Walking The Most Famous Streets in Barcelona
Want some insider tips on the most famous streets in Barcelona? Well, our local expert Leo has shared some things you should look out for when exploring some of the best known places in Barcelona.
When you walk down a major city street, it’s easy to get carried away by the spectacle and miss out on the little details. Here is a locals guide for things to look out for on three of the most famous streets in Barcelona.
- Las Ramblas
- Passeig de Gràcia
- Avinguda Diagonal
- Best runners up
If you ever wondered why you hear people say “La rambla” and “las ramblas”, it’s because the best-known street in Barcelona is actually a series of ramblas (or rambles in Catalan). And regardless of what you call them Las Ramblas is definitely top of the list of most famous streets in Barcelona.
Starting point: Plaça de Catalunya (Plaza de Catalunya)
Starting at Catalunya metro (Plaza Catalunya), the first of the Las Ramblas is Rambla de Canaletes, famous for its fountain. The tradition is if you drink from this fountain; you are guaranteed to return to the city. It’s also a traditional gathering point for fans whenever Barça wins a major trophy.
As you make your way down, the best thing to do is ignore the souvenir shops and touristy stalls and cast your eyes up: there is no shortage of elegant eye-catching buildings, which are often a lot more exciting than their current generic occupants.
At number 99, you will find Palau de la Virreina, once occupied by the Viceroy of Peru. Today it is the suitably impressive home for the city council’s institute of culture. You’ll also find numerous art galleries along this main street as well as flower stalls and restaurants.
La Boqueria and memorials
A little further down on the same side, you will find one of La Rambla’s most famous stops: La Boqueria market.
Despite long being a port of call for tourists, it retains its position as one of the best and busiest markets in the city. Prices are varied, so it pays to mooch around for bargains. On the corner opposite the market is Escribà, a gorgeous modernist pastry shop.
Moving into the center of the street, we can find two important works of street art, entirely different in tone.
The Mosaico de Joan Miró is a characteristically colorful work by one of the city’s best-loved artists. If it makes you want more, check out the Fundació Joan Miró on Montjuic, one of Barcelona’s premier art galleries.
Right next to it is the discreet memorial to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attack in 2017. The memorial’s message, ‘Peace come upon you, oh city of peace’, is written in Arabic, English, Catalan, and Spanish.
Liceu and around
On the left-hand side of the street at number 74 is Cafe de l’Òpera, whose quaint, hole-in-the-wall vibe belies the fact that the cafe has been there since 1929. Poking in your head inside, you will be transformed into the interior of an early 20th-century painting.
The name of Cafe de l’Òpera tells you that the opera house is not far away: the Gran Teatre del Liceu. Even if you have no interest in opera itself, the exterior and interior of the building are genuinely breathtaking. The theater’s official page has a virtual tour to give you an idea.
Opposite the theater, towards the Gothic Quarter, is Carrer de Ferran, one of the most attractive sidestreets coming off the Rambla, and just below this street is Plaça Reial, a picturesque square with fountains and palm trees.
Columbus and fairies
Following the Rambla all the way down will lead you to a Nelson’s Column-like tribute to Columbus, but it is worth turning off to the left for a final curiosity: El Bosc de Les Fades (The Forest of the Fairies) is an easily-missed must-see bar. Styled like an enchanted forest, it has the enduring charm of an eccentric folly.
Passeig de Gràcia
Our second famous street is what, as a Londoner, I have always thought of as Barcelona’s Regent Street, given its upmarket shopping, but that is perhaps selling it short.
For one thing, Passeig de Gràcia has not one but two Gaudí buildings to check out, and is one of Barcelona’s best streets for architecture lovers.
As you walk down from the junction of Avinguda Diagonal and Paseo de Gracia, Casa Milà is the first of the two.
It is also known as La Pedrera (“The Stone Quarry”), which is a rather more suitable name for this undulating, arresting building, which appears to have been hewn out of semi-solid rock.
All of Gaudí’s characteristic flourishes are there: the imitation of nature’s curves, the grandiose entrance and rooftops, and the painstaking elaboration of every decorative element.
Like many of Barcelona’s architectural masterpieces, it was the fruit of a rich man’s desire to be fabulous during the city’s modernism heyday. In this case, it was Pere Milà, a Catalan lawyer, industrial magnate, and politician who commissioned Gaudí to design a house whose main floor would be their home and whose other floors would be rented.
After Milà’s death, the building fell into disrepair, but in 1986 it was bought by building society Caixa Catalunya and has since been renovated.
