12 London Literary Spots


If you are thinking of going to London this summer, here are some off the beaten track spots all book lovers should take time to visit.   of Buzzfeed.com also wrote an article on this theme on May 2nd, 2014 and, although the concept is the same a lot of the descriptions have been changed for the purpose of posting on this site:

the fitzroyWhat:  The Fitzroy Tavern
Where: 48 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LX
Of Special Interest to: Dylan Thomas, George Orwell lovers
Why:  The Fitzroy Tavern was once right in the heart of London’s Artists Quarter, and was known as a meeting place for writers, artists, intellectuals, and Bohemians in the 1930s and ’40s. Two of the more notable regulars were Dylan Thomas and George Orwell, whose pictures can be seen on the walls of the downstairs Writers and Artists Bar.

dickens museumWhat:  Charles Dickens Museum
Where: 77 Borough High Street, Camberwell, London SE1
Of Special Interest to: Charles Dickens and the Victorian era lovers
Why:  The Charles Dickens museum, based out of the only remaining London home of the writer, he lived here from 1837–1839, and wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickelby within its walls. The shop is stocked with such Dickensian delights as plaster and bronze busts, ceramic figurines, stationery sets, embroidered towels, and feather quill pens.

If you decide to pay the entrance fee and tour the four floors, you will not be disappointed.  The museum is a reconstruction of what Dickens’ home would’ve looked like when he lived there, with period furniture — some, like his custom-made lectern or writing desk, originally owned by Dickens himself. The dining table is set for one of his dinner parties with place cards for writers like John Foster and William Thackeray, the library is preserved with walls of books written by Dickens and by those who inspired him, and portraits line the walls. It’s a good glimpse into Dickens’ life, but things like the kitchen re-creation also showcase upper-class Victorian life in general.

charing cross roadWhat:  The Bookshops of Charing Cross Road
Where: 77 Borough High Street, Camberwell, London SE1
Of Special Interest to: Bookshops, Book lovers… need I say more!  One of my all time favourite spots in London!
Why:  Charing Cross Road is a book lover’s Mecca for its second-hand and independent bookshops. Quinto & Francis Edwards (72 Charing Cross Road) offers an eclectic selection of rare and antique books on its ground floor, and a more general (and often pulpy) inventory in the basement that is completely restocked every month. Any Amount of Books (56 Charing Cross Road) is the almost magical kind of shop where it feels like the books are spilling out of the walls — and it’s got an impressive collection of paperbacks on the pavement.  Also, while you are here take time to visit Marks & Co (84 Charing Cross Road), yes it is the shop that featured in Helene Hanff’s 1970 book.

If you want something of a grander scale, there’s the flagship branch of Foyles’ (113–119 Charing Cross Road), which sells a comprehensive selection of both new and second-hand books, spread out among five floors. And if you’re still itching for more you can turn onto Cecil Court, which has its own collection of rare, specialist, and second-hand bookshops.

The french houseWhat:  The French House
Where:  49 Dean Street, Soho, London W1D 5BG
Of Special Interest to: Dylan Thomas, Brendan Behan lovers
Why:  This Soho pub is another onetime Bohemian hot spot, with a claim to poets Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan as regulars. Dylan Thomas is reputed to have once left the only original, handwritten manuscript for his radio drama Under Milk Wood at the bar, which sent the BBC into a frenzied search. It prides itself on being a place for conversation it has a strict “no music, no machines, no television and no mobile phones rule,” though the phone rule might not be quite as rigid as the others, and it’s a lively gathering place. The problem is that it’s so lively, conversation is difficult without shouting. But if you’re down for shouting, and if you’re OK with cozying up next to strangers, it’s a great stop.

