Eight Travel Itineraries for English-Lit Lovers
Reading can be an escape from everyday life. Some writers—J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, and C.S. Lewis come to mind—created entire worlds only accessible through the pages of their books. But other authors choose to base their stories in the real world, giving fans the opportunity to follow in their favorite characters’ footsteps. Read on for eight vacation itineraries written with book lovers in mind.
Even if Dublin’s only literary son was James Joyce, the Irish capital would still deserve a spot on this list. Once a year on June 16, fans of Ulysses—often decked out in period costume—retrace the fictional Leopold Bloom’s journey through the city. Visiting another time? Celebrate the stream-of-consciousness connoisseur with a walking tour curated by James Joyce Centre, then stop in the Dublin Writers’ Museum or sneak a peek of The Book of Kells, housed at Trinity College, to celebrate the bookish history of the city. Prefer poetry to prose? Celebrate the life and works of W.B. Yeats at The National Library of Ireland's interactive exhibit.
New York City
Practically every neighborhood in New York, from The Bronx to Brooklyn Heights, lays claim to an iconic author, so consider this an abbreviated itinerary for the city:
Make the most out of a quick trip by checking into the Library Hotel, a Midtown boutique that caters specifically to book lovers, with a reading room, poetry garden, and a collection of texts organized by—what else—the Dewey Decimal System.
Start your day with a bite to eat outside Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue, in honor of Truman Capote’s much beloved short story. Then, make your way uptown to Central Park with stops at the Alice in Wonderland statue, the literary walking path, and—unless you’re a phony—the duck pond made famous by Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye.
Finish with a stroll around Washington Square Park paying homage to poets and writers from Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson to Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.
Want to take home a bit of bookish goodness? Pop in the Strand and pick up a worn copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, or pose for a snapshot with Patience and Fortitude outside the New York Public Library.
Once a fashionable escape for the London elite, Bath has long claimed tourism as a major industry. After walking through the town’s namesake attraction and sampling the healing spa waters, visiting English lit nerds should duck into the Jane Austen Centre for a look into the novelist’s life, a talk from a costumed curator, and tea service at the restaurant upstairs—the Champagne Tea with Mr. Darcy and the Lady Catherine's Proper Cream Tea, which includes warm scones served with locally sourced jam, both come highly recommended. True Pride and Prejudice diehards should plan a trip around the town’s Jane Austen Festival, which features a Regency costume ball.
Like in New York, the literary sites in London are too numerous to see in a short trip, but here are a few can’t-miss attractions:
Fans of The Bard should head straight to The Globe, a replica of the theater where Shakespeare’s plays were performed during his heyday. Too cold for an outdoor show? The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse next door offers a schedule of indoor performances and concerts by candlelight.
Old-school mystery buffs and legions of Benedict Cumberbatch fans can both be seen stopping for a selfie with the sign at 221b Baker Street. While there, check out the Sherlock Holmes Museum for a full exhibit on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective.
If you’re in England’s capital around Christmas time, stop by the Charles Dickens Museum. It’s open year-round, but during the holidays, they go all out with Victorian decorations, mulled cider, and readings from A Christmas Carol.
English majors the world over can pay tribute to their idols at Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, where writers like Lord Byron, Rudyard Kipling, Jane Austen, William Blake, and many more are memorialized.
Have time for a day trip? About an hour and a half outside the city lies Ashdown Forest, the original 100 Acre Woods where A.A. Milne’s son Christopher Robin used to play.
And finally, no London vacation would be complete for Harry Potter fans without a photo opp at Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station.
Part of the genius of William Faulkner is that most of his stories are set in the same fictionalized version of Oxford, Mississippi. Known in the author’s universe as Yoknapatawpha County, the real-life college town boasts not only Rowan Oak, the now open-to-the-public abode of the Faulkner family, but also the author’s final resting place in Saint Peter’s Cemetery, where literary academics and co-eds alike leave half-empty bottles in offering to the Southern storyteller (and notorious whiskey drinker). Throughout the city, be on the lookout for plaques bearing passages of the author’s text or stop by the Thompson-Chandler house, which served as inspiration for the Compson home in The Sound and the Fury. If Faulkner’s stream-of-consciousness style gives you a headache, hop down I-55 to explore the Eudora Welty House, filled with the short-story writer’s personal library, and her stunning garden.
Named UNESCO’s first “City of Literature,” Edinburgh offer travelers a taste of bookish history upon arrival; the main train station in town is named after Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley, and the literary attractions don’t stop there.
London may lay claim to Baker Street, but Edinburgh is where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is said to have dreamed up the eccentric detective—purportedly based on one of Doyle’s medical school professors. His childhood home is now the site of a school; a statue of Sherlock himself stands across the street.
If money is no object for your journey, book room 652 at the Balmoral Hotel, where J.K. Rowling finished the Harry Potter series—and left her mark on a bust of the Greek god Hermes—then pop in The Elephant House for hot cocoa and a peek at the view that is said to have inspired Hogwarts in the first place.
Stop in to Deacon Brodies, a traditional pub honoring the real-life inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, for a stronger drink or frequent The Oxford Bar where Ian Rankin is a local.
Prefer to hear about from the rising stars of the literary world? Plan a trip to Scotland during the International Book Festival; it’s the largest in the world with hundreds of events like discussion panels, book signings, and author meet-and-greets.
Hemingway’s former haunt welcomes fans of Papa year-round, but when the island shines is during its annual Hemingway Days Festival. Scheduled events include a lookalike contest, readings, a literary competition, and a quirky take on Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls. Can’t make it to this year’s celebration? Stop by the Hemingway House during visiting hours to see the author’s former home and the feline legacy he left behind. Not a fan of Ernest? Key West also lays claim to Tennessee Williams, Elizabeth Bishop, and Shel Silverstein.
Few cities are so tied to a single literary character as Baltimore. From its football team, The Ravens—complete with an aptly named mascot—to The Annabel Lee Tavern, whose drink menu features cocktails like the Mesmeric Revelation and Morella, the Maryland city fully embraces its former resident, Edgar Allan Poe. True Tomahawk Man enthusiasts should stop by the poet’s house for a tour, raise a glass to The Raven writer at his gravesite à la the “Poe Toaster,” or order a round at The Horse You Came In On Saloon, a Fell’s Point bar that claims to be haunted by a spirit named Edgar.