Barcelona: Places to Explore

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The Rambla

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The Rambla was originally a watercourse, in summer a dry arroyo filled with sand (rmel in Arabic). Today seasonal runoff has been replaced by a flood of humanity. No wonder Federico García Lorca called this the only street in the world he wished would never end: The show of humanity rages relentlessly—mimes, acrobats, jugglers, musicians, puppeteers, portraitists, breakdancers, rappers, and rockers stretched out beneath the canopy of plane trees. A pedestrian runway between two traffic lanes, the Rambla remains an essential Barcelona event.

The crowds seethe and dawdle. Couples sit at café tables no bigger than tea trays while nimble-footed waiters dodge traffic, bringing trays from kitchens. Peddlers, kiosk owners, buskers, and vendors create a constant cacophony that clamors over the din of taxis and motorbikes. Here, in busy Barcelona, the Rambla is permanently filled with squads of revelers, often as animated at 3 am as it is at 3 pm.

The Rambla's original riverbed flowed down from the Collserola hills along the ramparts that encircled the Gothic Quarter. When in the late 13th century the walls were demolished, the open space outside was left as a mid-city promenade. For nearly a thousand years the Rambla has been a forum for peddlers, workers in search of jobs, and farmers selling produce or livestock. These days, visitors from all over the world have joined them.

From the rendezvous point at the head of the Rambla at Café Zurich to the Boqueria produce market, the Liceu opera house, or the Rambla's lower reaches, there is always something for everyone along this vertebral column of Barcelona street life.

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