Literary travel is a form of tourism centered on great works of literature, literary movements, the literature surrounding cultural and political movements, or beloved authors. Just pick your favorite writer and do a little research: they all lived somewhere!
- Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Anyone in Buenos Aires might look out for places associated with Jorge Luis Borges.
A huge country with a wide host of major giant writers widely scattered apart. Jorge Amado comes from Bahia and writes mostly about Salvador with its huge bay and Ilhéus with its cocoa plantations. José de Alencar comes from Fortaleza, Paulo Leminski from Curitiba, father Érico and son Luis Fernando Verissimo from Porto Alegre, Guimarães Rosa from inner Minas Gerais and a whole lot of them from the former capital Rio de Janeiro. In Ipanema, check out Vinicius de Moraes street, named after the poet who was drinking with songwriter Antonio Carlos Jobim at a bar, when a gorgeous blonde passed by. Together they seized the inspiration and wrote "The Girl from Ipanema". The bar is still there, renamed "Garota de Ipanema". As for the girls, Jobim once remarked wisely "...as you get older, they keep getting prettier and prettier...."
Any little Anne can visit the actual Green Gables in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island; visitors come from as far afield as Japan. Stratford and Niagara-on-the-Lake are known for their live performances of Shakespeare and Shaw respectively, despite the real Stratford-upon-Avon being in the United Kingdom. Statues paying homage to "Winnie", the real life inspiration for A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh, stand in Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park and in her hometown of White River (Ontario)
Various sites in Canada and the US recall Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Underground Railroad era, including the home of Rev. Josiah Henson (Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site in Dresden, Chatham-Kent), the First Parish Church in Brunswick (Maine), the author's home (Harriet Beecher Stowe House & Library in Hartford, Connecticut, USA), a Harriet Beecher-Stowe House in Cincinnati and the author's grave site in Andover (Massachusetts).
The proud home of Rubén Darío whose birthplace has since been named in his honor. León, a longtime home of the poet, hosts a museum dedicated to his legacy. Another treasure of Nicaraguan folklore is "El Güegüense" a work of popular theater pitting native wit against Spanish might. The 1979 Nicaraguan revolution and subsequent civil war also produced quite a bit of poetry and music with names like Ernesto Cardenal, Gioconda Belli and the Mejia Godoy brothers known the world around. Cardenal spent large parts of his life on Solentiname.
Fans of Henry David Thoreau's "Walden" might want to visit Concord, Massachusetts. Essex County in Northeast Massachusetts is often the setting of H. P. Lovecraft's works, whose followers refer to the area as "Miskatonic County" (after a fictional river in the region) or "Lovecraft Country". You won't find the Headless Horseman in Sleepy Hollow, but you can find Washington Irving's grave there. Travelers to Hartford can visit the Mark Twain House and Museum and the Harriet Beecher Stowe House and Library; Mark Twain (whose real name was Samuel Clemens) fans can also visit his boyhood village of Hannibal on the Mississippi River.
Head west in the footsteps of the Beats, or follow Route 66 like the Joads in Grapes of Wrath.
You can find Cannery Row in Monterey, California; nearby are many places dedicated to the memory of John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. There are several sites related to "the book" (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the non-fiction novel by John Berendt) in Savannah, particularly Forsythe Park.
In Houston, fans of Morton Feldman can visit the actual Rothko Chapel.
Alaska has its share of literary spots too. Fans of Jack London must visit Skagway. Those who read the bestseller Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer, about the exploits of Christopher McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp, would want to visit Denali National Park, near Talkeetna.
The Old West has many stories.
Fans of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series on which the hit television series Game of Thrones was based, may wish to visit Santa Fe, where the author resides and owns a cinema in which he occasionally screens episodes of the TV series. Martin's alma mater, Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois, is one of the premier universities in United States with a beautifully landscaped lakeside campus. Its journalism school, of which Martin is a graduate, is also widely regarded as one of the top journalism schools in the country.
