Take A Look Inside Madrid’s “Literary Neighbourhood”

Golden writing paves the way in the "Literacy Neighbourhood" of Madrid Vivvi Smak / Shutterstock.com

Any mention of the “Spanish Golden Age” refers to a period of time when art, music, theatre and literature were beginning to blossom in Spain during the political rise of the Empire and Catholic Monarchs. Many of the most well-known art from varying cultural fields come from the Golden Age, such as El Greco‘s paintings, Miguel de Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote and even the building of the beautiful Plaza Mayor in the heart of the Spanish capital. 

While the country as a whole contributed to the Golden Age of culture, it was Madrid that led the way for literacy. Some of history’s greatest writers were in Madrid and that is why one of the city’s most popular neighbourhoods is called “Barrio de Las Letras,” which, in English, means “Literary Quarter/Neighbourhood.”

For lovers of culture, there is no better place in Madrid to go than here. The area houses a number of art galleries, including the most visited ones in the Reina Sofia and the Prado Museum. Not only that but even some of the outsides of the buildings in the neighbourhood are hugely popular, such as the 24 metre-high hanging vertical garden on the side of the CaixaForum. Over 15,000 plants are on show.

While almost anything is available in the Barrio de Las Letras district, it is the writers and poets that they are most proud of. Lope de Vega (La Arcadia), Jose de Echgaray (Nobel Prize winner), and Tirso de Molina (creator of Don Juan) were all born in Madrid and have been a significant source of national pride for the people of the city.

Along the streets, carved into the pavements in gold letters, you will find quotes from Golden Age books that take you on a journey through time. Plazas and roads are named after novelists and the areas are filled with vibrant bookshops and quaint cafes. The former houses of names such as Quevedo and Gongora still exist today and are available to visit.

Spain and literacy come hand in hand. At the National Library of Spain, there are over 26 million items, 15 million of which are books. Great writing is in the lifeblood of Madrid and the “Literary Neighbourhood” pays homage to the legacy and heritage of its work. Barrio de Las Letras is a Madrid must-see.

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Written by

Ross Sanderson

Based in Edinburgh, Ross is an NCTJ-qualified journalist. Having previously lived in Madrid, he specialises in Spanish Culture, Sport and Cuisine.