There are bookshops that grab you as soon as you cross the threshold, places that invite reading, spending hours among the shelves, picking out the tome you'll spring for. Book lovers in Madrid won't want for much, with selections in a multitude of languages and every genre you can think of. Bookstores specialising in certain subjects, those with activities for the kids, places where you can get a coffee and brows for a while... these are the most original bookshops in the city.
Occupying a 19th-century mansion house in the heart of Madrid, La Central is a bookshop with 70,000 volumes on philosophy, history, social science and literature, including a good selection of books in English. It’s much less generic and commercial than the nearby Fnac and Casa del Libro, and has a café-restaurant (El Bistro) and a cocktail bar (El Garito), as well as a varied programme of cultural activities.
Books and wine are the stars at Tipos Infames, a bookshop specialising in independent literary novels. Here the traditional concept of a bookshop has adapted to changing times, bringing together an interesting selection of books in a dynamic space that’s open to culture through its café, wine bar and exhibition room. Watch out for the transparent floors on the second floor.
This is one of the best bookstores in the capital and a must for fans of photography and graphic design. Since its inception back in 2000, Panta Rhei has specialised in the visual arts, with a special emphasis on contemporary culture, making it the ideal place to find a wide range of titles from the world of advertising, exhibition catalogues, fashion books, special editions and illustrated children's literature, together with a gallery specialised in drawing and illustration.
Madrid's best women's bookshop, inaugurated in 1978, goes by the motto 'Los libros no muerden, tampoco el feminismo' - 'Books don't bite, neither does feminism'. They specialise in feminist works and children's stories that aren't sexist. Their shelves are full of books written by women from around the world, including philosophers, scientists, artists, playwrights, and biographies, autobiographies, letters and diaries by and about women.
Traficantes de sueños began its activities two decades ago with the purpose, according to its managers, of 'creating a stable space in which to find materials for reflection' using a basic tool – the book. With that aim in mind they founded this associative bookshop, which publishes its own texts under a Creative Commons license. They also organise and host presentations, screenings, meetings, workshops and debates.
Mar de Letras is a well-stocked bookshop specialising in kids' editions. Look out too for the English titles, regular English storytelling evenings and educational toys. They also do shadow theatre and puppet shows, all with the goal of getting the littlest ones into the habit of reading.
Located in a golden triangle for film lovers, between the Golem, Renoir Plaza de España and Renoir Princesa cinemas, the Ocho y Medio bookshop is a paradise for movie fans. It stocks more than 15,000 books in Spanish, English, Italian and French, together with a section of selected DVDs and a wide variety of posters, T-shirts, calendars and film-related merchandise. There’s also a place to sit and have a coffee while enjoying a good read.
This quiet little establishment is home to one of the most charming multilanguage bookshops in Madrid, and you’ll find a variety of second-hand books in English and other languages. It offers an excellent opportunity to get rid of the books that are cluttering up your home and replace them with others. The shop is named after Petra, the deceased beloved cat that once belonged to the owner.
Pasajes is a treasure trove for lovers of language, where you’ll find a variety of fiction and nonfiction, language learning materials, maps, audio books and videos. Most of these are available in English, French, German and Spanish, though there is also material in other languages. The library has been recognized by 'The Financial Times' as one of the five best multilanguage bookshops in the world.