Locals believe that the Othello Castle, part of the city walls of Famagusta in Northern Cyprus, is the setting of Shakespearean tragedy of the same name, although the text does not name any specific locations on the island.
Although Prague is a Czech-speaking city and the capital of the Czech Republic, as the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia it was under the rule of the Habsburg Monarchy, which also ruled the Austro-Hungarian empire until 1918, and for much of its history was a majority German-speaking city. As such, Prague has historically been home to many of the leading authors of German literature, with perhaps the most notable being Franz Kafka, who is known for his literary works such as The Metamorphosis (Die Verwandlung) and The Trial (Der Process). Other notable German authors who were based in Prague included Max Brod, Franz Werfel and Rainer Maria Rilke.
This Nordic country's national author is Hans Christian Andersen. The city of Odense is the author's birthplace and home. As well as a museum and a memorial gardens, the author of famous works such as The Little Mermaid (Den lille havfrue), The Ugly Duckling (Den grimme ælling) and The Snow Queen (Snedronningen) is commemorated by statues, parades and annual events. Suffice to say, Odenseanere are immensely proud of their local legend.
Kronborg Castle in Elsinore is famous as the setting of Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Paris has no shortage of literary sites, especially on the Left Bank and Montparnasse. Paris's answer to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre is the Comédie-Française, also known as the Théâtre-Français — and what a ripe subject for comparison and contrast!
After paying your respect to the Lost Generation at Gertrude Stein's salon at 27 rue De Fleurs (and maybe also Natalie Clifford Barney's modestly titled Literary Salon of the Greats at 20 rue Jacob), you can shop in their footsteps at Shakespeare and Company or drink in their shadows at les Deus Magots, la Closerie des Lilas, or le Café de Flore. (A more contemporary version is l’Autre Café.) If you don't find Quasimodo in the ruins of Notre-Dame de Paris, visit Victor Hugo's house at 6 Place des Vosges, or enjoy the Basque cuisine at L’Auberge Etchegorry at 41 Rue de la Croulebarb, where he used to enjoy the Cabaret de Madame Grégoire. Or party like Arthur Miller at Brasserie Wepler (14 Place de Clichy).
There is also the famed Palais Garnier, which was the setting of the Gaston Leroux's Le Fantôme de l'Opéra, which in turn inspired the hit West End musical The Phantom of the Opera.
For contemporary poetry readings, check out La Maison Poésie, close to the Pompidou Centre, or, especially if you want to hear the empire write back, Culture Rapide. No bibliophile should leave Paris without a visit to the one-of-a-kind bookstore Tea and Tattered Pages, or the reading room in the back of Le Fumoir. At Musée de la vie romantique you can find out almost anything you'd want to know about George Sand; the Hôtel de Lauzun on the Île St. Louis inspired Baudelaire to write Les Fleurs du Mal - what effect will it have on you? Search for lost time viewing Proust's bedroom at the Musée Carnavalet, or, if the touristy morbidity doesn't offend you, visit the Cimetière de Montparnasse to find the graves of many of your favorite authors, including Baudelaire, Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Or else look for the wallpaper that killed Oscar Wilde at l’Hôtel in the 6th Arrondissement, though you might prefer to enjoy the literary kitsch at the Apostrophe Hotel, or sleep where your heroes did at l’Hôtel Pont Royal. If you seek to join their ranks, you can consider joining a writing workshop with Paris Café Writing. When you win your own Nobel Prize, celebrate like Camus did, at La Coupole (102 Boulevard du Montparnasse). Evidently there are even Da Vinci Code themed tours! Even if that's not your thing, you might enjoy eating in the restaurant at Nicolas Flamel's house at 52 rue de Montmorency, the oldest stone house in Paris.
The Loire Valley: there could be no better place to read Alexandre Dumas or Charles Perrault. Honoré de Balzac, a native of Tours, wrote and set some of his novels there too. Other buildings in the Touraine inspired settings in Balzac's work.
Around Rouen you can find places claiming to have associations with Madame Bovary, and a museum dedicated to Gustav Flaubert in the home where he was born.
