From Shakespeare and Dickens to Keats, Holmes and more, London has been home to literary minds and fictional characters. A city steeped in literary history, with famous writers creating master works in the capital throughout the ages, you’ll want to bookmark this page – we’ve put together a book lover’s guide to London below.
See the bard performed as it was intended at London’s most famous theatre, where the 16th century playhouse has been restored to its former glory. Located on the Thames riverside just a stone’s throw from the Tate Modern, Shakespeare was a member of one of its resident theatre troupes and wrote many of his literary works there. The circular structure with its thatched roof still hosts many amazing productions today with audience seating and a standing area, which is worth the cheaper price tag if you can stomach standing for a few hours. With guided tours and exhibitions dedicated to spreading the love of Shakespeare, the Globe is a must-visit for any theatre lover.
Visit the house where the legendary Romantic poet John Keats put pen to paper and changed the course of literature forever. See his scribblings and glimmers of his personal life at the site, which has since been transformed into a museum and literary centre, and learn more about the man on a guided tour. Keep an eye on their events calendars as they host many cultural events, ranging from touring exhibitions to poetry readings.
As the most extensive Charles Dickens exhibit in the entire world, this museum is housed in one of Dickens’ former homes and is teeming with quirky antiquities. With over 100,000 of his personal items and even original manuscripts preserved and put on display, the permanent exhibits span across his lifetime and paint a fuller picture of the man. Go in with Great Expectations and stay for a slice of cake and tea afterwards to round off your tour.
Image via Stonch
The creative types sure knew how to party and Fitzroy Tavern has long been a favourite pub of the best of them, with the likes of Dylan Thomas, Jacob Epstein, George Orwell and more gracing its bar. Teeming with personality and covered in British artwork, slip out of the front room when it starts getting packed and downstairs to the quieter Writers and Artists Bar for a dose of much needed inspiration.
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Dedicated to the films surrounding Britain’s favourite boy-wizard and J.K. Rowling’s beloved series, this gigantic exhibition is one that will take you at least several hours to explore. Full of costumes, behind the scenes sketches, props and more, the tour will take you through replicas of iconic places like the Great Hall, Privet Drive, Harry’s cupboard under the stairs and Diagon Alley. After you’re all Pottered out, grab an icy cup of non-alcoholic Butterbeer and explore the sprawling souvenir store complete with Hogwarts robes and wands.
A visit to the Sherlock Holmes Museum is elementary, my dear Watson. Located nearby Baker Street tube station (which has been befittingly decorated to reflect the super sleuth), the museum is full of Holmes memorabilia through the years and even a study carefully replicated from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books. With a fantastic gift shop for fans to take a memento of the detective home with them, you’ll find the museum between 237 and 241 Baker Street though the door will say 221b in tribute to the unlikely detective pairing.
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Yet another drinking establishment on the list, The George Inn is just around the corner from Shakespeare’s Globe and is thought to be where the famous playwright would go for a pint after work. This 400 year old inn has seen the twists and turns of British history, including its near destruction during the Fire of London, and is deliberately preserved to remain true to its original 16th century spirit. Charles Dickens was one of its many patrons and loved it so much he included it in his novel Little Dorritt.
Pay tribute to some of the biggest names in British literary history at Westminster Abbey, where a section of the South Transept has been dedicated to those who have significantly contributed to Britain’s cultural heritage. With a huge range of authors and poets including Jane Austen, W.H. Auden, William Blake, the Bronte sisters, Lord Byron and more, it’s worth braving the Westminster Abbey tourist crowds to see the greats for yourself.
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Located amidst Soho’s rich nightlife scene, the Hercules Pillars is a reconstruction of a previous pub with the same name dating all the way back to 1730. Mentioned in A Tale of Two Cities by regular patron Charles Dickens, the adjacent Manette street owes its name to Dickens’ character Dr. Manette. With a distinctly Victorian feel to the interiors, it has since continued to be an important literary site for more contemporary authors like Ian McEwan, Martin Amis and Julian Barnes.
It’s only fitting that a writer with as big a personality as Oscar Wilde should have a statue dedicated to him and you can see the unique sculpture nearby Trafalgar Square on Adelaide Street. Part bench and part art, fans of Oscar Wilde can sit and converse with a bust of his head as the London crowds pass by. Built in 1998, it features one of Oscar Wilde’s best quotes from Lady Windemere’s Fan: ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.’
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