A great novel has the power to transport you to a far-off place and into the heads of your favorite characters. While some books make readers already feel like they are seeing what the author and characters see, it can be a special experience to visit the actual place in the real world. In honor of National Book Lovers Day on August 9th, below are some famous settings from beloved stories that are also great travel destinations. Before getting started there are some rules, the places must be real and from a book, so while Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand, it’s not making the list — we’ll save it for the Movie Destination list, sorry, hobbit lovers.
Accio Kings Cross Station – Harry Potter
Kings Cross Station in London was forever changed in the sixth chapter of a book about a special 11-year-old boy wizard. Ever since Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosopher’s for you Brits), Potterheads have been flocking to the space between platforms 9 and 10. While real-life Muggles won’t be able to open the gateway to the wizarding world, they can take a photo with the installation of a trolley, complete with a Hedwig doppelgänger, halfway through the wall.
Prince Edward Island – Anne of Green Gables
Prince Edward Island, one of Canada’s maritime provinces, is home to another beloved children’s novel, Anne of Green Gables. Those with a soft spot for the feisty ginger can visit her adoptive home of Green Gables within the confines of Prince Edward Island National Park.
See the Bulls of Pamplona – The Sun Also Rises
Hemingway’s masterpieces have a way of engraining themselves into the lore of a number of his chosen settings, from the harbors of Cuba to the “Green Hills of Africa” to the cafes frequented by artists in Paris , his words echo around the world. Perhaps no location plays a bigger role in one of his novels than Pamplona does in The Sun Also Rises. Make sure to visit during the festival of San Fermin to truly follow in the drunken footsteps of Jake, Lady Brett, and the young matador Romero.
Journey with Holden – The Catcher in the Rye
Take an adventure to New York City to experience the city as the original hipster, Holden Caulfield once did. During the events of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden finds himself all over the city including Greenwich Village, Fifth Avenue, and the rink at Rockefeller Center, but to get a true Holden experience head over to Central Park to wonder about the migratory patterns of the ducks on the pond, just don’t forget to stop and judge the phonies.
Dublin on Bloomsday – Ulysses
Voted, by Modern Library, as the best novel of the 20th Century, James Joyce’s Ulysses follows his gluttonous protagonist, Leopold Bloom, in real time around the city of Dublin on June 16th and 17th in 1904. Celebrated as the birth of stream-of-consciousness writing, Ulysses and Joyce are now celebrated every year on Bloomsday, June 16th in Dublin and other places around the world. Activities include readings, pub-crawls, and theater performances.
A View of Florence – A Room With a View
There’s something about the title of E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View that immediately conjures up a romantic image of its setting. It also doesn’t hurt that a large portion of the novel takes place in the incredibly picturesque Italian city of Florence. Wander the ancient streets of the capital of the Renaissance, all while recollecting Forster’s masterful depictions of the River Arno, Basilica of Santa Croce, and Piazza della Signoria.
Murakami’s Tokyo – Norweigan Wood
Haruki Murakami’s masterpiece, Norwegian Wood, much like its title counterpart — The Beatles’ song of the same name — is a story of love and loss. The story that constantly ranges between melancholy and somewhat devastation is arguably one of the best novels written in the last twenty years. Flip through its pages while on the University of Tokyo campus, a spot where the main character Toru Watanabe obsesses over his own literary inspirations like The Great Gatsby. While the plot winds through Japan, Tokyo is often a vibrant and chaotic background character.
Reflect on Walden Pond – Walden
The transcendentalist bible, Walden, written by famed philosopher Henry David Thoreau, is quite literally a book of reflections about hanging out in nature. While the book has had profound impacts upon the classrooms of universities and the ideals of many, the true theme and experiences are best felt amongst the trees. Those needing some peace from everyday life should head up to Massachusetts to visit the pond that gave the collection its name and ponder the inherent goodness of all things.
Verona Romance – Romeo and Juliet
“Where art thou Romeo?”, Romeo thou art in Verona, that’s where. Verona is, of course, the famed city where the Montague’s and the Capulet’s famously popularized neighborly feuds in “Romeo and Juliet.” The most popular destination for Shakespearean fanatics is Casa di Giulietta, a restored Gothic home now complete with a statue of the doomed lover beneath her famous balcony.
Absurdist Algiers – The Stranger
Go visit the Mediterranean capital of Algeria but remember it’s best not to follow exactly in the path of Camus’s doomed character Meursault from The Stranger. Tourists love Algiers for its French boulevards and coastal views, but to get in the proper existential mood for Camus maybe throw on some “Bohemian Rhapsody”, fast forward to the lyrics “nothing really matters”, and press repeat.
Monterey’s Cannery Row – Cannery Row
It’s hard to imagine a state more intertwined with a single author than California and John Steinbeck. Steinbeck often writes, not about the glamour of the beaches, but rather the unsexy backbreaking work in the Central Valley. So while Fresno and Salinas may not be the best vacation spots, Steinbeck wrote Cannery Row, a novel about coastal city Monterey during The Great Depression. Back in Steinbeck’s time, the row was lined with sardine canneries, rough bars, and whorehouses, but nowadays is a charming stretch of sea-view hotels, restaurants, and a world-class aquarium. Check out the multiple busts and statues dedicated to the author downtown.
Bran Castle Doesn’t Suck (Blood) – Dracula
Near to the city of Brasov in the heart of Romania is Bran Castle. This portion of the country is better known as Transylvania, famed for one particular former resident. Unfortunately, there is no actual proof that Bran Castle used to be the home of Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but it is fun to pretend and the many tours of the castle are ready to play along with the legend.