Top Things to Do Around Las Ramblas, Barcelona

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Photo of Hana LaRock
18 March 2021

While you’re in Barcelona, it’s inevitable at some stage that you’ll wind up on the chaotic, touristy yet fun Las Ramblas. It whirrs with atmosphere, and there are many attractions in the vicinity. Here’s our pick of things to do along the most famous street in the Catalonian capital.

This famously chaotic thoroughfare teems with pedestrians sauntering lazily, laughing at the ‘living statues’ and stopping for caffeine-hit cafe con leche (milky coffee) at terrace tables along the way. Sure it’s touristy – they say that if you’re a visitor you walk along it, if you’re from Barcelona you cut across it – but it’s still a lot of fun.

Museu de l’Erotica

Museum
Map View
Erotic Museum in Barcelona, Spain.
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Right in the thick of things is the surprising-sounding Museu de l’Erotica – definitely not fun for all the family. Yes it’s rather raunchy, but it’s also interesting and informative, shedding light on the history of sensuous Barcelona through sexual episodes and romance. Some of the exhibits are downright hilarious, among them the stripper-Barbies and the old pornography playing on the televisions. For only €7, it’s nothing if not an eyeful.

Miró mosaic

Art Gallery
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La Rambla, Pla de la Boqueria  with mosaic by Joan Miro, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
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So many visitors wander along to the port at the far end without properly looking at what lies all around – and under – them. Take Catalan artist Joan Miró’s circular tile work, crafted by the maestro himself on the very ground beneath your feet. In fact Miró assisted with the construction of Las Ramblas, and so you should pay homage; after all the city was shaped decisively by the 19th- and 20th-century greats who lived and worked here, including architect Antoni Gaudí. To locate Miró’s masterpiece keep your eyes peeled as you near Liceu Metro and Liceu Theatre. Inspect it closely, and you’ll spot the tile that the great man signed.

Walking tour

Architectural Landmark
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La Rambla is the most famous street in Barcelona
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Signing up to be led around by a local expert is sure to be stimulating – your guide is bound to be a fountain of knowledge, spilling saucy secrets and dispensing well-I-never facts. Who’d guess, for instance, that the name Las Ramblas derives from Arabic and means sandy riverbed? In the 10th and 11th centuries that’s what it was, coursing with flood water from the mountains beyond. Whether you join a larger group, or just invite a local show you around the area, you’ll leave feeling that bit more clued-up about the place, which is what the best city weekends are all about.

Human statues

Architectural Landmark
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Human statues on La Rambla Barcelona Catalunya Spain
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You can’t miss them, yet they always have the ability to make you jump – the garishly painted figures of Las Ramblas, imitating everyone from famous Spanish philosophers to robots. You can walk right by one and think it’s a statue – the usual trick is to stand stock still as a crowd gathers, then make some sudden movement that has onlookers in fits of nervous laughter. Do throw a euro or two into their caps – after all, this is both a performance and a work of art that has taken time and practice to perfect. The artists even have to be approved by a city jury, and must pay a couple of hundred euros monthly for the right to perform.

Bike hire

Shop, Store
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Bicycle tourists on La Rambla in Barcelona Spain ES EU
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At Mattia46, on nearby Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, you can hire a bicycle from as little as €5 a day – with or without crossbar, you choose – and you’ll conquer Las Ramblas so much more effortlessly than on foot. For that paltry sum they throw in a lock as well as a map of Barcelona marked with the big sights and the best routes. Leisurely and broad-avenued, Barcelona is a perfect cyclist’s city and, for us, pedalling through the shady backstreets of edgy Raval, close to Las Ramblas, is an essential weekend experience; as is discovering the stony, atmospheric gothic quarter, on the other side.

Gran Teatre del Liceu

Opera House
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Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house at La Rambla street in Barcelona, Spain
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Founded in 1847, Liceu Theatre, or the Gran Teatre del Liceu, slap-bang on Las Ramblas, is the most celebrated opera house in the city for live performances. You couldn’t be further from the touristy scrum so make a booking for operas such as Otello, recitals of Donizetti masterpieces, modern-dance nights or classical-music concerts. Attending a performance is not the only way to see Liceu. It is also possible to take a tour, although these are on hold during Covid-19.

La Boqueria

Market
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Spain, Catalonia, Barcelona, entrance of Boqueria market
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The way to the heart of any visitor to a new city is through its most-celebrated markets. In Barcelona, that means La Boqueria – through the wrought-iron gates on Las Ramblas. It’s been in business since 1836 as the city’s freshest, best grocery store – and an hour of aimless wandering will fire your senses: there are lurid traffic-light displays of fruit and vegetables; ice-banks of glittery fish; curtains of blood-red hung meat; and masses of perfumed blooms. You can settle in for seafood and tapas at the small cafes and stalls, indulging in a bottle of crisp white local wine. It’s also a great place to try street food and take a cooking class.

