I came to Barcelona ten years ago for a long weekend, and showed a horrible lack of originality in deciding I couldn't leave. I made it back to London for as long as it took to pack up my things and hand in notice to my landlord, and that was that. Fortunately I was able to take my job with me – I edit Time Out's guides to Spanish cities and work as a freelance journalist for newspapers and magazines including the Guardian, the Observer, the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph.
Where I always grab a coffee: there are lots of terrace cafés along the pretty Passeig del Born, but my favourite is Rosal (no.27), which largely escapes tourist notice. Autumn update: though it's kept the name, Rosal has recently been subsumed by the faceless tapas bar next door. I'm back on the prowl for a regular haunt. Watch this space.
My favourite stroll: I’m lucky to live near the Parc de la Ciutadella, a storybook park with a boating lake, ducks to feed, a Gaudí-designed waterfall, playgrounds, sculpture and a thousand trees under which to read a book on hot summer days.
Fiction for inspiration: Cathedral of the Sea is never going to win any great literary prizes, but it’s a rollicking beach read, with a plot verging on Gothic and a fantastically detailed portrayal of the Born neighbourhood in medieval times, and particularly the construction of the 'People's Cathedral', Santa Maria del Mar.
Where to be seen: With a mixologist and DJs imported from London, the Eclipse bar on the 26th floor of the W Hotel is the current hot ticket.
The most breathtaking view: One for the brave, this one, because it does have a bit of a wobble when there’s a wind up, but the Monument a Colom (Columbus Monument) at the bottom of La Rambla has unmatched views over the city and out to sea.
The best spot for some peace and quiet: Again, it would have to be the Parc de la Ciutadella, although the gardens of the Antic Hospital in the Raval are also a lovely retreat from the crowds along La Rambla.
Shopaholics beware: Passeig de Gràcia has most of the flagship stores for Zara, Mango, Diesel et al, along with some very gorgeous designer stores. It’s also a wonderful place in which to simply stroll and take in the Modernista architecture; even the lamp-posts are works of art. For quirky boutiques and eccentric specialities, though, you'll need to lose yourself in the maze of the Old City.
City soundtrack: There’s a Raval-based band called 08001 (the Raval’s postcode), made up of a floating membership of great musicians from around the world. Its mestissa (ethnic fusion) sound is very typically barcelonin.
Don’t leave without... fer vermut (‘doing vermouth’). Sunday morning, tall glass, red vermouth, lots of ice, slice of orange, splash of soda water, a saucer of boquerones (fresh anchovies) and a couple of friends. My favourite Spanish habit.
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Winking in the sunlight, Barcelona is the sparkling jewel of the Mediterranean coastline. Futuristic buildings pierce the skyline next to the technicolour excesses of its turn-of-the-century architects, and its medieval heart is little changed since its streets were built hundreds of years ago.Read more...