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Cities in Spain

Information on some of the most well-known streets in Barcelona and the fountains of Montjuic


La Rambla in Barcelona

Until 1860, the year in which Barcelona finally broke out from behind its city walls, the city extended no further than the hexagon of the 15th century enclosure ( the present-day Casc Antic) that lies between these streets: the Rondes de Sant Pau, de Sant Antoni, d'Universitat, and de Sant Pere, the Passeig de Lluís Companys, the Avinguda Marquès de l'Argentera, which continues as the Passeig Colom, and the Avinguda del Paral.lel. The only wide street at the heart of the city was La Rambla, an old stream whose name derives from the Arabic "ramla" meaning "sandy ground". Until the beginning of the 18th century La Rambla consisted merely of a path beside a stream running between convents on one side and the old city walls on the other. It was in 1704 that the first houses were put up at the Boqueria on the site of the old city walls and the first trees were planted. In 1775 the old city walls by the Drassanes medieval shipyards were demolished, and toward the end of the 18th century the street began to be systematically developed: la Rambla became a kind of tree-lined avenue.

From upper end, which runs into the Plaça Catalunya, to the lower end below the monument to Columbus, this unique street in fact bears five different names, each describing a section of the street: first, there is La Rambla de Canaletes, a name used by the people of Barcelona because of the Font de les Canaletes fountain, found there since ancient times. Folk tradition has it that anyone who drinks from this fountain will subsequently keep returning to Barcelona. The next section of La Rambla is known as La Rambla dels Estudis, after the mid-15th century building of that name, the Estudi General or Universitat. This university in Barcelona was suppressed by Philip V and the building used as a barracks. In 1843 it was demolished. If you continue down toward the sea you will enter the stretch known as La Rambla de les Flors, the only place in 19th-century Barcelona that flowers were sold and which even today preserves its that old special charm. Next comes La Rambla del Centre, also known as La Rambla dels Caputxins, because of the old house of Capuchin friars there.

And finally, there is the stretch of La Rambla called La Rambla de Santa Mònica, giving access to the port, called after the parish church there which previously had been the religious house of the Agustins Descalços (Barefoot Augustinian order).

The fountains of Montjuïc (photo 4)  
The fruit of the inspiration of the engineer Carles Buïgas, who conceived a new type of fountain where the artistic element consists in the changing shapes of the water, the Magic Fountain was one of the last works constructed in the grounds of the Universal Exhibition of 1929. The project was completed with cascades and smaller fountains installed at various points of Avinguda Maria Cristina. The fundamental element, however, was the monumental fountain situated on a platform erected at the end of the avenue, with the perspective of the Palau Nacional as a backdrop.

Paseo de Gracia and Rambla Catalunya (photo 3)

The terraces of the cafeterias give the streets of Paseo de Gracia and Rambla de Catalunya life, together with the variety of traditional shops and the brightly-lit entrances to the modern commercial galleries. We must not overlook two monuments located at the beginning and end of the street: A bull and a giraffe, called Meditacio and Coqueta, respectively, made by Josep Granyer in 1972. The installation of these figures was sponsored by the residents of Rambla de Catalunya. This thirty-metre-wide avenue that begins at the Diagonal and ends at Plaza de Catalunya has conserved the charm of its central tree-lined promenade.

Paseo de Gracia was, at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, the residential centre of the highest ranks of the Catalan bourgeoisie. Few of their houses had shops on the ground floor in those days, but since 1925 many of these buildings have been transformed and now have commercial establishments at street level.

This boulevard follows the straight line traced by the old road from Barcelona to the village of Gracia, which has long been absorbed by the expansion of the city. In 1827 this road was converted into a broad, tree-lined avenue. Unlike today, the central part was for the use of pedestrians. In 1853 gas lighting was installed. In 1848 an Italian landscape gardener planted along the edges a series of gardens which he called Tivoli, a name which is still conserved by the theatre in Carrer de Casp.

The modernist movement left ample testimony in Passeig de Gracia, in buildings such as the Lleo Morera mansion, from Domenech i Montaner, the Batllo house, by Antoni Gaudi, and the Mila mansion, also by Gaudi. The section between the streets Consell de Cent and Arago is notable for the contrast between the buildings by Enric Sagnier, in a modernised Louis XV style, and the neo-Gothic Amatller mansion, by Josep Puig i Cadafalch. This variation of styles has popularised this part of the street with the name l'illa de la discordia.

On the Paseo de Gracia, at the Carrer de Provenza, you can find one of the most interesting buildings in the city, and the one that today also receives the most visitors: The Casa Mila from 1905, also called La Pedrera, one of Antoni Gaudi's great buildings. La Pedrera, or Casa Mila, is a veritable abstract monumental sculpture formed by organic shapes. The two patios should be visited, as well as the roof, where the chimneys and air vents form an impressive group of abstract sculptures, making the visitor feel transported to a spectacular dream world.

More information on Barcelona, Spain:
Hotels, hostels and apartments in Barcelona Museums in Barcelona
Hands-on cooking class in Barcelona Olympic Barcelona
Tapas, sightseeing and cooking day in Barcelona The Modernism Route
Spanish language school La Rambla
Flats, apartments for sale Paseo de Gracia & Rambla Catalunya
Flats for long term rental Fountains of Montjuic (and webcam)
  History of Barcelona
Photos of Barcelona Public Holidays in Barcelona
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