Travelers find inspiration for journeys from a variety of sources. Here at Let’s Roam, we recently explored the concept of “set-jetting”—choosing a travel destination based on a movie or TV show. So we thought we’d explore literary travel today! In this guide, we’ll explore all the best vacation spots that were featured in famous books, were the homes of acclaimed authors, or served as inspiration for a major literary work. We’ll focus on spots that not only have a strong history but also offer the traveler a unique and complete adventure. These fantastic destinations offer valuable insight into the minds of our favorite authors. They afford the opportunity to explore authors’ homes, walk the streets that served as inspiration, and join guided literary tours to learn all the behind-the-scenes information on our favorite stories. Let’s roam!
Exploring Edinburgh With Let’s Roam
Edinburgh should definitely be on your literary travel list. Its Elephant House is famously the favored cafe of Harry Potter author JK Rowling and is reported to be where she wrote many of the stories. Edinburgh is a fascinating city full of historic significance, stunning architecture, royal regalities, and traditional pubs. Let us guide you to all the top spots on the city’s famous Royal Mile on our scavenger hunt! You’ll hunt for clues, complete photo and video challenges, and gather points as you go. Our Edinburgh hunt is the perfect way to explore this ancient city on a combination tour full of education and fun!
The Best Literary Travel Destinations for Book Lovers
Grand libraries, themed walking tours, unique bookstores of all kinds, quiet corner cafes and dank pubs, inspiring landscapes… they’re all part and parcel of a world-class literary destination. In this list, we’ll explore the stomping grounds of the greats, such as Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, and Jack Kerouac. Exploring the space in which an author created your favorite work is a virtual transportation through time and space. Just as the pages of a great novel carry the reader away to another place, standing in the shoes of our favorite authors can ferry the traveler to a faraway land that feels both alien and refreshingly familiar all at the same time.
You’ll leave each of these literary travel destinations with a deeper understanding of the author and the setting. You’ll likely also glean a more intimate understanding of nuances in the story that you may have missed in the initial reading. We highly recommend re-reading the stories inspired by these destinations just after your trip to see if they hit differently after visiting.
1. London, England
When it comes to literary destinations, it’s probably no surprise that we start our list with London. It’s the setting for Arthur Conan Doyle’s series of short stories on Sherlock Holmes and the location of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and where he wrote most of his beloved plays. And in these streets, mild-mannered Dr. Jekyll attempted to control his alter ego. From Harry Potter walking tours to the still-operating Smithfield Meat Market feature in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, London is ripe with literary landmarks.
London Walks specializes in literary tours. They offer dozens focused on literary landmarks from the works and lives of Virginia Woolf, Alfred Hitchcock, Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and T.S. Eliot. London also offers several free walking tours featuring filming locations and inspirational spots for the Harry Potter series.
2. Pamplona, Spain
Pamplona exudes old-world charm, and it’s not surprising that greats like Ernest Hemingway found solace in its glitzy watering holes. The colorful Spanish architecture, stacked high in narrow alleyways, opening to grand squares of stunning facades, fountains, and sculpture offers a plethora of inspiration for a writer. The city is most famous for its annual running of the bulls, and it is this event that dominates the most riveting section of Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises. This was Hemingway’s first hit novel.
The author arrived in the Northern Spanish city at the age of 24 in 1923. While he was sent as a news reporter for the Toronto Star, the city inspired him to write on a different level. Hemingway’s favorite jaunt is a luxurious cafe on the main square called Café Iruña. Not only is it the most beautiful cafe around, but it also features a life-sized statue and plaque dedicated to the author. The cafe plays a central role in the novel, as well.
Partially due to his novel, the San Fermin Festival and the accompanying running of the bulls bloomed from a small event attracting a handful of tourists in the 1920s to a major event with over 40,000 spectators by the time Hemingway returned in 1959. Several hotels in the city claim to have suites where the writer worked, but most are unverified and charge outrageous prices for their most-likely false abodes. There is another representation of the author outside the famous Bull Ring.
3. Key West, Florida
Pamplona isn’t the only famous spot associated with the author. Hemingway also lived and wrote in Cuba for more than 30 years, producing The Old Man and the Sea, To Have and Have Not, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Cuba is a bit harder to visit on a tourist visa, though. If you want the perfect mix of Caribbean waters and literary itineraries, check out Key West, Florida.
