If you like reading and London, this is the guide for you
London has a proud literary history. Everyone from William Wordsworth to Dylan Thomas, Charlotte Bronte to Karl Marx has enjoyed Soho and the West End, whilst centres of the written word, such as the legendary Fleet Street, have become synonymous with printing and publishing on a global scale. It has been central to some of the UK’s finest works of fiction – and remains so to this day.
There are many literary things to do in London. The capital’s iconic literary landmarks, from Shakespeare’s Globe to the British Library, draw millions of enthusiasts to the capital every year – but what are the hidden wordy wonders of this remarkable city? Here’s our run-down of our favourite destinations.
Browsing in Bloomsbury
Its historic associations with Virginia Woolf and the famous Bloomsbury Set are only the beginning of this area’s literary associations. A hub of the modern publishing industry, it’s also home to some great independent bookshops, including the London Review Bookshop, Bookmarks, Atlantis Bookshop and comic book and graphic novel emporium Gosh!
Bag a second-hand bargain
An institution tucked away in Camden’s legendary market, Black Gull Books has been a fixture of the capital’s literary scene for decades. It’s packed to the rafters with second-hand treasures to discover. Check out its sister shop in East Finchley too.
Between Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road, the bookshops of Charing Cross Road are also very popular with people on the hunt for a classic or rare edition.
Discover amazing spoken word nights
Returning year, one of London’s most vibrant and popular spoken word events will have a new home in the city centre. Taking to the stage on the last Thursday of the month, Bang Said The Gun thrives on audience participation and unique, characterful voices. After building a huge audience south of the river, Bang Said is moving to the Bloomsbury Theatre, in the heart of the University of London – making it the ideal city centre night out for aspiring wordsmiths.
But for something a touch more intimate, try Homework at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. An established part of East London’s spoken word scene, it hosts monthly nights under an eclectic mix of themes. Tucked away in a wonderfully retro venue, Homework has built itself a hard-earned reputation as a welcoming night full of heart, humour and exciting talent.
The Pubs of Fleet Street, Fitzrovia and Soho
After a long day exploring the sights of the city, why not enjoy a literary-themed pub crawl?
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese has stood, just off Fleet Street, since 1667 – and its cellars belong to a 13th century monastery. In its time, the pub was frequented by both Samuel Johnson and Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle.
A short Tube ride to the west is Soho – The French House was a favourite of Dylan Thomas, while Dickens’ name drops the The Pillars of Hercules (appropriately located on Greek Street) in A Tale of Two Cities. The latter inn has since welcomed many modern literary figures.
End your tour at the Fitzroy Tavern – another of Thomas’s favourites, it was a key haunt in London’s Artists Quarter during the ‘30s and ‘40s and its walls remain adorned with many photos of its one-time regulars, including George Orwell.
● The house of Samuel Johnson (Gough Place) is watched over by Hodge, a bronze statue of Johnson’s cat
● A stroll away, the Charles Dickens Museum (Doughty Street) is a must-see
● Some of Highgate Cemetery’s most famous residents are remembered for their writing – from Douglas Adams to Christina Rossetti