Welcome to My Place . . . Barcelona

Amy McColgan on the city’s not-to-be-missed sights and vegan restaurants

Amy McColgan on the beach in Barcelona.

Amy McColgan, from Letterkenny, Co Donegal, is living in Barcelona, where she works as a project manager at one of the biggest translation companies in the world.

"I studied Irish and Spanish in college and then did a Masters in translation. I always knew I either wanted to work in Ireland promoting the Irish language, or live in Spain and use my Spanish. After living for six months in Murcia, I moved to Barcelona, where there are a lot more job opportunities.

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Where is the first place you always bring people to when they visit Barcelona?

El Ravel, to show the rustic and ragged side of the city and to take advantage of one of the many vegan cafes there – Veggie Garden if we’re on a budget, or Petit Brot if we need some greens and have deep pockets.

Parc Guell in Barcelona, designed by the architect Gaudí. File photograph: Getty Images

The top three things to do there, that don’t cost money, are ...

Parc de la Ciutadella: This park is mesmerising. It’s lush and green with a little lake and a majestic fountain with turquoise water and gold horses. It’s like something out of a Disney film. You can come here to chill under a tree with a good book and a picnic, while the hippies a few trees down play some drums.

Get lost in El Raval, Gótico and El Born: Three different old towns all in the centre and separated by Las Ramblas and Via Laeitana. Think windy streets, rustic cafes, independent shops, ancient buildings, a maze of hidden delights. In El Born you can visit the Centre Cultural, housed in the former Mercat de la Ciutadella where the remains of old streets and buildings obliterated by Philip V in the 18th century were recently excavated.

Vegetarian food at Teresa Carles in Barcelona. File photograph: courtesy of Teresa Carles

Go for a hike: The easiest and probably quickest hike is to the bunkers. The old abandoned army battery serves as a fantastic viewpoint of the city. It is an easy spot to reach to enjoy the sunset. Another option is Tibidabo. After a manageable hike through a forest you reach the summit to find both a church and an old-fashioned amusement park.

Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Barcelona?

Teresa Carles is a hugely popular and always full vegetarian restaurant using fresh local produce to make a range of traditional and healthy dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are lots of vegan and gluten-free options too. It's situated right in the centre on Carrer Jovellanos 2, so you could easily stumble in after a day's shopping, or stumble into a local bar afterwards.

People relaxing at Parc de la Ciutadella, a very popular amenity in the centre of Barcelona, Spain. File photograph: Getty Images

Where is the best place to get a sense of Barcelona’s place in history?

Barcelona is known throughout the world for Gaudí’s works. I’d recommend a stroll up Passeo de Grácia to see some of his unique creations like Casa Milá and Casa Battló, then either walk or get the purple line to the Sagrada Familia. Head out to Parc Guell to explore the curious park and hear the interesting story behind it. All of Gaudí’s creations tell a story that gives you an insight into the history of Barcelona.

What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit to Barcelona?

Vermut is very typical here. I had never actually heard of it before I moved here. They even sell it instead of wine during festivals. There’s a tiny wee vermut bar/brewery on Carrer de les Magdalenes called Cala del Vermut. You can try their artisan vermut and buy a bottle to take home, if you like it.

If you’d like to share your little black book of places to visit where you live, please email your answers to the five questions above to abroad@irishtimes.com, including a brief description of what you do there and a photograph of yourself. We’d love to hear from you.