Oscar WildeWhat:  A Conversation with Oscar Wilde
Where: Adelaide Street near Trafalgar Square
Of Special Interest to: Oscar Wilde lovers
Why:  This sculpture celebrates one of the greatest playwrights of the English language, and was commissioned following a campaign and public appeal to finally honor and memorialize the famous playwright in the city where he lived, and where his plays were most performed. The sculpture depicts Wilde emerging from a low granite sarcophagus, and according to the sculpture’s creator, Maggi Hambling, “The idea is that he is rising, talking, laughing, smoking from this sarcophagus and the passerby, should he or she choose to, can sit on the sarcophagus and have a conversation with him.” On the granite, a quotation is inscribed from his play Lady Windermere’s Fan, “We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars”. Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854, and he was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and Magdalen College, Oxford. After he graduated, he moved to London to pursue a literary career. In the early 1890s, he wrote several extremely successful society comedies that continue to be popular with theatre audiences today, including An Ideal Husband, and The Importance of Being Earnest. Oscar Wilde’s personal life became tumultuous when he began an affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. After fighting a disastrous court action over accusations of gross indecency, Wilde was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to two years of hard labour. Following his imprisonment, he lived the remainder of his life in exile, and died in Paris on 30 November 1900. A Conversation with Oscar Wilde was unveiled on the 98th anniversary of Oscar Wilde’s death.

the globeWhat:  Shakespeare’s Globe
Where: 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 9HS
Of Special Interest to: Charles Dickens and Shakespeare lovers
Why:  The original Globe Theatre, where many of Shakespeare’s plays were first staged and which he co-owned, burned to the ground in 1613 during a performance of ‘Henry VIII’. Nearly 400 years later, it was rebuilt not far from its original site, using construction methods and materials as close to the originals as possible.  The open-air, free-standing Yard is the best bet for those after complete authenticity, the absence of seating may test your stamina, while the Middle and Upper Galleries afford an atmosphere of their own.  The Globe has a commitment to faithfully recreating an original ‘Shakespeare in performance’ experience, with the season running from April to October.

In the UnderGlobe beneath the theatre is a fine exhibition on the history of the reconstruction, Bankside and its original theatres, and Shakespeare’s London, including elegantly displayed costumes from early productions in the new theatre, filmed video interviews and touch screen exhibits on Elizabethan special effects; visitors can also edit a page of ‘Hamlet’ to their own specifications and print the result. Guided tours of the Shakespeare’s Globe theatre run throughout the year and seasonal festivals take place on the riverside area outside the Globe.

The goerge innWhat:  The George Inn
Where: 77 Borough High Street, Camberwell, London SE1
Of Special Interest to: Charles Dickens and Shakespeare lovers
Why:  The George Inn dates back to the late 16th century, and it stands as the last remaining original coaching inn in London. A placard in the courtyard counts both Shakespeare and Charles Dickens among those who “knew the hospitality of the inn,” and the spot even has a mention in Dickens’ Little Dorrit. The 300-year-old building is pretty stunning, with two floors of interlocking, oak-beamed dining rooms, latticed windows, open fireplaces, and long galleries.  It’s a busy spot — it attracts tourists for its proximity to Shakespeare’s Globe, and it’s often used for conferences and events — but because it’s so large, you don’t really feel cramped, and you can explore the less crowded nooks and crannies and convince yourself that you’ve actually travelled back in time.

bloomsburyWhat:  The Garden Squares of Bloomsbury
Where: Bloomsbury Square, London WC1A
Of Special Interest to: Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, T.S. Eliot, Mary Shelley lovers
Why:  Set aside out a full few for exploring the garden squares of Bloomsbury. This idyllic area is most famous for being a home and meeting grounds to the great writers, artists, and intellectuals of the 1920s and 1930s known as the Bloomsbury group, but it’s had a long history of literary ties. There’s Gordon Square, where you can spot blue plaques, some of which you may have to look closely for, marking the homes of Lytton Strachey (51 Gordon Square), John Maynard Keynes (46 Gordon Square), and Virginia Woolf (50 Gordon Square). You can enjoy the fountain plaza at Russell Square and check out where T.S. Eliot once worked, at Faber & Faber. Swing by 87 Marchmont Street and find the former home of Mary and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Or you can just claim a spot on the grass at Tavistock Square and read until you fall asleep.

