A Week of Art and Culture in Barcelona
March 23-29, 2020
Optional Trip Extension to Madrid March 29-April 1, 2020
$4460 per person, with no single supplements to pay.
We’ll stay for a week in the four-start Hotel Duquesa de Cardona, right on the edge of the Gothic Quarter, and walkable to shops, museums and restaurants. Oh, the restaurants! You’ll eat seafood, and tapas, and toasted bread scraped with tomatoes, patatas bravas, and lots more. Barcelona is worth the trip for the food alone.
But we’ll do lots more than eat. We’ll not only visit Barcelona’s most famous site, Antonio Gaudì’s Sagrada Familia, but also homes and a park he designed. We’ll visit museums dedicated to two of Barcelona’s most celebrated artists, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró.
On another day, we’ll take a day trip out of town to Montserrat, where we’ll see the Virgin of Montserrat, a Black Madonna, in the basilica there (it’s possible to queue to touch the Madonna statue), and – with any luck -- hear the famous boys’ choir sing in the sanctuary.
Catalonia is famous for its cava sparkling wine, so of course we’ll visit a vineyard and taste cava as well.
In addition to our planned activities, you’ll have plenty of time to explore Barcelona on your own. You might simply stroll along La Rambla, stopping every now and then for coffee, or churros, or tapas, and visiting the bustling Mercat de la Boqueria, where you can taste so many of the Catalan food specialties. There are enticing little shops in the Barri Gòtic and La Ribera sections near the hotel, and a number of special interest museums, including the nearby Maritime Museum. (Remember that Barcelona has a long seafaring history.)
History itself is always present in Barcelona. We’ll probably see lots of signs and posters advocating for Catalan independence. The first shots of the Spanish Civil War were fired here, and Barcelona provided inspiration for many of the Americans and people from other countries who came to fight.
Most days, we’ll move about the city as the locals do, using the Metro and city buses. Each evening, we’ll gather in the hotel before dinner for a glass of wine and conversation, and then break into small groups to choose where you’d like to dine.
Late March is a wonderful time to visit Barcelona. The tourist hordes haven’t arrived yet, and it’s still cool enough to enjoy walking all over the city. Daytime temperatures should be in the high 60s or low 70s, with nights cool enough to need a light jacket.
If you like, you can add an optional three-day extension to Madrid after our time in Barcelona.
Please note that we may make changes to this itinerary in response to unexpected closings, road conditions, weather or other unforeseen events. And, although this is a very full itinerary, remember that you always have the choice to take a day or part of a day off to pursue your own interests, or just to stroll the beautiful streets of Barcelona.
Sunday, March 22, 2020
Depart from home for your overnight flight to Barcelona. (Airfare not included in the trip price.)
Monday, March 23, 2020
Arrive in Barcelona following your overnight flight. It’s a short taxi ride from the airport to the Duquesa de Cardona hotel. Depending on the timing of your flight, you might walk to walk up La Rambla or start exploring the enticing neighborhood. Or just stroll along the waterfront across the street from our hotel.
5pm. We meet in the hotel’s rooftop bar to begin our tapas tour of the Gothic Quarter (includes dinner).
Tuesday, March 24, 2020
9:30am. We begin this morning with Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia, where we’ll have a private guided tour of both the interior and exterior of the cathedral. Afterwards, you’ll have some time to explore on your own.
2:30pm. After having lunch on your own, we’ll meet at the Palau de la Música for a guided tour of this brilliant example of Catalan Modernista design. The building is a jewel-box treasure for the city.
6:30pm. Meet in the hotel for wine and conversation.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
9:45am. We walk up to the famous La Rambla to the Palau Guëll, one of Gaudi’s earliest commissions – a stunning private home in which he demonstrates his unique view on the Art Nouveau then in fashion. You’ll have an audioguide so you can visit at your own pace. If we’re lucky, we’ll hear the organ being played. And don’t miss the colorful and eccentric chimneys on the roof.
