Whether you like it or not, Las Ramblas is the most famous street in the city. Never mind your Passieg de Gracia's or your Gran Via's - the collection of little streets which are seamlessly joined, carry the cruise passengers up to Plaça Catalunya and the stag and hen weekends down to the Port. It is a magnet for tourists, and while the ever-changing face of the shops and cafés has varied a fair bit in the ten years I've been here, it's still stayed more or less the same. Until last summer.
El Pais newspaper exposed the much, much seedier side of Las Ramblas by night. Hoards of sub-saharian women who act like organised theives and offer their services as ladies of the night along the side streets of Las Ramblas, and the alleyways around the boqueria market were given plenty of column inches. Those images like the one above were published extensively around the world and shame was publicly brought on the city. In fact, the situation had been like this for quite some time, and it was only after the images were so widely distributed that the council decided to get tough. In came a high police presence and bars and clubs were told to shut up shop exactly on time. The Pakistani beer sellers disappeared and relative calm ensued for the rest of the summer. The same newspaper also published an article last month, with details of the capture of a mafia network who controlled the prostitutes with extreme measures, including voodoo threats, terrorising of families in Nigeria and beatings. One girl in particular helped expose the case, which - perhaps not surprisingly - didn't make the news much.
So the council has decided to claim back the city's emblematic boulevard, making changes as a start, and even setting up a full month remembering the good old days of Las Ramblas - starting today.
Every day from 10am till 7pm, you can visit the marquee which the city has set up at the bottom end of Las Ramblas, and participate in round table chats, view the past through the famous eyes of local spectacles and in see shows from 7pm onwards - 75 different shows over the 28 nights. It's got to be worth a pop in and see what's happening, right?
Are you coming to Barcelona this month? Check out these Apartments in Barcelona as a great alternative to a hotel. And for a quick look at the main sights, see this great barcelona guide.