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20 best cities to visit for book lovers: from Los Angeles to Lagos

20 best cities to visit for book lovers: from Los Angeles to Lagos

Porto

JK Rowling lived in Porto for two years, and wrote parts of the first Harry Potter book here.The sumptuous 19th-century Livraria Lello is said to have inspired bookshop Flourish and Botts in the series, and even if you’re not a fan, you’ll love the Gothic exterior, stained-glass skylight and Escher-like central staircase. The Fonte dos Leões, or Fountain of the Lions is said to have inspired the Gryffindor crest, and those people walking around in Potter-esque cloaks? They’re college students in their traditional robes.

Stockholm’s museum, conducts a guided tour of one and a half hours at Montelius on S?dermalm island in Stockholm, for fans fans of Millenium, the cult trilogy of Swedish author Stieg Larsson. (Photo: AFP/Getty)Stockholm

Sweden is currently ground zero for crime fiction, and Stockholm, where Stieg Larsson wrote his Millennium trilogy, is the scene’s centre. Follow in his footsteps to Mellqvist Kaffebar, where he worked on the series, and wander round Södermalm, the spruced-up district whose warehouses have been converted into chic shops and cafés. Stieg Larsson tours deliver you to the main sites.

A man walks by the City Lights Bookstor in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, California. (Photo: Getty)San Francisco

Rebecca Solnit and Armistead Maupin are perhaps San Francisco’s best-known authors these days, but the North Beach neighbourhood is still steeped in the era of the Beat writers. City Lights bookshop was founded in 1953 by poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti (who, at 100 years old, still pops in). Next door is Vesuvio, a bar beloved by Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, and the small but fascinating Beat Museum is around the corner.

The lades from Ennis, Bridie Frawley, Anne Burke, Margaret Horan, Carmel Kehoe and Noreen Fly, enjoying Bloomsday celebrations in Meeting House Square Temple Bar. (Photo: Ruth Medjber)Dublin

Visit the Irish capital on 16 June and you’ll be surrounded by Joyce fans celebrating Bloomsday – a celebration of all things Joycean, taking place on the date on which Ulysses is set. The Dublin Writers Museum focuses on local writers from Beckett to Yeats, Shaw to Wilde – whose childhood house you can also tour in Merrion Square. Don’t forget the ninth century Book of Kells, at Trinity College.

Papers are dropped during a dance performance called “Heroes” at the Jose Vasconcelos public Library in Mexico City. (Photo: AFP/Getty)Mexico City

From Leon Trotsky, who came here in exiled from Russia, to Gabriel García Márquez, who settled here, Mexico’s capital has a long literary history. The Museo Casa de Leon Trotsky (around the corner from Frida Kahlo’s house) houses many of the former’s writings, and the Biblioteca Vasconcelos (below) is a must-visit for its extraordinary “floating” shelves and walkways. Pick up a copy of The Savage Detectives, Roberto Bolaño’s epic novel set in the city, at café-bookshop El Pendulo.

People look at the glass memorial by Michal Ullman for the Nazi book burning held on May 10, 1933 on the Bebelplatz square in front of the Humboldt University (Photo: AFP/Getty)Berlin

From Audre Lorde to Hans Fallada, many writers have been inspired by the German capital. Grab a bagel in the in-house café at Shakespeare and Sons bookshop, an offshoot of its famous Prague sibling, or go for a coffee at Literaturhaus, which has regular eventsand readings. Bebelplatz is where the Nazis burned 20,000 books on 10 Mayin 1933; today, an installation by Israelisculptor Micha Ullman has a pavement “window” to empty bookshelves below the square.

A view of Christ Church College from The Broad Walk in Oxford, England. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)Oxford

If the dreaming spires were good enough for JRR Tolkien, Philip Pullman, CS Lewis and Harry Potter (much of the first film was shot here), they’re good enough for a literary weekend. Christ Church’s minuscule doorway inspired Alice in Wonderland, and the pubs of Jericho are a throwback to the setting for Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure. and CS Lewis have also been inspired.

Naples and the Vesuvius volcano in the background (Photo: AFP/Getty)Naples

Pliny the Younger kicked off travel literature when he wrote a witness account of the Vesuvius eruption in 79AD that destroyed Pompeii. Today, the focus is firmly on Elena Ferrante, whose Neapolitan Quartet is thought to centre around the working-class Rione Luzzatti neighbourhood. Progetto Museo (progettomuseo.com) runs Ferrante-themed tours.

The Last Bookstore, Downtown LA (Photo: Press)Los Angeles

LA is a second-hand book lover’s dream – at the Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood, resident cats Zeus and Apollo stalk the shelves, while The Last Bookstore in Downtown LA houses new books downstairs in a corinthian-columned, coffered-ceilinged former bank, withused-book-built “sculptures” in the used section upstairs. Charles Bukowski was a regular at the Frolic Room on Hollywood Boulevard, while the Polo Lounge bar at the Beverly Hills Hotel features in Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero.

People walk through Balogun market in streets around Lagos Island (Photo: AFP/Getty)Lagos

The soaring fame of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has put the spotlight on the literary scene in Lagos, which is arguably the best in Africa. The Crimmd centre is a bookshop and library specialising in African authors, while the Association of Nigerian Authors holds regular events, including readings, around the city.

