Top 5 books about the history of Barcelona


Through books about Barcelona, you will be able to find out the secrets of the city that guides and review pages rarely tell you. The writers, enticed by the beauty of Catalonia´s capital, show the reader a new perspective about the city of Barcelona. Why not dedicate time to books about the city, in order to make your stay in Barcelona that little bit more magical?

1. The world famous “La sombra del viento”

It is worthwhile starting a fascinating journey around the world of literature dedicated to Barcelona with a book that was written in 2001 by Carlos Luis Zafon. Many positive reviews and impressive volumes of sale make it possible to consider “La Sombra del viento” as one of the best books about the history of Barcelona.

Barcelona Beach

Critics sometimes try to challenge the literary value of a book, but there is no doubt that what Zafon achieved was to discover, in a suprising way, the archetypal places of Barcelona. The atmosphere of the Gothic Quarter, the apperance of La Rambla, the beauty surroundings of Montjuic, the summit of Mount Tibidabo, the marvellous sunrises and sunsets in Barcelona, the brilliance of these icons of Barcelona are described in this book. After having read this book, without a doubt you will want to see the places written about with your own eyes.

2. “La Catedral del Mar”, a book about Barcelona in the Middle Ages

In this book written by Ildefonso Falcones in the 14th century, the reader is shown Barcelona, swept up by the construction boom and the development of craftsmanship, without forgetting the beauty of the city. The plot includes the construction of the Gothic Church, Santa María del Mar, in the historic neighbourhood of Barcelona. The book places great attention to the facts registered in documents from this era.

Santa María del Mar

When writing this novel, Ildefonso Falcones spent a lot of time studying historic chronicles, in an attempt to show how the feudal system of Barcelona actually worked, leaving no stone unturned. The book, through images of people involved in the construction process, describes the spirit of recovery and the increasing size and importance of Barcelona each year.

In modern day, the locals of Barcelona hold “La Catedral de Santa María del Mar” in highest regard. The book about Barcelona written by Falcones, narrates the appearance of one of the most popular places for weddings. The readers will find themselves on a journey to Medieval Barcelona.

3. “The colour of a dog running away”

This is a book about detectives that perfectly describes the way of life in Barcelona. Critics note the talent of Richard Gwyn to create unusual Works.

Barcelona Estació F.C.

In this novel, Barcelona is a ever-changing city, where the conditions aid commercial and navegational development. This book tries to get across to the reader that the enchanting capital of Catalonia is greatly connected to the metamorphisis under actual reality. During the reading process, you can imagine the detailed apperance of the Tibidabo Park, the beauty of Barcelona at night or the wonder of the Cathedral de Santa María del Mar.

4. “La Ciudad de los Prodigios”

Eduardo Mendoza, who´s style is most similar to classical works, rather than novels in the last decade, wrote a book about Barcelona. The events that occur happen between the global expositions in 1888 and 1929.

Global exposition Barcelona

The book lets us know in detail the way in which Barcelona was preparing for an event on this scale, overcoming its differences with the Spanish capital. All the changes that happened in the city, that were supposed to bring in people from all over the world, are described in great detail. The book about Barcelona, by Mendoza, is an encyclopedia full of information about the places that appeared in the exhibitions and symbolic structures that have been conserved until this day.

5. “A homage to Barcelona: a book in guide format”

We end this list with a book about our city written by Colm Toybin. An Irish authour that has lived in Catalonia´s capital for many years. Because of this he is a very trustworthy guide for us to use.
“Homenage a Barcelona” is a book about how Catalan culture was formed, how the city was able to survive the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, teach artistic brilliance and reach where it is today. The book will reveal to you many secrets of Barcelona!

Civil war

We hope you enjoyed this blog and feel inspired to read the novels we have introduced you to! As well as this, get a chance to visit all of the places in Barcelona that you read about and impress your travelling companions with your new knowledge.

Sandra Roig is Marketing Director at AB Apartment Barcelona. AB Apartment Barcelona is an apartment rental agency offering over one thousand short and long term apartments across Barcelona.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blogin order to raise your profile, please contact us.


Comments (9)

  1. Roger says:

    I’m proud to say that I have read “La sombra di viento”. Though I have to admit that I read the English translation “The shadow of the wind” and not the original in Spanish.

    It’s a brilliant read especially if you read it whilst you are in Barcelona and recognise so many of the famous places. However, it is a thick book, a huge read. Even though I spent 5 days in Barcelona I still didn’t get it finished and eventually read the last chapters on the flight home.

