Barcelona books: Barcelona: Recommended Books and Movies

Barcelona: Recommended Books and Movies

By Rick Steves

To learn more about Barcelona’s past and present, check out some of these books and films. (And see our similar lists for elsewhere in Europe.)

Books: Nonfiction
  • Barcelona (Robert Hughes, 1992). This is an opinionated journey through the city’s tumultuous history, with a focus on art and architecture. Barcelona: The Great Enchantress (2004) is a condensed version of Hughes’ love song to his favorite city.
  • Barcelona: A Thousand Years of the City’s Past (Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, 1992). A historical and artistic perspective on Barcelona, this book also details the tensions between the city and the rest of Spain.
  • The Battle for Spain (Antony Beevor, 2006). A prize-winning account of the disintegration of Spain in the 1930s, Beevor’s work is the best overall history of the bloody civil war.
  • Discovering Spain: An Uncommon Guide (Penelope Casas, 1992). Casas, a well-known Spanish cookbook author, insightfully blends history, culture, and food in this personal guide.
  • Homage to Barcelona (Colm Toibin, 1990). This rich history of Barcelona includes anecdotes from the author’s time in the city.
  • Homage to Catalonia (George Orwell, 1938). Orwell writes a gripping account of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War fighting Franco’s fascists.
  • Hotel Florida: Truth, Love, and Death in the Spanish Civil War (Amanda Vaill, 2014). In this popular history, Vaill reconstructs events of the Spanish Civil War through the letters, diaries, and photographs of the war correspondents who covered it.
  • Iberia (James Michener, 1968). Michener’s tribute to Spain explores how the country’s dark history created a contradictory and passionately beautiful land.
  • The New Spaniards (John Hooper, 2006). Hooper surveys all aspects of modern Spain, including its transition from dictatorship to democracy, its cultural traditions, and its changing society.
  • Travelers’ Tales: Spain (Lucy McCauley, 1995). This collection of essays from numerous authors creates an appealing overview of Spain and its people.
Books: Fiction
  • Barcelona (1994). Two Americans try to navigate the Spanish singles scene and the ensuing culture clash.
  • L’Auberge Espagnole (2002). This comedy-drama chronicles the loves and lives of European students sharing an apartment in Barcelona.
  • Manuale d’Amore (2005). The four episodes of this film follow the love stories of four couples, with Barcelona and Rome as backdrops.
  • The Mystery of Picasso (1956). Picasso is filmed painting from behind a transparent canvas, allowing a unique look at his creative process.

  • Salvador (2006). Barcelona is the backdrop in this story about the life of Salvador Puig Antich, an anarchist and bank robber executed by Franco in the 1970s.

  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008). In this Woody Allen film, a macho Spanish artist (Javier Bardem) tries to seduce two American women when his stormy ex-wife (Penélope Cruz) suddenly reenters his life.
  • Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988). This film, about a woman’s downward spiral after a breakup, is one of several piquant Pedro Almodóvar movies about relationships in the post-Franco era. Others include All About My Mother (1999), Talk to Her (2002), Volver (2006), and Broken Embraces (2009).

10 of the best books set in Barcelona | Top 10s

The story of Barça, the city’s legendary football club founded in 1898, is also the epic story of Barcelona and Catalan nationalism.

“The English … watch the heaving, whirling mass of foreign humanity around them, a vortex that allows for no dissent, that relegates the token hundred-odd Real Madrid fans to the most isolated heights of the Camp Nou … the hum of the crowd is overwhelming, its fanaticism disquieting.”
Camp Nou

In the Shadow of the Wind crop

The marvellous gothic literary thriller, set in the aftermath of the Spanish civil war, that leaves no Barcelonan carrer or plaça unvisited!

“Els Quatre Gats was just a five-minute walk from our house and one of my favourite haunts … Inside, voices seemed to echo with shadows of other times. Accountants, dreamers, and would-be geniuses shared tables with the spectres of Pablo Picasso, Isaac Albéniz, Federico García Lorca and Salvador Dalí.”
Carrer Montsió

Robert Hughes, Barcelona, 1992

Rober Hughes Barcelona crop

Robert Hughes’s magisterial paean to Barcelona: history, travel guide and labour of love from the well-known art critic.

