For old Rambla hands and first-timers alike, this is our guide to what the unique promenade is like behind the touristy façade. Sure, you can get all the tacky souvenirs you like, but if you're looking for something a bit more authentic, you can still walk along La Rambla and be not just a tourist but a visitor in the know.
You don’t have to be a foodie to feel disappointed by the fare on offer along the Rambla, dominated by reheated tapas and prefab paella. But Amaya keeps the finest traditions of Basque cooking alive, and has the cachet of being the oldest working restaurant on the street
You could sit at one of Bar Cosmos’s metallic bar fronts for hours, watching the comings and goings of the regulars. It’s as if refugees from the seventies were drawn to the only café in town that has preserved the look and feel of the decade. And just as you’re imagining Pasolini dropping in for a coffee, the waiter slams down your order of fried fish to bring you back to the present day.
A well-kept secret – unless you happen to have Galician relatives – Barcelona’s Galician Centre (Centro Galego) was established 70 years ago, in one of the magnificent apartments of the Güell family residence. As well as the library and the majestic hall for members’ activities, the CGB has a bar and restaurant where you can try fantastic Galician cooking at extremely reasonable prices.
Barcelona has allowed so many of its historic cafés to be destroyed that the survival of Cafè de l’Opera in its current location on the Rambla for almost 100 years is a real cause for celebration. Elegant mirrors engraved with feminine figures reflect the constant flow of customers at the tables – tourists, opera-goers, locals, nighthawks and bohemians.
Like all the best tailors, Tristany Xancó always has a tape measure at hand to take his customers’ measurements. While some of the Rambla’s other classic menswear establishments – like Modelo, run by the Pantaleoni family, or Bonet shirts – have been replaced by chain stores and souvenir shops, at Camiseria Xancó you can still buy made-to-measure shirts in a modernista shop that’s almost 200 years old. We’re looking forward to their bicentenary.
For decades, the Antiga Casa Figueras, probably the prettiest modernista shop in the city, was a pasta-maker. In the ’80s it was acquired by the Escribà family, who restored it and turned it into a branch of their patisserie empire: now the cakes on display at Pastisseria Escribà are as delicate and elaborate as the mosaics on the façade.
Encircled by the neoclassical Plaça Sant Josep, the Boqueria has become the most flamboyant and busiest market in the city, bringing together long-term residents and newcomers, vendors of local produce and importers of exotic delicacies, chefs in search of the finest ingredients and tourists in search of a sandwich. For the full sensory experience, have a meal at El Quim or Bar Pinotxo, while watching the sea of faces pass by, Dating back to 1217, the Boqueria is Barcelona’s true centre of gravity.