Today it is a fully-fledged tourist attraction. A raft of tours is available from €18 upwards, but I’d argue the view from the outside is the most important thing.
And just three blocks down is another Gaudí masterpiece.
The Batlló family were big cheeses in Barcelona’s thriving textile industry and had Gaudí redesign an existing building on the site just a couple of years before he got to work on Casa Milà.
While Casa Milà is a monochrome tour de force in the way a man with a unique vision played with concrete, Casa Batlló is a feast of color.
Despite this disparity in color and its much narrower shape, it is immediately recognizable as a Gaudí design thanks to its distinctive windows and columns.
Unlike Casa Milà, it was well maintained even after the death of its owner, but it has also undergone careful reforms in recent decades and hosts tours and exhibitions.
If you haven’t had your fill of architecture already, the stretch of Passeig de Gràcia between Carrer d’Aragó and Carrer de Consell de Cent has a number of architectural treasures competing for your attention.
Indeed, this sense of competition among Barcelona’s super-rich a century ago led to the block being dubbed La Manzana de la Discordia – a reference to the Golden Apple in Greek literature that sparked a dispute between three Goddesses which led to the Trojan War.
Manzana also means “block” in Spanish, so you can consider the fine pun as you take in Casa Amatller (next door at number 41), Casa Bonet (number 39), Casa Mulleras (number 37), and Casa Lleó (number 35).
If all that has built up a thirst, Passeig de Gràcia is a great area for hip restaurants and trendy bars.
Avinguda Diagonal is arguably more of a famous street with locals than tourists, an 11-km long avenue that slices diagonally through the city, starting at the top left of the map and surging through numerous central neighborhoods before ending at the beach.
Leafy uptown gardens
Beginning in the uptown area near Zona Universitària metro, Parc de Cervantes and Parc de Pedrables are two of the city’s most elegant, regal gardens.
On the other side of the avenue from Parc de Pedralbes is an altogether different green space: Camp Nou. Having long been a cavernous coliseum not entirely at the same level as its all-conquering team, it has seen huge investment in recent years and the club has sought to develop the surrounding area, creating Espai Barça, a sporting complex complete with merchandising stalls, shops, eateries, and a museum.
Like the Rambla, the center of the avenue is pedestrianized, which attracts joggers, cyclists, and rollerbladers. There are also trams and buses if you prefer to take public transport from one point of interest to another.
Moving downtown from Camp Nou, El Corte Inglés department store, and L’Illa shopping center signals a stretch of upmarket shopping options.
Off the grand roundabout at Francesc Macià, you can find the charming, leafy Parc del Turó.
The junction between Diagonal and Passeig de Gràcia features a monument to the Spanish Republic, which was torn down during Franco’s dictatorship and restored after his death.
Moving further down, going beyond Casa de les Punxes, the street provides occasional glimpses of the contrasting towers of La Sagrada Familia (on the left) and Torre Agbar (at the end of the road), Barcelona’s cigar-shaped multi-colored skyscraper.
Glòries and around
Plaça Glòries, the meeting point of half a dozen of the city’s major and most famous streets, is in constant redevelopment. In recent years it has becomes Barcelona’s digital hub, and ambitious new buildings have sprung up on both sides of the avenue downtown from the Glòries’ outdoor shopping center. Following the avenue down will take you to Diagonal Mar, another major shopping mall.
The end of the line
If you prefer, Avinguda Diagonal is ever closer to the coast as you go on, meaning that taking any right-hand turn will lead you to the beach in five to ten minutes.
The coast at this end of town disintegrates somewhat, disappearing between the space between Barcelona and the neighboring town, Badalona. This underlines how following the avenue from one end to the other really gives you an all-encompassing view of the city.
Best runners up
If I were to suggest other famous streets in Barcelona, I would start with the wonderful Passeig del Born. This wonderful Barcelona street is one of the very best streets to explore both at night (for its great bars) and during the day, for its gothic architecture.
An awful lot of Spanish history has occurred on the Passeig del Born. Think of a famous period in Spanish history – medieval knights jousting, Spanish Inquisition public executions, and the Siege of Barcelona all happened on the Passeig del Born!
These days you can watch a carnival parade and Holy Week festivities on this street.
Finally, it would be a shame to come to Barcelona and not see Carrer dels Mirallers – near the wonderfully gothic church of Santa Maria del Mar. This offbeat street is full of artisanal shops and street sculptures but at night it is known as the ‘spooky street’ – so keep an eye out for demonic spirits late at night!