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This is a series of streets joined together one after the other, that lead from Plaça Catalunya to the sea. The word rambla comes from the Arabic term, ramla, which means a riverbed, and these streets actually used to be a riverbed that channeled the water coming down from Collserola Hill. In the 13th Century, convents and churches were built on both sides of the Ramblas and the streets were named after these religious buildings. During the course of the 18th Century, the medieval walls that separated the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) from the Raval district were pulled down, and in 1830 the convents and monasteries were closed. Today the popular section of Las Ramblas is a pedestrian-only street, with attractions, shops, restaurants, cafes, kiosks, and street performers that give visitors a sense of Barcelona life.
This is the first walkway you come to when strolling down the Ramblas. The kiosks sell newspapers from all over the world. You'll find the Font de Canaletes (a small fountain) here, where Barça soccer fans (known as culés) gather to celebrate their team's victories. According to legend, if you drink from this fountain you'll return to Barcelona one day. You're also likely to come across performers playing rock or Andean music surrounded by crowds of bystanders. It's a very cosmopolitan area.
This second section of the Ramblas is also known as the Rambla of the Birds, where you will find kiosks selling small animals, mostly birds. There are also chickens, parrots, turtles, hamsters and fish for sale. You'll also see mimes, musicians, clowns and other street performers here. As far as architecture is concerned, there are two impressive baroque buildings: Betlem Church and Virreina Palace. Specially for animal lovers, this street is a must-visit!
This section goes from Pla de l'Os to Pla del Teatre. The famous Liceu Theatre and a Joan Miró mosaic can both be seen in this part of Barcelona's Ramblas. The Liceu Theatre was bombed by anarchists at the turn of the 20th Century and there was a devastating fire here in 1995. However, it has now been totally refurbished and is in excellent condition. There is a statue outside the theater in honor of the Catalan playwright, Serafí Pitarra. This area is a mass of contradictions — it is here that the wealthy middle-classes rub shoulders with the poorer folk from the adjoining Raval district. Don't miss Plaça Reial on the left, which has to be seen to be appreciated.
Here, the Ramblas grow wider and carries on all the way down to the sea. At the very end, you will see the statue of Columbus atop his high pillar, pointing to the New World. The name of this section comes from an ancient convent that is used as the base of the Centre d'Art Santa Mónica, an exhibition center. In this area, there are painters doing portraits and caricatures for tourists, as well as landscapes, etc. There are also musicians, fortune tellers and tarot card readers. On weekends, there is often a crafts market selling leather goods, jewelry, clothes etc.
This basilica owes its name (pi means pine) to the pine forest that once stood here and spanned from the walls of the Roman city to the Ramblas. In 1320s, work began on the basilica building, which is in typical Barcelona Gothic style, although the main entrance is Romanesque. Inside is a chapel, in front of the chapter house containing the tomb of Josep Oriol (a saint from Barcelona). There is also a rosette window, truly impressive for its size and the lighting created by the sun at the different times of the day.
This charming 19th-century square is just off the Ramblas and Carrer Ferran. It was the site of a Capuchin convent that was demolished in 1835 when Barcelona underwent a period of urban renewal. Architect Francesc Daniel Molina was put in charge of filling the vacant space. Plaza Real has undergone a number of renovations since then. The street lamps in the shape of trees were designed by Antoni Gaudí. The Las Tres Gracias fountain in the center dates from the end of the 19th Century. Now Plaza Real is a meeting point for young people on their way to and from the nearby clubs and bars.
Extending from the Liceu on the Ramblas to Plaça Sant Jaume, this is where Saint James' Church was constructed in the fourteenth century, on the site of an ancient synagogue. Today only the facade of this church remains. The rest of the buildings on the street are from later periods. It's only recently that it has been changed to a walking street, making it much more pleasurable to stroll along. There are a lot of shops and cafés here as well - check out the grocers' shops that still have wonderful display windows like in the past.