La Rambla de Sant Josep

La Rambla de les Flors

Our next stop on our walk down La Rambla is the Rambla de Sant Josep, which begins at Carrer del Carme and Portaferrisa and runs down to Carrer del Hospital and an opening called Pla de la Boqueria.

This section is also known as La Rambla de les Flors or The Rambla of Flowers because of the flower stalls there.

In the words of historian Cirici Pellicer, the Rambla de les Flors is the "quintessence of Barcelona, with its ever-changing beauty that follows the seasons of the year".

In the 19th century this was the only place in Barcelona where flowers were sold.

The story goes that, among the groups of people that congregated around the beautiful flowers, the Catalan Impressionist painter Ramon Casas first saw Julia Peraire his favourite model, who later became his wife.

Another celebrated story recounts that when at the start of the Spanish Civil War, the poet and playwright Federico García Lorca came to Barcelona to put on a play at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the flower girls were so charmed by him that they sent freshly-cut flowers to his dressing room before every performance.

The feeling was mutual and on the very last night of the run, Lorca closed the theatre to public and put on a special performance for the flower girls.


Carrer Petritxol

Before exploring the Rambla de les Flors, it's worth making your way down Carrer de la Portaferrissa.

The second street on the right is Carrer Petritxol, a lively little street, where you can find exhibition rooms, goldsmiths, bookshops and fashion boutiques..

The street was first opened up in 1465 on the land of a man by the same name, but many of its buildings date from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Carrer Petritxol is well known for two things: its traditional cafes specialising in hot chocolate, which make it a great place to go for breakfast and the many plaques on the walls of the street, telling of events that have occurred there.

The plaque shown here reads "Hi anavam per menjar nata, ensaimada i xocolate" - "We used to go there to eat cream, pastries and chocolate."

The street holds a special place in the history of the city and also in its literature as it was the home of the celebrated Catalan playwright Àngel Guimerà (1846-1924), who lived at Number 4.

Palau de la Virreina

Back on La Rambla de Sant Josep, a little way down from Carrer de la Portaferrissa, on the opposite side, you'll see a rather forbidding palace set back a little way from the main line of buildings.

This is the Palau de la Virreina, was built between 1772 and 1775 by the Viceroy of Peru, Manuel Amat i Junyent, also the Marquis of Castellbell.

The viceroy died before he could enjoy it, so the palace then became the residence of his wife and hence its name, which translates literally, the Palace of the Vicequeen or Viceroys' Wife.

The reason why the Palau is set back from the main line of buildings is because it was planned just before La Rambla was being urbanised and building work had started before the width of the avenue had yet been decided.

The Palau de la Virreina currently houses the Centre de la Imatge, an arts centre offering free exhibitions so it's well-worth going in and taking a look round.

Next to the palace you'll find one of my favourite little shops in Barcelona, Casa Beethoven, which sells all manner of scores and sheet music, both old and modern.

Mercat de la Boqueria

A little further down is the magnificent Boqueria Market, which was originally an open air market located closer to El Pla de la Boqueria.

Although hard to believe these days, El Raval used to be open fields and farmlands in medieval times, so the Pla de la Boqueria was the perfect place for farmers to sell their produce just outside the city walls.

When this section of Les Rambles was developed in the early 19 century, the Boqueria market was moved to the site of the old convent of Sant Josep, which gives its name to this whole section of La Rambla..

For this reason the market's official name is the Mercat de Sant Josep but as old medieval habits die hard, it is still commonly known as La Boqueria.

Almost directly opposite La Boqueria, at La Rambla 94, you'll see the Palau Nou de la Rambla, built by architectural team Martorell, Bohigas and Mackay in 1990 as a showcase high-tech building for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Down To Liceo Metro Station

Immediately after, look out for an oriental style building, which used to be a shop selling umbrellas, walking sticks and fans.

It was opened in the middle of the nineteenth century by Bruno Quadro, who fascinated by what he had seen in the East, asked the architect of the Arc de Triomf, Josep Vilaseca, to design the shop.

It was finished in 1888 in time for the Universal Exhibition, and make sure you look up at the corner of the building where, jutting out onto the Rambla, there is a figure of a dragon with a lantern and an umbrella.

Directly opposite is Carrer Hospital, which not only provides a great way to enter La Boqueria by the back entrance, but is also home to L'Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu.

Opened in 1401, this was Barcelona's original General Hospital but now houses the Catalonia National Library and the Institut d'Estudis Catalans and also has some of the loveliest gardens and patios in the city centre.

Back on The Ramblas, you'll see the entrance to Liceu Metro Station on the Green L3 Line and the Rambla de Sant Josep has come to an end.

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