Afterwards, you’re free to explore on your own. You’ll probably want to walk just a few blocks up La Rambla to La Boqueria, the very famous food market, where you can graze from stall to stall, or sit down for one of the best-known tapas meals in Barcelona. Also on La Rambla is the Liceu Opera House, one of the largest opera houses in Europe, founded in 1847. It’s worth stopping in for a tour.
2:45pm After your lunch, meet us at the Museu Picasso. Picasso was born in Barcelona, and the museum focuses on his early work, up through the Blue Period – some of it quite unfamiliar to us as his later art became so celebrated. If you’re joining us in Madrid later, you’ll definitely want to see Picasso’s reflections on Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas, one of the major paintings we’ll see at the Prado.
6:30pm. Meet in the hotel for wine and conversation.
Thursday, March 26, 2020
9:30am. This morning we’ll take both Metro and bus to the Park Guëll, a large public garden on a hill overlooking the city. Its very fanciful buildings were designed by Gaudì in the early years of the 20th century. In addition to the gardens and paths, you can visit the home Gaudì designed for himself in the park and learn more about his life.
You’ll have the afternoon free for, perhaps, shopping on the elegant Passeig Gràcia and the little streets around it, the Santa Catarina food market or the El Born Cultural Center, wandering the streets of Barceloneta, the former fishing village on the ocean. If you haven’t had enough Gaudì, you can also visit La Pedrera (also called the Casa Mila), an apartment house designed by Gaudì. Visits begin on the rooftop, with its exotic chimney structures. There’s an exhibition about the life and work of Gaudì in the attic, itself an architectural wonder of curves and arches. And finally, you can visit a typical apartment of the period.
Or stop by the Casa Batlló, another iconic apartment building. Many of us will probably visit the Gothic Cathedral, where we can climb up to the roof for a fascinating view of the city. We won’t want to miss the 13 white geese always kept in the cathedral’s cloister; they’re symbols of the 13 tortures of St. Eulàlia, to whom the cathedral is dedicated and who is buried in the crypt.
Friday, March 27, 2020
9am. Today we visit the environs of Barcelona, beginning with a drive up to the pilgrimage site of Montserrat, called the “serrated mountain,” because of its unusual rock formations. We’ll have gorgeous views of Catalonia from the top. We’ll learn about the Benedictine Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey and visit the Royal Basilica of Montserrat to see the 12th-century carved status of Our Lady of Monserrat, also called La Moreneta (the Black Madonna). You can approach the madonna and kiss or touch her hand in the traditional way if you wish. We hope also to hear a performance in the church of the oldest boys’ choir in Europe – the Escolania.
Afterwards we’ll drive to a cava vineyard where we’ll hear all about how this bubbly Catalan wine is made – and of course do some tasting. It’s a very full day.
6:30pm. Meet for wine and conversation at the hotel.
Saturday, March 28, 2020
9:45am. We dedicate this morning to a visit to the Fundació Joan Miró, perched high above the city on the green hill of Montjuic. We’ll take the bus to the funicular up the mountain, then spend time in the museum enjoying the work of Barcelona’s other most famous painter, Miro. The museum’s audioguide is particularly interesting.
Afterwards, we’ll take a cable car to the top of the mountain, where you can look out over the ocean and marina.
You’ll have the afternoon on our own for your last afternoon in Barcelona. But if you haven’t already been, we highly recommend going to the Maritime Museum, not too far from our hotel. Note also that there is a rickety lift that goes to the top of the Mirador de Colom, that statue of Christopher Columbus atop a tall column. It’s a great view, but not for the faint of heart.
6:30pm. We meet for our last evening of wine and conversation.
Sunday, March 29, 2020
Everyone leaves the hotel, either for your onward journey home or elsewhere. Those who are continuing on with us to Madrid will take taxis to the train station.
Optional Trip Extension: Madrid, City of Art and History
March 31 - April 1, 2020
$1850 per person, with no single supplements to pay.
