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Las Ramblas - Barcelona's tourist magnet turned scene of terror

Las Ramblas, the heart of Barcelona, has been hit by a terrorist attack. The vibrant and lively promenade came to a standstill when a white van plowed into a crowd of pedestrians.

They say if you go to Barcelona and don't take a stroll down Las Ramblas, then you haven't really visited the Catalonian capital. The broad boulevard with its cafes, colonnades and cultural centers offers a glimpse into Catalonian culture.

The street that cuts through Spain's second largest city is crowded with tourists and locals until the wee hours, especially during summers.

It's always dotted with street performers, musicians and souvenir hawkers, giving it a clamorous, carnival atmosphere. Describing the iconic promenade, Spanish poet Federico García Lorca wrote that it was "the one street in the world I didn't want to end."

A crowded Las Ramblas in Barcelona

Las Ramblas is crowded with tourists and locals, especially during summers

"Las Ramblas is Barcelona's Champs Elysees or Times Square," said Pauline Frommer, editorial director of Frommer's guidebooks . "It's mostly where tourists go to see and be seen and be entertained. There's a feeling of excitement and being at the center of it all."

Read more: Barcelona terror attack - live updates

A walk down history lane

Las Ramblas, also referred to as La Rambla, takes its name from a seasonal river that once flowed here. The promenade is divided into five sections.

The 1.2 kilometer-long (.75-mile) avenue stretches from the main city square known as Placa de Catalunya to Barcelona's modern harbor neighborhood. The street is lined with upscale hotels and 18th-century buildings. It's home to the iconic opera house Gran Teatre del Liceu and former convents and monasteries.

Las Ramblas was laid out in the 18th century along the contours of the medieval city walls that had bounded this part of Barcelona.

ap/sms (AP, AFP)

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