A Walk Around La Rambla

It’s a Mediterranean thing: many towns have that one street in town, or barrio, that runs from the town hall to the church, or from the main street to the port, where everyone comes to hang out. These streets are dedicated to the long tradition of the promenade, where you move slower (don’t walk, stroll) and take in your surroundings, where you go to see and be seen, and where you share a table with friends at an outdoor café. In Barcelona, that’s La Rambla.

La Rambla: Rite of Passage

Start from the top, at Plaça de Catalunya. La Rambla changes names and personalities as you descend toward the sea, bringing you first to Rambla de Canaletes (drink from the fountain here, and the inscription on the base promises that you will return to Barcelona, no matter how far away you go), then to Rambla dels Ocells—the old bird market now given over to ice-cream vendors and souvenir stands—past Carrer de Portaferrissa to the flower stalls along Rambla de les Flors. (The Boqueria market is off to the right here.) From the Liceu opera house,Rambla de Santa Mónica takes you past the Plaça Reial on the left to the end of your promenade at Drassanes.

The Boqueria: Horn of Plenty

There’s a stall in the Mercat de Sant Josep, popularly known as La Boqueria, for any and every imaginable ingredient in a Barcelona kitchen. Highlights are Pinotxo, the legendary dozen-stool gourmet counter, Quim de la Boqueria, with its famous ous esclafats amb llanqueta (eggs with tiny fish), and Petràs, the world-renowned wild mushroom stand at the back.

The Medieval Hospital: Gothic Splendor

Behind the Boqueria and through Plaça de la Gardunya is the medieval Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu, founded in the 13th century by King Martí l’Humà (Martin the Humane), now housing the archives and library of the Biblioteca de Catalunya. The library, well worth a visit, is up the stairway under the breathtaking Gothic stone arches of the courtyard, to the right.

Moderniste Raval: Gaudí and Domènech i Montaner

From the Hospital, walk back along Carrer Hospital to Plaça de Sant Agustí, and cut through Carrer de l’Arc de Sant Agustí to the Hotel España, 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. From here, Carrer Sant Pau brings you to the Liceu—Barcelona’s magnificent opera house.

An alternative detour off Rambla des Ocells also brings you to this point. (Why not do both?) Turn left on Carrer de Portaferrissa, and take the second right, down Carrer Petritxol (art galleries and to-die-for chocolate shops) into the square in front of Santa Maria del Pi, and admire this 14th-century masterpiece. Then return to La Rambla via Carrer Cardenal Casañas, which brings you out just in front of the Liceu. Farther down, the first street to the right is Carrer Nou de la Rambla; Gaudí’s Palau Güell is 50 yards down the street. Directly across the Rambla here is the entrance to the neoclassical Plaça Reial.

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