Stroll past the walls of books, ancient and modern, and prepare to be mesmerised by Spain's literary heritage.
The scene is set by the statues of famous Spanish writers which line the steps as you climb up to the 18th-century building of the Biblioteca Nacional de España. Originally founded by King Felipe V in 1712 as the Palace Library, it was renamed at the end of the 19th century and is now home to over 25 million items. These include books, manuscripts, drawings, music and official documents, of which only the most antique and rare items have restricted access.
Once you've entered the library you'll also notice the sculptures and paintings on the inside of the building. These, along with the architecture and the sheer size of the collection are impressive enough to warrant a visit, even if literature is not really your thing.
For those who are interested in what's on the shelves, head to the Sala General to leaf through dictionaries, catalogues and encyclopaedias. If you want to browse newspapers, journals or periodicals, you'll need to head to the Sala de Prensa y Revistas. The Sala Barbieri houses the library's catalogue of music and audiovisual items, whereas the Sala Goya is home to drawings, engravings, photos and posters.
The Sala Cervantes has been set aside for more antique items, including some two dozen volumes of the masterpiece Don Quixote which date back to the 17th century. There are also medieval manuscripts and literary works. You'll need a researcher's pass to access this collection.
There are a number of regular exhibitions in the library, and you might like to visit the National Library Museum which is also on site.
The library is situated in Plaza de Colón. If you’re coming by metro you should alight at Colón station. The building is closed on Sundays and public holidays but should otherwise be open. There is no entrance fee, and those who want to can organise guided tours of the building.