The Rambla dels Caputxins, also known as La Rambla del Centre, stretches from the area called Pla de la Boqueria and Carrer de l'Hospital to Pla del Teatre, opposite the Teatre Principal.
This section of La Rambla was the first to be converted into a promenade, and was where the well-off would meet for a chat and a stroll.
For this reason, and because the ground here is higher, people started to call it the “Terrat”, or terrace, and the name stuck.
A popular song of the time, which is still sung during Les Festes de la Mercè, talks of a giant dancing there:
El gegant de la ciutat ara balla, ara balla
el gegant de la ciutat ara balla pel Terrat."
(The giant of the city is dancing, dancing / the giant of the city is dancing on the Terrat).
The giant is not a real giant, by the way, but rather one of the tall figures that are used in processions during the city festivals.
La Rambla del Centre is still the busiest part of The Ramblas to this, particularly the section between Pla de la Boqueria and Plaça Reial fed by the very busy Carrer Ferran.
Right at the start of La Rambla dels Caputxins at Pla de la Boqueria, you will see one of this section's most loved features - the paving decoration by Catalan artist Joan Miró (shown in the photo above).
If you fancy an excursion, you should venture down nearby Carrer de la Boqueria, well-known for its old shops specialising in traditional goods, and which will take you to to Plaça Sant Jaume in the heart of the Barri Gòtic.
little further down Rambla dels Caputxins on your left is the legendary Café de l'Òpera,
which was originally an inn for travellers on the road to Zaragoza and
has been open as Cafè de l'Òpera for 18 hours a day every day since
1929, including throughout the Spanish Civil War.
The Cafè still retains its early 20th century Noucentista decor with its old mirrors and wrought iron columns, and it's definitely a place worth stopping at for a beer or coffee if only to get a feel for the Barcelona café ambience that has changed little in the last century.
Directly opposite, you'll see the magnificent Liceu opera house from which the café takes its name.
opened in 1847, El Gran Teatre del Liceu is one of the finest opera
houses in Europe and is intimately linked with the cultural and social
life of Barcelona, particularly that of the upper classes at the end of the 19th century.
The building has had a troubled history, having burnt down twice, and the current Teatre del Liceu was rebuilt faithfully on the model of the old theatre burnt down on January 31st 1994.
The sumptuous interior with its chandeliers, plush red seating and stuccoed ceilings is really something to behold so if at all possible, you should really try to see a show.
Even if you can't get
tickets for a performance, you should definitely go in and take a look around the foyer.
Further down Rambla dels Caputxins, on the other side of Carrer Unió, is the wonderful Hotel Oriente, one of Barcelona's classic hotels.
Dating from 1882, its architects, Eduard Fontseré‚ and Juli Mariscal, made use of the old Saint Bonaventura School, built by Pere Serra in the 17th century, so the hotel has an extraordinary history.
Immediately, opposite Carrer Unió and the Hotel Oriente, on the other side of The Ramblas, is Carrer Ferran, an aristocratic thoroughfare built in the nineteenth century to connect La Rambla with Plaça Sant Jaume, and the government buildings of the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Ajuntament de Barcelona.
you will come to the entrance to Plaça Reial, which was built in 1848 by the architect and
town planner Francesc Daniel Molina
on the site of an old Franciscan Capuchin convent .
At the end of the 19th century the Three Graces iron fountain was added and in the centre there are two lampposts designed by the young Antoni Gaudí.
Palm trees also contribute to the special atmosphere of the square, which has undergone a number of changes, the last in 1983.
It still has some of its original 19th-century establishments and, on the corner of Carrer del Vidre and Carrer de les Heures, you will find an ancient herbalist's shop, the Herboristeria del Rei.
Leading out from the southern corner of the square back to the Rambla is the romantic Passatge Bacardí, dating from 1856, spanned by an iron bridge that originally had its windows painted with tropical landscapes.
The porticos around the square are great places for having a drink or a meal and Plaça Reial is home to two of my favourite clubs - Karma and Jamboree - as well as the flamenco club, Los Tarantos.
If you come back out onto La Rambla from Plaça Reial via Carrer Comerç, you'll see Carrer Nou de la Rambla just across the way.
A few yards down Nou de la Rambla, you come to Antoni Gaudí's extraordinary Palau Güell - one of his early buildings built between 1885 and 1889.
The truth is that the cramped spaces of the Ciutat Vella make it difficult to get a true perspective on the facade of this work of genius, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
However, once inside Gaudí's brilliance, which is much easier to observe in all it's glory in the open spaces of the Eixample, is all too clear.
Back on La Rambla dels Caputxins again, continuing a little further down past Plaça Reial, you will come to Carrer Escudellers and Plaça del Teatre.
This where the last section of Les Rambles - the Rambla de Santa Mònica - begins.
*Thanks to BCN-Rentals for the Palau Güell photo.