Here, you’ll find the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, the stunning Spanish Colonial home he built with his wife in the 1930s. Though he moved on in 1939, Hemingway retained ownership of the home until his tragic death, and the cats that live on the property are direct descendants of his beloved, six-toed kitty named Snow White.
4. Massachusetts, USA
Massachusetts has a very strong literary history, especially for such a small state. A road trip through Massachusetts is akin to a treasure hunt for literary masterpieces. Emily Dickinson owned two homes in the town of Amherst and attended university there. Robert Frost taught at the university. Start by taking a tour of the university. Visit the Robert Frost Library, and then tour the Emily Dickinson Museum and Historic Home.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott lived in Concord, where Alcott set her bestseller Little Women. You can tour each other their homes and visit Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau wrote Walden. There is a replica of his one-room cabin on the shores of the pond.
Edith Wharton made her home in Lenox, where you can tour her gorgeous home known as The Mount. Also, make sure to pop in one of the best bookstores around, The Bookstore (we said it’s one of the best, not one of the most innovative). Snuggle up with your favorite book and a glass of wine from the on-site wine store, appropriately named Get Lit (which goes a long way in making up for the lack of creativity in the store name).
Last, but not least, Nantucket Island is the setting of Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby Dick. Melville didn’t visit Nantucket until long after he wrote the book, but the island has a great whaling museum, some interesting walking tours that include the literary history, and a fabulous summer book festival in June.
5. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam was the home of one of the most endearing characters in human history. A little Jewish girl, known as Anne Frank, spent the last years of her “freedom” in an attic apartment, where she thoroughly detailed her daily life in hiding in her childhood diary. The Diary of Anne Frank is enlightening, endearing, and immensely heartbreaking and possibly one of the most-read non-fiction works of the 20th century. Visitors can tour the Anne Frank House to see firsthand where Anne penned her now-famous memoirs.
Aside from its literary importance, Amsterdam has a thriving arts scene. Check out the best of van Gogh, the classics of the Rijksmuseum, and the masters of street art in Moco Museum on our “Amsterdam’s Art Scene” scavenger hunt!
6. Bath, England
Not only is Bath home to one of the finest representations of an ancient Roman bath complex, one of the most beautiful abbeys in the world, and the culinary masterpiece known as Sally Lunn’s buns, but it is also the elegant stomping ground of Jane Austen.
Austen lived in the ancient health mecca from 1801 to 1809 and wrote Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Your first stop should be the Jane Austen Centre to explore multiple exhibits on her life and work. In mid-September, Bath hosts the Jane Austen Festival featuring walking tours, plays, a ball, and readings from the works of the famous female author. In late September, bring the kiddos for the Children’s Bath Literature Festival!
7. Edinburgh, Scotland
Staying within the UK, we head up north to captivating Scotland. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and a fabulous city for historical and literary tours. The city was home to JK Rowling during many of the years she was creating her legendary wizarding series. Though it’s closed for now, you can see The Elephant House cafe, where she did much of her writing. You can tour Victoria Street, which many believe was one of the inspirations for Diagon Alley. Tour Greyfriars Cemetery, and look for familiar names from the novels, or hire a tour guide, and take a Harry Potter walking tour. Elsewhere in Scotland, you can see the spot where Hargrid’s hut was located in the movies in Glencoe, take a ride on the Hogwarts Train, and see Loch Shiel, or “The Black Lake.”
8. Paris, France
Paris is a literary legend. From the madness of the Da Vinci Code to Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables, Paris is the perfect backdrop for a romantic or torrid tale. At this moment (July 2023) though, riotous Paris resembles a scene from Les Mis a little too closely!
Pull up a chair in Les Deux Magots, where Hemingway sipped his coffee. Stop in the iconic bookstore Shakespeare and Co. Visit the museum Maison de Victor Hugo in the author’s former apartment. Or wander the tombs of Proust, Gertrude Stein, and Oscar Wilde in Père Lachaise Cemetery. There are a plethora of literary walking tours, riverside bouquinistes, and adorable secondhand bookstores in the city to peruse.
Out of Africa is a fascinating memoir recounting the experiences of Danish author Karen Blixen on an African coffee plantation in the 1930s. Blixen wrote under the pen name Isak Dinesen, and she spent almost 20 years living amongst the locals of East Africa. The memoirs are a masterpiece of her experiences and an ode to the beautiful landscapes of Kenya. Kenya was also the birthplace of legendary African writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, often considered East Africa’s leading novelist. Grab a few of his books, and let them inspire you to explore the beauty of East Africa.
