Fancy a journey back in time through the history of Spanish literature? Come to Barrio de las Letras, where you’ll find tapas bars, taverns and restaurants, plus a wide array of small shops. Here, the latest art trends and traditional trades shake hands, musical instrument and shoe making living in perfect harmony with avant-garde bohemia.
Barrio de las Letras, also known as Barrio de las Musas (Muses Quarter) or Barrio del Parnaso (a tribute to Miguel de Cervantes’s, Viaje al Parnaso or Journey to Parnassus), draws inspiration from literature. Atocha, San Sebastián, Del Prado, Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Huertas, Ángel, Las Cortes and De Jesús are some of the streets and squares that saw many authors of the Spanish Golden Age – Lope de Vega, Quevedo, Góngora, Cervantes – writing, strolling around and even passing away…
The area accommodates many charming little shops offering clothes and accessories. Exclusive designer footwear can be found at Franjul, while flamenco shoes are on display in the shop windows of Don Flamenco.
If you want to take a fine Spanish wine home, go to El sueño de Baco, González or La Venencia. At Ad.hoc they sell everything from fashion to music or flowers. Other establishments are exhibition halls dedicated to photography or painting. In this part of Madrid, you’ll be surprised by what they offer in places like Lomography Shop, great for those with a creative spirit.
Arts & crafts
Old traditions and trades have been kept in shops run by musical instrument makers, silversmiths, shoemakers, and so forth. There’re interesting bookstores packed with wonderful old books and, on Calle Prado 9, there’s Varela, established in 1949, where you can buy all kinds of suitcases and travel items – or have yours repaired.
Ambling around in verse
Instead of looking up, in the Literary Quarter you should try looking down to find excerpts from Spanish literary masterpieces engraved in gold on the cobblestones. Coffee houses, taverns and restaurants mushroom on Calle Huertas and Plaza de Santa Ana, where tempting Spanish recipes are waiting for you to turn your meal into an adventure in the form of tapas. In good weather, the square makes a great spot to dine al fresco.
Since 2010, the local shopkeepers’ association has been holding DecorAccion, a four-day fair where antique shops and interior design stores set street stalls displaying antiques and decorative pieces. It’s the perfect place to find that special something you’re looking for.
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