Huertas was once the literary quarter. Icons of the early 17th century, Miguel de Cervantes and Lope de Vega would spend hours in cafes feverishly scribbling away the bones of such famous plays and stories as Don Quixote. Its important to note however, that although these two titans of Spanish literary history were contemporaries and even lived on the same street, they never saw eye to eye and often engaged in a bout of name-calling in an attempt to defend their respective talent and prestige. Unfortunately for poor Lope de Vega, the street where they both lived was eventually named after his nemesis. You can still visit and take a tour of Lope de Vegas house (which has a beautiful garden inside), but unfortunately the humble abode of Cervantes is not open to the public. This is due to the fact that a private property owner bought Miguel de Cervantes house in the 19th century and knocked it down to build apartments.
Despite physical transformations, the area still reflects its posh bohemian beginnings. You can lounge with the locals in the myriad of cute cafes; ponder over philosophical woes while tucking into a cheese board and vino tinto. This area also has a great range of vegetarian restaurants, buffet and sit down style.
Lope de Vegas house is open to the public and offers free tours Tuesday to Sunday from 10 to 3pm. Its beautifully preserved and recreates the atmosphere of the writers surroundings during the last 25 years of his life. Afterwards relax in the garden, an oasis of calm in the city centre.
If being unable to enter Cervantes house leaves you curious about his life, its worth visiting Trinitarias convent, where he was buried. The order played an important role in the writers life. When he was captured while serving the Spanish Armada in the battle of Lepanto and taken hostage to Northern Africa by pirates, Cervantes mother pleaded with Trinitarias nuns to pay the ransom. That they did, saving one of the key literary figures of the Spanish Golden Age. When he died he was buried in another Trinitarians convent and later his remains were moved here. Mysteriously though, with the hustle and bustle of the move, the nuns forgot exactly where in the convent they buried him. An interesting fact about this convent is that both Lope de Vega and Cervantes daughters lived here as nuns, who knows if they maintained their fathers rivalry inside the convents doors.
Eat and drink
Gonzalez is not just an ordinary cafe; open since the 40s its menus tell the history of Spain page by page. It has a mouth watering selection of cheese and wine and musicians are prone to setting up on the window seat and breaking into song with all manner of trombone and trumpet delights. It is open everyday from 09.30 a.m till midnight.
La Terrasca serves the best cocktails in the city and with an art nouveau decoration and dark wood furniture, you feed like you are stepping back in time and slowing down the pace.
The Absolut lab
near Santa Ana square offers all kinds of high tech workshops such as using a cutting edge 3D printer to make your own furniture. When your head gets in a spin from keeping up with futuristic deign techniques, have a drink on the terrace and enjoy the view.
For Spanish comedies and classics, look no further than Teatro Espanol
which is located in the central Plaza de Santa Ana. Originally a Comedy House in 16th century Spain, it was covered with a roof and turned into a proper theatre in the 17th century. It suffered a fire in 1975 but not to worry, they reopened in 1980 and now offer great plays ranging from light hearted comedies to intense dramas, all in Spanish. For those of you who have not quite mastered the lingo or are here on a brief visit theres an English speaking drama group who put on great productions, check out their website for upcoming shows
La Integral is a designer knick knack shop with good taste. You will find beautiful illustrations, comics and all manner of well designed trinkets. There is also some beautifully tailored quirky dresses and shoes available depending on the season.
Huertas, or Barrio de las Letras is located next to Sol and is accessible from metro stop Sol (lines 1, 2 and 3) and also metro Anton Martin (line 1). It is a pedestrianised area so bus services are restricted. There are however, buses available which stop on Atocha Street which is near this area.
ME Madrid Reina Victoria