La Rambla or Les Rambles is the most famous street in Barcelona. The wide boulevard connects the Plaça de Catalunya, a busy square, to the Monument a Colom, a tall column erected in honor of Christoffel Columbus.
The often crowded street is popular with tourists and locals alike. The middle part of the Rambla is pedestrianized and bordered by trees. Kiosks, flower stalls, animal stalls and street artists are in abundance here. Traffic passes on either side of the pedestrian area.
History - The Rambla was originally a small stream flowing just outside the city walls. In the 16th century convents and a university were built along the river. In the 19th century the city wall was torn down and buildings were erected along the now dried up river. The original buildings were torn down but they are remembered in some of the names of the five different parts of the Rambla. Even though it is one continuous street, it actually consists of five 'ramblas'.
Rambla de Canaletes - The first Rambla, starting from the Plaça de Catalunya, is the Rambla de Canaletes. The name originates from the 19th century Canaleta fountain. The expression 'he drinks water from Canaletes' means that person comes from Barcelona. And according to local legend, once you drink from the fountain, you will keep coming back to Barcelona.
Rambla dels Estudis - The second Rambla is the Rambla dels Estudis. It is named after the 16th century university, the Estudis Generals. The building was demolished in 1843. Several important buildings are still in this area, among them the 18th century Reial Acadèmia de Ciènces i Arts, since 1910 a theater. The building contains the first public clock of the city.
Rambla de Sant Josep - The next Rambla is the Rambla de Sant Josep, named after a convent which was demolished in the mid 1900s and replaced by the Mercat de Boqueria, a colorful market place. Since this part of the Rambla has many flower stalls, it is now better known as the Rambla de les Flors, or 'Flower Rambla'. At the end of this part of the Rambla is a small square, the Plaça de la Boqueria. It features a mosaic by Joan Miró and a Plaça Reial shop decorated with an art-deco dragon.
Rambla dels Caputxins - The fourth Rambla counting towards the Columbus Monument is the Rambla dels Caputxins, yet again named after a now demolished building: a Capuchin monaster. The most interesting building on this rambla is the Gran Theatre del Liceu, a building decorated in modernista style. Fire destroyed Barcelona's Opera Theater twice, in 1861 and in 1994, but it was rebuilt each time, most recently reopening in 1999. Further down the rambla on the left hand side is the entrance to the Plaça Reial, a 19th century lively square with tall palm trees and street lamps designed by Antoni Gaudí. Opposite the Plaça Reial, in the Carrer Nou de la Rambla is the Palau Guëll or Guëll Palace, one of Gaudí's first residential buildings. The parabolic shapes at the entrance and the rooftop chimneys are signs of things to come in his later works at the Guëll Park and the Rambla del Mar Casa Mila, just to name two of this catalan architect's most famous works.
Rambla de Santa Monica - The last Rambla is the Rambla de Santa Monica, named after a convent, now converted into a museum, the Centre d'Art Santa Mònica. The rambla leads to a roundabout with a 60m large column, the Columbus Monument. It was built in 1888 for the Universal Exposition.
Rambla de Mar - If you continue to walk in the direction of the Port Vell, a wooden walkway, now known as the Rambla de Mar or Rambla of the Sea, leads you to Maremàgnum, a complex with shops, movie theaters - including an IMAX theater - and a large aquarium.