“No Romanesque architect ever came up with anything like Gaudí’s famous arcade in the Güell Park … If sometimes in the rock gardens one feels stranded on a surreal landscape, that is because the place had such a powerful effect on Salvador Dalí: its upper pathways, lined by strange ‘trees’ of rock … Joan Miró … doted on the serpentine benches, sheathed in ceramic.”
Parc Güell

Homage crop

The classic account of Barcelona and Catalonia during the Spanish civil war, as Orwell describes the hopes and betrayal of the Spanish revolution.

“Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags or with the red and black flag of the anarchists: every wall was scrawled with the hammer and sickle … Down the Ramblas … the loudspeakers were bellowing revolutionary songs.”
Las Ramblas

Marks of Identity crop

A searing masterpiece from Spain’s greatest living novelist describes the return of an exile to Barcelona. It was banned in Spain until after Franco’s death.

“Foreigners and natives were walking slowly along the paths. They would stop to admire the begonia pots, take pictures of the walls that had been the scenes of the vengeful executions … brigades of workers had carefully erased the bullet marks.”

Homage to Barcelona crop

The Booker Prize-shortlisted novelist has lived on and off in the city since the 1970s and here offers his own highly readable account of its culture and history.

“In 1983 Barcelona built its monument to Picasso in Passeig de Picasso … It was designed by Antoni Tàpies as a glass box in a pool of water containing some old chairs and an old hall-stand, old ropes and sheets with indecipherable messages written on them.”
Passeig de Picasso, beside the Parc de la Ciutadella

Angst-ridden Executive crop

Montalbán’s José “Pepe” Carvalho, the irrepressible left-wing detective, features in 22 novels which capture the reality of Barcelonan life and society.

“He had a beer on Plaza Real, and pined after the long lost tapas that used to be the speciality of the most crowded bar in the neighbourhood – squid in a spicy black pepper and nutmeg sauce … Carvalho knew these people and their ways. They made him feel alive.”
Plaça Reial

The Time of the Doves crop

Regarded by many as the greatest novel written about the Spanish civil war: the beautifully told story of Natalia, La Colometa, whose personal history mirrored that of many Barcelonans.

“And my father remarried and me, a young woman all alone in the Plaça del Diamant waiting for the coffee pot raffle … and before my eyes the flower-covered lights and the chains posted on them and everybody happy.”
Plaça del Diamant

The City of Marvels crop

Eduardo Mendoza’s extraordinary novel fictionalises the teeming life of the city between the Universal Expositions of 1888 and 1929.

“The traveller who comes to Barcelona for the first time soon notices where the old city ends and the new begins. The streets become straight and wide instead of winding: the pavements, less crowded; tall plane trees shade them pleasantly; the buildings are more distinguished … another city.”

Colm Tóibín, The South, 1990

The South crop

Colm Tóibín’s first novel vividly evokes the Barcelona of the exile, as a young Irish woman starts a new life in the city.

“It felt as though I had found the place I had been looking for: the sacred core of the world, a deserted square reached by two narrow alleyways, dimly lit, with a fountain, two trees, a church and some church buildings.”
Plaça de Sant Felip Neri

Must-read books about Barcelona

Barcelona is a city worthy in every possible way to be immortalized in novels, or, at worst, in stories.

And there are such books – and we are not talking about boring guidebooks, often written by people who have very little idea about Barcelona. We are talking about works of real literature,
inspired by the eternal and forever young Barcelona.

This article presents books about Barcelona, ​​which, in our opinion, will be interesting to read for all those who have not yet been to the Catalan capital, but are about to (lucky!) get there. So,
interesting books about Barcelona!

“Shadow of the Wind” (2001) by the contemporary Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafon is the most mystical, the most mysterious, the most poetic, and, in our opinion, the most interesting of the books, the action of which
takes place on the streets of Barcelona. This is magical realism in its purest form, a kind of Marquez transplanted onto modern soil – and what could be better than Marquez and magical realism?

The book, from which you simply cannot tear yourself away, is written in the genre of an adventure novel with elements of mystical fiction – however, it reads like a poem dedicated to
of all, a beautiful Mediterranean city called Barcelona.

The book has a lot of geographical references showing how well the author knows Barcelona – and, believe me, it will be extremely interesting to see these places with your own eyes after reading about them in the book.
I would especially like to note the delightful feeling of “unreality of the real”, which will possess you every second of reading.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a true master and his death last year (2020) was a great loss for literature. We recommend the book “Shadow of the Wind” without fail!