El Corte Inglés

Store, Shop
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El Corte Ingles department store. Plaza Catalunya. Barcelona. Spain
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London has Selfridges, Paris Printemps and New York Macy’s. Spain’s grand department store brand is El Corte Inglés – and the Barcelona outlet commands a whole block on Plaça de Catalunya, at the opposite end of Las Ramblas to the Columbus statue. Dating from the early 1960s – and remodelled along the way – it is a mighty, slightly Brutalist sweep of concrete, lit prettily after dark. What can you buy here? It might be easier to list what you can’t, as this multistorey shrine to consumerism sells the lot, including perfumes, shoes, furniture and fashion. You can change money, and the food hall in the basement is heaven for collectors of tins from around the world – the vivid cans of Ortiz sardines are attractive enough to give as gifts back home.

A bite to eat

Cafe, Spanish, $$$
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Art Nouveau Cafe de l'Opera, La Rambla (Les Ramblas), Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, Europe
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Despite centuries of change along its length, Las Ramblas has held on to some photogenic and historic dining establishments that deserve your time and your camera-lens focus. For starters, make a date with Cafè de l’Òpera, which has been run by the present owners since 1928, and managed to keep turning out flavourful food even during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Come for teas, tapas, beer and a whole array of whiskies. And duck into Pasteleria Escribà – arguably the most famous patisserie in town – for a morning coffee and a croissant as you watch the world go by.

Centre d'Art Santa Mònica

Art Gallery
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Santa Monica art center. La Rambla, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
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You can’t leave Barcelona without a stash of memories of its abundant art and architecture, which proliferates city-wide. Las Ramblas is no exception. Among the beautiful galleries in the vicinity lies the Centre d’Art Santa Mònica (CASM). Opened in 1988 in time for the city’s Olympic-era renaissance in 1992, it’s a spectacular space – formerly a convent. The Renaissance cloister within is a fine place to idle when you need a breather from the exhibits. Artists from around the world are featured. All that, and there’s an attractive cafe-restaurant with an open-air terrace.

Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA)

Museum
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Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) in Barcelona Spain. The museum opened in 1995 and focuses mainly on post-1945 Catalan and Spanish art.
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This all-white, glass-fronted beauty holds a permanent collection of Spanish and Catalan art, including pieces by Miquel Barceló and Joan Rabascall. However, international big names such as John Cage and Jean-Michel Basquiat can also be admired. Fittingly located in the cool Raval District, home to the famous Boqueria Market, the museum hosts a heady roster of conferences, activities and special events to highlight contemporary art.

Christopher Columbus monument

Memorial
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Mirador de Colom in Barcelona, Spain
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Towering over the lower end of Las Ramblas, where it reaches the sea, is this 60m (197ft) tall monument – raised in 1888 in honour of Christopher Columbus, whose controversial bronze figure crowns the memorial, supposedly pointing towards America (they say it’s actually Mallorca). Take the lift right to the top, where there’s an observation deck for 360-degree views of the city, including the port, the Mediterranean and Montjuïc Mountain.

Boadas

Bar, Tapas, Spanish, Beer, Wine, Cocktails, Pub Grub, $$$
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The barmen hard at work
Courtesy of Boadas
Oozing art-deco elegance, this 1930s wedge-shaped sliver of a cocktail bar is Barcelona’s coolest – and oldest. On a side street just off La Ramblas, it was founded by a barman who learnt his trade at Hemingway’s Floridita Bar in Havana. Who can out-cool that? Smart barmen sport tuxedos as, elegantly, they mix and pour traditional combinations behind the sexy curve of the brass-and-dark-wood bar. It always feels like a secret – particularly if you slip in during the day for a cheeky mojito or three.

The Rambla del Raval

Architectural Landmark
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El gat del Raval (The Raval cat), by Botero in Barcelona Spain
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Remodelled in the late ’90s/early 2000s in the heart of the formerly down-at-heel Raval area, this is now a vast and lovely palm tree- and cafe-lined plaza, lozenge-shaped, with a weekend craft market and plenty of people-watching opportunities. To the far end, the enormous Cat by Fernando Botero looks happy enough to be here, sporting a huge smile on his face. At dusk, head up to the roof bar of the hotel Barceló Raval – which dominates the area like a huge, black, metal drum – for excellent margaritas al fresco, and wraparound city views.

The Basílica of Santa Maria del Pi

Church
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14th-century Gothic church Santa Maria del Pi in the gothic quarter of Barcelona Spain in Placa del Pi with colorful flags and a small cafe
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Named Pi for a pine tree that once grew nearby, this 14th-century gothic church stands at the heart of three plazas in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. Famed for its imposing facade, punched with an attention-grabbing rose window, it has more treats to reveal inside, with a high vaulted ceiling and dramatic stained-glass windows. The church also puts on musical concerts, and visitors with heads for heights can climb the 54m (177ft) bell tower for views across the city.

Jo Fernandez-Corugedo contributed additional reporting to this article.

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