Sunday, March 29, 2020
8:30am. We taxi to Barcelona Sants train station to board the AVE high-speed train to Madrid. We’ll be served breakfast on our trip, which takes less than three hours. We’ll taxi from Madrid’s Atocha station to our hotel, the Vincci Soho, located in the Las Lettras section of Madrid, only three blocks from the Prado.
3pm. After having time to settle into the hotel and eat lunch, we’ll walk over to the Prado, the enormous collection of Spain’s many art treasures, including major works by Spanish artists Velázquez, Goya and El Greco, plus masterpieces by Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, Caravaggio and many others. We’ll have audioguides to help us navigate to our favorite spaces in the museum.
Monday, March 30, 2020
9:30am. We set out on Metro for the Palacio Real de Madrid, the official residence of the Spanish royal family (though the current king, Felipe VI, has chosen to live elsewhere). With over 3000 rooms, the palace is one of the largest in Europe, and is laden with art and furnishings accumulated over the centuries. (No worries, we won’t see all 3000 rooms.)
Afterwards we’ll walk over to the Plaza Mayor, one of the most important squares in Madrid. Exquisitely beautiful, the plaza is surrounded by covered arcades. It has been a central gathering place for centuries, including, sadly, during the Spanish Inquisition, for conducting deaths of heretics. There are many shops and cafes here to explore, including the nearby bustling food market Mercado de San Miguel, where you might want to graze for lunch. Also nearby is the Chocolateria San Ginés, where the main attraction is a thick cup of chocolate into which to dip their churros. It’s an old Madrid tradition.
6:45pm. After having some time for yourself this afternoon, we’ll gather at the hotel to walk over to La Venencia, Ernest Hemingway’s favorite sherry bar. They offer a choice of sherries from barrels and a few simple tapas, and it looks just as it did when Hemingway drank there.
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
9:45am. The neighborhood of our hotel is called Las Lettras because of the writers who used to live here, including Cervantes. This morning we walk around the corner to the house of Lope de Vega – a contemporary of Cervantes who wrote over a thousand plays, novels and poems. He moved into this house in 1610 and lived there until his death, and it’s a lovely example of a home from that period.
Afterwards, we’ll walk over to the Museum Reina Sofia to see Picasso’s more important work here in Spain: Guernica, the enormous black and white painting created as a protest of the Spanish Civil War. It resided at MOMA in New York until moved here in 1981. Picasso had forbidden it to be exhibited in Spain until democracy was established.
There are many other works by Spanish artists here, plus a central garden space and restaurant. You might want to spend more time here, or, walk over to the nearby Thyssen Bornemisza art museum. Alternately, you could walk to El Retiro, the huge central park, where you can walk through wooded paths, have a coffee at the lakeside, and catch an art exhibition in the Glass Palace. The park is very popular with Madrileños and a great place just to relax.
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Depart this morning for your journey home.
The price of the trip to Barcelona is $4460, based on single occupancy. There are no single supplements to pay. The optional extension to Madrid is $1850. (Note that there’s a minimum group size of five people for the extension.)
Here’s what’s included:
- Six nights in the 4-star Hotel Duquesa de Cardona in Barcelona.
- Hot ample breakfast buffet every morning, including eggs cooked to order, meats, cheeses, fruits, pastries, yogurts and an array of breads and juices
- Wine socials every evening with the trip leaders and a staff member of Politics & Prose
- Entrance fees for all group activities listed.
- Transit pass for Barcelona’s Metro and bus lines.
- City map of Barcelona.
- Restaurant and dining recommendations.
What’s not included: lunches and dinners, transport to and from the airport, tickets to museums and attractions not specifically mentioned in the itinerary, your flight to Spain and back home and anything else not listed under “What’s included.”
For the extension to Madrid, the trip includes three nights at the 4-star Hotel Vincci Soho, breakfast included, and all admission fees to group activities in the itinerary.
Have Some Questions?
