From Washington Irving, Dan Brown, Paulo Coelho to Noah Gordon and Ken Follet, many authors have been inspired by Spain. We review some of the cities in Spain that inspired books that became bestsellers.


There have been many authors who, throughout the ages, have looked to Spain for the perfect setting for their characters and novels. Writers from all over the world have tried to capture, through their writing, the essence of a country. We review 7 of the world’s best-selling authors who were inspired by Spanish cities.


Tales of the Alhambra, by Washington Irving



Granada can boast about being one of only two UNESCO Creative Cities of Literature in Spain, along with Barcelona. Part of the charm of this universal literary city is due to the Tales of the Alhambra, published in 1832 by the American  author Washington Irving. The author, who had the privilege of living in the Alhambra while writing the book, collected the legends of the inhabitants of Granada and the city’s archives, until he found a series of stories that captured the Arab essence of Spain. Irving is the protagonist of his own work which, framed in the current of romanticism, combines fantasy with authentic travel tales, told through the eyes of his palace servant.


The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway



There are several novels by Ernest Hemingway based in Spain: Death in the Afternoon, The Fifth Column or his most acclaimed work, For Whom the Bell Tolls. But it is The Sun Also Rises which, written in 1926, is considered the first major work of the American author. It tells the stormy love story between an American journalist and a nurse who, after meeting again in the midst of war in Paris travel to Spain to fish and attend the Sanfermines in Pamplona, which is described in great detail. The Sun Also Rises launched Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of his time. In 1957 it was made into a film by Henry King.


The Pilgrim, by Paulo Coelho



The first novel by the Brazilian author, Paulo Coelho, one of the most widely read authors in the world, tells the story of the author’s own pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago, the thousand-year-old route from the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, where the remains of the apostle St. James are believed to lie. A story published in 1987 that serves as a parable about the need to seek a purpose in life, give it meaning and achieve greater spiritual growth.



The Last Jew by Noah Gordon



In this novel, published in 1999 and with record sales in several countries, American author Noah Gordon takes a look at the historical events of 15th century Spain and the difficult coexistence between Christians and Jews. The main character is Yonah, a Jew from Toledo who, after the expulsion of all those who did not profess Christianity, travels around Spain looking for a place where he does not have to renounce his faith, avoiding the Inquisition by continuously changing his identity and work.


Origin, by Dan Brown



If we talk about best-selling authors from the last two decades we must mention Dan Brown. An author admired as much as he was detested, The Da Vinci Code catapulted him so far into the limelight that any of his works, both before and after, ended up as bestsellers. In Origin, his latest novel, Professor Robert Langdon once again immerses himself in plots that mix religion, political conspiracies, royal families and hidden mysteries. All of this takes place in such iconic spots around Barcelona such as the Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà, the National Supercomputing Centre and the monastery of Montserrat. In addition, Brown also takes his plot to other places in Spain such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Valle de los Caídos in Madrid.


Winter in Madrid, by C.J. Samson



As its name suggests, the spy novel by the Scottish C.J. Sansom takes place in the capital of Spain. It is 1940, and while the Germans invade Europe, the city of Madrid devastated by the recent civil war becomes a hot spot for spies from all over the world. The main characters are Harry Brett, from the British secret service, who must discover the plans of a former colleague immersed in shady business in Franco’s Spain; and Barbara Clare, a former nurse willing to find a former lover who disappeared after the battle of Jarama.


The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follet



Although Follet’s best-selling work is set in 12th century England and focuses on the vicissitudes of building a Gothic cathedral, the author took the cathedral of Santa María in Vitoria as a reference and source of architectural documentation. He has repeatedly expressed his admiration for this cathedral and the city of Vitoria showed its appreciation by dedicating a sculpture to the author in the vicinity of Santa María.


Without forgetting the Spanish novels that have made it onto the world’s bestseller lists and that transport readers from all over the world to our country: the Madrid of The Hive, by Camilo José Cela, and The Time in Between, by María Dueñas; the Barcelona of The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, and Cathedral of the Sea, by Ildefonso Falcones; Vengeance in Seville by Matilde Asensi; and the mysterious Navarre portrayed in The Baztan Trilogy, by Dolores Redondo.