Saint Mary’s Cathedral (originally titled “La Catedral del Mar” in Spanish) is a historical novel by the Spanish writer Ildefonso Falcones, published in 2006 and almost instantly became
bestseller. The novel takes place in 14th-century Barcelona, ​​and is limited to the beginning and end of the construction of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar (1329-1383).

As a matter of fact, the “naval cathedral of Barcelona” is the main character of this wonderful novel, which provides the reader with complete immersion in the harsh life and customs of the era – and in fact for this
purposes and there are good historical novels. Ildefonso Falcones brilliantly coped with the writing task.

Wonderfully written details of the medieval past of Barcelona, ​​love and passion, despair and cruelty, intrigues and conspiracies flowing against the backdrop of a church stubbornly growing into the sky of Barcelona
Santa Maria del Mar – all this provided the well-deserved popularity of Falcones’ novel.


Barcelona and, above all, the famous masterpieces by Antonio Gaudí is the main setting for the next book by Dan Brown.
Released in 2018, a new novel by Dan Brown, the author of such “thundering” novels in its time as “The Da Vinci Code”, “Angels and Demons”, “Inferno”, became, as expected, a bestseller.

I will make a reservation right away: it is unlikely that Dan Brown, who once thundered with his “Da Vinci Code”, and after securing success in a number of novels, some of which were filmed by Hollywood and became
blockbusters, can be called a writer in the classical sense of the word.

When picking up a Brown novel, one should not expect heights of style, unique authorial language, etc. – but I assure you: this is unlikely to upset anyone! The book of this more than successful
you buy a writer not for this.

Brown is a true master of intriguing and dynamic storytelling that plays out the most conspiratorial and scandalous hypotheses about the very cornerstones of our

Yes, the writer is often not accurate in depicting places and events, he makes a lot of factual errors – but I remember what lively pleasure and interest I
swallowed once the best of his novels! Why? Because it is lively, interesting, unexpected, professional.

In terms of popularizing places and events, Dan Brown, I repeat, has no equal, and, to be honest, for a long time, somewhere in the depths of my soul, I even took offense at him for being
will not take on Barcelona. The Catalan capital is a real center of mysticism, secrets and mysteries, and Brown, who sang Paris and Rome so wonderfully, for some reason was in no hurry to do the same
and with Barcelona!

And now, finally, it happened! On a subtle energy level, Brown seems to have caught my dull discontent and began to urgently correct the situation, in
as a result of which the novel “Origin” appeared!


“City of Wonders” is a wonderful novel by Eduardo Mendoza, published in 1986, and twenty years later translated into Russian. Another historically adventurous large-scale canvas, time
whose action is squeezed into the gap between the two Barcelona World Exhibitions – that is, between 1888 and 1929.

The protagonist is a poor boy from the Catalan hinterland who begins his life in the big city distributing anarchist literature and selling hair-growing fluid, and
ends his life as a very influential person in the financial and criminal world of wonderful Barcelona.

Legends and historical facts, reality and fiction, grotesque and naturalism, unearthly love and
infernal cruelty.

And the background for successive events in a bright kaleidoscope of events is Barcelona – sublime and earthly, ugly and beautiful, eternal and fickle – in a word, the same Barcelona that
we love where we live.


This is perhaps our most recommended book for those who want to take a deep dive into the history of Barcelona, ​​from its earliest days to the end of the 20th century. Let me tell you – our
Hughes’s personal book is thoroughly battered and read literally to holes – despite the fact that this is the “thickest” book in the collection, numbering more than 700 pages.

The book was written by one of the most influential art critics of the 20th century. “Barcelona” Hughes from the first pages strikes with a kind of confusion inherent in it: the author constantly goes somewhere to the side,
the narrative jumps, breaking out of the measured chronology, then running forward, bouncing back, and with all this – it is simply impossible to tear yourself away from the book!

Because already from the fourth page you begin to understand: all these “irregularities” stem from the fact that the author is manically (you can’t pick another word) in love with Barcelona, ​​and he just can’t
I can’t wait this second, right now, excitedly to share this love with the reader.

The book contains a lot of useful and interesting, although in some places somewhat controversial, information – and, I repeat, after reading it once, you will return to it again and again a hundred times. To recap,
we can say: “Barcelona” by Robert Hughes is the longest declaration of love we have ever seen. Highly recommended!


