• Abi Prowse

5 Great Cities for Book Lovers

Reading and travelling often go hand-in-hand. Both a form of adventure and escapism, they can inform you, entertain you, and change the way you see the world, leaving you better than you were before. And how better to immerse yourself within a novel than to have experienced first-hand the places that inspired it?

These 5 european cities are all vastly different in culture, but are united by one essential factor: their literary history. Each steeped in beauty, with bookstores scattered around every corner, bookworms should make sure to add these coveted European destinations to their bucket list. Read on for our top 5 travel recommendations for book lovers - including, of course, which bookstores to visit first!

1. Edinburgh, UK

This stunning Scottish city has long been hailed one of the literary capitals of the world. A UNESCO City of Literature, Edinburgh is undeniably striking, with a rich history, a vibrant culture, and a unique landscape surrounding it - the city centre itself boasts two volcanoes. Although Edinburgh has been home to a number of the world's most renowned writers and poets, including Irvine Welsh, Robert Louis Stevenson and Ian Rankin, it is most famously celebrated as the home of Harry Potter.

Wandering the city's narrow, shaded streets, framed on each side by elaborate Gothic architecture, it isn't difficult to see how J.K. Rowling's magical universe was inspired by Edinburgh. Although there are a number of myths as to which parts of the city paved the way to certain aspects of the series, it is widely understood that Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was inspired by the imposing form of Edinburgh Castle.

Buy your books from: Armchair Books

Read your books at: Black Medicine Coffee Co

2. Lisbon, Portugal

With its long summer evenings, intricately-tiled houses and waterfront bars, Lisbon is often deemed one of Europe's most beautiful cities. But aside from its colourful charm and laidback lifestyle, the Portuguese capital is known also for its thriving literary scene. Lisbon is particularly famous for its talented poets, who drew inspiration from the rolling hills of the city and the lapping waves of the Tejo river; writers such as Fernando Pessoa and José Saramago are noted among the city's literary alumni. More recently, Pascal Mercier's Night Train to Lisbon was based in Lisbon, and has since been adapted into a film.

Although the city is littered with old-fashioned bookstores, whose passages are interrupted by piles of beautiful books, Lisbon's elegant Chiado neighbourhood is home to Livraria Bertrand: the oldest operating bookstore in the world. On Saturdays, the streets which border this brightly-tiled building come alive with market stalls for the Feira de Alfarrabistas - a weekly book market which attracts locals and visitors alike.

Buy your books from: Ler Devagar

Read your books at: Livraria-Bar Menina e Moça

Also take a look at: The 10 Most Unique Bookstores in Lisbon | We Are Travel Girls

3. Dublin, Ireland

Celebrated for its vibrant nightlife and dark, cobbled streets, Dublin is a city shrouded in mystery, where history and modernity seem to blend seamlessly. Among its lively bars and pubs, who send live music trickling into the night, Dublin is populated also by coffee houses and bookstores, frequented by the city's thriving student community. With a literary history including writers such as James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, and John Boyne, it is no wonder that visitors flock to Dublin in search of inspiration, hoping to soak up the otherworldly beauty which seeps through the dark stone houses.

Perhaps Dublin's most prominent literary destination is the world-famous Old Library at Trinity College, with its signature arched ceiling and mahogany furnishings. Founded in the 1400s, the library lives up to its reputation as an elegant, awe-striking time capsule for almost 5,500 literary masterpieces.

Buy your books from: The Winding Stair

Read your books at: Clement & Pekoe

4. Paris, France

Known as the city of love, the streets of Paris are awash with dainty brasseries and quaint bakeries, nestled in the shade of its iconic terraced buildings. But Paris' avenues have been known also to inspire a great number of some of the world's most esteemed writers, from Victor Hugo to Ernest Hemingway, who would gather around the compact tables of celebrated cafe Les Deux Magots to discuss their works.

Across the river from the imposing Notre Dame cathedral lies traditional bookstore Shakespeare and Company: an English-language book shop that dates back to the 1920s. Its higgeldy-piggeldy collection of books give the air of stepping into the pages of a fairytale, its labyrinthine aisles once a popular gathering place for writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound.

Buy your books from: Shakespeare and Company

Read your books at: Les Deux Magots

5. Venice, Italy

Venice's iconic canals and bright, rustic architecture make it one of Europe's most well-loved cities; elegant gondola boats slice through the still water as local Venetians enjoy a riverside glass of wine or cup of coffee. Despite the large volume of tourists which populate the city's narrow alleyways each year, Venice has never lost its ethereal charm, which has inspired writers worldwide for centuries. The setting for a number of Shakespeare's plays, Venice is a city like no other, with a rich literary history to match.

Libreria Acqua Alta is the most famous bookstore in the city, recognised for its charmingly haphazard displays of books - some of which are kept in an old gondola boat to prevent the books from being ruined by Venice's infamous floods. The shop is a treasure trove of stories, with volumes of colourful hardbacks guiding visitors towards the shop entrance.

Buy your books from: Libreria Acqua Alta

Read your books at: Il Caffè Rosso


Got a favourite literary destination? Let me know in the comments!

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