First, be sure to read all the Frequently Asked Questions and Terms and Conditions. If you have more questions, contact:
Wild Blue Yonder
She’s always happy to talk with you about the trip.
You can reserve your place on the trip with a $600 deposit, payable by check, made out to Wild Blue Yonder (mail to Wild Blue Yonder, 1001 Spring Street, Suite 623, Silver Spring, MD 20910). If you’d rather pay with a credit card via PayPal (there’s a 3% surcharge), let us know (email Sheila at SCampbell@wildblueyonder.biz) and we’ll send you a PayPal invoice.
A Few Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Who should come on this trip?
This is the perfect trip to take by yourself; you’ll make new friends and will always have people to do things with if you like. Or come with a friend or spouse or partner. We’ve often had mothers and daughters come together. You can spend time with each other and also have time to pursue your separate interests. The trip is also perfect for any small group that wants to travel together but doesn’t want the hassle of planning it all in advance.
Q. Do I have to pay a single supplement?
No. This trip is priced based on each person having his or her own hotel room.
Q. I’m coming with a spouse or partner and we want to share a room. Do we both have to pay the full rate?
For people who share a room, we offer a discount of $150 each. We’ve priced the trip primarily for people to have their own rooms, because Spanish hotel rooms just aren’t as large as those in the U.S. But of course you can share a room if you prefer.
Q. How many people will be on the trip?
The maximum number of people is 18, so you won’t feel like you’re part of a huge group. There’s a 12-person minimum group size. So please don’t buy your plane tickets until we confirm to you that we have reached the minimum group size.
Q. Why do you call this a “trip” and not a “tour”?
We’ve included the things we like best about group travel, including the convenience of having someone plan daily itineraries. But there are lots of things we dislike about tours, so here’s how this trip is different:
- You’ll never board a big tour bus.
- You won’t follow a tour guide, trying to keep up through crowded museums, except for the private tour at La Sagrada Familia.
- You won’t be seated at long tables for big group meals at “We accept bus tours” restaurants. Instead, we’ll suggest authentic places for you to eat in small groups.
- You won’t have early morning calls to leave the hotel.
- You only unpack and pack once. We’ll venture outside of Barcelona one day, but most of our focus is on the city itself.
Q. Tell me about the trip leaders.
Sheila Campbell of Wild Blue Yonder has been organizing informal groups of travelers for years – often on hiking trips in France, England, Italy and Spain, as well as for Politics & Prose. In her day-to-day work, she’s a group retreat leader who understands how to ensure everyone is involved and having a memorable experience. She lives in Washington, DC, where she is a volunteer at the National Gallery of Art.
Donna Morris is president of Best Friend in Paris, where she creates customized experiences for travelers to Paris. She has lived in France since 2006 and is one of the founders of the Politics & Prose travel program. She’s fluent in French and is an expert navigator of European cities and sites.
Q. What’s the best way to fly to Barcelona?
At this time, there aren’t any direct flights from Washington, DC to Barcelona. Since you’ll have to change planes somewhere, we strongly recommend that you book a flight where the change is in Europe, not the U.S.
You might want to look for a flight that arrives around noon, since your hotel room in Barcelona won’t be ready till the afternoon. United has a flight that changes planes in Frankfurt and arrives at 12:05pm. Delta’s best flight changes planes in Amsterdam and arrives about 12:15pm.
Note that if you’re planning to take the optional extension to Madrid, you’ll fly INTO Barcelona but OUT OF Madrid.
Q. What is the Hotel Duquesa de Cardona like?
We first fell in love with the hotel’s location, right on the edge of the Gothic Quarter, across a wide boulevard from the port. It’s a historic building, dating originally from the 16th century, but now beautifully appointed as a hotel. In addition to the lavish breakfasts, the hotel has a restaurant and a rooftop cocktail bar.
