I Heart My City: Jessica’s Barcelona

Travel and lifestyle writer Jessica Benavides Canepa has been living in Barcelona for two years, but is going to be spending the next year of her life traveling around China and writing about her experiences. To bid adéu siau to the city she’s come to love, she sent Intelligent Travel her top picks for sight seeing, eating out, getting lost in Barcelona’s late-night frenzy, and more. Check out her favorites, then add your own in the comments section below.
Check out Jessica’s travel site and follow her as she explores Asia on Twitter @JBCanepa.
Barcelona is My City
The first place I take a visitor from out of town is the animated El Born District where plenty of trendy shops, restaurants, cafés, and bars abound.
When I crave a local meal, I always go to Cerveceria Catalana for inventive tapas, montaditos (small sandwiches filled with an assortment of local goodies), and a wide selection of imported beers.

Sagrada Familia sand castle. (Photo: Jessica Benavides Canepa)
To escape the heat during the summertime months, I head to the beautiful beaches of Platja de Aro along the Costa Brava coast.
If I want to treat myself, I book a revitalizing massage at the Six Senses Spa located in the Hotel Arts, near the foot of the Olympic Village.
For complete quiet, I can hide away for a few hours at Plaça de St. Felip Neri, a remarkably serene square right in the middle of the old town. This tranquil location hides a rather sinister past.
If you come to my city and want to capture a unique shot, get your picture taken with a lion at the base of the Columbus Monument.

Don't miss the caesar salad at Fastvinic. (Photo: Eugeni Pons)
If you have to order one thing off the menu from the eco-friendly Fastvinic restaurant, it has to be the fresh and tasty caesar salad.
Happy Pills is my one-stop shop for all things candy-related.
Locals know to skip La Rambla during tourist season and check out Rambla de Catalunya with its tree-lined passageways and outdoor eateries instead.
When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I pack a light picnic and head to the Passeig Maritim in Barceloneta for a day of rollerblading, sunbathing, or people-watching.
When I feel like really splurging, I go to Michelin-starred ABaC Restaurant for a fantastic gourmet meal.
Inside ABaC restaurant. (Photo: Marco Pastori)

The best photo ops in my city include posing in front of the iconic Sagrada Familia basilica or the frenzied colorful beauty of  La Boqueria Market. The best vantage points for panoramic photos are from the hills of the Montjuic Mountains near the whimsical Poble Espanyol village – a wondrous open-air architectural representation of the most famous monuments around Spain.

If my city were a celebrity, it’d be Lionel Messi. Barcelona boasts one of the finest football teams in the world – and views its valuable players as the very best the city has to offer.
The most random thing about my city is the streets and squares themselves. Everywhere you turn, you’ll come across vibrant pieces of original artwork on the lampposts, benches, and even the ground — all reminders of Barcelona’s Modernist architectural past.
My city has the most fashionable eyewear collections for men.
My city has the most outspoken and independent women.
In my city, an active day outdoors involves running, swimming, sailing, biking — in short any sport that can be enjoyed in the usually pleasant Mediterranean weather.
My city’s best museum is the MNAC (National Art Museum of Catalonia) which features impressive classical and modern artwork as well as a palatial façade built for the 1929 World’s Fair. Another great thing to do in this area is witness the delightful Magic Fountain and its charming “aquatic” concert.
My favorite jogging/walking route is the hilly paths around Antoni Gaudi’s magnificent Park Güell.

The W Hotel, home of Eclipse. (Photo: Jessica Benavides Canepa)
For a night of dancing, go to CDLC, Sutton or Eclipse for the best house DJs in town. During the summer months, many of the ocean front clubs are also great for party hopping such as Shoko and Opium Mar.
To find out what’s going on at night and on weekends, read Time Out Barcelona or Metropolitan Barcelona.
In the spring, you should experience a traditional Catalan calçotada which consists of getting together and eating large quantities of local green onions known as calçots along with romenesco sauce, regional wine, and good company.
In the summer, you should attend the Sonar Music Festival – an amazing gathering of the best musical acts from the world of advanced music and media art.
In the fall, you should visit the award-winning wine regions of Penèdes and Priorat for some memorable harvest-time wine tastings.
In the winter, you should go skiing in the tiny principality of Andorra just a few hours away.
A wine cellar in Penedes. (Photo: Jessica Benavides Canepa)

A hidden gem in my city is the cool, bohemian feel of the Gracia District.

For a great breakfast joint, try Milk, a funky eatery that also serves a delicious brunch on Sundays.
Don’t miss the Sant Joan Festival in June for its uproarious celebrations and fireworks displays.
Just outside my city, you can visit the breathtaking Montserrat Mountains featuring its world famous boys’ choir.
The best way to see my city is on foot. Get lost in the mysterious side streets of the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter), shop and discover the monuments on the fashionable Passeig de Gracia, or take a casual stroll through the old fisherman’s area, Port Vell.
If my city were a pet, it would be a salamander like the one made famous by celebrated architect Antoni Gaudi.

