When you're planning for your upcoming
trip to London, you'll be overwhelmed with recommendations for the places you must visit, and the sights you must see. Most of them are probably pubs — and I'm not going to lie, London's a great place for a pub crawl. But if you're more into books than booze, you need to scrap the traditional guidebooks — and plan your own literary tour of London.
London has been home to beloved authors from Virginia Woolf to George Orwell — as well as to some of our favorite fictional characters, from Sherlock Holmes to Wendy Darling and the Artful Dodger. London is where you'll find Diagon Alley and Platform 9 3/4, hiding just beneath the surface and waiting for you to figure out the magic words to open them up.
From its streets to its parks, London has inspired countless writers — and sitting on a bench in Bloomsbury Square, it's not hard to see why. London will connect you to the books of the past — and it's in London that you might find the words for your own bestseller. For any book-lover, London is a paradise; you just need to know where to look.
1 The British Library Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images News/Getty Images The British Library is a copyright library, meaning it's got a copy of every book ever published in the U.K. You could spend hours lost in its vast book collection — but don't forget to visit the incredible Sir John Ritblat gallery. There you'll find first drafts of works by authors like James Joyce, complete with all their scribbles and corrections. There are some true historical treasures in the gallery — like a 600-year-old manuscript of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," which is one of the first illustrated works of literature in the English language, and even an original copy of the Magna Carta. Or if you prefer more recent literary history, the gallery also contains a crumpled piece of paper where John Lennon first wrote the lyrics to the song "Help." 2 The George Inn
This London pub is
super old; both Charles Dickens and Shakespeare have drunk there, and if you recognize the name, it's probably because it appeared in Dickens's Little Dorrit. Drinking a pint at The George Inn, you become a part of London's literary history. 3 Platform 9 3/4 Courtesy of Emma Woolbright
Arguably the most famous fictional location in London is Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross station, where young witches and wizards can catch the Hogwarts Express to school. In the Harry Potter books, Muggles could never find it — but in present-day London, you can get pretty close. Under the Platform 9 3/4 sign, pose with a luggage trolley while wearing the house scarf of your choice — and then pop around the corner to the shop to stack up on Chocolate Frogs and other magical treats.
4 Bloomsbury Square
Many of London's most famous authors lived in Bloomsbury, from Virginia Woolf to E.M. Forster. Most of their addresses are available online if you want a door-to-door tour — but you can also walk in their footsteps by strolling through the gorgeous Bloomsbury square. Maybe you'll even be inspired to write the next
Mrs. Dalloway. 5 The Sherlock Holmes Museum Dan Kitwood/Getty Images News/Getty Images
From the moment you arrive at Baker Street tube station, you'll see Sherlock Holmes silhouettes on the walls, letting you know you've stepped into the detective's world. Up at street level, you can go and scout out 221b, where you'll find a quirky museum dedicated to Conan Doyle's famous creation.
6 The Globe Theater WPA Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images
The Globe is where Shakespeare's plays were famously performed, sometimes even with Queen Elizabeth in the audience. You can still watch plays there today, or take a tour and learn about this amazing building's history.
7 Senate House Ian Gavan/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
When you look up at this imposing building, it's not hard to see how it became the inspiration for
1984's Ministry of Truth. Once you've got over the shock of seeing Orwell's dystopia brought to life, you can pop inside to the gorgeous library it contains. 8 Libreria
Libreria is an adorable bookshop-slash-reading library in East London, that's designed to help you pick out something you might never have thought of reading. The books are all arranged by broad themes such as 'Wanderlust' and 'Enchantment for Disenchanted,' and with no wifi or cafe to distract you, you can sit and read for hours. They also host risograph workshops in the basement so you can learn all about printing zines.
9 Persephone Books
Persephone Books is an adorably unique publisher that specializes in reprinting neglected fiction by mid-20th century writers, usually women. The books are always printed with their trademark grey covers, so you can build up a lovely matching collection if you stop by their cute London shop.
10 Cadogan Hotel
This famous landmark is where Oscar Wilde was arrested and charged with "committing acts of gross indecency with other male persons" back in 1895. The hotel itself is no longer open, and the building is being converted into flats, but when you can look up at those beautiful front doors, you can almost
see Oscar Wilde stepping out of them. 11 The Darling Family Home
The Darling family home from Peter Pan is based in Kensington, which is one of London's wealthiest and most beautiful areas. The exact house has a fictional address, but it's most likely based on 31 Kensington Park Gardens, where the Llewellyn-Davies family lived — and once you've sobbed through the
Finding Neverland movie, you'll know quite how important the children of that family were in inspiring J.M. Barrie's beloved story. Walking around Kensington Park Gardens at dusk, you'd barely be surprised to see the Darling children slipping out of a window and soaring off into the night.