Barcelona is a popular European destination for city breaks and cruise ships. I’ve visited Barcelona a few times now and on my most recent visit we spent a leisurely day exploring Las Ramblas on our own.
Las Ramblas is a pedestrianised boulevard approximately 1.2 km long, lined with restaurants, shops and dotted with quirky street performers. It’s one of the most well-known areas of Barcelona and is the first point of interest that cruise ship passengers come across on foot from the cruise port, starting at the Christopher Columbus monument.
Street Performers on Las Ramblas
The majority of the street performers are situated at the Christopher Columbus end of Las Ramblas and I was disappointed on the day we visited to find that there didn’t seem to be that many human statues. Some of the human statues are incredible and very well dressed. You can donate some small change to watch them spring into life or have a photo taken with them but we were quite happy to watch from afar as we strolled past them and the illusion is somewhat shattered when you see them taking a break!
Restaurants on Las Ramblas
Lining the walkway of Las Ramblas are restaurants and cafes. Please note that it is unlikely you will be able to stop in one of these for just a coffee. We tried this after we’d walked Las Ramblas but we hit two issues: some cafes did not serve coffee as they would not carry hot drinks across the road and some would only allow you to use their restaurant for food.
We settled on a cold drink and were surprised to be served a vat of Coca-Cola from a massive glass boot! It was quirky but there was no way I’d have finished the whole thing, the only way to drink was through a long straw. In the same cafe, people were enjoying similar sized glasses of beer, sangria and mojitos. I’d have definitely have been a little worse for wear if I’d had one of those (and the day was still young!).
The highlight of our day on Las Ramblas was visiting the indoor food market, which is approximately two thirds of the way up Las Ramblas. It’s certainly a feast for the senses with so much to see, smell and taste. It was a bustling atmosphere with a range of vendors selling an array of food and drink. I would highly recommend a visit whilst you are in Barcelona but try to go in the morning when it’s slightly quieter.
You can wander La Boqueria for quite a while looking at all the stalls and we were amazed at the sheer amount of food and drink on offer.
The market has been open since 1836 and it has over 200 stalls to explore. You can eat in La Boqueria at one of the sit-up tapas bars. We really wanted to eat at El Quim and waited for a good 30 minutes for a seat but as it was lunch time we were out of luck. We will try again on next visit!
Tapas near Las Ramblas
As we were unsuccessful at getting a seat at one of the tapas bars in La Boqueria, we headed off in search of tapas outside of the market. There are plenty of options and it’s good to try somewhere slightly off Las Ramblas for an authentic meal. This is always my top tip for finding authentic and reasonably priced meal. It’s always a good sign if you are the only tourists eating at a restaurant as you know that it’s somewhere that the locals choose to eat.
Tapas is little dishes that encouraged social eating, you can share plates and order as you go. It’s a good idea to order a couple of plates at a time and then you aren’t over ordering. Tapas is traditionally enjoyed with a glass of wine and acts as a snack-like meal.
Plaça de Catalunya
At the top of Las Ramblas is a large square called Plaça de Catalunya. Here, there are plenty of places to sit and people-watch amongst the fountains, statues and pigeons. It’s a good resting stop when you reach the end of Las Ramblas and from here you can catch a bus, including the Hop on Hop off bus. Many major streets meet at the square and there’s a metro station here too.
Final thoughts about Las Ramblas
If you want a pleasant day exploring Las Ramblas on your own, it’s very easy to do. Las Ramblas does tend to get busier as the day goes on but there are plenty of restaurants and cafes to stop and do a spot of people watching.
A word of caution is to ensure that you keep your valuables safe. We had an anti-theft backpack but did feel uneasy at one point during the day as we were being followed by a couple of young men. We just stopped by the side of the road for a few minutes to let them move on before continuing.
La Boqueria is a must-visit when on Las Ramblas and I would definitely recommend going in the morning for a chance to eat at one of the tapas bars there.
I visited Barcelona on a Mediterranean cruise on Sapphire Princess, you can find out more about the cruise ship here.