After lunch on Day # 2 in Barcelona we followed what Rick Steves in his Pocket Barcelona calls The Ramblas Ramble. It’s about a mile walk from Placa de Catalunya down La Rambla, Barcelona’s most popular street, to the waterfront.
The official name of the street is Les Rambles as there are really several short streets all named La Rambla something-or-other. The first section of the street after Placa de Catalunya is called La Rambla de Canaletes after the fountain at the beginning of the street that has become a popular meeting place, especially for FC Barcelona fans.
The second of the five streets that make up La Rambla is called Rambla dels Estudis after the former Jesuit University. Then there’s Rambla de Sant Josep (or de les Flors) where you will find a popular food market called La Boqueria.
Barcelona’s Opera House dominates the fourth street that makes up La Rambla. It’s called Ramblas dels Caputxins because it once was the site of a Capuchin monastery.
La Rambla is the border between two of Barcelona’s most famous districts. As you walk south toward the Columbus Monument the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) will be on your left and the El Raval neighborhood will be on your right. There’s a popular square on the Barri Gotic side of Rambla dels Caputxins called Placa Reial (Royal Plaza). At one time it was the ritziest neighborhood in Barcelona. Are there any fans of Carlos Ruiz Zafon reading this posting? In Zafon’s classic The Shadow of the Wind the protagonist Daniel Sempere often visits Don Barcelo and his niece Clara who live in a Placa Reial apartment. And in an archway under that apartment Daniel encounters a beggar named Fermin Romero de Torres.
Now we come to the last of the five streets that make up La Rambla. It’s called Rambla de Santa Mònica because of a convent that was once here but has now turned into an arts center. This is one of the most popular stretches of La Rambla because of all the street artists and live statues but if you are ever going to be a victim of a crime in Barcelona it will probably be on this portion of La Rambla or in the adjoining El Raval neighborhood. The area is infested with pickpockets and at night turns into a red light district.
There’s a narrow street called Carrer de l’Arc del Teatre that starts at La Rambla and winds through the El Raval neighborhood. If you look hard enough you might find Zafon’s Cemetery of Forgotten Books.
Finally we come to the Columbus Monument at the end of La Rambla. About 20 years ago they began to transform this area and there’s even another La Rambla these days — a wooden boardwalk called La Rambla de Mar that connects La Rambla with the Maremagnum shopping center on Moll d’Espanya.
In the middle of the 20th century there wasn’t much past the Columbus Monument — just the old Port Vell dock. Daniel Sempere in The Shadow of the Wind walked from the monument one day to the steps of the dock and sat down dangling his feet over the water and he noticed someone approaching. He was about to have his first encounter with the mysterious faceless stranger named Lain Courbert.
We also walked across the street from the monument but did not encounter Courbert. Instead, we hopped on the Red Route sightseeing bus that eventually took us back to Placa de Catalunya. That bus tour will be the subject of my next posting.