The world’s first city to be named a city of literature by UNESCO, Edinburgh should be at the top of any bookworm’s travel list. This beautiful city is home to many literary greats, past and present, such as Alexander McCall Smith, writer of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series; Ian Rankin; Robert Louis Stevenson; and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Harry Potter fans should visit The Elephant House Café where J.K Rowling spent many hours writing what would soon become one of the most popular fantasy series of all time.
Other literary sites include The Writers’ Museum on the Royal Mile, the Scottish Poetry Library, the Scottish Storytelling Centre and Rosslyn Chapel, which features heavily in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.
Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France
(Steve Taylor, Flickr)
Can we really blame the multitude of writers who have taken inspiration from the City of Love? American writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein flocked to Paris to pursue their literary careers.
Paris is also the birthplace of famous French writers such as Gustave Flaubert and Victor Hugo, whose house you can visit in the Place des Vosges.
Lastly, a literary must-see in Paris is the Shakespeare and Company Bookshop, just across the river from Notre Dame Cathedral, a regular hangout for Hemingway, Fitzgerald, James Joyce and Ford Maddox Ford during their days as aspiring writers. Alternatively, head to the Père-Lachaise Cemetery and visit Oscar Wilde’s lipstick marked grave.
The Sherlock Holmes Museum, London, England
(Anders Thirsgaard Rasmussen)
London is full of literary sites, such as The British Library, one of the largest libraries in the world. London also produced many prestigious writers: Shakespeare, Dickens, T.S Eliot, Milton and Virginia Woolf to name a few. Many of these writers’ works are based in London, for example Dickens’ Bleak House, so you can imagine their stories whilst wandering the streets and alleyways of the city.
Bibliophiles travelling to London should take a trip to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, or wander around the many literary museums London has to offer, such as John Keats’ House Museum, the Charles Dickens Museum and the Sherlock Holmes Museum.
If you’re in London in October, be sure to catch the London Literature Festival at the Southbank Centre!
Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland
(Brett Jordan, Flickr)
The birthplace of James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde, Dublin has certainly earned its place in this list of literary cities.
Learn about Dublin’s extensive literary history by visiting The Book of Kells at Trinity College Library, one of the oldest manuscripts transcribed by monks thousands of years ago.
Dublin is also home to The Dublin Writers’ Museum, the James Joyce Centre, the National Public Library of Ireland and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Jonathan Swift, famous writer and satirist, was Dean from 1713 to 1745.
Finally, try out the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl where actors guide you through the footsteps of Dublin’s literary greats.
(Moyen Brenn, Flickr)
Budapest may not instantly spring to mind when thinking of literary cities, but for fans of the gothic genre, this enchanting Eastern European city is the place to go!
Budapest was the hometown of Vlad Dracolya, otherwise known as Vlad the Impaler, the real-life villain who inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. A visit to Budapest’s Castle Hill will bring to life the spooky atmosphere of Stoker’s gothic novel.
Budapest is also famous for its Hungarian writers, such as the poet Endre Ady, historical novelist Géza Gárdonyi and dramatist/novelist Ferenc Molnár, who would hang out in cosy cafés and restaurants like Centrál Café and New York Café.
Budapest also hosts an annual International Book Festival at the end of April.
(Bert Kaufmann, Flickr)
Amsterdam was named World Book Capital in 2008, and has welcomed writers and the book trade since the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th Century, due to its lack of government censorship.
Today, Amsterdam is filled with quaint independent bookstores, which usually sell books in English and other languages, as well as Dutch. Amsterdam is the setting for many wonderful novels, such as Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist and part of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.
It is well known that the city was home to Anne Frank, whose diary account of being in hiding during the Nazi Occupation of the Holocaust became one of the world’s most poignant books, The Diary of a Young Girl. The Amsterdam house in which she was hiding while she wrote her diary is open to visit.
The Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy
(Navin Rajagopalan, Flickr)
Literature has been written into Rome’s history since the work of Ovid, Horace and Virgil, who paved the way for writers for centuries to come.
Rome also attracted notable English poets, Byron, Shelley and Keats. The latter spent the last few months of his life in a room overlooking the Spanish Steps. The building has now been turned into a literary landmark called the Keats-Shelley house where many of the writers’ personal belongings are kept.
Rome is also home to the Casa di Goethe, where the German poet lived for two years, writing works set in or inspired by the Italian capital.