The British LibraryWhat:  The British Library
Where: 96 Euston Rd, London NW1 2DB
Of Special Interest to: Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, original manuscripts, historic texts lovers
Why:  The British Library is a necessary stop if only for the fact that it is technically, based on the number of catalogued items, the largest library in the world. Those who are drawn to libraries in general will eat it up: the rare collections, the serene reading rooms, a sprawling piazza, and some truly life-changing upright panels for leaning and reading.  But the biggest draws are the King’s Library and the Sir John Ritblat Gallery — the former an awe-inspiring, six-story glass tower right smack in the middle of the building, containing 65,000 printed volumes, pamphlets, manuscripts, and maps collected by King George III between 1763 and 1820; the latter, a stunning free exhibit showcasing sacred scrolls, historical documents, and original manuscripts — many annotated with the authors’ handwritten notes — including Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, Jane Eyre, Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, Mrs Dalloway, and more. It also has a well-stocked book and gift shop, which is worth a visit.

harry potterWhat:  The Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9¾
Where: King’s Cross Station
Of Special Interest to: Harry Potter, fantasy and magic lovers
Why:  The “Platform 9¾” sign has moved around a bit since the first film was released, but these days you can find it in the western departures concourse at King’s Cross Station. Half of a luggage trolley, complete with owl cage, sticks out of the wall underneath it, and a surprisingly short line of Harry Potter fans weave around, waiting for their photo-op. At first it seems like maybe it will be embarrassing, since you are in the middle of the concourse and you maybe noticeably older than both the friendly employees and the fellow fans, but then you get closer, and you choose a scarf, and the employee validates your choice “Of course you’re a Hufflepuff, look at you!”, and then …

But instead of transporting to Hogwarts, you just give the scarf back to the employee and swing around the corner to the cozy shop, which holds a wonderland of Harry Potter merchandise despite its tiny size. A display of wands lines the back wall, basically straight out of Ollivanders. You can stock up on house cardigans and scarves, Bertie Bott’s every flavour beans, Marauder’s Maps, feather quill pens, and — if you want to drop some more serious money — original, signed posters.

herculesWhat:  Pillars of Hercules
Where: 7 Greek Street, London W1D 4DF
Of Special Interest to: Charles Dickens, Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan lovers
Why:  Situated in Soho, this pub dates back to 1910, but a tavern of the same name has been at the site since as early as 1730. It apparently inspired Charles Dickens enough for him to drop its name in A Tale of Two Cities, and the honor was returned when the road at the bar’s side was renamed Manette Street, after the book’s Doctor Manette. More recently, the spot has been said to draw some of the best of London’s literary scene, including Martin Amis, Julian Barnes, and Ian McEwan. Writer and critic Clive James even named his second collection of literary criticism after the bar, allegedly because that is where a majority of the essays within it were written.

sherlock holmes museumWhat:  The Sherlock Holmes Museum
Where: 221b Baker Street, London NW1 6XE
Of Special Interest to: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, mysteries, the Victorian era, historical re-enactments lovers
Why:  You might think that the Sherlock Holmes Museum is only worth visiting if you intend to pay for a ticket, and it would be an understandable assumption, but a WRONG one. The whimsy is far-reaching, starting with the scattered silhouettes at the Baker Street Tube station and continuing up on the street, where you’re met with a “mysterious “sign of a hand pointing to…

The trail continues down Baker Street, and the silhouette can be found on the signs and windows of both the restaurant and bar across the street; the clothing shop next to those displays capes in the window (which could be a coincidence, but still). Even the dry cleaner isn’t just a dry cleaner — it’s the dry cleaner to Sherlock Holmes. And then you’re there, at “the world’s most famous address”, in the reimagined home of everyone’s favorite fictional detective.

The museum portion is a re-creation of the home of Sherlock Holmes, as described by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The sitting room, bedrooms, study, and laboratory are all set with Victorian-era furnishings, “handwritten” notes and memorabilia about various cases, and life-size figurines.  The museum shop is honestly enough of an attraction in itself if you don’t want to pay admission to the actual museum and it’s filled with standard souvenir fare, However, you can also find some rare and often silly gems (hats, walking sticks, pipes, handcuffs, and, of course, books), and all of the employees are in period garb.