Once home to 16th-century masters of Spain's Golden Age of literature, Madrid's historic Barrio de las Letras (Literary District) is a happening neighborhood where history and culture share the streets with nightlife locales and tapas bars.
Located west of the Paseo del Prado - home to Madrid's top 3 museums - and north of the Calle Atocha, this part of town fans out around the Plaza de Santa Ana and the Calle Huertas. As we mentioned, the Barrio de las Letras, also known simply as “Huertas” after the street at the center of it all, was the home or hangout of several famous 16th- and 17th-century writers. As you stroll down Huertas Street you can read quotes by these Golden Age authors - Miguel de Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Francisco de Quevedo - that engraved in gold into the street. Tranquil by day and frenetic at night, Huertas is home to all sorts of bars and clubs as well as some nice jazz cafés, theaters and other cultural stops.
Much of what you see today on and around Calle Huertas was built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Little remains of the 16th and 17th buildings that Lope de Vega and Cervantes saw. You can, however, come across a sprinkling of historic buidlings and sights. A few such examples are:
- House-Museum of Lope de Vega, where the author lived from 1610 to 1635
- San Ildefonso de las Trinitarias Descalzas Convent, where Miguel de Cervantes was interred.
- San Sebastián Church, which was the site of the baptisms, funerals and weddings of numerous famous writesr. For exmaple, a plaque at the entrance claims that writers Mariano José de Larra and, later, Gustavo Adolfo Becquer both got married here. Inside, you can also view the death certificates of Cervantes, Lope de Vega and Jacinto Benavente, amongst others.
- Cervantes House. Address where Cervantes lived and later died in 1616.
Calle Huertas' literary reputation is equalled by its reputation as a nightlife mecca frequented by both locals and tourists seeking tapas bars and drinking establishments. At the heart of the neighborhood is the spacious Plaza de Santa Ana which, when the weather's nice, is lined by pleasant outdoor cafes perfect for having a snack or cool drink.
Once the sun goes down, the tranquil pedestrian streets of the Barrio de las Letras take on a whole new life. The streets are literally packed with tapas bars and restaurants perfect for sampling the local and national gastronomy. As the night goes on, the focus shifts from tapas to bar-hopping around the area's seemingly infinite array of noisy bars and music-blasting disco-pubs.
With history, restaurants, bars and music, Calle Huertas and the surrounding Barrio de las Letras truly has it all!