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Thursday, May 22, 2014 (read 1030 times)

Madrid Book Fair

by David

The last days of May and the first weeks of June are always a good time to visit Madrid. It’s too early for the hellish days of summer and the cold days of winter are disappearing—so, like Goldilocks’ porridge, this time of year is just right. But for what you ask? How about a nice stroll in Madrid’s central Retiro Park? Especially since it is during this time you can attend one of the largest non-trade book fairs in Europe.

Initially, the Retiro served as an urban escape and center for religious reflection for the Spanish royal family. But today this sprawling urban park is home to the Madrid Book Fair featuring 364 stands and 548 expositions. Here you will enjoy browsing through stalls that offer an extensive range of books covering all genres. There is also an important selection of rare books and first additions that can be found (the availability of rare books is something this fair is noted for) rather easily for those looking for something a little more special. And, if reading really isn’t on your list, go and take a look at the how Spanish publishers generate cover art for the unique Spanish book market.

The organizers of the fair also ensure that there are plenty of activities for the youngest readers with a pavilion dedicated to children along with a separate program directed at kids full of activities, readings and music. There is always a great selection of activities as well as having the opportunity to meet and speak with children’s book authors and illustrators. Involving youngsters in such a fun and welcoming atmosphere is a great way to motivate them to pick up a book and start reading. What a great way to begin a healthy habit that will benefit them a lifetime.

The first Madrid Book Fair was held in 1933 and formed part of the Cervantes Week in April. It was held on the Paseo de Recoletos, a wide boulevard that links the Cibeles Plaza with Columbus Plaza in the heart of Madrid. With its multicolored wooden stands an annual tradition was started that has only been interrupted once (from 1937 to 1943) due to the Civil War. Since then, this esteemed book fair has faithfully taken place every year.  Today, probably due to this effort to promote books and reading, the average Spanish person dedicates almost six hours a week to reading (for comparison, that’s more than the United States or Germany).

The Retiro Park in Madrid

The Retiro is an excellent location for this kind of Fair since you will have plenty to do when you want to get away from the exposition. Near the fair you will find a large pond where you can rent a row boat for a trip with that special someone, a beautiful rose garden, a statue walk, and some interesting art galleries, one of which is the Crystal Palace. There are also plenty of gardens, interesting buildings (the fisherman’s house for example) and play areas for children. If you happen to be there on a Sunday, plan on escaping to the bandstand at noon to listen to the Madrid Symphony as they give their free weekly concert.

Finally, all this reading, walking and playing can really work up an appetite. In the park there are usually food stands with the typical food stand food: churros, French fries, and sandwiches. These places are pretty reliable, relatively inexpensive and work in a jam, but you can do better. Remember, you are in Madrid and there are plenty of good restaurants right outside of the park so this is a great opportunity to sample some typical food from Madrid like: huevos rotos (broken Eggs, a personal favorite), callos a la madrileña (Madrid-style tripe),  or the ubiquitous bocadillo de calamares (calamari sandwich). If you’re not sure where to go, look online for a place to eat in the neighborhood Barrio Jerónimos. Enjoy and happy reading!

Keywords: spanish book,visit madrid,retiro park madrid,retiro madrid,spanish publishers,madrid retiro park

Posted In: Travel, Culture


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