The medieval Play of Daniel was composed in Beauvais.
Admirers of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller cannot be excused for missing Weimar.
One of the most successful German language authors of all times was Karl May, whose heroes Winnetou, Kara Ben Nemsi and Old Shatterhand have accompanied many a German growing up for over a century now. Over 200 million copies of his books have been sold, half of which in Germany. He died and spent most of his life in Radebeul, Saxony, a suburb of Dresden. His former house in Radebeul has been turned into a museum and it is a must visit for any fan of his works. His works are still performed live in places such as Bad Segeberg in Schleswig Holstein or Rathen in Saxon Switzerland
Berlin has inspired many works of literature and other forms of art - from David Bowie to Alfred Döblin's "Berlin Alexanderplatz" and including a vibrant cultural scene to this day, Berlin is a place to be inspired and retrace the inspiration of others
Germany was also home to the Brothers Grimm, whose collection of fairy tales has many stories that continue to enchant children around the world today. The German Tourism Board's recommended Fairy Tale Route takes people to places where the Brothers Grimm lived, and to places where their fairy tales were set in. Besides fairy tales, they also produced a dictionary for the German language that was ground-breaking not only for German linguistics but for the field as a whole.
Fans of James Joyce will want to walk Ulysses in Dublin, especially on Bloom's Day (16 June). The diehards will even go to Ithaka. You know who you are. In general, Joyce's work is filled with detailed references to Dublin, often enabling the reader to trace the whereabouts of his characters on a map with surprising accuracy. Of course the city has changed since the early twentieth century but James Joyce's Dublin can still be discovered
Like E. M. Forster's characters in A Room With a View, you'll want to look down on the tourists around you who do not share your refined tastes! You might demonstrate your snobby superiority taking a walking tour of Dante Alighieri's Florence, or contemplating the complexities of Brumel's "Nuper rosarum flores" under Brunelleschi's Dome. Thomas Mann's writings made a lot of people wish to die in Venice. Naples was home to Giambattista Basile, whose Pentamerone (Neapolitan: Lo cunto de li cunti) was one of the earliest fairy tale collections to have been published. And, of course there's Rome, one of the most written-about cities on the planet.
Perhaps Norway's most internationally renowned literary figure is famous playwright Henrik Ibsen, best known for Peer Gynt, which was scored by the great composer Edvard Grieg. Skien, where he was born, and Oslo, where he spent his final years, have museums dedicated to his life.
Lisbon has a special cherish for the two greatest national poets, Luís de Camões aka Camoens (1524/5? – 1580) and Fernando Pessoa (1888 – 1935). Both are buried at the venerable Hieronymites Monastery in Belém, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Camões Square, centered by his statue on a column, is the gateway to the Baixa neighborhood and its traditional nightlife, and some memorials to Pessoa, at places where he lived and drinked, are actually steps away. In Cascais, there's an amazing rocky seashore spot named Boca do Inferno ("Hell's Mouth"). It's worth looking for a marble plaque remembering the occasion when Pessoa helped his English friend Aleister Crowley fake his suicide in 1930.
In Saint Petersburg, you'll want to take "Raskolnikov's Murder Walk", described in Crime and Punishment (Преступление и наказание) by Fyodor Dostoevsky. If you have really read the book, it's easily realized, starting at Sennaya Ploschad ("Haymarket Square") metro station — Fyodor Mikhailovich lived in this area. Afterwards, go visit his grave in Tikhvin Cemetery (inside the Alexander Nevski Monastery, 3 metro stops away), alongside the ones of Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovski, Modest Mussorgski, Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov and most other Russian music giants. Another worthy option is to visit The Bronze Horseman (Медный всадник) statue of Peter the Great, the city's prime monument at its Center's urban focal point, and also the theme and title of one of the most important poems of the Russian language, written by Alexander Pushkin. Later, take fresh flowers to the poet's infamous duel site, in a park on the city's northern part.
