Researching in the Biblioteca Nacional de España

Researching in the Biblioteca Nacional de España

The Biblioteca Nacional de España is probably the first place you want to visit in Spain when you are conducting research. Why? Because you get a cool ID card with your name on it, that will be useful when registering for other archives and libraries.

The link posted above will lead you to the BNE’s webpage. There you can find their catalog. They have a pretty large collection of codices and manuscripts created or pertaining to Latin America. There is an even larger corpus of information pertaining to Iberia.



Hours of  Operation

Their summer hours are from M-F 9:00AM to 7:30PM. Check their website for non-summer hours.

What You Need to Register

  • A letter of introduction from your adviser or department chair
  • Your passport (if you are not a Spanish citizen)
  • Your driver’s license or some other form of official ID that has your mailing address.
    • if you do not provide this, you will need to present some kind of document (typically mail) that proves your mailing address.

How to Get There

The BNE is located on Paseo de Recoletas.

Best ways to get there:

  • Metro
    • Get off on the Recoletas stop and walk about 100 feet
    • Uber or Cab
    • Walking (depending on how far you are)

Tips and Tricks

  • Always bring a 1€ coin. You will need it to use your locker. If you forget one, you can get a plastic coin from one of the guards by registering with your BNE ID card. This will add a few minutes to your entrance and exit, so try to avoid that.
  • Visit the BNE exhibit on the ground floor. Ask one of the archivists or guards how to get there. It is free, and interesting.
  • Walk about a mile south on Paseo de Recoletas and visit the Museo del Prado.

What You Can Take Inside

For the most part, Spanish archives will rework your archival kit. First and foremost, most large archives do not permit photography, and thus they will not allow you to bring a camera in. Guards will check your stuff when entering and exiting the building and consultation rooms. Thus, I would pack light and make sure to not violate any of their norms.

  • A pencil
  • An eraser
  • A notepad without any stickers insider. If stickers are present, you cannot bring it in.
  • A laptop
  • Headphones
  • A magnifying glass
  • A small clear bag to carry your stuff, I use my small archival kit bag.

Where to Eat

  • Your best option is the BNE’s cafeteria. A menu del dia will set you back 7.50€. I walked around the first few days and I asked people both in the BNE and out, and the next cheapest price will be about 10€.
  • Bring your own lunch. This option might be cheaper, but depending on your setup, it might not be practical.
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