Just because something is a tourist trap doesn't mean that it can't be fun. If you want to soak up the incredible energy of this most ... more »dynamic of European cities with all its color, vitality, noise and smells, you really need to dive right into this drag of market stalls. Its collection of kiosks, shops, cafés and general al fresco mayhem running from the iconic Plaça de Catalunya down to the sea is not to be missed.
When you come up for air you might have bought dazzling blooms for your sweetheart, the blue and claret shirt of the world's best soccer team, a pair of perfect peaches from La Boqueria market, a caricature of yourself, a watercolor of a city landmark—even (though heaven knows why) a fluff ball day-old chick.
Let's start with a little bit of definition. What does La Rambla mean? And is it singular or plural? "Rambla" derives from an Arabic term meaning "dry riverbed"—which was what this area was in this medieval city, long before it was paved over. The singular or plural conundrum is a bit more complicated; the street signs say "La Rambla," and that is what most locals say. Look again at the street signs and you will see that next to the sign saying "La Rambla" there might be one reading "Rambla dels Estudis" or the name of one of the other sections of the boulevard, that together make up the whole, so it's also OK to describe them as "Les Ramblas" (in Catalan) or "Las Ramblas" (in Castilian Spanish). In English the usual term is "the Ramblas."
However you choose to describe it, at every hour of the day and well into the night it teems with life, from the birds, tortoises and rabbits sold by the vendors on the Rambla de Ocells, to the riotously colorful blooms stacked around the stalls on the Rambla de les Flors, and the promenading parties of bachelor and girls-only parties prowling the after-dark bar scene.
There’s always plenty of street entertainment to charm the euros from your pocket; metallic-faced, exotically costumed and sometimes eerie human statues, acrobats, break dancers and caricature artists slug it out for your attention, and your patronage. All this creativity is contagious—even the lowlifes go in for a bit of drama, emerging from the crowd and helpfully drawing your attention to spattered "bird muck," then using the distraction to target your purse or wallet.
If you haven't done the Ramblas you haven't done Barcelona—it's neither chic nor sophisticated, but it's bright, bustling and life affirming, like a jolt of caffeine for the eyeballs. And like caffeine, it's addictive. less «