In Moscow, you can take a tour of sites from Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and Margarita (Ма́стер и Маргари́та) and his tomb at Novodevichy Cemetery (where you'll find also Anton Chekhov, Nikolai Gogol, Vladimir Maiakovski, Dmitrii Shostakovich and many others).
Moscow, St. Petersburg, Pyatigorsk, Ekaterinburg, Elista in Kalmykia and Odessa in Ukraine feature monuments to the classic comedic novel The Twelve Chairs (Двенадцать стульев) and its suave con-man Ostap Bender, aka "The Smooth Operator". Near Tula is Yasnaya Polyana, where Leo Tolstoy wrote War and Peace (Война́ и мир) and Anna Karenina (Анна Каренина). Pushkin is buried in his family estate in Pushkinskie Gory near Pskov.
Truly hardy adventurous travellers may consider retracing Chekhov's steps to Sakhalin Island and back, or even going to Magadan to pay homage to Alexander Solzhenitsyn's writings about the Gulag Archipelago.
Kobarid was the site of the Battle of Caporetto, which Ernest Hemingway described in A Farewell to Arms.
In March 2015 the grave of renowned writer Miguel de Cervantes was discovered. His best known work Don Quijote is set in La Mancha and some landscapes in this part of Spain still look like the descriptions in the book. Cervantes was born in Alcalá de Henares in 1547; the city preserves his birth house, and renamed after him its main square, a fine sight. The other Spanish writing giant of the Baroque age, playwright and poet Lope de Vega, whose sheer volume of literary output is greatly larger than Cervantes', is buried inside San Sebastian church on Madrid's Calle de Atocha.
Any Anglophone who runs with the bulls in Pamplona (or even thinks of it) follow the footsteps of Brett and Jake in Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises.
The sites of the Spanish Civil War of course inspired writers domestic but especially foreign, including luminaries like Hemingway and George Orwell.
Astrid Lindgren is one of the most-read writer of children's books; see Astrid Lindgren tourism. Her works come to life at Junibacken at Djurgården in Stockholm, as well as Astrid Lindgrens värld in Vimmerby.
The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by the Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf tells the story about the boy Nils who is magically shrinked, and joins a flock of wild geese on their migration across Sweden. It was intended to teach school children Swedish geography, but also doubles as a great travel log and a great story! In 1909 Selma Lagerlöf became the first female Nobel Prize in Literature laurate.
Literary London gets its own page on Wikivoyage.
True Chaucerian pilgrims should leave London by the road to Canterbury, while lovers of the Bard may wish to drop into William Shakespeare's home in Stratford-upon-Avon. Anyone who ever longed to have their own bodice ripped by Rochester or Heathcliff would want to visit Brontë Country in West Yorkshire. If you're not afraid of Virginia Woolf, visit Monk's House in East Sussex. Or search for King Arthur and Merlin in Tintagel and Glastonbury. Besides what you'd find in London, Broadstairs is dedicated to Dickens. Swansea and neighbouring Carmarthenshire are all about Dylan Thomas. And setting aside all prejudice, Hampshire is the proud home of Jane Austen.
Perhaps more of us would prefer to visit Hartfield in Ashdown Forest, the setting of the Winnie the Pooh stories, or Cumbria where various sites associated with Beatrix Potter can be found. If you can't get enough of talking animals larking about in boats, head to Wind in the Willows country, a tranquil stretch of the Thames stradding Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Statues remembering Robin Hood, H.G. Wells' Martian tripods, Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan stand respectively in Nottingham, Woking, Baker Street and Kensington Gardens.
Wee sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beasties; look no further than Dumfries – Robert Burns' House competes for visitors with nearby Alloway's Robert Burns' Birthplace. Over in Edinburgh, Burns is celebrated alongside Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson in the Writers' Museum. The capital's Princes Street even has a monument celebrating Scott's achievements in putting his hometown on the literary map, a tradition which continues to this day with the annual Edinburgh International Book Festival.
