Best Literary Spots in London

London has a rich cultural heritage and a glorious history in several fields of life. Whereas England has won many wars and has colonised nearly half the world at one time, it has also a great and glorious literary history having produced literary luminaries such as William Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Shelley, Tennyson, Dylan Thomas and Charlotte Bronte. The West End of London is where London’s art and culture comes to life and the legendary Fleet Street has been the citadel of literary excellence and printing and publishing on a global scale.

Some of the finest works of fiction have been produced here and still continue. Tourists and other visitors to London who have a literary bent of mind or are interested in literary things can find plenty to keep them busy in London. Millions of literary enthusiasts are drawn to the city because of the iconic literary landmarks that the city presents such as Shakespeare’s Globe and the British Library.  There are many other literary dens that are worth exploring.

Bloomsbury: The literary association of this area starts from Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E. M. Forster, Lytton Strachey, T.S. Eliot, Mary Shelley and the famous Bloomsbury Set but at present it has turned into a hub of modern publishing industry and it is home to many independent bookshops including the London Review Bookshop, Bookmarks, Atlantic Bookshop and Gosh! These places are located in Camden, between Euston Road and Holborn. The garden squares of Bloomsbury are ideal for browsing through a book that you can pick up at Charing Cross Road. It was the home and meeting ground for some great writers, artists and intellectuals of the 1920s and 1930s and it has had a long history of literary ties.

British Library: Located on Euston Road, this is the ideal place to visit for fans of Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Shakespeare, original manuscripts, historic texts. It is technically the largest library in the world based on number of catalogued items. It features rare collections, peaceful reading rooms, a sprawling piazza and upright panels for leaning and reading. Its main features include the King’s Library and Sir John Ritblat Gallery, the former offering a six-story glass tower right in the middle of the building, containing 65,000 printed volumes, pamphlets, manuscripts, and maps and the latter offering a stunning free exhibit showcasing sacred scrolls, historical documents, and original manuscripts. It also has a well-stocked book and gift shop, which is worth a visit.

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Charles Dickens Museum: It is based in the house where Dickens lived from 1837 – 1839. The museum is a reconstruction of what the house must have looked like when he was there, with period furniture such as his custom-made lectern or writing desk, dining table etc. The library is preserved with walls full of books written by Dickens and those who inspired him. There are many portraits lining the walls and the whole place gives a good glimpse into Dickens’ life.

The Bookshops of Charing Cross Road: Famous for its second-hand and independent bookshops, Charing Cross Road is a book lover’s paradise. There are bookshops galore on the road including Quinto & Francis Edwards offering rare and antique books; Any Amount of Books offering a whole lot of books including an impressive collection of £1 paperbacks on the sidewalk: and the flagship branch of Foyles’, offering a comprehensive selection of both new and second-hand books, spread out among five floors. Cecil Court offers its own collection of rare, specialist, and second-hand bookshops.

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A Conversation With Oscar Wilde: Located at Adelaide Street near Trafalgar Square, it is an ideal place for fans of Oscar Wilde. At this location you will find a nice granite monument to Oscar Wilde in a very busy area of the city. It is closest to Charing Cross Station. There are benches here where you can sit and “converse” with Wilde’s head in the midst of all the hubbub of the area and his famous quotes such as “I can resist everything except temptation” and “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”

Shakespeare’s Globe: If you wish to visit the exhibition that will provide thorough knowledge regarding Shakespeare’s history and about London as seen through his eyes and also take a tour of the theatre which is a replica of the Elizabethan Globe, you can visit the Shakespeare Globe Theatre but you will need to buy a £13.50 ticket for admission.  The souvenir shop is however free to enter so that you can browse through apparel, posters, more novelty feather-quill pens, and the plays themselves.

The Pubs of Fleet Street, Fitzrovia and Soho: The literary trail also follows the pub crawl at various places in the city such as the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese located just off Fleet Street since 1667, which has been the favourite haunt of literary luminaries such as Samuel Johnson and Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle during their time. Its cellars belong to a 13th century monastery. The French House in Soho was frequented by Dylan Thomas whereas The Pillars of Hercules located on Greek Street have been mentioned by Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities. Many modern literary figures have also visited the latter inn. The Fitzroy Tavern was another favourite of Thomas and it was a popular place in London’s Artists Quarter during the ‘30s and ‘40s. Photos of many of its regular visitors such as George Orwell can still be seen adorning its walls.

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