The most famous street (actually a string of smaller streets) in Barcelona is also the liveliest: the charming, tree-lined pedestrian mall La Rambla is always buzzing with unique shops, buskers, late-night tapas bars, street markets and the best of the city's cultural landmarks. But keep your wits about you and outsmart the pickpockets, who eat naive travellers for breakfast.
THE BOQUERIA MARKET
Flowers, fresh fruit and lobsters. Oh my! One of the oldest and largest markets in Spain dishes up the makings of the perfect picnic basket, along with a hearty helping of authentic colour and sound. Haggle over the price of some spicy sausage, savour a sliver of Spanish blue cheese and meet the vendors of the mostly family-run stalls. In addition to pantry basics, you'll also find local wine, marinated olives and handmade chocolates that are most certainly not from the Weight Watchers cookbook. Open Monday through Saturday, 8am-8.30pm.
La Rambla at Placa de la Boqueria, Barcelona; +34 933 182 584; boqueria.info.
CAFE DE L'OPERA
Talk about dedication: every day since 1929, when it first opened its doors, Cafe de L'Opera has welcomed guests into an environment that has been described as sexy, cosy and cool. Renovated a few years ago, the heritage-listed cafe-restaurant does a roaring trade in all kinds of beverages (think sangria, spirits, wine, aromatic teas) and tapas. The passing sea of pedestrians makes short work of any available table — if you see a spare seat, best park yourself on it, pronto.
La Rambla 74, Barcelona; +34 933 177 585; cafeoperabcn.com.
Barcelona is famously kind to artists. Picasso said of the city where he spent his formative creative years and would often return for extended visits: "There is where it all began ... there is where I understood how far I could go." Sculptor Joan Miro was equally enamoured with the pulsing creative heart of the metropolis — he designed a huge, bold, pavement mosaic that is trampled daily in the middle of La Rambla. Look closely for the tile signed by the artist. Where else could you rest your feet on a Miro?
La Rambla, near the Liceu metro.
RAMBLA DE MAR
Follow La Rambla for more than a kilometre to where it turns into Rambla de Mar at the harbour and you'll be rewarded with pretty views and a wooden jetty that stretches out to the wharf opposite. Here, near the old shipyards, is a 60-metre statue of Christopher Columbus built to commemorate his return to Spain from America. A lift whizzes visitors up to the crown beneath the statue for a panoramic view of the port and city.
Near the Drassanes Metro stop.
Design-savvy, eco-conscientious and quirkily original: Muji may be a Japanese brand but it has found a spiritual home in Barcelona. The company's somewhat ambitious mission statement claims helping shoppers feel satiated rather than wanting "more, more, more" consumer goods is the goal. In practical terms, that means everything from airers to lamps to umbrellas are designed with a minimalist aesthetic. Now, if only they'd open a store in Sydney.
Rambla Catalunya, 81, Barcelona; +34 93 467 6560; muji.com.