London has inspired many an artist, writer or poet. And for the literature lover, there are countless places to explore and retrace the imaginary steps of iconic protagonists and the real steps of famous authors, poets and playwrights.
1. Cavendish Square
Cavendish Square features as the home of Dr Lanyon, Jekyll’s former best friend in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Bloomsbury was a popular meeting place for the esteemed Bloomsbury Group, a group of writers and philosophers who lived and studied in London in the early 20th Century. The group included Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forster, but the general area has also been home to a number of other literary legends at one point or another, including Yeats and Dickens. Look out for the blue plaques outside their former houses!
3. Baker Street
This one’s for Sherlock fans, obviously. Funnily enough, 221b Baker Street didn’t actually exist when the stories were published, but then the street was extended and the old Abbey National bank occupied the famous address. The bank actually had to employ a secretary just to answer letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes! After quite a fight, the museum now receives the mail, despite it technically being placed between 237 – 241 Baker Street. Whether chronologically accurate or not, this is a must-see for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories.
4. The Globe
Why not go and see a Shakespeare production or book a tour of the iconic theatre? Visit the website to see what’s on.
21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, SE1 9DT
5. The British Library
Go and peer at some original manuscripts with hand written annotations, including the works of English novelist, Jane Austen. It’s also the world’s largest library and it holds the famous Magna Carta and Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook.
96 Euston Rd, NW1 2DB
6. Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey
Poet’s Corner is so-called due to the huge number of poets, writers and playwrights who are buried and commemorated there. Geoffrey Chaucer was the first way back in 1400. He was later joined by the likes of Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy (although his heart is buried with his first wife in Stinsford). There are also memorials of dozens of other writers and poets, from Lewis Carroll and D.H. Lawrence to Oscar Wilde and Shakespeare.
20 Deans Yd, SW1P 3PA
7. Fitzroy Tavern
In his time, George Orwell enjoyed a tipple or two at the Tavern, along with many other artists and intellectuals. Also — fun fact — the pub actually gave the surrounding neighbourhood its name, Fitzrovia.
16A Charlotte St, W1T 2LY
8. Primrose Hill
Before her untimely death, Sylvia Plath fell madly and deeply in love with London, and she claimed it inspired a lot of her writing. She spent a bit of time living in Primrose Hill and spoke very fondly of it, saying that it filled her with “such joy”. You’ll find a blue plaque outside the house she used to live in on Chalcot Square and, Plath lover or not, you must climb Primrose Hill — there’s a spectacular view of London when you reach the top!
9. Charles Dickens Museum
You’ll find the museum behind the doors of Dickens’ old home on Doughty Street, albeit where he stayed for only a couple of years. Nonetheless, it’s where he wrote Oliver Twist and became enormously famous, so it’s an inarguably significant building. Step back in time and retrace the exact same steps as the man who inspired Scrooges everywhere. Trust us, you should go with Great Expectations… har har.
48 Doughty St, WC1N 2LX
10. The George Inn
Frequented by both Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare in their respective lifetimes, this pub is famed for its literary visitors. It’s now owned by the National Trust in order to preserve the wonder and nostalgia (and it’s even given a cheeky mention in Dickens’ Little Dorrit).
77 Borough High Street, Southwark, SE1 1NH
11. Keats House
Explore the life and times of romantic poet, John Keats. He lived in this house during his most productive years and supposedly wrote “Ode to a Nightingale” under a pretty plum tree in the garden. There’s always something going on at the museum, including poetry readings and the opportunity to write your own poems.
10 Keats Grove, Hampstead, NW3 2RR
12. Victoria Station
We wouldn’t often recommend a leisurely trip to Victoria station, but it’s the place where baby Jack was found in a handbag in Oscar Wilde’s famous play, The Importance of Being Earnest.
Also published on Medium.