Gaze at the intricate façade before you head inside to explore a collection of several million items.
The Spanish National Library (Biblioteca Nacional de España) is one of the finest in Europe. It was established as the Palace Library by King Felipe V in 1712 and renamed in 1892. Inside are books, maps, manuscripts, music and official documents. There are over 25 million items in its collection, with all but the rarest and oldest available to readers. The library also hosts special exhibitions and contains the National Library Museum.
Admire the statues of Spanish literary figures and the intricate wrought-iron gates as you walk up the steps and into the enormous building. You’ll also notice sculptures and paintings on display all around the interior. Wander the halls to see shelves stocked with books of every age and description. Even if you don’t plan to grab something off the shelves and find a spot in the reading room, the architecture and huge collection make the library well worth seeing.
Explore the Sala General for dictionaries, catalogs and encyclopedias or shift to the Sala de Prensa y Revistas to examine newspapers, journals and other periodicals. Head to the Sala Barbieri for the library’s collection of music and audiovisual items. Engravings, drawings, posters and photographs are in the Sala Goya.
You will need to obtain a researcher’s pass to access the library’s antique items in the Sala Cervantes. There are more than two dozen volumes of Don Quixote from the 17th century as well as old manuscripts, plays and documents from as far back as the Middle Ages.
The Spanish National Library is located just off Plaza de Colón and is easily accessible from the Colón metro station. The library is open every day except Sunday and national holidays. Admission is free, and guided tours can be organized.