10. San Juan, Puerto Rico
Kentucky-born author Hunter S. Thompson perfectly encapsulates the simultaneously vibrant and oft-tragic atmosphere of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in his novel The Rum Diary. While touring the historic Spanish Colonial forts, colorful alleyways, and stunning Caribbean beaches, allow the pages of Thompson’s masterpiece to guide your wanderlust!
Iceland is known as the most bookish island in the world. Not only does it have the most books published per capita but the most writers and the most books read per capita as well. With a long history spanning the Viking sagas to today, the windswept wonder has captivated imaginations for centuries. The Snæfellsjökull volcano was the site of the gateway to the heart of the world in Jules Verne’s novel Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Aside from the volcano, literary travelers can visit The National and University Library of Iceland, where you can lay eyes on some of the most important historical works in the country. Every two years, Reykjavik hosts their International Literary Festival. The city invites Nobel-prize-winning novelists, historians, and poets to engage in a series of lectures and literary events in venues all over the city. It is accompanied by a writer’s seminar. The capital also has an app for a self-guided literary walking tour. Bookworms will also revel in the surfeit of quirky bookstores dotting the country.
12. Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena was the home and muse of Nobel-Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez. From One Hundred Years of Solitude to Love in the Time of Cholera, Márquez insists that every work of his has a link to the city that captured his heart. Cartagena is a lively city with a rich culture, fantastic food, and stunning beaches, making it a top-notch holiday destination. It was also home to the poet Luis Carlos López. While most of the sites related to the life of Márquez are not yet open to the public, there are plans to turn his former home into a museum.
13. The Pacific Coast Trail, USA
Wild by Cheryl Strayed cemented the PCT in infamy… especially after it was turned into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon. The PCT is a hiking trail that roams from Mexico to Washington State, extending over 1,100 miles. Since the book’s publication in 2012, the PCT has exploded with visitors. There is now a permit system you must use to apply for a trek. This trail is long and difficult in spots and should not be undertaken without proper preparation. The Pacific Trail Association has designed several shorter hikes based on Cheryl’s journey, as well.
14. Verona, Italy
Tourists flock year after year to stare upon a tiny, unassuming balcony where legend holds that fair Juliet conversed with her Romeo. Romeo and Juliet is a timeless Shakespearean play based on a previous story written by Luigi da Porto, who (unlike Shakespeare) actually lived in Verona and based the story on his life. Not only is the town quite romantic, but for a small fee, lovers can reenact the famous scenes from the 13th-century balcony of the Capulet home. Travelers touch the statue of Juliet, see the bust of Shakespeare, visit Romeo’s house and Juliet’s tomb, or join one of the many walking tours.
For a fun outing, visit the Juliet Club, where letters to Juliet from all over the world are archived and answered. Verona was also the home of Dante, the author of The Divine Comedy, for approximately seven years, and there are a couple of monuments to the legendary author in the city.
15. Stampede Trail, Alaska
When Jon Krakauer wrote Into the Wild, it’s doubtful he had any idea what effect it would have on the travel community. Though the protagonist endures a brutal death, the work of nonfiction, based on the life of Christopher McCandless, hasn’t stopped droves of hikers from attempting the Stampede Trail in an effort to visit the abandoned bus where McCandless lived and perished. After two deaths and several near-deaths, the bus was removed in 2020 to deter unprepared “pilgrims.” If you choose to take on the isolated trail, just outside of Denali National Park, proper preparation and advanced survival skills are highly recommended.
16. Tuscany, Italy
There is no place more romantic than Tuscany, Italy, and no better food on the planet, either. It’s no wonder that Frances Mayes chose it as the location of her female emancipation/romance novel Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy. Today, there are cooking tours, bus tours, and bike tours all based on the spots in the book and movie. Most are based out of Cortona, Siena, or Florence. While the movie was made in 2003 and the hype over it has faded, our love affair with Tuscany persists, partly due to the book and movie that introduced the region to so many travelers.
17. Transylvania, Romania
Transylvania’s misty forests and looming mountaintop castles made it the ideal setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The local, ancient vampire lore and the acts of the infamous Vlad Dracul (Vlad the Impaler) didn’t hurt, either. Today, Bran Castle is touted as Dracula’s Castle, though it harbors no link to the book or to Vlad. It has an interesting tour with an informative museum, some vampire artifacts, and a slew of kitschy huts selling Dracula souvenirs. You can also visit the actual castle ruins of Vlad the Impaler, Poenari Castle.