Homage to Catalonia is a book by the excellent George Orwell based on his personal experience of the Spanish Civil War. That war, in general, became one of the defining
events in his political outlook, forcing the writer to completely reject totalitarianism and become a lifelong adherent of democratic socialism.

For all Orwell’s love for the ideals of the Republic, the book, replete with many accurate observations and mestourian details, is in fact nothing more than a requiem for the doomed to defeat
Republican Spain. And after reading this extremely objective and accurate eyewitness account, you begin to understand why…

By the way, in Barcelona, ​​on the streets of which Orwell had a chance to participate in clashes, there is a square dedicated to the writer, located in Gothic Quarter .


“Red Calm” (2017) is a book by Sergei Zakharov, the annotation for which is perhaps the most difficult to write – because I am that very “Sergey Zakharov”. I will give a reader’s opinion on one of
online bookstores:

“I read it almost in one breath. I live in Spain and the topic is close to me. It’s amazing how a Russian author, even if he lives in Catalonia, knows her life and realities so deeply, and so artistically
describes them. The finale of the book and its title is a challenge, it is the red terror of the grandson of his grandfather, unable to change anything in the existing system of values, but becoming a way out for the hero of the book.”

The great paradox of “Red Calm” is that I consider this piece to be almost the best of my own – and at the same time it was never printed on paper in any of the thick literary
magazines, where our works are published willingly : they are considered to be directly related to literature.
Moreover, they did not publish “Red Calm” not at all because the novel was considered bad.

The reason was explained to me by the editor of a very respected publication, who said something like this: “If it were a translated book by a Spanish author, they would print it in! If it were a book,
written in Spanish – the same thing would happen in Spain, but – it is too Spanish for Russians, and too Russian for Spaniards.

On reflection, I tend to take this as more of a compliment. Yes – this is a “too Spanish” book, written “from the inside”, with “deep immersion” – but it’s not so damn bad!
To be in the shoes of a Spaniard and look at the Spanish (Catalan) world from the inside is the most fashionable and merciful practice today, so perhaps I was even ahead of my own

I repeat, I myself would have read this thing with pleasure – if I had not been its author. But closer to the topic. The genre of the book is a social-everyday thriller, otherwise, perhaps, you cannot characterize it. It’s pretty
a briskly and sometimes even cheerfully written book about sad and cruel things. After reading it, it will be uncomfortable for some time – but we all sometimes need to get out of our comfort zone.

The “Red Calm” has a lot of Barcelona and Catalonia. In the book there is love, betrayal, blood, cruelty, the blind indifference of the system and – and the stubborn faith of the little Spanish man that
the world is a paradise created for everyone, not just a select few. I recommend – this is a worthy thing, for which I am not ashamed.



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Books about Barcelona: interesting information

Analyzing books about Barcelona , you can find out the secrets of the city, which are rarely told in guidebooks and magazines. The writers, imbued with the beauty of the capital of Catalonia, show the reader Barcelona from an unexpected side with the help of expressive means. Why not devote time to books about the city, leaving aside articles and educational films?

This article mentions books about Barcelona that definitely deserve attention. In fiction, the themes of personality development through overcoming harsh life situations appear. Events take place on the famous streets of Barcelona, ​​the books often mention the sights of the Catalan capital.

Books about Barcelona

Books about Barcelona: the world-famous “Shadow of the Wind”

A fascinating journey into the world of literature dedicated to Barcelona is worth starting with a book written in 2001 by Carlos Luis Zafon. Numerous positive reviews and impressive sales figures make The Shadow of the Wind one of the best books ever written about Barcelona. Sometimes critics try to challenge the literary value of the work, but there is no doubt that Carlos Luis Safon did an amazing job of describing the iconic places of Barcelona.

The atmosphere of the Gothic Quarter, the look of the Ramblas, the beauty of Montjuïc, the top of Mount Tibidabo, the wonderful sunrises and sunsets in Barcelona – all this is presented in the most attractive form for the reader.

In the book, the author managed to harmoniously weave together the real capital of Catalonia and its mystical component, creating an exciting adventure. The atmosphere of mystery and mystery is felt from the first pages of the book, and Barcelona, ​​either immersed in the darkness of the night, or shining under the rays of the sun, can be considered one of the heroes of the work.

