The best places in the world for literature lovers
Posted on 24/02/2016
Literary tourism might not sound very familiar but is by no means a new phenomenon. Most big cities of the world have a rich literary past so this one is to the inspired book lovers ready to explore somewhere a bit differently.
The German city of Mainz is the true home of the books we know today. Lovers of literature should head there to pay homage to Johannes Gutenberg, the man who invented the printing press in 1450s when Mainz was an important city in the Holy Roman Empire. Opposite its spectacular gothic cathedral in the old part of the city is the Gutenberg museum dedicated to the man's achievements and the story of printing. Also on display is a copy of the Bible - the first book to be printed.
Buenos Aires has more bookshops per person than anywhere else in the world. Its 102 rare and second-hand shops as well as the Annual Book Fair draw over a million literary lovers to the city every year. One shop, El Ateneo is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world. It used to be a theatre until it was converted to a bookstore around ten years ago. Covering over 21,000 square feet it still has its ceiling frescos and statues in place. Buenos Aires has also been home to many wonderful writers like Roberto Arlt, Julio Cortazar, and Adolfo Bioy Casares - and of course Borges who is widely regarded as the greatest of all 20th century storytellers.
There is more than plenty to do in London for lovers of literature. Celebrate Mr William Shakespeare at the Globe on the Southbank or in Stratford where there is a visitors centre dedicated to the playwright. Head to Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey where Tennyson, Browning, Dickens, and Kipling lie. On Tite Street in Chelsea is the house where Oscar Wilde once resided. Be sure to also have a browse in the second-hand bookshops on Charing Cross Road.
Paris is another capital city full of literary inspired activities. Take a walk around the cemeteries of Père Lachaise, Montmartre, and Montparnasse and you'll find the graves of Oscar Wilde, Baudelaire, Zola, Stendhal and de Nerval, all worn out over time by the lips of admirers and fans. Ever since the 19th century Paris has been a center for artists and writers, particularly in the '20s where great American and British authors like Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Joyce and F.Scott Fitzgerald flocked to the French capital. Above you can see the Shakespeare and company bookshop that was frequented by them all. Why not grab a book and sit with a coffee outside a typical French café and you will immediately feel like a literate yourself!
San Francisco was where all the Beat generation poets and writers flocked to in 1950s. It features lots in the books that defined that generation such as Kerouac's 'On the Road' and portrays the city as a centre of youth and optimism. The City Lights Bookshop, opened in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and still standing today, published another defining piece of literature; Ginsberg's poetry piece 'Howl'. Today there's a Beat Museum full of first editions and memorabilia and you can visit the Vesuvio Café frequented by all the famous beat writers.
Rome is home to some of the most beautiful libraries in the world, all of which you can get guided tours; the Biblioteca Casanatense, the National Institute of Archaeology library, the Vatican Library, and the Angelica and Vallicelliana libraries. Pictured above is Keats-Shelley house which is a commemoration to the romantic poets and is where Keats died in 1824. He's buried in the Protestant Cemetery and the house is now one of Rome's leading museums.
Bibliophiles rejoice for the city that never sleeps is indeed one rich with literary quality too. Always the Bohemian center of America, New York has been home to major writers for the last century and the city has also formed a backdrop for many classic novels like The Catcher in the Rye, Breakfast at Tiffany's and American Psycho. There is a Library hotel in Manhattan with 6,000 books and ten floors dedicated to different categories of books. As you leave the hotel lobby, follow 'Library Way' to the New York Public library. You will know the way because in the pavement are bronze plaques every few feet, each depicting a famous literary quote and illustration!
Do not be fooled into thinking that it is only the West that has produced great, enduring literature. The capital of Iran, Shiraz is still known as the 'City of Poets' for its association with many of the great Persian writers of the past. Hafez, perhaps the finest of all Persian poets, lived here and his tomb can be visited.
No surprises in this choice. La Serenissima has been home to great writers ever since Petrarch set up at the Palazzo Molina in the 1360s. You can check out the Goldoni Museum, dedicated to the works of the great Venetian playwright, or Harry's Bar where Hemingway used to drink when he was in town. Be sure to visit the magnificent Biblioteca Marciana built in the 16th century that's packed with thousands of manuscripts and early printed works.
The cultural center of Imperial Russia, St Petersburg was home to many of the greats of Russian literature from Lermontov and Tolstoy to Nabokov before he left Russia. You can get a tour of the places where Rodion Raskolnokov plotted the murder of Alyona Ivanovna in Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, before heading to the Pushkin Museum where the father of Russian literature lived until he was killed in a duel.