Until 1860, the year in which Barcelona finally broke out from behind its city walls, the city extended no further than the hexagon of the 15th century enclosure ( the present-day Casc Antic) that lies between these streets: the Rondes de Sant Pau, de Sant Antoni, d'Universitat, and de Sant Pere, the Passeig de Lluís Companys, the Avinguda Marquès de l'Argentera, which continues as the Passeig Colom, and the Avinguda del Paral.lel. The only wide street at the heart of the city was La Rambla, an old stream whose name derives from the Arabic "ramla" meaning "sandy ground".

From upper end, which runs into the Plaça Catalunya, to the lower end below the monument to Columbus, this unique street in fact bears five different names, each describing a section of the street: first, there is La Rambla de Canaletes, a name used by the people of Barcelona because of the Font de les Canaletes fountain, found there since ancient times. Folk tradition has it that anyone who drinks from this fountain will subsequently keep returning to Barcelona. The next section of La Rambla is known as La Rambla dels Estudis, after the mid-15th century building of that name, the Estudi General or Universitat. This university in Barcelona was suppressed by Philip V and the building used as a barracks. In 1843 it was demolished. If you continue down toward the sea you will enter the stretch known as La Rambla de les Flors, the only place in 19th-century Barcelona that flowers were sold and which even today preserves its that old special charm. Next comes La Rambla del Centre, also known as La Rambla dels Caputxins, because of the old house of Capuchin friars there. And finally, there is the stretch of La Rambla called La Rambla de Santa Mònica, giving access to the port, called after the parish church there which previously had been the religious house of the Agustins Descalços (Barefoot Augustinian order).
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