Books about Barcelona: the world-famous “Shadow of the Wind”

After reading this book, you will undoubtedly want to see the described places with your own eyes. Do not forget to book rooms in hotel in advance, it is very difficult to find a free room during the season.

Saint Mary’s Cathedral: a book about Barcelona in the Middle Ages

The novel written by Ildefonso Falcones goes back to the 14th century. The reader is presented with Barcelona, ​​covered by a construction boom and the development of crafts, but the author of the book did not forget to describe the beauty of the city, expressed in a special atmosphere and prosperity.

The story tells about the construction of the Gothic church of Santa Maria del Mar in the historic quarter of Barcelona. The book pays great attention to the facts that are recorded in the documents of that era.

Creating the novel, Ildefonso Falcones spent a lot of time studying historical chronicles, trying to show the feudal system of Barcelona as it really was, without embellishment. The book, through the images of people involved in the construction process, describes the reigning spirit of the rise and the growing status of Barcelona every year.

The Church of Santa Maria del Mar is still highly respected by the locals. The book about Barcelona written by Falcones is intended to tell about the emergence of one of the most sought-after wedding venues.

Readers are in for a journey to medieval Barcelona, ​​which is beginning to realize its place in Europe.

The Color of a Dog on the Run

A detective book that perfectly describes the pace of life in Barcelona. Critics noted the talent of Richard Guinn to create works with an unusual style of presenting the plot.

In “The Color of the Runaway Dog” Barcelona is a huge wandering city, where all conditions are created for the development of trade and navigation.

The book tries to convey to the reader that the charm of the capital of Catalonia is largely associated with metamorphoses under the current reality.

The story tells about the discovery of a chilling conspiracy. The Color of the Runaway Dog is a book about Barcelona that takes you to the atmospheric streets of the Old Town. In the process of reading, you can imagine in detail the appearance of the Tibidabo park, the beauty of Barcelona at night and the charm of the church of Santa Maria del Mar.

Books about Barcelona: City of Wonders

Eduardo Mendoza has written a book about Barcelona whose style is more like the classics than the novels of recent decades. The events take place between the World Exhibitions of 1888 and 1929.

The book will allow you to learn in detail about how Barcelona was preparing for an event of grand scale, overcoming disagreements with the capital of Spain. All those changes that happened to the city, which was supposed to receive guests from different parts of the world, are described in detail. The book about Barcelona by Mendoza is a fascinating encyclopedia of sights that appeared just in time for the exhibitions and iconic places that have not survived to this day.

After reading the book, it is recommended to spend some time watching its film adaptation. The director with great trepidation approached the creation of an atmosphere enveloping the work. The opportunity to see Barcelona as a setting for the development of an interesting plot.

Tribute to Barcelona: a book in guidebook format

The best way to round off the selection is with a book about Barcelona written by Colm Toibin. The author from Ireland has lived in the capital of Catalonia for many years, so his guide should be considered truly reliable.

“Tribute to Barcelona” is a book about how Catalan culture was formed, how the city managed to survive the horrors of the civil war, educate artistic geniuses and achieve its current position. Fortunately, Colm did not list the facts, but presents his investigation in the format of an exciting excursion. The book will reveal many secrets of Barcelona to the reader.

I would like to believe that the previously mentioned works will make you want to go to the capital of Catalonia as soon as possible and see its wonders with your own eyes. Books can tell about Barcelona much more than the most colorful advertising booklets.

  • How to avoid queues at Barcelona attractions. Tickets for Sagrada Familia and Park Güell skip the line.
  • How not to be deceived by local taxi drivers. Order a taxi in advance with fixed rates online. The most reliable service for ordering a taxi is KiwiTaxi .
  • Excursions in Barcelona with locals will help you get to know this city for real. The best way to get comfortable in an unfamiliar city is to walk around it with a person who has lived here for many years.
  • We advise you to take out travel insurance so that there are no unpleasant surprises while traveling to Barcelona.
  • Barcelona City Pass is a one-stop card that makes organizing your holiday in Barcelona easier and saves you a lot of time and money.
  • Hotels in Barcelona: is our selection and recommendations.
  • Bus Turistic is a tourist bus and a great way to get to all the necessary monuments of Barcelona quickly, with a breeze and comfort.