World Book Day will take place this year on 1 March 2012. This UNESCO-designated event is a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and the immeasurable pleasure of reading. And, there’s no better place to revel in the written word than in London and its rich literary landscape.
Read on for our pick of some of the best literary landmarks in London to visit in honour of World Book Day.
London has had an immeasurable global influence on the English language and world literature – serving as a muse for poetry and prose for centuries.
And today, book lovers can visit the homes and museums dedicated to some the world’s greatest writers – or wander around the capital taking in the landscapes and cityscapes that inspired their stories, keeping an eye out for those famous blue plaques that mark the buildings in which notable figures of the past lived and worked.
Based on authors who have at one time called London home, take a look out some of favourite literary landmarks below – and, when touring Literary London for World Book Day make sure to add a stay at one of our luxurious London hotels to the list.
One of the most prolific and influential playwrights and poets, William Shakespeare’s name is synonymous with English literature. He began writing for the London stage in the 1500s and his words have carried on a life of their own ever since.
- Shakespeare’s Globe
Start your tour of Literary London with a trip to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. This modern reconstruction of the original Elizabethan playhouse resides on the banks of the River Thames and offers a full calendar of Shakespeare productions, workshops and exhibits throughout the year. For an authentic experience, grab a Yard ticket and enjoy a Shakespeare play the way the original Groundlings did.
The Bloomsbury Group
A famed group writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists who used to meet in Bloomsbury during the first part of the 20th century, The Bloomsbury Group counted the likes of Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes and Lytton Strachey amongst its numbers.
- Bloomsbury District
There are many places around the leafy London district of Bloomsbury associated with the Bloomsbury Group that you can still visit today. Visit the oak panelled 1857 Reading Room at the British Museum where Virginia Woolf used to do her writing, or take a wander around Fitzroy Square where many members either lived or worked at various addresses.
A cherished British writer, Charles Dickens memorialised Victorian London with his now classic stories like Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and Great Expectations. Fans can still visit many of the places associated with Dickens in the capital, as well as the sites around London that featured in his works.
- The Charles Dickens Museum
Located at 48 Doughty Street in Holburn, the Charles Dickens Museum is housed in a traditional Georgian terraced house that Dickens and his family once called home. Spread over four floors, the museum houses one of the most important collections of paintings, rare editions, manuscripts, original furniture and other artefacts related to the life and work of Dickens.
- Charles Dickens Sites around London
Dickens fans can take a stroll through Covent Garden that featured in Oliver Twist and the Pickwick Papers or visit the sixteenth century building The Old Curiosity Shop on Portsmouth Street, thought to have served as the inspiration for the antique shop in the novel by the same name. If you get thirsty from your wandering stop in for a pint at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese off Fleet Street, the pub was featured in A Tale of Two Cities and still serves today.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Author of the famed Sherlock Holmes stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave the world one of its favourite fictional detectives. Sherlock Holmes has inspired multiple adaptations, and fans of Holmes and his companion Watson will enjoy tracing their footsteps and those of their creator around London.
- The Sherlock Holmes Museum
As Sir Arthur told it, Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson were the tenants of Mrs Hudson at 221b Baker Street from 1881 to 1904. Appropriately located at the same address, this Georgian Townhouse is faithfully maintained for posterity as it would have been in Victorian times and serves as a museum dedicated to all things Holmes.
- Sherlock Holmes Haunts
Fans of the Great Detective can spend the night at The Charing Cross Hotel where Holmes trapped secret agent and murderer Hugo Oberstein in The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans; take a trip to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital where Holmes and Watson first met; or have dinner at the historic Rules Restaurant where Conan Doyle used to dine.
- Poet’s Corner
No trip to Literary London would be complete without a visit to Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. Located just a few steps from The Royal Horseguards Hotel, this iconic London landmark houses a veritable who’s who of the world’s literary greats.
Found in the South Transept, visitors to the Poets’ Corner can pay their respects at the final resting places of Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, Charles Dickens, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Dr Samuel Johnson, Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy – to name a few.
Memorials commemorating the lives of the some of the greatest writers, playwrights and poets have also been placed in the Poets’ Corner – including to William Shakespeare, John Milton, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Robert Burns, Jane Austen, Sir Walter Scott, the Bronte sisters and Percy Bysshe Shelley.
What do you have planned for World Book Day? Do you have a favourite literary spot in London that we’ve missed out? Please share your favourites with us below …