When researching for a recent trip to Barcelona, I kept reading, watching, and listening to everyone say that La Rambla was the place to be in in the city. It was painted as a vibrant pedestrian thoroughfare filled with street performers and countless sites and shops. What I found was a bunch of overpriced souvenir stores and tents with ringleaders offering room temperature tapas at a premium. Though the real deal didn't live up to the fantasy, there are still a few gems on La Rambla to check out.
1. Museo De Cera
Tucked away in an alley at one end of La Rambla is the Museo De Cera, a wax museum which is quite deceptive in size. Just the outside of the building is a sight to see; being at the beginning of the Gothic Quarter it is an old stone building that is much more castle-like than the contemporary architecture you will see off of La Rambla. In the same alleyway, you will find the museum's gift shop, but to be honest, that was a little underwhelming.
The box office is directly through the front doors, so you pay, and they usher you to the right and direct you up a tall set of stairs. I remember thinking that I wasn't going to be impressed judging by the first few rooms we went through, but the museum legitimately got better room by room. If you are looking for figures of Lady Gaga and the Kardashians, you will not appreciate this museum as they mostly have historical figures mixed with some fantasy.
My favorite part of the whole museum is when you go down into the underwater area where there are mermaids and monsters all around you. I have to say that not every figure was perfect, but there are a few figures that made you question whether they were wax or just terrific actors.
2. The Erotic Museum of Barcelona
The idea of visiting an "Erotic Museum" may make some people squeamish, but I promise you that it is a fantastic look at the history of sexuality. I would be lying if I said it was ok for people under the age of 18, but if you are an adult, you will take a lot away from this exhibit.
It is not a huge museum and depending on how interested you are in the content I would say it would take a maximum of 45 minutes to make your way through it. The building houses a unique mixture of art, information, and a real-life Marylin Monroe look-a-like. To help take the edge off, they even offer a glass of Cava wine while you are making your way through the exhibit.
The museum is worth the price, in my opinion, I think it was about 12 Euros per person and not only do you get a learning experience, but you get to tell people about what you saw. The one thing that is a bummer about The Erotic Museum of Barcelona is their gift shop is just a small sex toy store instead of being a shrine to the museum itself.
3. The Street Performers
I wasn't sure how much I was going to appreciate the street performers on La Rambla, but the few that were around when I was there gave me a lot of joy. They are dedicated to their craft, and I am betting that they make a decent amount of money doing what they do. While some people may think that these performers are lazy for performing as a job, I know that there is no way that I would have the patience to do what they do. It may end up costing you ten to twenty Euros, but I would suggest tipping as many as possible to enjoy the experience.
One word of caution: Barcelona is well known for having a pickpocket problem, especially in the peak tourist season. Pickpockets love street entertainers—unfortunately, some even work together—because they distract people from what is going on around them. If you stop to take in one of these performances, make sure to keep your backpacks in front of you and your hands in your pockets.
4. La Boqueria
La Boqueria in Barcelona is known as one of the biggest outdoor markets in the world. Though there are a few other markets in Barcelona that natives favor, this one right off of La Rambla is a sight to be seen.
The second you enter the smell of fresh fish fills your nostrils for better or for worse, and you are bombarded with colors from the aforementioned fish to vibrant fruits that you won't find in the U.S. and an assortment of other delicacies. Make sure to keep your wits about you because La Boqueria is overwhelming and there is no shortage of pickpockets ready to lighten your pockets and unscrupulous stand owner who will gladly overcharge someone who isn't savvy with the exchange rate.
I fall into the camp of most people who will tell you that if you only see one thing on La Rambla, this has to be it. Not only is it a transformational experience but you will also come away with foods and other goods that are unique to the region; just don't try to get through customs with any of it.
5. The Tiny Plant Shops
One of the many benefits of Barcelona's beautiful weather year round is a variety of plant life. On La Rambla, you can find a few kiosks selling live plants, seeds, and even some decorative plant reproductions. We brought one of the reproductions home with us, but there was something more interesting there that we didn't bring home because we didn't want to mess with customs.
The two plant shops we stopped at were both selling seeds that grew into plants resembling certain body parts. Just seeing the seeds is enough to make stopping at one of these shops worth your time, but many of their wares make for great souvenirs.
Where Not to Go
As I mentioned before, La Rambla is filled with seemingly endless Tapas tents all of which look the same. I can only imagine that the shops that line either side of the walkway were once great local stores, but now it is just one souvenir shop after the other all selling the same overpriced kitsch that you can find around any other tourist attraction in town. You will also see a lot of street vendors walking around trying to pawn off dollar store selfie sticks and carnival prizes at a premium so I would suggest keeping your head down and walking right past them. If you have never been to La Rambla, I would put it on your to-do list, but out of everything I saw in Barcelona, this is one place I plan on skipping the next time I go.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on February 28, 2018:
We just left Barcelona after several months there and La Rambla is certainly a place to go. The performers are always a magnet for us and sitting in one of the benches watching people enjoy their holiday is entertaining.