Madrid is a great city for literature lovers. With a huge variety of unique bookshops, one of the largest national libraries in Europe and an annual outdoor book festival, exploring Madrid’s literary haunts has never been more rewarding. Here’s our guide to the best activities for book lovers in the Spanish capital.
Feria del Libro
Madrid’s yearly book fair is always a coveted event. The 2017 festival, the 76th edition, will take place from May 26 to June 11 in the Retiro Park. You can buy books from the many stands at the fair, as well as get books signed by your favourite Spanish authors. There’s also a special area for children, with educational workshops and events.
Hours: Monday to Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Barrio de las Letras
Literally translating as “neighborhood of the letters”, the Barrio de las Letras is the closest thing in Madrid to a literary quarter. Some of the streets are named after famous writers, so you can take a walk down Calle de Cervantes and Calle Lope de Vega. You can also admire the plaques carved into the street and dedicated to famous authors such as Luis de Góngora, Francisco de Quevedo and Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer.
One of the largest in Europe, Spain’s National Library is definitely worth a visit. The library is open to the public and offers special guided tours on Tuesdays and Fridays at 5 p.m. (sign up here in advance), or Wednesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. and Saturdays at 12 p.m. (sign up here). The library features an enormous variety of antique books, journals, magazines, maps, photos and more.
Biblioteca Nacional, Paseo de Recoletos, 20-22, 28001 Madrid +34 915 80 78 00
Madrid’s Biblioteca Nacional | © Biblioteca Nacional de España
One of the oldest and most famous bookshops in this guide, this store was founded in 1947 by Luis Bardón López. The store is now run by the children and grandchildren of the original founder, and houses some of the most famous antique books in Spain. Head here to buy first editions or simply to browse; there’s quite a bit of history to soak up here.
The Guinness Book of World Records says this eatery is the oldest restaurant in the world. It’s also a famous literary spot, mentioned in many novels and poems, such as The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. Many other famous author have referenced Botín in their work, such as Galdós, Frederick Forsyth, Arturo Barea, Carlos Arniches, Graham Greene and even F Scott Fitzgerald.
Botín, Calle Cuchilleros, 17, 28005 Madrid, Spain +34 913 66 42 17
While La Librería covers just about everything you can think of, it’s primarily known for stocking anything and everything about the city of Madrid. Whether you’re looking for information on travel, history, food or even fun facts about the city, you’ll find it here.
La Librería, Calle Mayor 80, Madrid, Spain +34 914 540 018
Museo Casa Natal de Cervantes
Learn everything you ever wanted to know about the author of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes, at his boyhood home-turned-museum in the Madrid suburb Alcalá de Henares. The house where he was born in 1547 is now a museum featuring the author’s works, including Don Quixote translated into various languages. It also houses a collection of cultural and historical objects and information about Spain.
Museo Casa Natal de Cervantes, Calle Mayor, 48, 28801 Alcalá de Henares, Madrid +34 918 89 96 54