In the afternoons from noon – 7pm, there’s a little “free food” bar behind the breakfast area that has sweet and savory snacks – a nice little lift when you come in from a busy afternoon. You’ll have a safe, a hair dryer, and a small refrigerator in your room. What you won’t have is a face cloth; like so many other European hotels, the hotel doesn’t stock them.
There are a number of small but very good tapas restaurants in the blocks around the hotel, and it’s a short walk to Barceloneta, the old fishing village where they say you can still find the very best seafood.
Q. Is there internet access at the hotel?
Yes, free wifi comes with your room.
Q. What will the weather be like?
It’s impossible to predict any weather accurately these days, but generally late March in Barcelona is terrific for walking around – cool and sunny during the day (highs in the high 60s), cooler at night. Rain is always a possibility, of course.
Q. What to wear?
Wear what’s most comfortable, and pack lots of layers. Jeans are acceptable almost anywhere, except for the very nicest restaurants. It’s considered polite to cover your shoulders in many churches, but you probably won’t be going sleeveless in the late March.
Don’t forget your raincoat or umbrella, just in case. You’ll need a warm jacket and maybe a scarf for evening. Most important: comfortable walking shoes.
Q. Why aren’t lunches and dinners included in the price?
Restaurants that accept tour groups are usually the last places we want to eat. And there are just so many delicious choices for meals in Barcelona that we want everyone to be free to eat where and when they want. One day you might eat a sandwich for lunch, sitting out on a plaza; or you might choose to browse the local food markets.
Alternatively, we often make lunch the biggest meal of the day, maybe even eating at a restaurant that would be too pricey at night. You’ll choose where you’ll eat, and with whom and how much you want to spend.
Q. Is it safe to walk around by myself at night?
Yes. Of course, as in any city, it makes sense to be aware of your surroundings after dark. But in both Barcelona and Madrid it’s usually quite safe to be out on your own or with a friend in the evenings.
The most prevalent crime is pickpocketing, which mostly happens in areas where there are crowds of tourists. Pickpockets are wily, so we recommend that you leave most of your money, credit cards and passport in the safe in your room, just taking with you what you need for one day. A handbag that you can sling over your shoulder and tuck high under your arm (with a good zipper) works better than bags with long straps that dangle below your waist. And never sling your handbag over the back of a chair; that creates a very tempting target.
Q. Do you require us to buy travel insurance?
We very strongly recommend it. Reasons for cancelling a trip can happen suddenly. Please read the Terms and Conditions carefully to see our cancellation policy. Also be aware that trip insurance companies are very strict about what they will and won’t reimburse you for, so read their policies closely as well.
You’ll want to be insured for both trip cancellation and medical treatment and evacuation. Many insurers require you to enroll as soon as you pay your deposit, so don’t wait. There are many websites which offer comparison information about trip insurance.
Note that if you are on Medicare, it does not cover services outside of the United States, so you definitely will need medical coverage.
Q. Some friends are going to be in Barcelona while I’m there. Can they come along with us?
Because we want to keep our groups small, we can’t invite your friends to come with us on our daily excursions. But you can bring them to our evening get-togethers. Please give us a day’s notice, and there’s a €10 per person charge for the wine and snacks.
Q. When do I need to sign up by?
The sooner you put down your deposit, the better. We’re limiting the size of the group, so it’s best to reserve as soon as you think you’d like to come.
Q. If I want to stay longer than six days, can you arrange that?
Yes. We can arrange for you to stay on at the hotel at your own cost, although our trip will be over. If you’d like to arrive early, we can also make those reservations for you. We may not be there to greet you if you come early, but it’s okay if you want a day or two on your own before the official trip starts.
Terms and Conditions
Please read this information carefully, as payment of a deposit represents your acceptance of the following Terms and Conditions.
Trip prices include hotel accommodations on a single or double occupancy basis, breakfast at the hotel, daily transportation as mentioned in the itinerary, entrance fees to museums if with the group as listed in the itinerary, tasting events, evening socials to plan the next day’s activities, and the services of the trip leaders as outlined in the trip description.