Port Vell. (Photo: Jessica Benavides Canepa)
If I didn’t live in the city, I’d live in the scenic port town of Sitges, which is only 30 minutes away from the city by train.
The best book about my city is Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind, a thrilling mystery novel set in post-Civil War Barcelona.
The best movie about my city is Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Sitges, Spain. (Photo: Jessica Benavides Canepa)

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is “Barcelona” from the late great Freddie Mercury and operatic soprano Montserrat Caballe.

You won’t want to miss a football game at Camp Nou. Even if you are not a big fan of the sport, the level of excitement and sheer size of the stadium is a sight to behold.
My city should be featured on your cover or website because it is arguably the most cosmopolitan city in Spain in terms of culture, cuisine, and activities.


  1. Diego
    July 5, 2014, 5:59 pm

    Barcelona is truly one of the most exciting cities in Spain. I lived there for 6 months and it was one of the best moments of my life. I agree with Elena, the “Marina” quarter is the best place to go dancing, very alternative and trendy. And better than Vicky Christina Barcelona is Cëdric Klapisch’s “L’auberge espagnole”, a film about young people living the Erasmus experience that will make you feel as alive as if you had lived the film yourself

  2. […] month I was published in National Geographic Traveler. After promptly adding the article to my portfolio website and sending links to all of the […]

  3. Paulina
    November 17, 2013, 1:33 pm

    Don´t forget about Bling Bling club.

    As well i need to add here my favourite restaurant is cerveseria catalunya ( they dont have web site) but are making amazing tapas!

    Barcelona song – song from movie Vicki Cristina Barcelona has special soul of Barcelona

    And if we are talking about place to stay castro exclusive Residences https://castroexclusiveresidences.com have soul of Barcelona too. In apartment i found big photo wall paper with shots from Barcelona and really nice design from Tom Drags :)

  4. elena
    September 16, 2013, 1:39 pm

    I would add Apolo, Razzmatazz or Sidecar to “a night of dancing” if you like rock.

    The sweetest song about Barcelona it´s from the Sweddish “I´m from Barcelona”, called also we´re from Barcelona http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Wi1d0FNgdQ

    And the best place I´ve ever stayed The Urban Suites: https://theurbansuites.com/

  5. Duncan, Barcelona-life.com
    February 6, 2013, 5:15 pm

    Glad you mentioned the calcotada! Some solid recommendations all in all. I think the Raval area actually has more cool stuff going on than Born and Gracia though! And although it is a bit grimy in places, is also the best looking with the Rambla del Raval and also I love the courtyard of the old gothic hospital (where Gaudi died!). More info here:

  6. Ad
    January 22, 2013, 8:36 am

    Barcelona is a great city to visit. DO NOT LIVE HERE PERMANENTLY. I have lived here for 5 years and am now moving away. This city has a deeply corrupt local government, which has driven alot of business away from the area. Be careful here and don’t let the beautiful “cover” of the book deceive you.

  7. […] Jessica’s Barcelona (Spain): The MNAC (National Art Museum of Catalonia) which features impressive classical and modern artwork as well as a palatial façade built for the 1929 World’s Fair. Another great thing to do in this area is witness the delightful Magic Fountain and its charming “aquatic” concert. […]

  8. […] month I was published in National Geographic Traveler. After promptly adding the article to my portfolio website and sending links to all of the […]

  9. Jessica Benavides Canepa
    May 16, 2012, 9:53 am

    Thank you Julie! Both for the compliment and your excellent suggestions!:)

  10. Julie Sheridan
    May 9, 2012, 5:52 am

    Loved this, Jessica. Never thought of Barcelona as a pet salamander before! Another great thing to do in summer is catch a late-night film up at the open-air cinema, where they show the movie projected onto a massive screen hung from the castle ramparts. Take a blanket and a bottle and spend the night under the stars – fantastic.

  11. Jessica Benavides Canepa
    April 20, 2012, 10:55 am

    Thanks Anne! You definitely won’t regret visiting Barcelona.

  12. Anne Sigmon
    San Francisco
    April 16, 2012, 6:27 pm

    Great article. I’ve added Barcelona to my “gotta go” list.

  13. Jessica Benavides Canepa
    April 12, 2012, 12:22 pm

    Thank you all for posting! Yes indeed Barcelona is truly a magical place…I’m surely going to miss it.

    @Lucille : Please contact me directly with your query. If you have any tips or experiences that you would like to like to share with the readers here, please feel free to do so.

  14. Lucile
    April 12, 2012, 9:26 am

    Love your article! I would be very glad to have you share you experience as a guest Co-Writer in my new eBook: Barcelona Insights, the first guide from real people experiences. have a look at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dExKdjZ6cW16VVdHbndER3d1WWFGVUE6MQ#gid=0 and don’t hesitate to contact me for any more details :)

  15. Benson Paris
    April 12, 2012, 3:26 am

    Nice place for tour and entertainment. we can full enjoy with our kids

  16. Christopher Luka Plossignac
    April 11, 2012, 2:41 pm

    I had such a good time in Barcelona when I was there and this article took me back! (And gave me some choice tips on stuff I might have missed my first time around) Thank you! I can’t wait to get back there…

  17. Miruna
    April 11, 2012, 11:12 am

    I heart your city too:)! Barcelona is my favorite city in the world.