Although many people claim that Dublin is the literature hot spot of the UK, London is also home to some of the most well-known scribes. As a book lover, I was amazed by the British Library’s collection, which has over 150 million items! I was overwhelmed with their Sir John Ritblat Gallery, at the right of the main entrance, that features original copies of the Magna Carta, Canterbury Tales, Jane Eyre, Shakespeare’s First Folio, and more! However, the British Library is not the only literature place to visit in London. Here is a list of my other favorite literature spots in London.
Peter Pan, Kensington Park
In Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan flies out of his nursery to the west side of Long Water in Kensington Gardens. In this exact location, there is a bronze statue of Peter surrounded by figures of squirrels, rabbits, mice, and fairies that all appear to be climbing up to meet him. J.M. Barrie lived near Kensington Gardens and published his first Peter Pan story using the location for inspiration. Barrie was inspired to write Peter Pan by a group of real boys, belonging to the Davies family, that he met for the first time in Kensington Park. Barrie would joke with them and tell them imaginative tales of treasures and pirates.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Cecil Court
Although the Alice in Wonderland stories were set in Ascot manor and the underworld, London has several stores and restaurants dedicated to the whimsical children’s tales. The store Alice Through The Looking Glass in Cecil Court offers rare first editions and early copies of the Alice stories, t-shirts, illustrations, and chessboards. If you are in the mood for a tea party, one of the best choices is Sanderson Hotel’s Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea. The napkins are wrapped with riddles, the teapots are decorated with kings and queens and the sandwich plates feature ticking clocks, zebras, and birdcages. Alternatively, you can have tea with the Mad Hatter himself in Camden.
Sherlock Holmes, 221 B Baker Street
Despite actually being located between 237 and 241 Baker Street, the Sherlock Holmes Museum claims to hold the same residential address as Sherlock Holmes, the famous sleuth of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mystery series, at 221b Baker Street. The museum is dressed to look like Holmes’ apartment in the books with Victorian furnishing and Holmes memorabilia in every corner. Even if you do not pay 16 pounds to go inside the museum, it is still worth a trip! The Baker Street tube station is entirely Sherlock themed, there is a photo opportunity with the period dressed staff members at the front entrance, and there is a great gift store! Both fans of the Sherlock books and the BBC television series will appreciate the gift shop as it has merchandise from both versions.
Charles Dickens Museum, 48 Doughty Street
The Charles Dickens museum is a recreation of Charles Dicken’s house from 1837–1839. Like Sherlock Holmes Museum, even if you don’t feel like paying for admission, this location is still worth a visit for any Dickens fans with a wide array of Dickensian merchandise, from bronze busts to stationary sets, and embroidered towels. The museum provides insight to visitors on Dicken’s life and the upper-class Victorian lifestyle. The collection of period furnishing is impressive, with the original lecturn and writing desk that Dickens owned.
Several of Charles Dickens novels take place in London. Oliver Twist references 93 unique locations exclusively in London. His descriptions of these locations in the books are so detailed, it is easy for the reader to visualize the settings without actually traveling there. However, I still recommend fans to scout out the different sites to compare how well Dickens’ descriptions from the 19th century match up (or don’t) to how the locations look today. It is still possible to walk the streets featured in the books and recognize the many landmarks that provided the setting to his stories. For example, fans can transport themselves to 19th century London at St. Martin Field Lane, where fate causes Oliver Twist to run into Fagin.
Paddington, Paddington Station
Take a trip to where Paddington the bear first arrived in London from Darkest Peru at Paddington Station. At platform one, you can take your picture with the bronze Paddington Bear statue, where the Brown family first found him. You can purchase your own stuffed version of the much-loved bear at the Paddington shop near the station. The shop sells books, toys, mugs, key chains and other gear exclusively dedicated to Paddington.
Harry Potter, PLATFORM 9 ¾ KING’S CROSS STATION
Take the tube to King’s Cross Station and look for the platforms 9 and 10, where you will see a trolley disappearing into the wall. After you get your photo taken with the Hogwarts House scarf of your choice, go into the gift store to stock up on any wizarding trinkets and paraphernalia! This pilgrimage is a must for any Harry Potter fan! For a more extensive list of Harry Potter locations in London, look at my guided tour blog post.
James Bond, Dukes Bar
If you want to feel like James Bond, stop by Dukes Bar, where martinis inspired Ian Fleming to make it 007’s signature drink. James Bond was famous for his snobbery when it came to finding the best food that met his tastes and a drink to hold up to his suave standards. Some of the other classy London locations mentioned in the book series are Sloane Square in Moonraker (1955) and Bond’s apartment at 30 Wellington Square.
The world awaits…discover it.