Cafe Central Morgenstimmung, Vienna (Photo: https://www.cafecentral.wien/)Vienna

Pull up a pew in a traditional coffee house (Sigmund Freud liked Café Central) and you can while away an afternoon reading in the Austrian capital – etiquette dictates that you won’t be moved on, and you will be surrounded by fellow solo bookworms. This is of course the setting for The Third Man (you can take a themed tour), and don’t miss the spectacular baroque Austrian National Library, which opened in 1723.

Art House, Tbilisi (Photo: Press)Tbilisi

There is a thriving cultural scene in Georgia’s capital, with literary cafés including Book Corner Cafe, on the bank of the Kura River, and Art House restaurant, which has an English-language “library” to browse while you eat. Don’t miss the Book Museum in the National Parliamentary Library, containing 19,000 rare books from medieval poems to the present day, including a dictionary from 1629.

A. N. Devers, author and rare book dealer, owner of The Second Shelf, poses for a photograph at her bookshop in central London. (Photo: AFP/Getty)London

From the Globe Theatre to the leafy squares of Bloomsbury, London’s literary heritage dates back centuries. Have a drink at the George Inn in Southwark, which makes a cameo in Dickens’ Little Dorrit, scour the shelves in the antiquarian bookshops on Cecil Court, and pay a visit to The Second Shelf in Soho, exclusively for books written by women. Don’t miss the Sherlock Holmes Museum at Baker Street, either.

The inner courtyard of the former La Merced monastery where the ashes of Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Márquez (1927-2014) are being buried, in Cartagena, Colombia. (Photo: AFP/Getty)Cartagena

Colombia’s most famous author, Gabriel García Márquez, started his writing career on Calle del Curato, and Macondo, the fictitious town in One Hundred Years of Solitude, is thought to be based on Cartagena. There are several Márquez-themed walking tours, as well as an audio tour produced by local historians. The Caribbean coastal city is home to an offshoot of the Hay Festival – the next edition takes place from 30 January to 2 February 2020.

Grand Café, Oslo (Photo: imageshop.no)Oslo

Henrik Ibsen had lunch every day at the Grand Café (and Edvard Munch once asked to trade a painting for 100 dinners). Now modernised, it remains one of the city’s best-loved meeting places. The Ibsen Museum is closed for renovations until 2021, but the Ibsen Sitat project keeps his influence in the public eye, with 69 quotes embedded in pavement along the route of his daily commute to the Granand his homed.

Some customers sit on the terrace at night of the famous Paris cafe of Deux Magots, at the Saint-Germain-des-Pres Square. (Photo: Getty)Paris

There’s still an intellectual frisson in the air at Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, where heavyweight regulars ran from Sartre and De Beauvoirto Ionesco and Georges Batailleto to Ionesco and Georges Bataille. Albert Camus wrote The Stranger in Montmartre, and countless literary greats were regular Paris flâneurs – aimless wanderers. Pick up a copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Shakespeare and Company, opposite the currently closed cathedral.

Picture taken at the “El Ateneo Grand Splendid” bookstore in Buenos Aires. (Photo: AFP/Getty)Buenos Aires

The Argentinian capital is said to have more bookshops per capita than any other city. Make a beeline for El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a converted theatre where the shelves loop round the former circle and stalls, and the stage houses a café. In Palermo, the Evita Museum – housed in a former women’s refuge founded by Eva Perón – has a fascinating collection of political books, while the annual Feria del Libro in April has
appearances from Argentinian authors.

Tokyo, Shinjuku area. (Photo: Martin BUREAU / AFP/Getty)Tokyo

Fans of Haruki Murakami are prone to making pilgrimages to places mentioned in his books – including the Nogata area, central to Kafka on the Shore, and bar Dug from Norwegian Wood (see murakamipilgrimage.com for listings). The Basho Memorial Hall has a replica of the hut lived in by 17th-century haiku master Basho, and Mukojima-Hyakkaen Gardens has monuments dedicated to famous writers and calligraphers.

Sunset street scene in the Maboneng precinct in Johannesburg (Photo: Press)Johannesburg

Rifle through the shelves (and the piles on the floor and staircases) at the self-proclaimed biggest used bookshop in the southern hemisphere, warren-like Collectors Treasury, near trendy Maboneng. Book Circle Capital will introduce you to a wealth of literature from African and diaspora authors, and both the Nelson Mandela Centre and South African National Museum look at the way writing was involved in the country’s liberation and independence movements.

The gravestone of poet John Keats, (1795-1821), stands in Rome’s ‘Non Catholic Cemetery’ on March 26, 2013 in Rome, Italy. (Photo: AFP/Getty)Rome

If 2,000-year-old poetry and political writing isn’t your scene, remember that the Italian capital has inspired writers from all over the world. There is a strong legacy from the Grand Tour – Shelley and Keats are buried in the Non-Catholic Cemetery, and the apartment Keats stayed in is a museum devoted to the Romantics. The Borghese gardens often pop up in the work of Italy’s national bard, Gabriele d’Annunzio.

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