Your favorite thing to do on vacation is read, so why not base a whole trip on your love of books? Luckily you can, by traveling to one of these five bookish destinations. Is it nerdy? Kinda. Do we want to go to all of these places immediately? You bet.
France’s capital is basically paradise for literary lovers. Stay at the Hotel Le Pavillon des Lettres, where each of the 26 rooms is dedicated to a different writer. During the day, make stops at the maisons de Honore de Balzac and Victor Hugo, and check out the Père Lachaise cemetery (the world’s most visited), where you’ll find the final resting places of Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein and, unrelated, Jim Morrison. After all that sightseeing, refuel at the Café Les Deux Magots, which was frequented by the likes of Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and James Joyce.
NEW YORK, NY
Based on the number of classics written about and/or set in New York, it’s no surprise it’s a must-see for book fanatics. Worship at the New York Public Library and Central Park’s literary walk, then have a drink at some of the nation’s most beloved writers’ old haunts. The Algonquin Hotel on West 44th Street served icons like J.D. Salinger and Dorothy Parker and was also where William Faulkner drafted his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. The Plaza on Central Park South not only served as the glamorous home of the fictional Eloise but was also a regular stop of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
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Try to visit in June (around the 16th, to be precise) to experience Bloomsday, a celebration of James Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses, during which you and other revelers will dress up like characters from the book and visit landmarks referenced along the protagonist Leopold Bloom’s epic day-long journey. Also stop by the Oscar Wilde House, where the Dorian Gray author spent much of his childhood, as well as the Dublin Writers Museum, which pays tribute to the country’s four Nobel Prize winners. And, because it’s Ireland, also be sure to check out one of the many literary pub crawls (like this one) at your disposal.
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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
There are so many spots of literary significance in the Bay Area that the San Francisco Chronicle created an interactive map to chart the city’s many landmarks, from Dolores Park (from Joan Didion’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem) and the apartment above a Chinese bakery on Waverly Place (from Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club) to Allen Ginsberg’s apartment and McSweeney’s headquarters. Plus, if you visit the city in October, you can take advantage of Litquake, a city-wide literary festival known for panel discussions, readings and author meet and greets.
For a city so steeped in history, it’s no surprise there’s a lot to see, literature-wise. First, grab a coffee at Caffe Florian. It’s the oldest café in Italy, and was once frequented by Dickens, Rousseau, Goethe and Byron. Then, visit the Grand Canal’s Palazzo Barbaro, where American expats like Edith Wharton and Henry James were known to put pen to paper. As for souvenirs, don’t leave without stopping by the Libreria Acqua Alta, an absurdly cool bookstore where the volumes are stored in old gondolas instead of shelves.