This place is a famous, tree-lined pedestrian street, it stretches for just over a kilometre. Las Ramblas connects Plaça de Catalunya in the town centre to the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell.
Las Ramblas is the city boundary between the areas of Barri Gòtic and El Raval. You can find many historic buildings such as the famous Liceu Theatre in this street. La Boqueria market joins Las Ramblas is one of the city’s most famous tourist landmarks.
The name Las Ramblas originated from a Spanish verb “Ramblar” meaning to ramble. There are five sections to this road, and each has its history and personality. This is why the street is known as both and “Las Ramblas”. The first three areas being called Rambla Font de Canaletes (The Canaletes fountain), Rambla dels Estudis (Jesuit University), Rambla de Sant Josep (also known as Rambla de Les Flors this is an open-air flower market. The next area is called La Rambla dels Caputxins. Formerly the site of the Capuchin monastery, this is where the Liceu Opera House now stands. Lastly, La Rambla de once the location of the Convent of St. Monica and now an Arts centre.
A busy place Las Ramblas gets very crowded, especially during tourist season. It’s changed a lot since the 19th-century, it is well worth a visit. We recommend a stroll in the morning before it gets too busy. There is plenty to see, from flowers to mime artists and acrobats.
The area does suffer from pickpockets, who love tourists. Late at night, it becomes a little more of a red light district” and do not recommend walking around as a tourist, alone. Plenty of police monitor the city, but the authorities in Barcelona appear in denial about the need for a CCTV system in the city centre.
Dangerous or violent crime in Barcelona is infrequent. However, the petty crime of pickpocketing has almost become a way of life. Evil can be avoided, by just making sure that your valuables are safe.
It was once said by the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca that Las Ramblas was “The only street in the world he hoped would never end”. To the east of Las Ramblas is the Barri Gòtic or Gothic Quarter, the centre of the old city of Barcelona. The Barri Gòtic remains a fascinating labyrinth of streets and small squares, many of which connect to Las Ramblas.
One sizeable connecting square is Plaça Reial, a lovely 19th century square with lovely palm trees and lighting, designed by Antoni Gaudí. The entrance to Plaça Reial is down a short entrance passage, just off Las Ramblas dels Caputxins. A little further into the Barri Gòtic is the Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia. Nearby Plaça Sant Jaume houses the Generalitat de Catalonia and the Ayuntamiento – Barcelona’s City Council. These are the rival Catalan and Spanish Governments entities of Catalonia.
To the west of Las Ramblas is the somewhat different, El Raval quarter. Once situated outside the city walls, originally this area was the site of various institutions. In later years, factories buildings appeared here, along with housing for the workers. The area is known for its nightlife, cabarets, and prostitution. Today this part of the city retains a degree of ‘edge’ late at night. In Barcelona, though, when the sun is shining, these places are quietly sleeping.
Las Ramblas was initially a muddy stream, used as a sewer and filled with rubbish. It was often dry in summer, but as a drain, it was essential to cope with the heavy rain which flowed from the Collserola Hills in the spring and autumn. In the 1400s the stream was diverted to avoid the city centre. The wide strip of land then became the town centre spot for markets and public gatherings.
In 1703, the council had trees planted to line the street to make it more attractive. Local workers planted 280 birch trees which were later replaced by elm trees.
Conflicts over the centuries took their toll on Las Ramblas religious buildings, most notably on St. James’s Night in 1835. Revolutionaries burned down the monasteries and churches and murdered all the occupants. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), Barcelona was under the control of anarchists who once again targeted religious buildings and massacred the monks and nuns. Artillery fire and air attacks by pro-Franco forces during World War II also caused severe damage.
Today Las Ramblas is a busy commercial centre and one of the most visited places in Europe with around 30 million tourists a year.