The Ramblas is pre-eminently the place to be to check out people, but this event already took place long before 45 million tourists visited BCN on a yearly basis. Back to earlier days, when BCN was very small and Barrio Gótico was situated between the city walls…

The Rambles used to be situated outside of town. Barcelona used to be very small, it was situated between the city walls and build on a small hill in the middle of a more flat area (the reason for building a settlement here, had to do with the fact they were looking for a good place to make a new port. The Montjuic made sure they had a good overview to the whole area, the mountains behind BCN were a good protection shield and the hill in the middle was the perfect place to live on). These city walls ended about where the Rambla is situated, back then there was nothing on this side of town.

Living in between the city walls was not always easy. Although the people who lived there were very rich, they did not had many space. The reason for living there was because the city walls offered protection from the outside. At some point they had to build a hospital to take care of the sick and ill people. Because of the overcrowded city it was impossible to make one in between the walls and inhabitants did not wanted to live next to the these sick humans. This was the reason for building a hospital outside of town, in the middle of nowhere. This middle of nowhere became El Raval, nowadays situated in the city centre of Barcelona. The hospital is not in use anymore, it became a library (biblioteca Sant Pau – Santa Creu) and is situated in Carrer de l´hospital (Metro green line station Liceu).

Back then La Rambla was a dry river bedding, on which the name Rambla refers to (derived from the Arabic ´ramla´ which means ´sandy riverbed´). When there was rainfall, the water coming from the mountains flow down through the Rambla. After the build of the hospital, the Ramblas became a street, the first and, back then, the only big and wide street in Barcelona. So far Barcelona only had narrow streets. The reason therefore was clear: narrow streets kept the streets and houses cool during the very high temperatures in summer.

As there were no wide streets in Barcelona people went down to La Rambla to have a stroll. It was the place to be for a chat and to meet other people. Another additional advantage of this wide street was that this place was perfect for ´the rich´ to show their wealth. The exclusive clothes and jewelry from overseas were not reflected in these narrow streets. However, on La Rambla everyone could see them. It became the perfect spot to check out people and to show other people you had some money to burn. The word Ramblas even became a verb in the region, ramblear. It means something like ´to watch at people´, although it is not a common verb.

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Lights at the Rambla

Actually it is just like present day, although currently other aspects are the main reason to go to the Ramblas. But, for sure, you can still ´Ramblear´ at the Ramblas de Barcelona.

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