As a book lover, I'm often on the lookout for great literary places I can visit while traveling. There are five cities that come to mind for me when I think of literary travel that feature a good mix of tourist-oriented historical attractions as well as more authentic places you can visit to trace the steps of some of the most beloved authors in history.
In my eyes, Scotland's capital city is the greatest literary destination you could possibly visit. In fact, it was named a UNESCO City of Literature. For Harry Potter fans, visit the famed Elephant House cafe where J.K. Rowling often wrote, Victoria Street which served as inspiration for Diagon Alley, and stop in at Diagon House, a shop catered to Harry Potter. Be sure to book a ride on the Jacobite Train to live out all of your Hogwarts Express dreams.
Outside of the HP world, you can also visit The Oxford Bar, the pub patroned by several noted Scottish writers. Just walking around Edinburgh is sure to drum up some literary inspiration. Check out the University of Edinburgh as well as cozy book shops like Armchair Books, Golden Hare Books, and McNaughtan's.
If you're traveling in August, head to Edinburgh for the International Book Festival.
Famous for its literary cafes, Paris is an obvious choice of city for any book lover. There are endless bookshops to choose from, like Shakespeare & Company, La Manoeuvre, and La Hune (which is very Instagram-worthy).
You can spend time in cafes and brasseries like Le Procope and Cafe de la Paix, frequented by some of the greatest writers in history. Le Procope was founded in the late 1600s, it became a hub for historical, philosophical, and literary figures such as Rousseau, Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Victor Hugo, George Sand, Balzac, and more. Cafe de la Paix was frequented by some of the more contemporary greats: Marcel Proust, Emile Zola, and Guy de Maupassant. Another great option is Les Editeurs in St. Germain, surrounded by bookshops. The restaurant walls are lined with books and classic brasserie fare is served to guests in red armchairs. While it isn't the most authentic literary spot, it's still a great tribute to the world of books.
Pay your respects to writers such as Oscar Wilde at Pere Lachaise, then take a walk through the Jardin du Luxembourg for some real Les Mis vibes.
In London, start with a drink at The George Inn, once frequented by Shakespeare and Dickens. Spend an afternoon at The Dickens Museum located in the author's former Camden home, then try the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Marylebone.
An obvious destination is the Globe Theatre where you can see a Shakespeare performance before stopping in for a drink or meal at The Swan. Stop in to see the Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey where writers like Chaucer, C.S. Lewis, Charlotte Bronte, and Jane Austen are memorialized. Then, take a trip to King's Cross Station for a Harry Potter tribute.
If you're a Jane Austen fan, spend a few days in Bath. Visit the Jane Austen Centre or even the Jane Austen Festival if you can.
A great U.S. destination for book lovers, Boston has so much to offer. Start at the Boston Public Library, built in 1848 featuring beautiful classical architecture. Then, explore the Harvard campus, undoubtedly known for its literary history. What's more appealing to book lovers than academia?
Stay at the Omni Parker House Hotel, where members of The Saturday Club such as Emerson, Longfellow, and Oliver Wendell Holmes met with other writers, philosophers, scientists, and historians in the 1800s.
Shop for books at historic places like Brattle Book Shop (est. 1825) and Old Corner Bookstore (est. 1712). Stop in at the Boston Athenaeum, an independent library founded in 1807, which houses portions of book collections from George Washington, busts of most of the characters in Hamilton (hah), and portraits by John Singer Sargent. Prominent former members of the athenaeum include JFK, Emerson, Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, and more.
Finally, an afternoon at Walden Pond, famed home of Henry David Thoreau and subject of his book Walden.
Although I'm personally biased, I think New York is certainly the most literary city in the U.S. You can explore several literary movements that took place here from the Harlem Renaissance to the Beat Generation. Top priorities on your list of literary spots in New York should be the New York Public Library, the Strand Bookstore, and The Morgan Library & Museum.
Book a room at The Library Hotel in Midtown. Based on the dewey decimal system, each floor of this boutique hotel is dedicated to a category of books and each room a specific genre. For instance, the eighth floor is the Literature floor, where you'll find the Mystery room, the Fairy Tales room, the Poetry room, and more. The hotel, of course, offers a Reading Room which serves tea and coffee.
For meals, try the Cornelia Street Cafe in Greenwich Village where you can watch live music and readings an the White Horse Tavern, a famous Bohemian spot once frequented by Dylan Thomas, James Baldwin, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, and Hunter S. Thompson. Also check out The Odeon in Tribeca, an iconic centerpiece of 80s nightlife that was a go-to spot for famous artists as well as writers Tom Wolfe and Jay McInerney. It's certainly not the same as it once was as it's been cleaned up quite a bit, but it's still a great piece of history.
If you're a fan of The Catcher in the Rye, visit the Central Park Zoo Carousel, famously featured in the scene where Holden watches his sister and notes her innocence. There are tons of Gatsby locations in the city, but I suggest going classic at The Plaza's Champagne Bar.