Explore the district where many giants of the Golden Age of Spanish literature had their homes
Info and history
Art and culture
Food and drink
Barrio de las Letras (Literary Quarter) lies in the heart of Madrid, between such attractions as Sol-Gran Vía and Paseo del Arte (Art Walk). Its boundaries are Calle de la Cruz, Carrera de San Jerónimo, Paseo del Prado and Calle Atocha.
In the seventeenth century, the Golden Age of Spanish Literature, Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Quevedo, Tirso de Molina and Góngora, among other authors, had their homes here – hence the name. Some of the streets in this neighbourhood pay tribute to this and other brilliant chapters of Spanish history, culture and art.
Madrid’s Literary Quarter has always welcomed writers and literature lovers, who came to the corrales de comedias (open-air theatres) Del Príncipe, De la Pacheca and De la Cruz to watch theatrical performances, a popular pastime in those days. The Corral de Comedias del Príncipe, present-day Teatro Español, would stage the best comedies by playwrights from the Spanish Golden Age. The Teatro de la Cruz put on El sí de las niñas (The Maidens’ Consent) by Enlightenment author Leandro Fernández de Moratín, Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville and Don Juan Tenorio by José Zorrilla.
The streets and sights in Barrio de las Letras reveal the district’s literary and cultural past.
Running from Plaza del Ángel to Plaza de la Platería de Martínez, Calle Huertas is engraved with quotes from literary works penned by the best Spanish authors.
PLAZA DE SANTA ANA
The nerve centre of Barrio de las Letras, next to Teatro Español, this square features statues of Calderón de la Barca and Federico García Lorca.
Heir to the former Corral de Comedias del Príncipe, Teatro Español is one of the most important theatres in Madrid.
CALLE DE ÁLVAREZ GATO
Famous for being named in Luces de Bohemia (Lights of Bohemia), a theatre play by Ramón del Valle-Inclán, this street is popularly known as ‘Callejón del Gato’ (Cat’s Alley), featuring distorting concave and convex mirrors.
CONGRESS OF DEPUTIES
Built in 1850, Palacio de las Cortes is the epicentre of Spanish politics. It’s guarded at the entrance by two lions that were cast in bronze from the cannons used in the Hispano-Moroccan War (1860).
Madrid’s Artistic, Scientific and Literary Athenaeum was established in 1835 as a forum for the promotion of learning and the discussion of ideas.
LOPE DE VEGA HOUSE MUSEUM
Lope de Vega referred to the house he lived in for the last 25 years of his life as ‘my little house, my peace, my garden and my studio.’ Today the house is a museum dedicated to this great Spanish playwright.
Barrio de las Letras is ideal for a bit of retail therapy. Its narrow streets, many of them pedestrian only and most of them with restricted vehicle access, invite shoppers to a leisurely walk.
The shops here have a distinct artistic character honouring the former illustrious neighbours, whose best titles are offered in the countless bookstores in the area. But there’s room for modern art too, proof of which are the numerous contemporary art galleries that can be found in the area.
The local antique, décor and interior design stores will catch your attention, especially during DecorAccion, when dealers set up stalls in the streets displaying antiques and decorative pieces to transform Barrio de las Letras into the hub of design in Madrid.
Barrio de las Letras has a diverse range of places to eat out, from traditional taverns to gastrobars opened in the last years. A mix of tradition and modern culinary trends, it has something for everyone. Traditional gastronomy is represented by patatas bravas (classic tapas dish of cubes of potato in a spicy tomato sauce) and bocadillo de calamares (deep-fried squid between two slices of crusty baguette), while present-day cooking can be sampled in the more recently opened gastrobars.
Barrio de las Letras is one of Madrid’s liveliest districts, ideal to go out for tapas. After a long day going from shops to museums or the theatre, you can regain strength strolling from bar to bar and sampling these typically Spanish small dishes of food. Plaza de Santa Ana and its terraces are not to be missed, but you can also have a quick bite at any of the numerous bars and taverns that line the adjacent narrow alleyways.
Besides tapas bars, the neighbourhood has lots of classic restaurants where you can get a table for a more relaxed meal, and cafés to have a cup of coffee and maybe read a good book or have a nice chat with friends.
If during the day Barrio de las Letras is dominated by those who are interested in culture, shops and nice places to eat out, when the sun goes down it attracts thousands of locals and out-of-towners ready for nightlife action. The corner of Calle Príncipe and Calle Huertas, with Plaza de Santa Ana in between, is packed with bars and clubs.
Everyone will find their place here, since there’s a range of venues to please all kinds of night owls. There are pubs and clubs for youngsters who want to dance to the beat of the latest hits until the wee hours of the morning. And there are quieter options to sit down and talk about the theatreplay you’ve just seen as well.
Barrio de las Letras has live music joints that pull in everything from jazz to flamenco. And don’t miss the exclusive roof terraces of a number of hotels that serve delicious cocktails and offer wonderful views.