Last Updated on 13th March 2018 by Sophie Nadeau
For any book lover, there are certain locations on the European continent that are well worth a visit. Some, such as Edinburgh, capital of Scotland, as well as the town dedicated to books in Wales, Hay-on-Wye, are obvious. Others are must-see hidden gems that you may not have even ever associated with literature. Here are 10 literary locations in Europe every Bibliophile must visit at least once!
The adorable book town of Wales is a settlement dedicated entirely to written tomes. Books on the streets, shelves in the castle ruins (there are two castles to be found in Hay), and more delightfully small boutique bookstores than you could ever dream of.
Hay-on-Wye is one of those must-see destinations for any book lover due to the sheer number of second-hand and specialist bookstores located throughout the small town, which can be found on the Welsh/ Englis border. In the month of May, there’s even an annual literary festival dedicated to all things book related!
See the grave of Oscar Wilde in the city’s Père Lachaise cemetery, wonder at the vintage atmosphere of Montmartre (an area which inspired so many writers and creatives over the years), or simply visit one of the many little bookstores dotted around the French Capital. In the 1920s, the city became a go-to hub for many an artist. Ernest Hemingway even wrote about his time living there in ‘A Moveable Feast’. So, if you’re looking for one of the best literary locations in Europe, then you’ll find it here in Paris. Need I say more?
Named the first ever UNESCO city of literature in 2004, it’s a no-brainer that capital of Scotland, Edinburgh, makes the list as one of the best literary locations in Europe. Criteria for being named as a City of Literature include ‘quantity and diversity of publishing in the city,’ and ‘Literature, drama and/or poetry playing an important role in the city,’ among other things.
Well, Edinburgh certainly fits the bill and even has its own literature museum called ‘the Writers’ Museum.’ Tucked away in a hidden alcove, just metres away from the Royal Mile, the cultural centre is open from Wednesday through to Sunday. Once there, it’s possible to learn about three of Edinburgh’s most prolific writers; Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Read more: Harry Potter Tour of Edinburgh.
For lovers of love, Italy– and more specifically Verona- will need no introduction. Made famous around the world by Shakespeare’s tale of fated lovers Romeo and Juliet, today Verona is a pretty Italian city filled with culture and plenty of writing inspiration. Follow in the footsteps of Juliet by visiting treasures like Juliet’s balcony, or explore one of Verona’s magical independent bookstores (Il Gelso and Libropoli are firm favourites amongst tourists and locals alike.)
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
As the capital of the Netherlands, it should come as no surprise that Amsterdam has become a centre of creativity in its own right. After all, the Rijksmuseum in the centre of the city houses plenty of Rembrandt paintings (including his most famous masterpiece, the Nightwatchman), and just across the street from the iconic museum, there’s even an entire centre dedicated to Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh.
Around the rest of the city, there are plenty of little bookshops to peruse and the city hosts a whole load of literature inspired festivals throughout the year. And, pretty close to the train station, not far from the waters’ edge, the OBA Public Library of Amsterdam is pretty much a library lover’s dream.
Read more: TFIOS guide to Amsterdam.
The fictional characters of Sherlock Holmes and Paddington Bear call London their home, while world-famous books find the inspiration for their backdrops here. All of this and more means that London may well be the most literature-inspiring city in the entire world.
Follow in the footsteps of Harry Potter, see Shakespeare’s works performed in the Globe Theatre, or take some quiet time to study in the stunning British Library (where there’s always an exhibition or two on literature worth visiting). Elsewhere in the city, at Dukes Bar to be precise, it’s possible to drink the exact ‘shaken-not-stirred’ martinis which inspired Ian Fleming to make them James Bond’s beverage of choice!
Metz makes the list because it’s in the centre of France and holds the “Le Livre à Metz”, Literature and Journalism Festival each year in April. Once there, avid readers get the chance to meet plenty of authors in person. Although many claim that Metz is more of a city of art than books, if you’re looking for some off the beaten tourist track French inspiration when it comes to writing, then you simply must head to this North Eastern city.
Read more: A quick guide to Metz
Capital of Romania and with a complicated past behind it, Bucharest is one of those European capitals that many miss out of in favour of more popular counterparts (nearby Sofia, capital of Bulgaria is a tourist hotspot). However, if you do choose to head to Romania, then you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised with the countless museums, great food and plenty of history.
And, in the centre of the city, there’s even a National Museum of the Romanian Literature dedicated to literature. Within the museum, there’s over 300,000 artefacts and exhibits, many with a fascinating history behind them. Elsewhere in Bucharest, in the heart of the city’s ‘old town,’ there’s one of the prettiest bookshops in Europe to be explored, the Carturesti Carusel book emporium.
In October of 2017, Milan in Northern Italy (and capital of the Lombardy region) was named a UNESCO City of Literature, joining the ranks of Manchester, Nottingham, and Edinburgh among other European gems. The city is best known for its creative scene, as well as being the host for Italian fashion weeks. Each year, an annual book festival is held in the city called ‘Bookcity Milano.’ Elsewhere in the city, there are over two hundred public and private libraries to discover, as well as oodles of interesting and quirky bookshops.
The Republic of Ireland’s capital city, Dublin, is a place filled with plenty of museums, pubs, and of course, beautiful libraries. However, it’s not just the beautiful shelves which grace the cityscape here that means that Dublin makes the list of must-see literary cities in Europe. Instead, it’s the city’s association with plenty of great authors, as well as its various literary themed festivals held throughout the year. The literature connection in Dublin is so strong that it is one of UNESCO’s cities of literature.