In Devon is the little village of Bigbury-on-Sea, where Agatha Christie fans can find the Burgh Island Hotel, inspiration for And Then There Were None and Evil Under the Sun. Looking for a crime? The room named for her will set you back 450 quid. The more theatrically inclined could instead stay in the Noël Coward room. While you're in the area, a trip up to Dartmoor may prove to be your last, if you come face to face with the Hound of the Baskervilles. Should you survive, a hop over to Bram Stoker's Whitby (North Yorkshire) might finish you off.
As if Britain weren't mythical enough, many of its landscapes have inspired fantasy worlds. Shropshire's bucolic hills look as though they may be home to J.R.R. Tolkien's hobbits, while the Wrekin is a Lonely Mountain by any other name, but the true Arthurian land of Albion is Wales. Lewis Carroll's surroundings of Cheshire and Oxford were once weird enough to influence his hallucinogenic creation of Wonderland. Dorset doubles for Thomas Hardy's "Wessex", Northern Ireland is a more doable trip than Narnia or Westeros (but the scenery is just as good), and anyone wishing to get to Hogwarts need only board a train at King's Cross station. Please, no Muggles.
Another popular destination for literary tourists is the city of Oxford, home to the famous University of Oxford which produced many world-renowned authors of the fantasy genre such as Lewis Carroll (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia), J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings) and Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials). Tolkien and Lewis were part of a group of writers known as The Inklings, which met regularly at a pub known as the Eagle and Child
Asia and Oceania
On the other side of the world, lovers of The Dream of the Red Chamber (红楼梦) will want to spend a few hours contemplating the Garden of the Humble Administrator in Suzhou, and anyone who knows The True Story of Ah Q (阿Q正传) might want to visit Hangzhou, where Lu Xun was imprisoned.
The city of Huai'an was the birthplace of the Ming Dynasty author Wu Cheng'en, who wrote Journey to the West (西游记), one of China's four great novels. His former residence has been preserved and converted into a museum.
Aspiring novelists might find inspiration at Ishiyamadera Temple in Otsu, where Murasaki Shikibu is believed to have written (or at least begun to write) The Tale of Genji.
Then take the Narrow Road to the Deep North.
Gayasan Mountain National Park includes Haeinsa Temple, where the Tripitaka Koreana, a landmark in woodblock printing, is held.
Tongyeong is often visited because it is the setting of Land by Park Kyeong-Ni.
Troy is the scene of the Iliad, the first known work of Greek literature.
Agatha Christie's 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express was written in the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul, then a grand old hotel serving rail passengers at the southern terminus of the main Paris-Istanbul Orient Express (1883-1962) route. The hotel maintains Christie's room as a memorial to the author.
Those looking for Yaşar Kemal's Çukurova of greedy landlords, noble outlaws, landless peasants, and involuntary nomad-cum-farmers will probably want to spend some time in the Cilician Plains.
The oldest literary work ever is called The Maxims of Ptah Hotep. The author, a wise and not-so-famous vizier, was buried in a tomb that nowadays is more famous than himself, at Saqqara.
Naguib Mahfouz, the only Arab writer to have won the Nobel Prize in Literature (in 1988), was born in Cairo. His most famous work, The Cairo Trilogy, depicts the lives of three generations of different families in Cairo from World War I until after the 1952 military coup that overthrew King Farouk. His classic novel Midaq Alley is wholly ambiented in a tiny space inside the Khan El Kalili bazaar.
About 145 km outside of Durban, Alan Paton fans can find Ixopo, and look for the lovely road that runs from there into the hills. J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of the famed Lord of the Rings books, was born in Bloemfontein, though there is surprisingly little commemorating him in his city of birth.
Visit the "stay safe" sections of the Wikivoyage places for wherever you go, and remember that just because your favorite authors chain-smoked or enjoyed some absinth dreams doesn't mean you should! (If you must read and walk, read A Book Lover's Guide to Reading and Walking at the Same Time!)
- Fiction tourism
- Harry Potter tourism
- Religion and spirituality: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Holy Land