I love reading and I much prefer reading a second-hand book. Sure, I can order a book to be delivered from Amazon or go to the big high street Spanish stores like Casa del Libro, Relay or Corte Ingles to buy a new book. But it’s not quite the same as browsing the shelves of a dimly lit, second-hand book store. Picking out a battered old book that you have never even heard of or finding a well-thumbed bargain for just a few euro.
For me, a good book is essential for traveling. No holiday is complete without a book by my side. Who doesn’t love lazing on a sun lounger, by the pool, gripped by an awesome novel. And you can always count on a book to get you through those long train journeys, or boring waits at the airport.
In the UK we used to get all our books from the local charity shops but so far in Spain we’ve noticed that they only sell clothes. So, we went on a mission to search for second-hand English bookshops in Madrid. We started at El Rastro Market and the monthly flea market at Plaza Mayor but even though we found some lovely old books they were in Spanish.
After searching the internet, checking expat forums and wandering the streets we eventually found these 3 gems in Centro Madrid.
My favourite places to get second hand books in Madrid
J&J Books and Coffee
J&J Books and Coffee is located in Malasana, the trendy barrio of Madrid that is full of quirky shops, cool bars and busy cafes.
There is a huge collection of fiction books stored in the basement like a treasure trove of paperback wonders. The shelves are neatly organised into sections and books are displayed alphabetically by Author, which makes it easy to browse. The books are predominantly in English with a handful of other languages, there is also a kid’s corner with some great children’s books.
There are comfy armchairs downstairs and tables and chairs for you to stay a while and have a flick through the books you find. If you just don’t have time to look for what you want, ask the owner. He is usually found behind the bar and has actually read most of the collection.
As you enter you’ll find a bar offering a great selection of imported craft bottled beers, draught beer, coffee and even the odd cocktail. If your feeling hungry grab a delicious home-made bagel! J&J’s hold language exchange nights, weekly pub quizzes and have a Bloody Mary brunch deal. Check out their Facebook page.
Address: Calle del Espiritu Santo 47, Madrid 29004
Nearest Metro: Novicado
Desperate Literature bookshop is located just off Opera, the square outside Madrid’s famous Teatro Real Opera house.
There is a wonderful selection of fiction, art, history, science, film and poetry books. Divided into sections for English, Spanish and French, they pride themselves on having unusual finds and rare first editions. You will find recommendations from the staff displayed with a lovely little handwritten insight into what to expect from those books.
The interior décor is cute and cosy and the small space is well used and inviting. You’ll see vintage touches and literary nods here and there with the most beautiful front covers and interesting reads given pride of place.
An awesome perk is the boozy books section, if you buy a book from here you get a free shot of Whiskey and there are often little snacks or tea being offered by the owners. Desperate Literature regularly hold book reading events, chess and booze nights and bring an instrument music jams. Check out their website and Facebook page.
Address: Calle Campomanes 13, Madrid 28013
Nearest Metro: Opera
There are now 3 Tuuulibreria bookshops in Madrid and 1 in Barcelona. I go to the newest one in Lavapies, a vibrant and multi-cultural residential area near the famous El Rastro market.
This bookshop is an amazing non-profit community project. All books are donations and there is no cataloguing or dividing into sections (accept by language). The idea is that anyone is welcome to pop by, find a book and pay whatever they feel the book is worth. There are no prices, no tills, no change, just a donation tub that you put your money into.
It has a bright and airy décor with old wood pallets, upcycled to line the walls and act as the perfect book shelf. Fairy lights hang from the ceiling along with books that look like they are kind of magically floating above your head.
I take all my old books here to be donated, it feels good to know that you’re helping a local community initiative. So, if you stop by please make sure you bring a book you’ve read to add to their collection. Tuuulibreria organise lots of events check out their website and Facebook page.
Address: Calle Empajadores 11, 28012
Nearest Metro: La Latina
Do you know any good second-hand bookshops in Madrid? Let me know all about it in the comments below.
If you live in or are visiting Madrid you might also like to read my other Madrid blogs…
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Just wanted to let you know, I just called J&J Books and Coffee to ask about a book, and was told they don’t catalogue the books. The lady was nice enough to spend some time looking for the book I requested, so I don’t think this was a ruse/excuse to not put in the effort to look.
That’s strange, the guy always logs on his computer which books I buy from him and whenever I’ve asked for something specific he knows where it is. It’s a pretty big selection which does change daily so I guess it would be hard to track. Maybe the guy owner has a photographic memory and just knows what is stored where.