In the “literary quarter” in Madrid, poetry spills across the streets in flattened golden letters. Bodegas serve cerveza, bitter green olives and fried potato til near the break of dawn. And nuns still keep their silence behind the red brick walls of a nunnery that’s centuries old.
A fine-muscled statue of Cervantes, clad in tights and clutching a manuscript, peers down on pedestrians in the open air; the author of Don Quixote, arguably the first novel in the world, receives more respect now than he did when he was alive.
Back then, he lived on one of these streets (his daughter in the nunnery) along with writer and rival Lope de Vega. While you can visit the 16th century mansion of Lope, resplendent in dark Tudor-like beams and whitewashed lime walls, Cervantes’ house is no more. Nor is his burial place, the former small churchyard now a sweet garden centre with butterflies, real and papery, fluttering through the trees.
Related: Madrid’s Oldest Chocolateria
The tale of a genius unrecognised in his time whispers through these narrow streets. It passes the 19th century Casa Alberto, painted in blood-like burgundy red to signal its role as a bar and an eatery to a population who, ironically given the location, largely couldn’t read.
Yet the mark of a city that bursts with culture is that not only does it look back, and remember, but that it also looks forwards and celebrates.
I found this pop of colour coming to life within the literary quarter, inches from where Cervantes remains are thought to rest.
Spanish street artists Remed & Okuda scattered silver, sunflower yellow, hot pink and sky blue across the quarter in a three day festival called Streets of Colour (that’s not a translation, it seems that the English language is sexy and cool these days.)
And for all my love of history and (shh, it’s not sexy, museums,) what interests me most about both is how they leave me feeling about today.
Inspired to work harder to create a better world?
Inspired to get down to it and follow those dreams?
Or, on the streets of Madrid, inspired to create in huge bright bursts of colour?
This spot is very well connected, which is one of the reasons why I think it’s also a great place to stay.
You can catch local trains (Cercanias) Madrid-Atocha and Madrid-Sol and the Metro from Antón Martín (L1), Atocha (L1), Sol (L1, L2, L3)
Look out for these quotations from great Spanish artists on the floor of Calle de las Huertas.
Disclosure – I love Spain well and have visited many times and even lived there for a while. On this occasion, I visited in partnership with iAmbassador and Madrid Tourism. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like.
Info: I’m very picky about the tour guides I recommend but I’d highly recommend Monica if you’re looking for art and cultural information on the city. You can reach her through the tour programme offered by the tourist office.
Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.