    I found it to be an absolutely compulsive page-turner and such a great idea about just one book selected from a vast library from which the vast mysterious plot tumbles forward. But, a word of warning, there are some violent scenes and it is not for the squeamish.

    It is a pity that it took me so long to complete that I never had time to consider any of the other books on Barcelona.

    • Sandra Roig says:

      Hi Roger,

      Thanks ever so much for your comment. La sombra di viento is definitely one to stick with! Nonetheless, when in Barcelona it makes for the perfect read; with the places in the book being all around you. We have found that it makes for a great route to take you around the city!

      We hope you had a great holiday and come back to this wonderful city soon.

      All the best,
      The team at AB Apartment Barcelona

  2. Claire Smith says:

    I’d like to get back to Barcelona soon, I’ve been before but it’s such a fascinating place and it’s a city with so many layers.

    I like to read something relevant when I travel to a place. “A homage to Barcelona: a book in guide format” is probably the most approachable of the options. I also find the Spanish Civil War fascinating. Much of the hostility of the Barcelona v Real Madrid football clash comes from those violent days.

    • Sandra Roig says:

      Dear Claire,

      We could not agree more! After having read so much about the Spanish Civil War it makes Barcelona a place that gives it life. From the Bunkers del Carmel, to the Plaça de Sant Felipe Neri- a plaza that was hit by a bomb in the war. There are many harrowing reminders of this troublesome period.

      Through books we read, we learn of the past and how to make the future better.

      Thanks for your comment and we hope you enjoy reading some of the books on the list!

      Best wishes,
      The team at AB Apartment Barcelona

  3. Liz says:

    I’m assuming that the Catedral del Mar is available in English and that it is a reasonably modern translation? I’m fascinated by the prospect of getting into the mind of the people living in Medieval Barcelona with all that growth around them. The only thing that worries me is that I don’t want to be dealing with 14th century Spanish that is the equivalent of Chaucer’s English in The Canterbury Tales.

    • Sandra Roig says:

      Dear Liz,

      Yes, you can buy translated copies of “Cathedral by the sea”. However, as far as I am aware, there is no modern translation, with the translated text containing old English phrases.

      However, during my time studying Spanish at University, as hard as reading Medieval Spanish texts can take longer. It is very rewarding and internet resources fill in the gaps of knowledge needed to gain a full understanding.

      I have not read The Canterbury Tales but can appreciate the reference. Either way, I hope you get round to reading the novel that pays homeage to our beautiful Santa María del Mar.

      Best wishes,
      The team at AB Apartment Barcelona

  4. Gem Renee says:

    These would make excellent gifts. My mother loved her trip to Barcelona and ever since her holiday in Salou, she’s been keeping up with the Catalonia news and recent events around the arrests, political upheaval and so on since the attempt for independence. I did find I learned a lot from my time in Barcelona too, especially thanks to some fantastic tour guides, but I would have like to have known a bit more before I went because I felt like there were gaps.

    I’ve bookmarked this to come back to but I wouldn’t mind picking up a copy of La sombra del vient now, even if I hold onto it for my mother for Christmas. It’s nice after you’ve been somewhere to read about it, because you can say ‘I know that already!’ Or ‘I’ve walked down that road and seen that building’! I’m sure there are plenty of new things she’ll read about and decide she needs another trip back to see them for herself. Thanks for the tips!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks – great thinking.

      Thinking beyond Barcelona, it’s such a good idea to give books as Christmas presents about the places that people plan to travel in the coming ear.

      I’ll probably upset the publishers of guide books but it’s so easy nowadays to research the essentials about a place – what to see, where to stay, where to eat etc on the internet.

      What I like about this list on Barcelona is that the books are for what I would call “real travellers”, the sort of people, like my in-laws, who will take the time to really read up about a place before they travel.

      This was such an original piece that may be it will inspire other ALTB bloggers to come up with similar lists for their favourite places?

    • Sandra Roig says:

      Dear Gem and Karen,

      It gives us pride in knowing the blog gave you ideas for gifts, as we approach the festive period!

      The article was inspired on the basis of how people learned about new places before the internet made it so easy, as you have mentioned Karen. Therefore, we felt it was right to give voice to the ´Old School Travellers´ who want to read about a place through a story, giving you a chance to see somewhere through the eyes of the author.

      I hope you enjoyed the blog and, more importantly, that the books are appreciated as gifts!

      Best wishes,
      The team at AB Apartment Barcelona

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