Love books, will travel. That’s our motto here at Urban Adventures, as it’s often books that inspire us to go see new places in the first place – or that enable us to relive a destination after we’ve come home. And these seven cities? The mere mention of them has us itching to hit the road (with a book to read in-hand).
If you call yourself a writer, then you probably know of Papa Hemingway and the fact that a trip to his old stomping grounds of Havana (and, specifically the bars La Bodeguita del Medio, Dos Hermanos, and La Floridita) is like a pilgrimage for anyone who’s ever picked up a pen. Yes, Ernest Hemingway had hangouts around the globe (Paris, Toronto, and Madrid can all boast Hemingway landmarks), but it’s always Cuba that everyone knows. Do the tourist thing and grab a mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio (and scrawl your signature on the wall), then escape to one of his lesser known haunts. Dos Hermanos is just far enough outside of La Habana Vieja to be less of a tourist draw, so you can savour that rum with the respect it deserves.
Fans of Haruki Murakami know that his novels have set the tone for much of Tokyo’s literary scene. A bit mysterious, a bit sad, a bit playful, and simultaneously self-assured and self-aware, his writing style could pretty much be a metaphor for the city as a whole. Once you’ve settled into that unique Tokyo vibe, take a trip to the Setagaya Literary Museum in Minami-Karasuyama, which honours the writers who have come from the region, and holds 100,000 items of interest to book nerds, including handwritten manuscripts and letters.
Ireland tends to be known for two things: Guinness and writers. Most people who go to Dublin in search of literary history are on a Joyce journey, and there’s even a James Joyce Center where you can listen to lectures, take walking tours, and see the door from Leopold Bloom’s house in Ulysses. (Okay, not really his house since he’s fictional, but the house that stood at the address Joyce gave him.) But for a break from all the Joyce (because, after all, there’s also Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, and Bram Stoker), you can check out the Dublin Writer’s Museum, dedicated entirely to the craft of writing. There are also plenty of writerly ghost tales throughout the city – pop into any pub and find out who haunts it.
The Jaipur Literature Festival is the largest literary festival in Asia-Pacific and attracts authors and readers from around the world (perhaps best of all, it’s entirely free to attend). Think Paul Theroux, Pico Iyer, Jamaica Kincaid, Salman Rushdie – if these names send a thrill down your book-loving spine, then Jaipur is where you want to be come January.
NYC has long been that city of dreams, where ambitious kids run to escape small-town life, where immigrants land when they’re seeking a new place to call home and start fresh, where the city (with her dark secrets) is a character as much as the people who live there. The sultry parties of The Great Gatsby were set just beyond the city, on Long Island. The Catcher in the Rye is practically a written tour through NYC (with some adolescent commentary). Holly Golightly wandered through New York’s quirky café society culture. Not to mention that this is the home of The New Yorker magazine, with its short stories and essays that have been the holy grail of writers for nearly 100 years.
The granddaddy of bookstores, Shakespeare & Company, can be found in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, likely with a mix of locals exploring its shelves and tourists snapping photos of its sign. It’s not the original store, which closed in the 1940s, but is a tribute to the spot that was once a gathering place for writers like Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein. It’s also a movie star, with cameos in both Before Sunset and Midnight in Paris. What’s more, the original founder of the store, Sylvia Beach, published a little book called Ulysses by James Joyce when no one else would. Once you’re done breathing in all that literary history, don’t be surprised if the muse instructs you to take your notebook to a Seine-side café.
War and Peace. Crime and Punishment. We’re guessing you’ve heard of these books, which can both call St. Petersburg their birthplace. The city even has a Dostoyevsky Day to celebrate his work. Visit on the first Saturday in July and you can gather with fans at the corners of Stolyarny and Kaznacheisky, where Dostoyevsky lived while writing Crime and Punishment.