Barrio de las Letras

Where the verses are written

Adorned with verses and plaques in memory of writers, many intellectuals and countless people are attracted by its lively nightlife and its proximity to major museums. Truly, Barrio de las Letras is one of the most charming areas of the city.

Plan your visit to Barrio de las Letras

This area has become one of the liveliest of the capital by the large number of quality catering establishments that have settled there in recent years and the many decorating and antiques business. It is also an ideal place for visiting the great museums of the Paseo del Arte, because you can access them after a short walk, and then walk back to the hotel to rest up before the evening. It is a fundamentally pedestrian area to which access by car is restricted to residents and hotel guests; many users of the AVE train station stay there.

Do you want to visit this place?

Huertas area is known as the Barrio de las Letras although it is not a neighborhood in its legal-administrative sense. The reason is the intense literary activity that developed in the streets in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which continues today.

The name “Huertas” derives from the late Middle Ages, when these fertile lands were owned by the Marquis de Castaneda, who were devoted to growing vegetables for consumption of the inhabitants of the village. With the growth of the population in the sixteenth century, the neighborhood was subject to progressive urbanization, configured as a suburb. People were gradually taking up residence who could not afford the high costs of staying near the Royal Palace, including prominent writers of the Golden Age Spanish as Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Quevedo and Gongora.

Library of the Ateneo de Madrid, “Fishbowl”, in the early twentieth century

El Barrio de las Letras is located through the streets of Atocha, Huertas y Prado and the Plaza de Santa Ana, along with a number of neighboring streets, among which are  Calle Leon, Lope de Vega and Principe. Calle de Atocha, which currently leads to the Plaza Mayor, was one of the most important urban axes of old Madrid, and witnessed numerous ceremonial court of the Habsburgs.

Many of the houses still retain architectural elements of the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, although most of the buildings were renovated in the late nineteenth century or early twentieth century and almost none of them passes four heights. These features give the area a picturesque look and some old character that contrasts with more modern areas of the capital of Spain.

It is a tight maze of streets and alleys with attractive restaurants and taverns where you can enjoy a beer almost any time of the day. We propose to begin our tour of the Prado Street at its confluence with the Plaza de las Cortes and career of St. Jerome, junction of three of the itineraries proposed in our web Spain Intriguing: Sol-Gran Vía, the Paseo del art and the Barrio de las Letras own.

Prado Street (not the Paseo) is still sheltering numerous antique shops although most emblematic is their building, the Scientific and Literary Ateneo de Madrid, better known as Ateneo de Madrid, declared of Cultural Interest.

We recommend visiting the Plaza de Santa Ana, the heart of Barrio de las Letras, a large public space that has become one of most frequented tops of the city with music for all tastes until late hours of the morning. The German Brewery, open since 1904, still retains its original decoration. Among the buildings that surround it particularly striking the striking modernist building Hotel Victoria (1919), now the Hotel ME Reina Victoria, the heart of decades of bullfighters and fans during the afternoon run. In the porch is installed a busy bar from which you can enjoy one of the most beautiful views of Madrid.

Opposite is the prestigious Teatro Español, inescapable reference for the Spanish performing arts is located. Nearby, at Calle Príncipe, you will find the historic Teatro de la Comedia.

Very near the Plaza de Santa Ana is la Recoleta Plaza del Angel, where you will see the Central Café, a local Art Deco built in 1908 with shop windows, frames and mirrors and that 30 years ago was turned into meeting place for locals lovers of jazz. Another characteristic place is the Alley Cat Alvarez, in whose bar “Las Bravas” has the funhouse mirrors that served the writer Valle-Inclan as a metaphor of absurdity.

From here we can go to the street Atocha, whose route follows the old road leading to the Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha and now culminates in the famous Atocha station. Among Atocha Street and Plaza del Angel is the Church of San Sebastián, traditional parish of writers, actors and bullfighters. Here Lope de Vega is buried and ahead of his altar passed at some point in their lives Gustavo Adolfo Becquer and Ramon del Valle-Inclan, to name some of the best known. At number 87 Calle Atocha the remains of the Old Printing of Juan Cuesta, in which the first copies of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes were printed preserved. At the end of it, in its lower part, it was also located between the reign of Fernando VII and 1965 the School of Medicine of San Carlos in which taught professorship Santiago Ramon y CajalGregorio Maranon and Carlos Jimenez Diaz, among others.

At the corner of Leon Huertas are the headquarters of the Real Academia de la Historia, a building designed by Juan de Villanueva in 1788 as a manor house New Rezado of the Hieronymite monks of El Escorial (hence the grille that looks at the facade is ) and it went on to host the Academy in 1836.

Lorca sculpture in the Plaza de Santa Ana

From Leon Street we can go to the street Lope de Vega, where we find the Convento de San Ildefonso de Trinitarias Descalzas, founded in 1609 by Dona Francisca Gaitán Romero. The building is simple and austere, with a church of Latin cross of small size. Here was buried Miguel de Cervantes in 1616, who had lived much of his life in the 2nd Street Cervantes, but today the exact place where he is buried is up for discussion.

Arriving at the confluence of Lope de Vega with Duque de Medinaceli we can exit by the latter street to get to the Casa-Museo Lope de Vega, paradoxically located on Calle de Cervantes. Declared of Cultural Interest in the category of monument, the house was the home of Lope de Vega over the last 25 years of his life. Its structure was greatly transformed in the following centuries, but was rebuilt after passing into the hands of the Royal Academy of Language, in the 1930s currently in its rooms have been recreated own domestic spaces of the Spanish Golden Age, as the oratory and the study of the writer, including furniture and other objects that belonged to it.

In addition to literary, Huertas is one of the most flamenco neighborhoods of the capital of Spain, as in Street Echegaray some of the most famous tablaos are concentrated, from Taberna Los Gabriels, opened in 1897 (now closed) and known as much for the tiles that decorate its interior as for its flamenco sprees, which passed by artists like Julio Romero de Torres and Ignacio Zuloaga and bullfighters like Rafael Sanchez.

Must-see...

Atocha Train Station
Plaza de Santa Ana

Practical Data

Coordinates

40°25′08″N 3°41′31″O

Distances

Barcelona 619 km, Bilbao 398 km,  Sevilla 532 km, Valencia 352 km

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