10 Best Cities For A Literary Pilgrimage

18 December 2014

One of the great things about travelling is that it gives you time to do stuff you don't always get to do at home: such as reading loads of books! All those hours spent on trains, planes and buses fly by when you've got a good novel to absorb. However, some travellers like to take their love of literature further with a literary-themed adventure or two. Bookworms will find plenty of inspiration in the following cities.

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St Petersburg

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 The streets of St Petersburg

It's a treat to grab a table outside a pavement cafe on Nevsky Prospekt, the pulsating main thoroughfare of St Petersburg, and spend an hour or so watching the world go by, while leafing through the pages of Crime and Punishment.

Published in 1866, Fyodor Dostoevsky's epic was set in and around the canal-blessed backstreets of the so-called 'Venice of the East'.

You can take a guided tour that reveals where the story's protagonist, Raskolnikov, snuck around; visit a Dostoevsky museum (which occupies his former apartment) and see the author's tombstone in the city's evocative Alexander Nevsky cemetery.

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Dublin

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 The City of Dublin that inspired Joyce

Like Russia, Ireland has been a fertile breeding ground for literary beacons

Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Jonathan Swift and Samuel Beckett are just some of a big names lauded at the Dublin Writers' Museum.

You can roam the photogenic grounds of Trinity College, where Dublin-born Oscar Wilde studied the classics, and enjoy literary-inspired pub crawls, which include stops at the old watering holes of James Joyce, whose experiences of Dublin flavoured his legendary books, Ulysses and The Dubliners.

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Edinburgh

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 On a snowy day in Edinburgh there's reason to sit by the fireplace and unfurl a literary classic

UNESCO's City of Literature status - which is bestowed on those with an 'outstanding literary heritage' - is growing by the year, with Granada, Heidelberg, Prague and Dunedin recently joining Dublin, Melbourne, Norwich, Iowa, Krakow and Reykjavik on the list.

The very first city to earn this moniker, however, was Edinburgh, which has produced myriad talents down the years, including Robert Louis Stevenson (creator of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde), Ian Rankin (the man behind the Inspector Rebus novels) and Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting).

JK Rowling lived in the Scottish capital as an up-and-coming writer and would conjure up stories about a boy wizard in the Elephant House cafe.

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Barcelona

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 Old and new in the Catalan city

Barcelona is marketed these days as a sun-kissed, tourist-friendly city by the Mediterranean.

But it wasn't always this way - and if you read the books of Carlos Ruiz Zafon, you'll see the Catalan capital in a different, darker light.

Fans of his entrancing 2001 literary thriller Shadow of the Wind - which reaped 12 million sales worldwide and spawned two sequels - can take a guided tour through the atmospheric alleys and plazas of the city's Gothic Quarter, where much of the books' twisting, mystical plots played out.

The fourth novel in Ruiz Zafon's Cemetery of Forgotten Book series is due out in 2015.

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Buenos Aires

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[embed]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhaiXhzJqks[/embed]

Of the dozens of bookshops that grace the Argentinian capital, the stand-out is El Ateneo, which occupies the old Teatro Gran Splendida in the historic Recoleta district.

A contender for the world's most beautiful bookstore, its lavish ceilings lord over shelves jammed with both Spanish and foreign language tomes, including the work of local lad Jorge Luis Borges.

His poems and short stories evoke a magic realism that still resonates with present-day readers, who like to dip into Borges' beloved old hideaway, Cafe Tortoni - one of BA's most emblematic coffee joints.

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Stockholm

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 Take a seat in Stockholm

The Swedish capital is home to the Nobel Museum, which is dedicated to Alfred Nobel, the Stockholm-born inventor, in whose name awards are handed out annually in various fields, including science, peace and literature.

Yet many bookworms come to Stockholm because of the late Stieg Larsson.

His thrilling Millennium Trilogy exposed the shadier side of Swedish society, and you can retrace the footsteps of the novels' lead characters - campaigning journalist Mikael Blomkvist and dragon-tattooed hacktivist Lisbeth Salander - on intriguing tours that tie in the real Stockholm, and its 30,000 islands, with its fictional counterpart.

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Paris

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 Classic Parisian cafe

In the 'roaring 1920s', Montparnasse was one of the French capital's hippest quarters, its cheap rents luring a colourful cast of characters from home and abroad, including the 'Lost Generation' of American wordsmiths such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald.

Their old hang-outs are still going strong, with Le Dome, La Coupole and La Rotonde among the enticing cafes on the Boulevard du Montparnasse.

In the district's necropolis, you'll find the tombs of French writer-philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Guy de Maupassant and Charles Baudelaire - and Samuel Beckett.

Paris' most-visited graveyard, Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise, is the resting place of Oscar Wilde.

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London

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 Along the riverfront in London

William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf are among the famous scribes to have flourished in the British capital, which continues to offer novel material for the modern generation of writers, such as Monica Ali (Brick Lane), Ian McEwan (Saturday) and Zadie Smith (White Teeth).

Housed in the author's old Georgian terraced home (where he penned Oliver Twist), the Dickens Museum in Bloomsbury is one of London's best bibliophilic attractions.

The city's plethora of pubs, meanwhile, have long provided sustenance to wordsmiths, rich and poor.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street was a favourite of Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr Samuel Johnson, while George Orwell and Dylan Thomas drank at the Fitzroy Tavern in Fitzrovia.

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Vienna

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Set in pre-World War I Vienna, William Boyd's 'Waiting for Sunrise' is an atmospheric spy yarn that's the cracking accompaniment for a trip to the Austrian capital.

The story features a quirky cameo by Sigmund Freud - one of many famous figures to frequent Vienna's evocative coffeehouses (his writer friend Stefan Zweig would join him at the still-thriving Cafe Landtmann).

Also synonymous with Vienna is Graham Greene's novella, The Third Man. Walking tours lead visitors around the cobbled lanes and hidden courtyards that appeared in both the book and in Orson Welles' 1949 movie version.

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Los Angeles

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 LA's city skyline

The USA isn't short of bookworm-worthy destinations, with New York, Boston and San Francisco all in with a shout.

However, while LA is best-known for its Hollywood script-writers, it also has an impressive roster of authors, with hard-boiled crime fiction a speciality.

Tours span the mean streets where Raymond Chandler's tough private detective, Philip Marlowe, never feared to tread.

You can eat at The Pacific Dining Car (a 24-hour steakhouse that LA Confidential author James Ellroy dines in) and check out the various spots patronised by Michael Connelly and his fictional cop, Harry Bosch.

Hollywood duo Musso & Frank Grill and the Catalina Jazz Club are two stops on the Bosch trail.

Steve McKenna

A regular contributor to some of Australia's leading newspapers and travel magazines, Steve McKenna has visited, written about and photographed more than 80 countries on six different continents. He fears he has an incurable case of wanderlust and is particularly fond of Europe, Asia and South America.