Rambling down Las Ramblas

Barcelona is rightly famous for Gaudi’s amazing architecture, and you absolutely must see his incredible architectural feats, but if it’s the beating heart of Barcelona you want, the 1.2 kilometer long tree-lined pedestrian mall, known as Las Ramblas and its surrounding districts is where you need to spend time.

This iconic street (actually a series of five shorter streets) bisects the three most important neighborhoods in the old city—the newly gentrified El Raval to the west and El Born and Barri Gòtic to the east. The promenade is crowded from until late at night, with people flocking around restaurants, street performers and kiosks that sell flowers, gelato, souvenirs and even birds.

Las Ramblas Barcelona Spain

Classic building Las Ramblas Barcelona

Start your journey at the Placa de Catalunya, just down from Gaudi’s Casa Mila and Casa Battlo and head down the gently sloping street to soak up the atmosphere. Most of the really interesting stops you should make are at least half way down.

The first should be The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, (usually referred to as La Boqueria market) is the city’s most iconic street market, jam-packed with huge colourful and exotic food stalls of every kind. It has a permanent roof over it that seems to help add a buzz to the market and makes it weatherproof. There are several places to sit and eat or have a coffee if you already want to take a break.

La Boquiera Market Las Ramblas Barcelona

Butcher in Las Boquieras Market Las Ramblas Barcelona

La Boqueria Market stall Las Ramblas Barcelona

When you walk back out the market, turn right, and you’ll pass a charming corner shop Escriba. It is one of the oldest patisseries in Barcelona, and although it isn’t quite as impressive as say, Laduree in Paris, it is quaint and charming and you can buy small cakes or macaroons to take away.

Escriba Las Ramblas Barcelona

Then cross back onto the pedestrian walkway, and while you’re munching your macaroons, look down for the Miró Mosaic. It’s a stunning piece of art that many people seem to walk straight over without realising its significance.

Miro Mosaic Las Ramblas Barcelona

A few more steps and you’ll come across the Gran Teatre sel Liceau (or simply, Liceau) Barcelona’s renowned opera house. It has hosted many greats including the likes of Placido Domngo, Jose Carreras and Montserrat Caballe, who debuted here in 1962 in Richard Strauss’s Arabella.

Barcelona's Las Ramblas Buildings Barcelona

 

The Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca apparently once said that Las Ramblas is “the only street in the world which I wish would never end.” But end it does, at the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. Which is where you can either head on to look at the port, or turn around, walk up a little and right into the Barri Gotic, the Gothic Quarter, where Barcelona began its life as a walled city 2,000 years ago. Its easy to get lost in its delightful side streets and alleyways and there are a number of interesting architectural sites, including the famed cathedral, La Seu, one of the finest Gothic buildings in Barcelona.

Gothic Qaurater Las Ramblas Barcelona

Keep walking and you’ll reach the equally charming and fashionable (but slightly calmer) area, El Born. At its heart is the Passeig del Born square where medieval jousting once took place and which is now a popular evening hangout for the hip young local crowd.

If you’re hungry, try the ever-popular Cal Pep restaurant (Plaça de les Olles 8), considered one of the city’s best tapas bars. You can’t make a reservation unless you have a party of at least four, so you may have to hustle your way in. But it’s worth the effort because their menu has more than 70 tapas for you to try.

After lunch, join the inevitable queue at the nearby Picasso Museum (Montcada 15 – 23), which occupies five large town houses or palaces on a narrow medieval street. It can be quite difficult to find down the winding alleys, so make sure you have a good map. The museum focuses on the early years of the Spanish genius’s life and has more than 3,800 works in its permanent exhibition.

Placa Reial Las Ramblas Barcelona

As the afternoon winds down, head back to Las Ramblas and cross over into Barri del Raval, once the red-light district of the city, now filled with dozens of small restaurants and bars where you settle in for a while. Or else try Placa Reial, off Las Ramblas, a plaza with palm trees and porticoed buildings filled with pubs and restaurants, where you can rest your feet and people watch as the sun sets.

 

 

The History Of Bullfighting

I have to say up front that bullfighting is not my thing. Call me squeamish, but watching a bull being tormented and killed for no reason, no matter how impressive the battle, doesn’t interest me one bit. It’s cruel and senseless.Having said that I do like history. And the history and culture of matadors, their dance with death and why they are revered is interesting, and where better to learn about it than in Seville, home of the oldest bullring in Spain?

Seville's oldest famous bullring wide view

Seville famous oldest Bullfighting ring

So I took a walk to the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza, the bullring that stands proudly next to the river. The museum is attached to the bullring and they have an obligatory guided tour, so I decided to visit and leave it at that.

The Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza, is not the largest bullring in Spain but is the oldest, dating back to 1749, and considered the most attractive. It was here that the corrida, or bullfight as we know it today, moved from horseback to foot, and many of the cherished theatrical traditions of the matador and his close quarters duel with the bull evolved.

Seville oldest famous bullring royal box

Seville oldest famous bullring inside

Seville oldest famous bullring stands

Seville oldest famous bullring Bull Pens

Perched on the stands inside the oval bullring, we were told about the history of the ring and shown the access gate where only successful bullfighters exit, and the theater box reserved for the exclusive use of Spanish Royal family.

Then we were taken to the museum under the stands where, in three distinct sections, we learned the origins of bullfighting and its evolution until today. There are art exhibits, matador costumes, old weapons and mounted heads of famous bulls.

Seville oldest famous bullring corridors

Seville oldest bullring museum displays

Seville oldest bullring museum bull exhibit

It’s more interesting than it might sound. And on the way out, you’re reminded that what a dangerous affair it was as you pass the chapel where the matadors used to pray.

Seville – A VERY Passionate City

Friends in London convinced me I had to go to Seville. I’m very pleased I did. Sitting on the Guadalquivir River, Seville feels like an authentic Spanish city of old. It’s the heart of Andalusian culture, and the home of Flamenco, bullfighting, and arguably the region’s best tapas bars. Which surely makes it one of the world’s most passionate cities.

Seville Spain Rooftop City Sign

Seville Spain's main streets

Seville Spain Heritage building

Seville’s art and architecture (Roman, Islamic, Gothic, Renaissance, baroque) is also without equal in southern Spain. So start your visit in the old city, taking in the cathedral, La Giralda Tower (which are every bit as stunning during the day or lit up at night) and the Real Alcazar palace without even leaving the square.

La Giralda is the cathedral’s beautiful minaret tower, originally intended for the chief mosque, but now the magnificent bell tower of the Cathedral and a symbol of Seville. You can climb to the top for a great view of the city.

The Cathedral of Seville, is a fifteenth century cathedral that occupies the site of the former great mosque built in the late twelfth century and is the final resting place of Christopher Columbus.

The Real Alcázar is a stunning palace in Mudéjar (Moorish) style, built in the XIV Century by Pedro I the Cruel and now listed as a world heritage site. Its extravagant architecture, lavish gardens, ponds and extensive courtyards, it’s a fascinating place. Look out for the room where Christopher Columbus’s journey to the Americas were planned.

Seville's La Giralda by day in Spain

Seville Spain streets by night

Ancient Seville Palace Spain

Seville Spain grand hotel

This ancient architecture is then surprisingly and beautifully offset with the modern Metropol Parasol:

Seville Spain Metropol Parasol

Once you’ve taken in these architectural gems, spend your time taking in three of Seville’s biggest passions: Bullfighting, Flamenco and of course Tapas.

Seville Spain Flamenco door handle

Seville Spain Bulls poster

Seville Spain Tapas Bar