One of my fondest memories of Dublin is the literary pub crawl which allowed us to visit the most iconic sights in Irish literature and also have a few pints of their best beer. If you are not interested in that kind of tour, you can take a regular walking tour instead and explore the city that gave James Joyce, the author of Dubliners and famously complicated Ulysses, his start. Dublin was also a home to many other famous writers, such as Seamus Heaney, Oscar Wilde, and many more. For those interested in medieval literature, Dublin will not let you down. At Trinity College in Dublin you can find the world’s most famous illuminated manuscript, The Book of Kells.
One of the first things I noticed when I arrived in London was that there were bookshops everywhere. Not only can you buy a book at almost every corner, the variety of these bookshops both amazed and thrilled my little bookish heart. Now, I am someone who knows you shouldn’t use the word “literally” lightly, however, you can literally find almost every kind of book-selling store here. There are antiquarian bookshops, foreign language collections, feminist bookshops, travel bookshops, European bookshops, and many more. The remains of many famous authors can be found in this versatile city: Milton is buried in St-Giles-without-Cripplegate, John Donne in St Paul’s Cathedral, and Christopher Marlowe in Deptford. While on the topic of famous writers, I have to mention the most famous of them all: William Shakespeare and his Globe theater, which revolutionized the theatre design.
Every year, Edinburgh hosts the world’s largest book festival, The Edinburgh International Book Festival, which you shouldn’t miss if you are in the region. Ever heard of Harry Potter? If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last two decades, you are already familiar with the boy who changed the YA fantasy genre for ever. But did you know that it was precisely here in Edinburgh that J. K. Rowling started to write her masterpiece? Visit the Elephant House and the Spoon, two of the restaurants in which she was said to write most often, to catch a glimpse of magic. On a separate note, while you’re here, don’t forget to visit the Writers’ Museum or the Scottish Poetry Library.
There are numerous books set in Venice or inspired by this marvelous city. Considering its rich culture and history, it is no wonder that so many artists found Venice to be inspirational for their novels or poetry. To name but a few: “Merchant of Venice” by William Shakespeare, “Death in Venice” by Thomas Mann, “Midwife of Venice” by Roberta Rich and many others.
If you are in Venice, do not miss the iconic library “Libreria Acqua Alta”, where you can see books in gondolas, canoes and even bathtubs (safe from the potential flood). There is also a quirky outdoor reading space, consisting of staircase made entirely out of books. Came for the pizza and pasta, stayed for the reading nooks.
During the Romantic era, many poets and novelists came to the Italian capital, and today there are organized tours to many of their homes: for example, you can visit Goethe’s house on the Via del Corso or the Caffè Greco, the gathering place of Shelley, Dickens and Byron. Besides spectacular monuments, the italian capital also has some of the best bookshops and libraries in the whole world. Some of their magnificent libraries are the Biblioteca Casanatense, the National Institute of Archaeology library, the Vatican Library, and many others. I advise you not to miss The Lion Book shop, where you can enjoy a cup of your prefered warm beverage and curl up with a book at the same time.
When an average person thinks of Paris, they most likely think of its fashion. However, if you are a book lover like me, the first image that comes into your mind is Gertrude Stein’s (undoubtedly very posh) saloon, with all those famous authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway gathered around the table, discussing each other’s’ work and drinking scandalous amount of wine. To emulate that spirit, I suggest reading a novel at a decadent coffee shop or having a picnic under the Eiffel Tower. Also, don’t forget to visit the oldest public library, Bibliothèque Mazarine.
If you love a good crime novel, you are probably familiar with Millennium trilogy, written by the famous Swedish author Stieg Larsson. At the City Museum there’s an entire exhibition devoted to his books (including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and the Stockholm locations mentioned. For those interested in medieval literature, visit the National Library of Sweden, where you will be able to marvel at the mysterious Codex Gigas, later nicknamed as the ‘Devil’s Bible’. The most infamous part of this medieval manuscript is right in the middle of the text, displaying a large portrait of the (supposedly) Devil himself. Talk about noir art.
If you think of Madrid’s literary history, the first name that comes to your mind is likely Miguel de Cervantes and his famous knight, Don Quijote, whose legendary adventures have inspired the love of reading even in the most impatient of readers. You can also take a literary tour that takes you to all of the most important landmarks related to Cervantes, but also to other authors, such as Federico Garcia Lorca, Luis de Góngora and many others. But that’s not the only reason why I decided to put Madrid on this list. What impressed me the most was the fact that there are mini-libraries in metro stations in Madrid, where you can check out books to read on the metro and beyond. This system is called Bibliometro, and once you have read the book, you can return it to any of their numerous kiosks around the city. This is basically the book lovers dream – you don’t have to carry around heavy books all day, and you can still enjoy a novel during your metro ride.
Did you know that about one in ten Icelanders will publish a book in their lifetime? It’s no wonder then that the reading culture is so very much alive in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik. The Icelandic Sagas have inspired numerous authors throughout the history, most famously J. R. R. Tolkien. “The National and University Library of Iceland”, Iceland’s largest library is both beautiful and eccentric, since it is built in the shape of a turtle.
Now if you are anything like me and love all things science fiction and fantasy, Nexus is the place for you. It is very easy to spend hours going through their large selection of comics, board games, and books in the speculative fiction genre.
If you visit Iceland around Christmas, you might be surprised to find out that the books make the largest chunk of Christmas presents. They even have a special word for this custom: ‘bókaflóð‘, translating to “book flood”. The annual ‘book flood’ starts in late autumn and peaks on Christmas Eve, when they exchange their presents. Then it is time to find a cozy reading nook and read the night away. I am so jealous that this is not a thing in my country. Keep on being amazing, Iceland!
Let’s be real: only a small percentage of people visiting Amsterdam came here for the literature. I must admit, I am guilty of this too, but I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that this city has a lot to offer to the book lovers among us. There are many books featuring Amsterdam in one or the other way, such as “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank or “The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton. If you walk around the Spui Square, you will see many bookshops of all kinds, which is why this area is sometimes called Amsterdam’s book district. Once a week, usually on Fridays, book sellers from the entire country come here for the outdoor book market. It is true that the primary focus of this market are antique books, however, you can also find a wide selection of books in English, all for a good price. You can also find prints, maps and photographs, which make for a unique souvenir.