Barcelona’s literary prominence is an indelible part of its identity. Not only has it been a renowned literary capital since the 19th century, but in 2015, it also became the 17th UNESCO City of Literature, the only Spanish city represented in the list aside from Granada. Moreover, its role as the setting of some of Spanish literature’s most beloved books gives it special prominence in the hearts and minds of locals and visitors alike.
This rich literary history is also an easily accessible one. The city’s tourism boom has resulted in a number of walking tours catering to bibliophiles, which take intrigued bookworms through some of Barcelona’s most charming neighbourhoods, quaint squares and its narrow, medieval streets, while revealing the inspirations for some of Spain’s top sellers.
SHADOW OF THE WIND
Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a name synonymous with Barcelona, the stage for his wildly popular novel Shadow of the Wind (La Sombra del Viento), which continues to top bestseller lists year after year. Set against the atmospheric backdrop of the city’s Gothic Quarter, the story springs to life for guests of the Get Your Guide tour about the book. The tour follows the footsteps of Daniel Sempere, Julian Carax and Fermín Romero de Torres from tourist spots including Plaça Reial to the hidden corners of the city such as the house and bookshop of ‘Sempere and Sons’, the Forgotten Books cemetery, Santa Lucia Asylum and the Arc del Teatre. The tour also introduces a few classic restaurants and bars along the way, and gives a solid taste of the city’s history while keeping the mystery of the past alive.
Duration: 3 hours
Price: From €14
CATHEDRAL OF THE SEA
Cathedral of the Sea (La Catedral del Mar) won the 2006 Silver Euskadi Prize for best Spanish-language novel and has remained in scholarly hearts ever since. The Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar, known fondly as the Catedral del Mar by locals and fans, is the starting point for Viator’s introduction to the world of Ildefonso Falcones’ thrilling novel. This beautiful Gothic cathedral after which the book is named, is a centrepiece of the city, a crown jewel of sorts for literary gurus and the perfect place to start this tour. Explore the main character’s insights and ambitions against the historical context of the thriving medieval city, while winding through the setting of the novel. The tour focuses on the shadowed streets of its most central neighbourhoods, the Born and Gothic Quarter, as well as on the Jewish quarter, located between the cathedral, known as La Seu, and Plaça Sant Jaume.
Duration: 2.5 hours
TIME OF THE DOVES
Mercè Rodoreda’s novel La Plaça del Diamant (freely translated to English as Time of the Doves) is not well-known outside Catalunya, but it provides a critical look into Catalan history for those interested in seeing it through a literary scope. Tracing the story of its protagonist, Natalia, and her family’s life during and after the Spanish Civil War, Rodoreda offers stark insights into the female experience in this deeply psychological work. For those who want to learn more about this author, Itinera Plus takes participants on a walking tour of Gràcia, where the story takes place. Stops on the tour are drawn from the text and the role they played in developing the book’s characters and overarching themes, as well as statues memorialising the author’s work. In addition, the tour delves into the historical contexts of the novel with a visit to the bunkers hidden below the neighbourhood’s squares that were used throughout the war. A site dedicated to the author (mercerodoreda.cat) provides self-guided tour information (in Catalan) and links to tours of the Jardí Mercè Rodoreda in Gràcia.
Duration: 2.5 hours
CATALUNYA NATIONAL LIBRARY TOUR
Some say cities are defined by their libraries. Barcelona might not have the largest nor the grandest libraries, but the fascinating history of Catalunya National Library, formerly Hospital de la Santa Creu satisfies resident readers. It’s a great place to begin learning about Barcelona’s long and storied relationship with the book. In addition to seeing the oldest book written in Catalan, visitors will find one of the largest collections of Miguel de Cervantes’ work, as well as photos of the hospital as it was when Antoni Gaudí spent a short convalescence there after his fateful run-in with a tram. Guided tours of the library are possible by scheduling a visit on the website. Alternatively, on the day of Sant Jordi the library is open to the public. Visitors are welcome to take a free guided tour or explore the library on their own with a downloadable English guide also available on their website.
Duration: 1.5 hours
Price: €25 for groups up to 25 people
Free on April 23rd
Enjoy a shot of inspiration with your coffee at these literary hangouts:
1. Bauma (Eixample)
Since its opening in the Forties, Bauma has served as a meeting place for the literati in Barcelona, particularly toward the end of the dictatorship when intellectual conversation flowed more freely. Once the local hub of writers including Catalan poet Joan Brossa and Enrique Vilamatas, these days it’s an unpretentious place to grab a coffee and imagine its storied past. Roger de Llúria 124
2. Cafe Salambó (Gràcia)
Perhaps the godfather of literary cafes, this Gràcia haunt lacks the charm of artistic hangouts such as Els Quatre Gats, but its literary past, illustrated in photographs on the walls of the famous writers it’s hosted, is near and dear to locals. Torrijos 51
3. Cafè del Centre (Eixample)
Run by the same family since 1873, Cafè del Centre remains more or less unchanged. Its Modernista interior inspires the imagination as it once did for the artists who spent time there. Years ago it was the place to find stirring cultural debates and a celebrated poetry series. Today, it’s a good place for a home-cooked Catalan meal and a drink. Girona 69
4. L’Horiginal (Raval)
L’Horiginal (today known as Restaurante Horiginal) is a well-known stop for poets who perform in its back room theatre. Grab a meal, or a drink at the bar, and peruse the shelves of books for sale in English, Catalan and Castilian. Ferlandina 29