Not included in the trip price are entrance fees to museums and other attractions not expressly included; taxis or other forms of city transportation; airfare and airline baggage fees; lunches and dinners; hotel, restaurant or airport tips; costs of passports and visas; personal expenses such as beverages, laundry or room service; internet wifi except as established in the trip description; airport transfers or any other services not specified in the trip description.
Please note that we cannot guarantee any special requests for hotel rooms.
Registration and Payment
The payment of your deposit confirms your reservation. Deposits may be paid by check made out to Wild Blue Yonder, Inc., or credit card via PayPal. There is a 3% surcharge for PayPal.
Your deposit is refundable for two weeks from the date it is received by Wild Blue Yonder, except for deposits made less than 60 days before a trip departs; those deposits are completely nonrefundable. Two weeks after the receipt of the deposit by Wild Blue Yonder, deposits are not refundable for any reason and will be forfeited if you cancel your trip reservation. Cancellations must be in writing by either letter to Wild Blue Yonder or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Cancellations become effective on the date they are received by Wild Blue Yonder.
Once your reservation deposit has been paid, you will receive a confirmation email and further information to help you plan your trip.
We reserve the right to cancel any reservations that are not paid in full at any time after the final payment is due. If you make your reservation after the final payment due date, payment in full will be required immediately.
Full final payment is due November 17, 2019.
Cancellations and Refunds
For any cancellations made before November 17, 2019, you will forfeit your deposit but will be refunded any other payments you have made. If you must cancel your trip, the effective date of cancellation will be upon our receipt of your notification, which must be made in writing either by email or letter. No refunds are possible after November 17, 2019.
We strongly recommend that you purchase trip cancellation insurance when you pay your deposit for this trip.
Changes to Your Reservation
If you would like to stay on for longer than the official days of the trip, we will make reservations for you at the hotel. We will not charge you for any changes to your reservation outside of 90 days before the trip start date. From 30 – 89 days before the trip start date, if you make any changes to your reservation, a $100 per person administrative fee will apply. Changes are subject to availability and cannot be guaranteed. If your reservation changes from double occupancy to single occupancy, you will be charged the single occupancy rate.
You are responsible for securing your own passport, valid for at least six months after the completion of your trip.
Health and Medical Issues
We welcome all travelers, but you must be in good health to participate in our trips. Our trips require a reasonable amount of walking, possibly several hours a day, uphill or on uneven streets or streets without curb cuts. You must be able to climb stairs and board trains and buses on your own. We regret that we cannot provide individual assistance if you require the use of a wheelchair or have other personal needs; in such cases you must be accompanied by a companion who will assist you.
If you are unable to navigate this amount of walking, you will not be able to participate fully in the trip, and we suggest you choose another type of trip. We cannot provide individual alternatives to the planned group activities. If your fitness level does not allow you to keep up with the group and/or travel on public transportation, you will be responsible for planning your own activities and for any additional costs incurred (for instance, but not limited to, personal taxis, train tickets, and entrance fees).
We strongly recommend that you purchase both trip cancellation insurance and traveler’s medical and evacuation insurance for your trip. Should you have to cancel your trip after you have paid in full, we cannot offer refunds other than specified above, because we will have already paid the costs of your trip to our vendors.
Arrival and Departure Dates
It is your responsibility to make sure you arrive on the specified trip start date. We cannot refund part of your trip if you arrive late or leave early, unless you have notified us of your different start or end date 90 days before the trip start date.
The liability of Wild Blue Yonder and Politics & Prose, individually or jointly (referred to hereafter as Trip Planners), is strictly limited. In no event will the Trip Planners be liable for amounts in excess of the amounts payable to the Trip Planners in accordance with the terms hereunder, nor will Trip Planners be liable for any consequential indirect or incidental damages arising from this agreement. Trip Planners purchase accommodations, transportation and other services from independent suppliers not under our control. We serve only as agents for these suppliers in securing trip arrangements, and therefore will not accept responsibility and liability for wrongful, negligent or arbitrary acts or omissions of these independent contractors, their employees, agents or representatives.
