Barrio de Las Letras

Price guide: Free

Plaza de Santa Ana, Madrid, 28012

Price guide: Free

Plaza Santa Ana
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By Annie Bennett, your Madrid expert

I write for Conde Nast Traveller, .... Read more
#25 of 30
expert-rated things to do in Madrid
Expert overall rating:4.0 out of 5
Value for money:
Recommended for:
Culture vultures, Foodies, Mature travellers, Seasoned travellers, Singles, History, Nightlife, People watching, Relaxation, Sightseeing

Expert review of Barrio de Las Letras

Trace Madrid's literary heritage in this lively downtown neighbourhood

400 years ago, Madrid's first makeshift theatres were set up in this triangle of narrow streets around Plaza Santa Ana, now known as the Barrio de Las Letras, or the Literary Quarter. Poets, playwrights, novelists and journalists traditionally lived here over the centuries, and it is now one of the liveliest nightlife areas in the city.

The epicentre is the Plaza Santa Ana, with the Teatro Espanol, Madrid's most important theatre, at one end, on the site of one of the first wooden playhouses. Now, there are lots of tapas bars and cafes too, making it a pleasant spot to while away a few hours on a sunny afternoon.

The most famous bar on the square is the Cerveceria Alemana, which was a favourite haunt of Ernest Hemingway. Miguel de Cervantes lived in this area, at Calle Huertas 18, where the Casa Alberto restaurant is now.  He also lived on the corner of Calle Leon and Calle Cervantes, which is marked by a plaque. Nearby, the house where playwright Lope de Vega lived is now a museum (Calle Cervantes 11).

A lot of the streets are named after literary figures of the Golden Age in the 17th century who lived in the neighbourhood, and the homes of famous figures are marked by yellow diamond plaques, so remember to look up as you walk around - and look down too to see quotes from their books and plays inlaid in brass letters in the paving stones.

Expert tips: 
Walk around in the day, but be sure to come back at night when the bars liven up.

More information on Barrio de Las Letras:

Price guide:
Neighbourhood / street
Plaza de Santa Ana, Madrid, 28012
+34 91 389 6337
Months open:
All year round

Have you been to Barrio de Las Letras? Would you recommended it?