Dreaming of visiting Madrid? These books will transport you straight to Madrid and have you planning your next trip ASAP.
Madrid is one of the most populated cities in Spain, and although it is not the city with the most historical heritage, it does have a great cultural offer to explore.
In addition to its well-known museums such as the Prado, the Reina Sofia or the Thyssen, the streets of Madrid are full of recognized brands, restaurants with food from all over the world and historic corners that you will surely want to walk around, or maybe sit down to read a good book in the Retiro Park…
A very interesting place in this city is the Barrio de las Letras, in the city’s downtown district. This neighborhood owes its name to the literary activity of the 16th and 17th centuries since some of the most outstanding writers of the Spanish Golden Age lived there, such as Miguel de Cervantes, Quevedo, Góngora, or Lope de Vega.
Madrid is a cheerful city that wakes up at all hours, famous for being an open city where people of all kinds and from all over the world mix.
Below you will find a range of books in all different genres, including nonfiction and fiction. These are the best books set in Madrid that will make you feel like you’re there.
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Novels and Fiction set in Madrid
The time in between by María Dueñas
Translated by Daniel Hahn
Located in Madrid during the 1930s, among scraps of cloth, needles, and threads, Sira Quiroga grows up in her mother’s sewing workshop.
When the Spanish Civil War breaks out, Sira will be forced to leave her beloved country in search of a better life, and she will have to make difficult decisions in an unknown place, in debt and abandoned by her love.
It is a story of survival, self-improvement, and of the search for personal identity in the midst of a turbulent and difficult time.
Fortunata and Jacinta by Benito Pérez Galdós
Translated by Agnes Moncy Gullón
If it’s a classic you’re looking for, this is the book for you.
Benito Peréz Galdós not only presents us with a fictional novel but at the same time narrates historical events in Madrid that contextualize the time such as the 1868 revolution, and the abdication of King Amadeo in 1873, among others.
Set in Madrid in the mid-nineteenth century, this novel tells the story of Fortunata and Jacinta, revealing the difference between social classes, forbidden love, and arranged marriages, among other aspects that very well portray Madrid society at the time.
This story is one of the most representative works by Benito Pérez Galdós. The plot is simple and realistic, but the complexity of its characters makes you empathize with their lives. It is a book that, due to its descriptions and details, allows you to tour Madrid and get to know the people of that time.
The Infatuations by Javier Marías
Translated by Margaret Jull Costa
It is not possible to leave some of Javier Marías’ books out of this list, as he is a well-known writer from Madrid.
On this occasion, the story is narrated in the first person by María Dolz who decides to tell an important event that occurred in her life.
María works in a publishing house, she is observant, and every morning when she has breakfast she looks at that unknown couple who sits in the same bar and at the same time and thinks that they are the representation of ideal love.
After a while, they stop going to that cafe, but she later finds out that the man has been brutally murdered by a beggar. A few days later, María finds the widow at the bar and decides to go over to meet her.
At the moment when the protagonist begins to suspect that the death of the husband was not as circumstantial as it seems, the plot thickens.
Berta Isla by Javier Marías
Translated by Margaret Jull Costa
A bit of history, a bit of fiction, this is the story that Javier Marías brings, set in Madrid, in times of espionage, distrust, Francoism, and fear of the State.
In this book, we can read the point of view of the two protagonists, since depending on the chapter it is narrated by one or the other.
We are talking about Berta Isla and Tomás Nevison, two young lovers who decide they want to spend their lives together. However, for a few years, they will be separated because Tomas must go to study in England, while Berta will do them in Madrid.
But when he returns, Berta tells us without knowing what is happening that Tomas, her boyfriend, is not the same as before, he has lost hope, he has many worries and his joy has vanished.
This book is a story of life, with good and bad moments, but nevertheless, they represent the entanglement that is to live.
Variable Cloud by Carmen Martín Gaite
Translated by Margaret Jull Costa
This novel tells the story of Sofia Montalvo and Mariana León, friends at school, but over time their friendship ended up broken and buried. It took 30 years for fate to make them coincide at a party.
When they meet, they realize that their lives have taken different paths, but they keep similar ideas. Sofía is a young woman wrapped up in the routine life of a wife and mother of a family, while Mariana successfully dedicates herself to psychiatry.
The novel is made up of two writings by reconstructing a friendship. On the one hand, at the meeting, Mariana remembers Sofía’s interest in writing and encourages her to do so.
On the other hand, Mariana must leave Madrid, and during that time she writes letters that she does not dare to send to her friend. Both are recipients of the same melancholy, dreamy, romantic essence that tends to disappointment when things don’t happen as they had imagined.
Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner
An American writer writing about Madrid? That’s right, Ben Lerner brings us a novel set in this city, aware of seducing the American reader from a romantic, tourist, and literary point of view.
Adam Gordon, a young American poet, arrives in Madrid on a scholarship to carry out a poetic project on the Spanish Civil War, and at the same time get to know himself and his relationship with art better, a task that will take him around the city.