Trip Planners are not liable for injury, damage, loss, accident, or delay that may be caused by events not within our control, including but not limited to, without limitation, acts of terrorism, war, strikes, defects of any vehicle, adverse weather conditions, natural disasters or the negligence or default of any third party.
Trip Planners reserve the right to correct errors in advertised prices. We reserve the right to cancel an advertised trip, decline to accept a reservation or remove a person from a trip if it is determined by us to be in the best interests of the health, safety or general well-being of other trip participants. We will make every effort to conduct our trip as planned, but we reserve the right to make itinerary and other changes as necessary. If unforeseen circumstances require us to change a hotel, we will make every effort to select alternative accommodations of the same quality. The forgoing terms and conditions and all aspects of the relationship between Trip Planners and you shall be governed by the laws of the State of Maryland.
We love to read about the places we’re visiting, and we suspect you do too. Mark LaFramboise, Politics & Prose’s senior book buyer, has selected some books meant to enhance your travel experience.
Although there may be some discussion of books in our evening salons, there is NO required reading.
Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936 – 1939 by Adam Hochschild. An excellent and easy to follow explanation of this bitter war won by Francisco Franco, who was supported fully by Hitler and Mussolini.
Homage to Barcelona by Colm Tóibín. A history of the city, including the artists who lived there, and the Spanish Civil War.
Barcelona the Great Enchantress by Robert Hughes. A cultural history of the city, with a particular emphasis on architecture.
The Vanishing Veláquez: A 19th Century Bookseller’s Obsession with a Lost Masterpiece by Laura Cumming. Everything you might want to know about the painter Veláquez at the Spanish court.
Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. This is the definitive story of the Spanish Civil War written at the time, from the perspective of a fighter on the side of the Republicans. (Yes, that George Orwell.)
The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936 – 1939 by Anthony Beevor. A history of the war written on the 70th anniversary by an accomplished historian.
The Basque History of the World: The Story of a Nation by Mark Kurkansky. An engaging history of the Basque people and their influence on the world.
Ghosts of Spain: Travels through Spain and Its Silent Past by Giles Tremlett. Written by the Guardian’s Madrid correspondent, a history of Spain up through the early 21st century.
The New Spaniards by John Hooper. A history of 20th and 21st century Spain following the restoration of democracy in 1977.
Isabella: The Warrior Queen by Kirsten Downey. A biography of Spain’s most iconic queen.
Hotel Florida by Amanda Vaill. The Hotel Florida in Madrid was where writers like Hemingway and Martha Gelhorn stayed in the Spanish Civil War. This book follows their experiences.
Driving over Lemons: An Optimist in Spain by Chris Stewart. The true story, if a bit romanticized, of a British family moving to rural Spain.
Plus there are numerous biographies and art books available on Picasso, Miró, Gaudì and Salvador Dalí.
A Heart So White by Javier Mariás. Mariás is Spain’s most celebrated contemporary novelist. This book is considered his masterpiece; it’s about family secrets and the power of the past.
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. A wildly popular but complex novel set in Barcelona; a literary mystery, the first of a series.
The South by Colm Tóibín. In Toibin’s first novel, set in 1950’s Barcelona, an Irish woman connects with an anarchist from the Spanish Civil War.
The Best Thing That Can Happen to a Croissant by Pablo Tusset. This comic novel set in Barcelona was a European bestseller when it was first published.
Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones. Historical novel concerning the construction of a cathedral in Barcelona in the 14th century.
Dog Day by Alicia Giménez-Bartlett. Part of a series set in Barcelona by Spain’s most popular mystery writer.
For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway. This novel set in the Spanish Civil War reflects on Hemingway’s obsession with war and honor.
Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom. A spy story set in the Spanish Civil War, but based on many actual events.
Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner. A novel about a young poet moving to Madrid and the language and cultural issues he faces.