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A Walk Around La Rambla
La Rambla is a live wire of energy, spilling over with people, markets, and cafés. Meander down this main artery, with a loop through the Boqueria into the Raval and back out to the Rambla, and you'll understand the city's twin passions for great food and gorgeous architecture, both considered vital to barcelonins.
La Rambla: River of Life
Starting from the top of the Rambla at Plaça de Catalunya, jump into the stream of humanity. Each section of the Rambla has its personality, from the Rambla de Canaletes with its magic fountain through the Rambla dels Ocells, where bird vendors who once sold aviary pets now hawk souvenirs, past the ceramic representation of the 14th-century Rambla at the opening into Carrer de Portaferrissa, and through the flower stalls along the Rambla de les Flors. The Boqueria market opens up off the Rambla de les Flors, while farther down the Rambla the Liceu opera house overlooks street performers and human statues stretching down through the Rambla de Santa Mónica to the Mediterranean.
The Boqueria: Horn of Plenty
Halfway down the Rambla is the Mercat de Sant Josep, popularly known as La Boqueria. Famous chefs and hurried housewives browse through their favorite stands. Highlights are Pinotxo, the legendary dozen-stool gourmet counter, Quim de la Boqueria with its famous ous esclafats amb llanqueta (eggs with tiny fish), Petràs, the world-renowned wild mushroom stand at the back, and the farmers market out at Plaça de Sant Galdric at the upper side of the square.
The Medieval Hospital: Gothic Splendor
Behind the Boqueria and through Plaça de la Gardunya is the medieval Hospital de la Santa Creu, founded in the 13th century by King Martí l'Humà (Martin the Humane), famed for spending treasure on health care rather than warships. Starting at the Casa de la Convalescencia off Passatge de l'Hospital, look for the ceramic tiles in the vestibule portraying the life of Saint Paul and look through the Renaissance patio inside. The courtyard of the hospital, now the Biblioteca de Catalunya, leads through an orange grove to the library up the stairs to the right. The breathtaking Gothic stone arches allow abundant light to flood into what was once Europe's most complete medical center.
Moderniste Raval: Gaudí and Domènech i Montaner
From the medieval Hospital, walk back along Carrer Hospital to Plaça de Sant Agustí, with the rough unfinished facade of the Sant Agustí church looming overhead. Cut through Carrer de l'Arc de Sant Agustí to the Hotel Espanya, a Moderniste masterpiece by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. The mermaid murals in the dining room and the marble fireplace in the bar are highlights. Cut from Carrer Sant Pau through the Liceu opera house shop, filled with musical gifts. Back out on the Rambla, the first street to the right is Carrer Nou de la Rambla, with Antoni Gaudí's Palau Güell 50 yards down the street. The neoclassical Plaça Reial is directly across the Rambla from Carrer Nou de la Rambla.
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