Altaïr is a haven for all bibliophiles, but especially for those with wanderlust. With two floors packed with travel books, comfy armchairs for lounging and plenty of quiet corners perfect for browsing, it’s all too easy to spend an entire afternoon here. There’s a practical section full of maps and handy travel guides, and a huge array of travel literature from around the world, from Kerouac to Kapuscinski and everything in between. The staff is helpful and friendly, and though the English language stock is limited there’s a great selection of Anglophone alternative guides to Barcelona, from books on walking tours to the city’s street fashion. You’ll also find a noticeboard on which travellers advertise for companions, a selection of beautiful coffee-table books and plenty of travel essentials like Moleskin notebooks.
Altair, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 616, Barcelona, Spain, +34 933 42 71 71
Since it opened its doors in 1975, Documenta has become something of an institution on Barcelona’s literary and intellectual scene. This shop, which recently relocated from the Barri Gòtic to bright and breezy premises in l’Eixample is the place to come for books on art, history, philosophy and literature in English, Spanish, Catalan and French. There’s also a great selection of cinema texts and plenty of poetry to peruse. In the small seating area at the back of the shop you can take part in readings, literary discussions and debates.
Documenta, Carrer de Pau Claris 144, Barcelona, Spain, +34 933 172527
The Raval may be slowly but surely gentrifying, but El Lokal cultural association remains resolutely true to the neighborhood’s edgy spirit. Tucked down a side street, this is the place for bibliophiles of an alternative bent, as it specializes in all things counter-culture, from pamphlets on radical feminism to hefty tomes on revolutionary theory. There’s a special section on resistance movements worldwide, as well as a wealth of vintage punk-rock zines tucked between the shelves dedicated to anarchist and Marxist theory. While you won’t find anything in English, just Catalan and Spanish, non-Catalan and Spanish speakers can amuse themselves by flicking through the collection of punk vinyl or checking out the handmade books by local artists and activists.
El Lokal, Carrer de la Cera 1, Barcelona, Spain, +34 93 3290643
If you thought comics were just for kids, Fatbottom will teach you the error of your ways. This cute store in Raval is dedicated entirely to graphic novels. The tiny space, which looks more like a gallery than a traditional bookshop, is packed floor to ceiling with beautiful comics and the staff is keen to share their favorites with the uninitiated. You can also pick up artwork by local artists at reasonable prices. For die-hard graphic novel fans, Fatbottom also holds regular events, and host workshops and lectures from people in the industry.
Fatbottom, Carrer de la Lluna 10, Barcelona, Spain, +34 93 179 89 57
‘Vice’ and ‘subculture’ are not two words one normally associates with bookshops. But then Gigamesh is no normal bookshop: specializing in all things friqui, the store stocks all manner of science fiction, terror and fantasy books. You can also find a good range of weird and wonderful comics, fanzines and the obligatory fantasy figurines. Of course, the staff is almost frighteningly knowledgeable about their chosen friqui texts, and you may find yourself spending more time discussing the finer points of Game of Thrones than actually perusing the shelves.
Gigamesh, Carrer de Bailén 8, Barcelona, Spain, +34 932 46 63 59
Tiny, higgledy-piggledy La Cova is paradise for collectors, filled to the brim with antiquarian books and memorabilia. Leather-bound tomes in Spanish and Catalan tumble off the shelves, and within the haphazard stacks you’ll find the city’s best collection of vintage movie magazines from the glory days of cinema, perfectly preserved. There are also boxes full of 1920s postcards, and ranks of Modernist posters for sale along the walls. The proprietors have even managed to fit in some collectors’ edition toys from the last century, and a plethora of antique comics. You can spend hours in here hunting for literary and collectable relics of Barcelona’s Modernist heyday.
Laie is one of the most pleasant places to settle down with a good book. With a great selection of literary fiction, critical theory, philosophy and art books spread over two floors, you’re spoiled for choice on what to browse first. There’s a reasonable selection of English language contemporary and classic fiction, from Martin Amis to Chaucer, and a whole wall of anglosajón literature: English classics translated into Spanish. Laie also stocks a wide range of literary magazines from around the world including copies of Granta. But perhaps the most pleasant part of the store is the upstairs café, a haven from the bustle of nearby Passeig de Gracia, serving delicious cakes, tarts and lunches. Have a glass of wine and peruse the newspaper on the terrace.
Laie, Carrer de Pau Claris 85, Barcelona, Spain, +34 933 18 17 39
Stepping into Librería Anticuaria Farré feels a little like stepping back in time. The tiny one room shop resembles a Victorian study with Persian rugs, antiquarian maps and leather bound books rising from the floor to the ceiling. Specializing in rare and out-of-print texts, Anticuaria Farré stocks some of the most beautiful books in the city. Don’t be afraid to browse the first editions, which include engraved monographs over 100 years old, tomes on Spanish history and ancient pamphlets on philosophy. If you’re looking for a turn of the century edition of Dante’s Inferno bound in buttery soft kid leather, this is the place to go to.
Librería Anticuaria Farré, Carrer de la Canuda 24, Barcelona, Spain, +34 933 170 144
Lletraferit is much more than just a bookshop. A store, cocktail parlor, library and teashop all rolled into one, this Raval venue is a bastion of the Barcelona literary scene. Translated from Catalan, the name means ‘literature lover’, appropriate for a venue that functions as the library of your dreams; settle into one of the leather armchairs and spend the whole afternoon reading (no need to buy!) and sipping vermouth. While there are titles in Catalan, Spanish and English, French speakers are best served, as the owner is the son of French actress Jean Seberg. With regular literary evenings and readings by local authors, a trip to Lletraferit is a must for Barcelona booklovers.
Lletraferit, Carrer de Joaquín Costa 43, Barcelona, Spain, +34 93 317 8130
Although a relative newcomer on the Barcelona bookstore scene, Re-Read has nonetheless made a splash thanks to its stellar collection of ‘almost new’ books. Even more enticing, you can sell or trade your old books, a great way to recycle and share your favorites. The shops themselves (there are several in the city) are organized into English, Spanish and Catalan sections, and staff is on hand to advise, or you can just settle down in a quiet corner while soft jazz music plays and flick through the hundreds of titles on display. Part of a small, independent chain also found in Madrid and Malaga, Re-Read’s biggest selling point is it’s reasonable prices—one book for €3 , or five books for €10.
Re-Read, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 564, Barcelona, Spain, +34 934 53 53 09