Now, it is common knowledge that fiction is one of the most relaxing and most enjoyable pass times in all human existence. Whether it's television series, films or books, we are really programmed to enjoy watching and reading the lives of other people play out in front of us. However, when it comes to fiction, there is nothing more satisfying than delving into the oldest of all forms of entertainment... by which I mean a good book.
The English capital is home to some of the best fictional creations, has served as inspiration to many plots and characters and is home to some of the Anglophone world's most renowned writers. So, to celebrate International Literacy Day this year, Spotahome has compiled a quick, simple and (hopefully) well-written guide of activities in London for bookworms and literature lovers alike.
(1) British Library
This place is heaven for all book lovers. The British Library is a copyright library and is home to all books published in the UK, so a visit here means you can really browse and feast your eyes on all the titles you could possibly think of.
Photo credits: Ciprian Boiciuc on Unsplash
Located right in the heart of London near Euston Station, the interior of the library is equally as impressive with its intricate book cases and high ceilings. So, even if you don't necessarily fancy a book browse, it's worth just checking out.
(2) Word on the Water
I couldn't possibly write a blog posts about literature based activities without including a good old bookshop. When choosing one in London, it's not quite that simple, as this city hosts a real wealth of great bookshops.
However, Word on the Water was the obvious choice, as it is, as the title suggests, a bookshop on the river. Originally a 1920 Dutch barge, it is now home to some really literary marvels. Despite its popularity and success, it hasn't always been (pardon the pun) plain sailing for Word on the Water and a few years ago was on the brink (can't help myself) of closing when they had to make way for developments to the area.
Although this obviously inconvenienced the bookshop, the owners carried on setting up ship (sorry again) in various locations to keep the business and spirit alive. Thanks to a large online petition and a strong book lover and community spirit, Word on the Water gained a permanent spot which can now be found near Kings Cross in Central London on Regent's Canal.
If that story wasn't enough to show you the strong character and convince you to visit Word on the Water, they regularly host events that combine music, literature and poetry in a fun and interactive way. This really is a book lover's paradise.
(3) Shakespeare's Globe
When we're talking about English Literature it is almost criminal not to mention the big man himself... you got it right... it's Shakespeare. William Shakespeare not only contributed a lot to the English Language as we know it, but his works are some of the most studied in the world.
The Globe theatre in London is a reconstruction of Shakespeare's famous theatre. Opened in 1997, the establishment pays tribute and seeks to celebrate and educate the public about the playwright, his immense contribution to the world of theatre and literature and to attract people from all over the world. The theatre houses various events that span from plays to lectures and all encompass the literary traditions, content and values of Shakespeare's great works.
The building itself is captivating and a lot of hard work, time and money has gone into preserving and recreating the resemblance and details that can be seen here. This is a must see for anyone who is mildly interested in English Literature or theatre.
Although not strictly London, whilst we are still talking about Shakespeare, it would really be a fault on my own part not to mention this. Stratford-upon-Avon as many of you know is the birthplace and old home of the genius himself and is a delightful little day trip.
Photo credits: Matt Riches on Unsplash
From London you can catch a train that will only take around 2 hours to arrive at this literary paradise. Once there, you can visit Anne Hathaway's house (not the actress's, Shakespeare's wife's), Shakespeare's old home/ birthplace and even his grave.
This is a great day out for anyone and everyone and whilst in the UK, and being so close in London, it really is something that you should consider doing.
(5) Platform 9 3/4
Moving forward to the modern age of literature, Harry Potter put Kings Cross St. Pancras on the map, and there it proudly stays. J.K. Rowling's book series made that much of impact on the city itself that this platform (the one that doesn't exist to muggles in the book series) actually does exist.
Photo credits: Jaredd Craig on Unsplash
Now part of the Harry Potter Shop at Platform 9 3/4, you can buy an exclusive range of merchandise from the shop and have your photo taken professionally trying to push the trolley through the wall.
(6) Harry Potter World
I like sticking with themes and to follow through, although not as literary based as the previous suggestion, one thing is for sure; Harry Potter is life. Harry Potter World is more closely related to the film adaptation of J.K. Rowling's famous book series, but nonetheless is an opportunity not to be wasted and a great chance to see the realisation of the famous and amazing novel series itself with your own 2 eyes. After all, sometimes seeing really is believing.
Photo credit: Tom Kulczycki on Unsplash
Located in Watford, this isn't very far from London at all and is nothing short of a fun-fuelled and packed day out for everyone of any age. Once there, you can take part in the studio tour where you see the costumes, props and set of the film series and really come face to face with the demons and dreamy creations of Rowling realised. There are also eateries that host some of the creative food and drink that she devised in her book series. It's really not one to miss.
(7) 221b Baker Street- Sherlock Holmes Museum
Just like Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes put Baker Street on the map. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book series, he noted that Sherlock and his faithful companion Dr. John Watson resided together in what might now only be known as the most famous address in history; 221b Baker Street.
Photo credits: Florian Pérennès on Unsplash
Nowadays this address is home to the Sherlock Holmes Museum where you can step back in time and visit the home of the legendary, fictional detective. With props and furnishings laid out in accordance with Conan Doyle's novels and the opportunity to join in with interactive and insightful tours, you really get the taste and get to feel the magic behind this famous literary creation that has inspired many other fictional television, film and literary pieces in our modern-day culture.
Additional fact; there is also a conspiracy that the detective did actually live here. Between the years 1860-1934 there is records of a lodger living in the property, which coincides with the blue, heritage plaque dates and the said description with the person that inspired the character.
(8) Charles Dickens Museum
Throwing it right back again, as in all the way back to the 19th century. London town is home to some of the most classic plots and characters, most famously: Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist. Dickens's house has since been turned into a museum that you can go and visit and see where the author lived, wrote and settled, which will allow you to explore the private life behind the public facade.
The museum preserves and exposes some of the most legendary artifacts such as his desk and study, where some of his most famous and amazing novels were written, as well as various from his personal life. A trip to the museum is really like stepping back in time and experiencing the life of a now-known literary genius.
(9) Notting Hill
Now, I know that you're thinking that this is just a district of London and so on, but Notting Hill is a great day out and destination for bookworms alike. Not only are there a wealth of great, independent bookshops for you to browse in and enjoy, but there is also the market where you can find some real hidden treasures and gems.
Photo credits: Charlie Read on Unsplash
Notting Hill was also home and inspiration to various great English novels such as George Orwell, whose house can be seen down one of the colourful streets.
(10) The George Inn
I mean even literary geniuses deserve a good ol'drink every now and again. The George Inn is now a galleried national trust landmark located in Southwark, which once, back in the day, was frequented by the likes of Shakespeare and Charles Dickens.
Walking into the George Inn really is like stepping back in time and by having a drink here you become part of the great English literary tradition. It is definitely worth a visit.
So, whilst you're in London, it really would be a shame not to make the most of some of the greatest literary hotspots that the city has to offer. Although there are many more, the options selected for this post really have a lot to offer everyone regardless of age and literary interest.
Liked this blog post? For more things to do in London check out some of our other top guides:
- Music in London: famous sites you have to visit
- Things to do in London: 10 Best Secret Places in London
- 7 Fancy Things to do in London on a Student’s Budget
- The Best British Movies set in London: Zombies, Brad Pitt & Goats
Header photo credits: iam Se7en on Unsplash