La Rambla has to be Barcelona’s most famous street. An avenue almost everyone has heard of and that everyone who has visited Barcelona has walked along at least once. But the famous Rambla, that stretches between Plaça de Catalunya and the Columbus Monument, is not in fact the only Rambla in Barcelona.
The word “Rambla” derives from the old Arabic word “Ramla”, which means something like dry or sandy riverbed. Which is exactly what La Rambla was, once upon a time. Long before it was the beautiful tree lined avenue it now is, it was not much more than a sewage filled, dry riverbed. Only in spring and autumn would water flow whenever heavy rain fell. But when the city of Barcelona started to grow and the city walls were extended in the 14th century, the riverbed started turning into a street. A street that is now La Rambla. Or actually, Las Ramblas, as it is made up of a series of streets and therefore plural. La Rambla cuts right through the centre and separates the old Gothic Quarter of the city from the Raval neighbourhood. Because of its central location it is impossible to avoid the hustle and bustle of the ever crowded Ramblas. Along this 1.2 km stretch you will find bars, restaurants, street performers, souvenir shops, flower stands and so much more. From very touristy and overpriced tourist traps to beautiful landmarks like the Boqueria Market.
But enough about La Rambla because there are other Ramblas in the city that are worth a visit too! In the centre of the historical and multicultural Raval neighbourhood you will find the Rambla del Raval. Much shorter than the famous Rambla but equally lovely and less crowded, this Rambla functions as a real meeting place for locals and visitors. There are nice bars and restaurants along and benches to relax in the shade of the trees. Rambla del Raval is also used for many cultural events such as markets and concerts. This vibrant, lively space was only created in the 90’s when the Barcelona city council started with a project to remodel El Raval.
Another nice Rambla to explore is Rambla del Poblenou, the cultural and social centre of the Poblenou neighbourhood. A neighbourhood that borders the Mediterranean sea east of the city centre. During the Industrial Revolution, Poblenou was a flourishing working class area full of factories. But the tide turned and as many factories shut their doors, Poblenou became poor, parts of it a real shantytown. This all changed again in the 90’s though, when big parts of the area were redeveloped. Nowadays Poblenou is a pleasant and hip neighbourhood, a real mix of old and new. The Rambla del Poblenou is a nice, green avenue with plenty of choice to have a drink or a bite to eat. Or to just stroll around and soak in the atmosphere. Much less touristic than the main Rambla in the centre, this is an interesting area to explore.
An area that is even less common on a tourists itinerary is Sants-Badal. A residential neighbourhood in the Sants-Montjuïc district that does not have any famous sights or attractions. What it does have, is a Rambla. The Rambla de Badal is a long and green avenue where locals come for a stroll. Older people sit on the benches having a chat or feeding the pigeons. Little shops, bars and cafes can be found alongside the avenue. But don’t expect anything hip or fancy. If you want to see a completely different side of Barcelona, this is it.
And last of all, to show you that a Rambla doesn’t necessarily have to be build on ground, there is a Rambla de Mar in Barcelona. A lovely promenade over the water that you can find in the Port Vell area of Barcelona, connecting the waterfront with the modern shopping mall Maremagnum.