18. St. Petersburg, Russia
We know—Russia isn’t the easiest to visit at the moment. Put this one away for future endeavors. St. Petersburg was home to legendary authors like Leo Tolstoy, Vladimir Nabokov, and Mikhail Lermontov. It’s the setting of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and a city devoted to the literature and art of Imperial Russia.
The apartment of Alexander Pushkin has been transformed into a literary museum. Volkovskoe Cemetery bears the headstones of some of Russia’s most loved writers. Dostoevsky Zone is a series of spots around Sennaya Square featured in the beloved novels of Dostoevsky. Make sure to grab a drink in the Stray Dog’s cellar, where all the Russian greats once gathered for poetry and music nights.
19. Dublin, Ireland
Ireland is another island with a strong literary heritage. Home to Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, and Oscar Wilde, the Emerald Isle provides no shortage of fascinating fodder for both fictional and nonfictional works. Pop into the incredible library at Trinity College, where you will find the ninth-century illuminations of the Book of Kells. Visit the Museum of Literature. The James Joyce Centre offers literary lectures and walking tours. As in most of the great literary cities, watering holes were a favorite amongst angsty authors, and the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl tours will introduce you to the best of the best.
20. Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland
Sticking to the Irish theme, many say that the mystical land of Narnia from C.S. Lewis’s beloved series Chronicles of Narnia was partially based on the beauty of Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains. Located in County Down, the mountains are the perfect escape after a few days in Dublin. A few scenes from Game of Thrones have been filmed here, as well.
21. Mainz, Germany
This destination isn’t so much inspired by a writer but an inventor that allowed us to enjoy the great works of our favorite authors with ease. Mainz was the home of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press and hero to bookworms the world over. Visit the Gutenberg Museum to learn the story and see one of the original Gutenberg Bibles, famously the first book printed on the new invention.
22. New York City, USA
Like Paris and London, NYC is a no-brainer on this list. It was the home of greats like Jack Kerouac, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Truman Capote, Emma Lazarus, Walt Whitman, Edith Wharton, and Tennessee Williams. It’s the setting of countless works, like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, American Psycho, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, and countless others. It’s loaded with gorgeous libraries, iconic bookshops, and familiar literary spaces. Like Dublin, NYC is a great place for a literary pub crawl!
23. Monterey, California
John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, near Monterey, California, and cities serve as the inspiration for his works like East of Eden and Cannery Row. Robert Louis Stevenson was also inspired to write Treasure Island from his home in Monterey. Tour The Robert Louis Stevenson House, where he wrote The Old Pacific Capital. Tour The Steinbeck House and the National Steinbeck Center, and check out the actual Cannery Row.
24. Middlebury, Vermont
Last, but definitely not least, check out the alluring home of Robert Frost. Wander the woods in Green Mountain National Forest that inspired Frost along the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail. Let your mind wander as you snack on a to-go lunch at the Frost Wayside Picnic Area. Take a journey down the gorgeous Robert Frost Memorial Drive. Attend one of the most prestigious writer’s conferences in the country, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Take a tour of Middlebury College for an afternoon reading in one of its libraries, or let your mind be blown by the mega collection of works in Monroe Street Books.
For the consummate bookworm, there’s nothing like escaping to a faraway land in the pages of a classic book. Many of our favorite TV shows, movies, and video games are copied from the lines of beloved literary works, and now, even your travel itinerary can be planned around your favorite stories. We hope you enjoyed this list of literary travel destinations. While these are some of the best, we guarantee whoever your favorite author is, you can design a trip around the places they lived and wrote in. Put on your thinking cap and get creative as you plan your next trip around your literary hero. Peace out, fellow nerds!
For more travel inspiration, check out our travel guide, “What is Set Jetting? The Top Travel Trend for Movie Buffs.”
Literary travelers are just one small section of the travel universe! Check out “31 Types of Travelers: Which One Are You?” to find out what type of travel you will love the most!
Frequently Asked Questions
Literary travel constitutes planning a vacation around a destination that has a connection to a prominent literary work or writer. It gives you the chance to bring a book to life.
Literary tourism involves several areas of travel, including walking tours based on important spots in the lives of writers, settings of great works, historic bookshops, and literary museums.