Meet Me in Madrid by Verity Lowell
Who doesn’t like to read a romantic comedy every once in a while, even if it’s not your preferred literary genre? This novel is romantic, sexy, and LGBT.
Its two protagonists, Charlotte and Adrianna, met at university and work in the same field. Years had passed since the last time they saw each other and they didn’t know anything about each other until a snowstorm leaves Charlotte stranded in Spain and Adrianna insists on hosting her at her house for the night.
One night turns into three and three nights turn into a hot and adventurous long-distance relationship when Charlotte returns to the United States.
Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom
Winter in Madrid is a fictional story about a British man sent to Madrid during the Spanish Civil War to be a spy.
Although Winter in Madrid is fiction, many parts of the book are based on real-life events. A small section at the back of the book explains which parts are real and which parts are fiction.
Non-fiction books about Madrid
The 500 Hidden Secrets of Madrid by Anna-Carin Nordin
If you want to get to know this city like a true local, I recommend that you plan your trip with this guide.
It contains 100 lists, with 5 places each to visit or tour. It was made independently and with exclusive recommendations from real locals.
The hive by Camilo José Cela
In this book, Cela presents us with a cut-out of society in post-war times, back in Madrid in 1943. For those who try to survive after the war, daily life becomes a routine of chores and obligations, an environment where discouragement and fatality reign, intensified by hunger, deprivation, and labor exploitation.
It is a choral novel that denounces the economic and moral misery of those first years after the war. It is a testimony to the bitter existence that Madrid society had to face.
This book had to be published in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1951, since in Spain, it could not be published in its entirety until 1963, due to the opposition to Franco’s censorship.
A day of anger by Arturo Perez-Reverte
A story that is neither fiction nor a history book. Being a choral novel, the whole village is the protagonist of the story.
A little before the 200th anniversary of the uprising of the people of Madrid against the French army, Perez-Reverte published “Un día de cólera”, a book about a very special day in Madrid’s history: May 2, 1808.
The narrated events, the society at that time, the heroes, the dead, the living, the places that appear, everything is authentic, collected from different sources to give shape to this book.
All Madrid by Joaquín González Dorao
All Madrid is a book that illustrates the main places and monuments of the city using the watercolor technique. A total of 40 drawings with explanatory texts, were translated into English and Spanish.
The ‘Red Terror’ and the Spanish Civil War: Revolutionary Violence in Madrid by Julius Ruiz
A book about a sad and violent time in Spain. This book recounts the horror experienced during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), especially on the theme of the “red terror”.
During this period around 50,000 Spaniards were extrajudicially executed. This study, based on a large number of academic and archival sources, challenges the common view that the executions were the work of criminals or “uncontrollable” anarchists.
The story focuses on Madrid, where there were at least 8,000 executions in 1936. Ruiz explains that the terror was organized with the complicity of the police and that the elimination of the internal enemy, the “Fifth Column”, was considered as important as the war on the front.
Madrid a pie de calle: Fotografías by Manuel Urech
Although this book is not translated into English, the language is not the most important thing because it is a book of photographs.
Manuel Urech is a very prominent photojournalist from Madrid, who has worked alongside prestigious media such as Agencia EFE, ABC, and Diario Madrid.
The book contains more than 200 photographs, most of them taken between 1945 and 1960. The images show the life of Madrid society in the period after the Spanish Civil War.
Madrid: The History by Jules Stewart
If you like history, you cannot miss this book. And better yet, you can read it before your trip to Madrid so that it makes more sense.
Madrid has a lot of history and culture that attracts almost 8 million visitors a year, who visit its beautiful palaces and churches and the magnificent collections of the Prado.
Jules immerses us in the history of Madrid from its foundation by Muslims in the 9th century to the Franco dictatorship.
However, don’t expect a history essay, but rather a summary of the most important events that have marked the history of Madrid.
Good detail of this book is that it includes a small but useful guide to enjoy Madrid in two days.
Children’s books set in Madrid
Manolito Four-Eyes by Elvira Lindo
If you’re looking for an entertaining story for the children of the house (and also for adults who want to laugh a good time), Elvira Lindo has created the ideal character!
Manolito is a very original ten-year-old boy. He lives in the Carabanchel Alto neighborhood in Madrid, with his parents, his grandfather, and his younger brother, the “Imbécil”, who is always taking center stage from him.
In the collection of eight books about Manolito, you will be able to read different anecdotes, exciting adventures, and his daily life with his school friends, his enemy, and his crush.
What Are Your Favorite Books Set In Madrid?
Have you read any of these books set in Madrid? Do you have any favorite books set in Madrid that I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!
If you love to read about a place before you visit? Then check out the following book lists set in other European destinations, with plenty of both fiction and non-fiction titles that I recommend reading before you go:
Know someone else who wants to read books set in Madrid? Then please pin this post.