London is a passionate reader’s dream. It sports over 2000 years of history and has been the home and muse of hundreds of notable authors. People don’t just write in London, they write ABOUT London. It’s not just a setting, it’s a character.
I am definitely one of those bibliophiles. I studied London in Literature during my term in London back in college, than I specifically came back to the city after graduation to live, work and well, read. I’m not alone though, literary tourism is actually quite popular, and London is one of the best cities for it. It’s an alternative way to explore a city, a new way of looking at things, and a peak at times past (and times that never were of course).
So here’s your primer for discovering London on and off the page:
Read: Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by JM Barrie
Visit: Peter Pan statue, Kensington Gardens
He may have spent his days in Never Neverland but Peter Pan spent his early childhood in Kensington Gardens (I was going to say grew up in, but that’s not quite accurate is it?). You can visit his old stomping grounds, which are beautiful and peaceful. Be sure to pay your respects in person to the boy who wouldn’t grow up.
Read: Great Expectations, Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, honestly just about anything by Charles Dickens
Visit: The City of London
Dickens may in fact be London’s greatest author. His novels provide a rich detailed picture of foggy Victorian London (the fog was actually very dirty smog). It’s a peak behind the curtain at a different London. You can still see pieces of that era today in the old City of London. Now the financial district
Here you will find famous sites like Lincoln’s Inn, the Old Curiosity Shop and Temple Church, all which figure prominently in Dickens’ novels. You can also visit Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a pub dating back to 1667, which Dickens used to frequent.
Read: Mrs. Dalloway or The London Scene by Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf wrote extensively about London, in fact you can retrace Mrs. Dalloway’s footsteps through Westminster for yourself if you are so inclined. Otherwise, pay a visit to the Bloomsbury neighborhood around Russel Square- it was once home to the Bloomsbury group- a key group of early twentieth century writers including Woolf, EM Forster and others. It’s a leafy area near the British Museum, some of the most prestigious universities and nicest hotels in London.
Read: The Waste Land by TS Eliot
Visit: The South Bank of the Thames
The wasteland is not an easy read in fact it’s pretty hard to parse. Even so, it’s one of my very favorite pieces of literature. I read it at least once a year and always get something out of it. I even named my cat after TS Eliot.
There’s a lot of gritty post war imagery of the “Unreal City” called London in the poem but one scene that keeps repeating is that of the River Thames flowing ghostlike through the city. In real life though the Thames is bright and lively, and a walk along the south bank, past the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe and more, might restore your will to live after reading this depressing poem.
I could go on and on but you get the idea. London is full of alternate histories and fantasies. Once you’ve hit up all the usual sights like the London Eye, Parliament and Wesminster Abbey, there is so much more waiting to be explored.
This post was written by me, brought to you by Radisson Hotels.