In a city as old as and historically and culturally rich as London it should come as no surprise that it is also one of the densest literary destinations in the world.
If you’re a reader you can almost certainly find something in London to suit your fancy.
Some of it is free, and some locations will set you back several quid. During our trip we spent an afternoon chasing this book lover’s whimsy, and it was so much fun! This London literary tour only took a few hours and kept us around central London, so it’s easy for a quick trip.
The British Library
Just wow. This was one of the most undersold, but most exciting (for this book nerd and her equally nerdy husband) museums we experienced in London.
From the Magna Carta to Jane Austen’s glasses to lyrics scrawled on a loose piece of paper by John Lennon to the world’s oldest known Bible, this small museum just inside the unimpressive brick British Library a five minute walk from Kings Cross/St. Pancras station.
After you’re done gawking at the beautiful foundations of the English written word pop into the library’s cafe for locally roasted coffee and a pastry. My lemon tart was fantastic! We enjoyed our snack in the shadow of this huge bookcase, which kind of took my breath away.
There were no pictures allowed in the museum, but believe me when I say it’s worth the trip if you’re a reader. Like all public British museums, it is free but has a great gift shop 🙂
Visit Platform 9 3/4s at Kings Cross Station
Harry Potter is one of those magical stories (pun fully intended) that is simultaneously universal and extremely personal for the people who have read and loved it.
It is truly difficult to find a person between the ages of 13 and 35 who hasn’t read the seven books in the series, and even rarer to find someone who has read it and didn’t love it.
Platform 9 3/4s captures a little bit of that magic, and it’s evident that every person who works there is 100% bought into it.
It was a little piece of the fictional Harry Potter World tucked into a very real London.
We stood in line for about 20 minutes with lots of other fans waiting our turn for the perfect picture.
I’m a sucker for a picture, so we bought the professional ones, as well as having the opportunity to take our own. Then we ambled around the gift shop (where they conveniently funnel you after you have your picture taken). James bought me this beautiful gold-plated silver time turner ?
Overall, this was definitely worth the time, but particularly if you’re already going through Kings Cross/St. Pancras station during your travels!
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson’s Apartment at 221B Baker Street
Next stop on our London literary tour was the most famous address in the world! From Kings Cross jump on the Underground and take either the Circle, Hammersmith & City, or Metropolitan lines over to the Baker Street Station. The whole area embraces the fictional consulting detective, from the murals in the tube station to the dry cleaner across the street from where the Sherlock Holmes museum resides.
We didn’t actually drop the £15 per person that the actual museum costs, but we did go into the good shop right next door. All the employees are wearing period garb, and there are some really cute souvenirs and interesting Sherlock pieces you likely can’t find anywhere else in London.
PS, you’ll actually have to purchase your ticket in the gift shop before you go next door to enter the museum.
Hatchard’s Bookstore – Piccadilly Circus
From the Baker Street Station get back on the tube and get on the Bakerloo Line down to Piccadilly Circus.
Now, the evening we spent walking around Piccadilly Circus was probably the only time in London I felt a little wary because of the crush of tourists. There’s so much to see in the area and it’s a very popular place for some very intense shopping.
(I got some great teas from Fortnum and Mason, whose big main store is also in Piccadilly Circus!)
You won’t find any clowns or talented elephants here, though! It’s called a circus because of its circular shape. It’s kind of an equivalent to Times Square, with lots of souvenir shops, talented street performers, and bright electric signs.
But we trekked down Piccadilly to Hatchard’s Bookstore, the oldest bookstore in the UK.
It opened in 1797, meaning they’ve been selling books in this spot for nearly 220 years! I picked up one book, but only because I didn’t have room in my luggage for all the ones I wanted to buy…. There are FIVE stories of books!
For us this was the end of our afternoon London literary tour, but there are so many other spots to see! You can probably spend an entire London trip just visiting the haunts of British writers and settings they wrote into their books.
OR if you’re really ambitious, check out this gorgeous typographical map of London I found!