People love to travel to new cities and explore everything new that’s offered! For some, this means food and shopping but for others, this means history and literature. If you’re a traveler with an inclination for the literary, these are the cities you need to add to your list:
1. Edinburgh, Scotland
Located about five hours north of London, Edinburgh is a must-see destination for bookworms everywhere! Not only is it the birthplace of Arthur Conan Doyle, yes that Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame, but it is also the place that heavily inspired J.K. Rowling as she wrote Harry Potter. You can visit The Elephant House, the cafe where she wrote some of the earlier novels of her iconic series in the backroom overlooking Grey Friar’s Kirk where she was known to stroll and find inspiration for character names. Not far from The Elephant House is Victoria Street, lined with colorful storefronts that are said to be the originators for Diagon Alley! Wizarding World aside, Edinburgh is also UNESCO’s first City of Literature and there are shout outs to literary roots everywhere; the Writers’ Museum is a great place to start!
2. Paris, France
What list is complete without an obligatory shout out to literary Paris! From Charles Dickens to Victor Hugo to F. Scott Fitzgerald to Simone de Beauvoir, writers across the decades have been drawn to its cobblestoned streets. So lingering is the city’s presence that it’s hard to choose what one attraction a dedicated bookworm should focus on: Should they travel to Notre Dame and gaze upon Quasimodo’s bell tower? Should they visit Oscar Wilde’s kiss marked grave? There’s so many things to choose from that it can be overwhelming. The best place however might be one of the bookworm’s most natural habitats: the bookstore. More specifically Shakespeare and Co., which has been welcoming literary fans, some who would go on to be famous writers, since 1919.
3. Granada, Spain
Granada was the first Spanish-speaking city to be named a UNESCO City of Literature in 2014. The city is home to many notable poets and writers as well as the International Poetry Festival which sees thousands of people attending every year. If poetry isn’t up your alley that’s fine, it’s a quick trip to Seville to see the Alcazar where scenes set in Dorne were filmed for Game of Thrones. Back in Granada, a trip to the Alhambra bookstore will set you up with anything else you might want to learn about the city, one store which is actually located at the Alhambra. A bookstore inside a palace?! Yes please!!
4. New York City, USA
Another obligatory shout out: New York City! Not only is it home to most of the American publishing houses, it boasts some literary locations designed to make a bookworm’s heart stop. First and foremost is the main New York Public Library location in the heart of Manhattan. With the twin lions at the front entrance to welcome you it’s hard to keep the excitement tampered down. Once you’re done drooling over the gorgeous reading rooms, it’s a quick skip over on the subway to The Strand, NYC’s most well-known bookstore that boasts 18 miles worth of books inside it!
5. San Francisco, USA
San Francisco: home of the Beatniks and City Lights Bookstore. Its almost impossible to think of one without the other, but the city by the bay has more literary history to offer! Mark Twain made his home there for a time as well as Jack London. Wandering into Chinatown you can experience the foods so central to Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club and more recently Roselle Lim’s Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune.
6. Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City is teeming with literary landmarks and locations to visit. From the convent that was home to the poet Sor Juana Ines to massive libraries to the Libreria Porrua Chapultepec, a bookstore that has a tree growing through it! Like San Francisco, the Beatniks found home in Mexico City as well with Jack Kerouac allegedly writing his book Mexico City Blues there. Mexico City holds it’s share of literary festivals too such as Lit and Luz and Mexico City’s Zocalo International Book Fair.
7. Naples, Italy
Naples makes the list for those of us who have fallen in love with Elena Ferrante’s writing. Most well known right now is her Neapolitan series which begins with My Brilliant Friend and has also become an HBO series. You can walk along the same streets as Elena and Lena and see how well Ferrante described them in her writing. She is not alone either- Oscar Wilde and Jean-Paul Sartre also found inspiration on the streets of Naples and would go on to immortalize the city in their works.
8. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is the birthplace of Jorge Luis Borges, a famous writer credited with creating the genre of “magic-realism” that Latin America has since become well known for. You can see a bit of that magic as you wander the city, especially if it guides you to El Ateneo: A grandiose three-story theater that was re-purposed into a bookstore. The stage on which plays were performed now serves as a seating area for visitors to sit and enjoy reading them instead when they need a respite from the shelves. El Ateneo is a bookworm’s dream come true!
9. Santiago, Chile
In Santiago you can visit the house of the famed poet Pablo Neruda or go exploring through the streets of the city to try to match the sights to the descriptions in Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. When you’re done trying to find Clara’s spirits, Santiago has many libraries and independent book stores to rest in. The Libreria Feria Chilena del Libro is one of the most famous bookstores in the city, or if you happen to be in the city during its famous Santiago International Book Fair it is worth it to check out the events scheduled for the day!
10. Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo is home to some truly unique experiences for bookworms, one of which is the Book and Bed Hotels! Guests stay in sleeping compartments that are built right into the bookshelves, talk about becoming one with your passions! If sleeping with books isn’t quite your thing never fear- Tokyo is also home to a multitude of bookstores, each more unique than the last. So if you’ve just finished up your Murakami tour never fear, your likely not far from a bookshop that you can run into to buy everything he’s ever written!
There you have it fellow bookworms, new and exciting cities to for you to discover IRL and on the page! Where do you want to go first? Let me know in the comments below!
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I'm a writer based in California. I received my Bachelor's and Master's in Literature from San Francisco State University. I dream of one day writing books of my own and maybe even being part of a writer's room for a show! I love to talk about pop culture, books, and travel to anyone willing to listen. Some of my favorite topics in those categories are "Avatar the Last Airbender", "Gilmore Girls", the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Mexico, and Paris. My favorite thing in the world though is my dog, he's just the cutest!