drinking in Las Ramblas themselves. Prices are far too high, quality is low, and above all the treatment you will receive will be disappointing and unprofessional. If you eat or drink in Las Ramblas Barcelona you will not have a true Barcelona experience, just the opposite, you will suffer the standard tourist trap treatment. We suggest you to avoid it; there are plenty of places ranging from decent to fantastic just blocs away. Indeed some of the most sought out tapas bars and restaurants that we have been granted access in our Barcelona Tapas Tour are at walking distance.
A second advice is to be careful regarding petty crime. The proximity to the seedy part of Raval neighborhood, plus the inflow of visitants have resulted in a significant and recurrent amount of petty crime in particular non violent pickpockets which are very rare in a very safe city like Barcelona. We advise you to take care of bags, cameras etc. and to avoid the lower part of Las Ramblas, near the harbor. These thefts are very rare in our city, and with few simple precautions can be avoided.
Basic precautions when strolling Las Ramblas
- Like everywhere in the world, pickpocket thieves prefer easy targets, they spot tourists with displaying maps and easy to reach valuables like hanging cameras and open handbags. Better behave like a savvy tourist.
- Pay attention when you stop or sit, the most common pickpocket technique is to reach the bag while in a chair or floor unattended.
- Be aware that they may act in groups to create confusion distracting you while another grabs your valuables. Do not trust people approaching you with bizarre claims. One common excuse is that you have bird poo and they offer to clean it.
- A general advise, the more local you look the less of a target you are. The local people of CityTellers, we have never had a single incident through the thousands of days and nights spent in Las Ramblas. So, dress as locals do as much as possible.
- Finally better avoid the lower part of La Rambla (Between the Theatre Liceu and Columbus tower) at night and in particular after 11:00 pm.
With these precautions should suffice, please take care, we want you to have a great stay in our city.
Logistics visiting La Rambla
We will end up this post talking about logistics. Las Ramblas is mainly a pedestrian throughway, with a broad main walkway lined with trees, that with its share and humidity provide and colder microclimate very pleasant during summertime. The optimal stroll is to start in Catalunya Square and end either at the harbor or around Tetare del Liceu and then turning left go to the Gotic Quarter. Catalunya Square is the main square in the city, and separates historical Barcelona from the 1800s grid-like elegant Eixample area where most of Gaudi’s buildings are, for more information chech the Gaudi Tour. Catalunya square as it is very well communicated with subway (metro) station “Catalunya” of lines 1 and 3. Also across La Rambla there are two metro stations of line 3; “Liceu” just in the middle and “Dressanes” just at the end near the harbor.
Well, have a great time. For more information about what to do in the city please check our Barcelona Tours.