On our short break to Barcelona, we did what every tourist does and sauntered down La Rambla. It cuts right through the heart of the old town, winding down from the Plaça de Catalunya to the Columbus monument and along the way, there are of plenty of attractions to take in.
We started at the top, in Plaça Catalunya, a good spot to look down and appreciate the bustling street life. After a short distance, is the Font de Canaletes fountain. According to legend, if you drink from it you’ll return to Barcelona, a bit like coins in the Trevi in Rome. It is also where Barça football fans meet to celebrate victories, it started in the 1930s before internet and TV, and the tradition has stuck.
The central walkway is filled with bird and small animal stalls, souvenir and newspaper kiosks, and flower stalls, creating an open-air market. Interspersed with these are street artists, buskers, portrait painters and human statues who stand motionless among the passing tourists for hours on end.
On the left is La Casa Bruno Cuadros. The building proudly displays its past as an umbrella factory, I’m not sure about the significance of the Chinese Dragon.
For those who know their history the Cafe Moka comes next, it is where George Orwell spent time fighting the communists and is described in his book “Homage to Catalonia” but don’t expect to recognise it.
We break our walk for a coffee and some people watching by the entrance to the medieval Barri Gòtic, also known as the Gothic Quarter. We enjoyed wandering round the narrow cobbled streets, between the tall old buildings and admiring the architecture in this quarter. The Picasso Museum is here as was Picasso who lived in the city in his youth.
On the opposite side of the road is the Barri del Raval, formerly the red-light district. The area no longer has a bad reputation and is filled with many small restaurants and bars but even having a burger in this area can be a pricey due to the number of tourists, so if you can make do with a beer or coffee wait until you are out of the city centre before eating.
Returning to La Rambla, watch where you walk! The ground is decorated with a huge mosaic by the Catalan artist Joan Miró who was born not far from this spot and the mural marks Pla de La Boqueria, the old centre of the city.
To the right is La Boqueria, where the produce displayed are also works of art. This vast market has everything, from stacks of fruit to writhing lobsters, and is not only the most important market in Barcelona but the largest in Spain. A visit gives you a true feeling for the city.
Just off Las Ramblas, there is the famous Gran Teatre del Liceu considered by many to be one of the finest opera houses in Europe. Immediately in front of the Liceu, is Café de l’Òpera, one of the oldest and best preserved cafes in Barcelona and a popular spot with tourists.
We are now coming to the last part of our walk, at the end is the Columbus Monument. He may be looking out to sea but he isn’t pointing in the direction of America!
If you like places where there is something going on both day and night, then La Rambla is the place to be!
Step Through the Looking Glass and read the Red Queen Musings