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Barcelona’s best bookshops, and a reading list for travelers

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Altair Bookstore
Altair is one of the largest travel-focused bookstores in Europe. Photo: Garret Ziegler

Remember the good old-fashioned printed book and the shops that sell them? Before Youtube, Vine, Facebook and smart phones, books were our main form of entertainment and the best way to learn about new places. If you still like the feel of paper between your thumb and fingers, Barcelona’s thriving books’ scene is a great way to get a feel for the city. These bookshops are not just stores, they’re also social hubs that offer travelers a respite from typical attractions and a chance to connect with locals while browsing the shelves.

We’ve also compiled a list of the best books on Barcelona, so Cheapos can pick something up to read on the train or in your hotel room to get a deeper understanding of one of Europe’s greatest cities.

Altaïr
Gran Via Corts Catalanes, 616

This is THE spot for travel guides, travel novels, travel gear and meeting fellow travelers in Barcelona. Like all the shops on this list, most of the books here are in Catalan or Spanish, but you’ll also find some English goodies. Altaïr’s bulletin board allows travelers to meet other folks who are globe-trotting solo and want company.  I always marvel at their listings, and I have a friend who has gone on several exotic voyages after meeting people through the Altaïr board. You never know!

Laie
Pau Claris 85

There are quite a few branches of this bookshop around the city. A favorite of mine is on Pau Claris under Cafe Laie. Here’s how you visit: browse the bookshop, purchase a title that catches your eye and read it upstairs over a cup of coffee.

FNAC

Pl. Catalunya 4

A biggie and definitely not indie, but it’s still worth mentioning because of their enormous selection of English titles and frequent special events. You want a best seller for the beach? You’ll find it here. Also, FNAC is easy to locate. It’s right on Plaza Catalunya in the center of town. Apart from books they’ve got music, technology, a cafe and a convenient concert ticket sales counter. Plus, check their calendar, because they often put on art exhibits, offer free concerts, and invite authors to read at the store.

Garb a book off the shelf and then head upstairs to the cafe at La Central. Photo: Garret Ziegler

Garb a book off the shelf and then head upstairs to the cafe at La Central. Photo: Garret Ziegler

La Central
Elisabets, 6

An exceptional choice for books on art and hipster guides to the city is La Central. With several stores in Barcelona and Madrid, count on spending at least a few hours flipping through their offerings. I recommend the shop in El Raval.

Recommended Barcelona Reads

Now that you know where to get your guides, novels, and non-fiction, it’s time to grab a book off the shelf and read up on Barcelona. Here are a few titles I recommend in a more or less chronological order. Leaf through these publications listed below before or during your trip to Barcelona to get a deeper look into the city.

Start with: “Cathedral of the Sea” by Ildefonso Falcones for some page-turner historical fiction.

Then try: “Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafónto to get an idea of what the Gothic Quarter and Tibidabo were like. Again, this is high-drama fiction and a best seller.

Next up: “As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning” which is a beautifully written biography by Laurie Lee.

Finally some classics: Hemingway’s “Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises”, Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia”, a must-read, and Richard Wright’s “Pagan Spain” for another view.

About the author

Regina W Bryan

About the author: Regina W.Bryan is a Barcelona-based freelance writer and photographer. When not eating tapas and exploring Europe, she is tending her balcony veggie garden and practicing Catalan. For more of her thoughts on Spain, check: www.regwb.com and www.thespainscoop.com.

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