10 Best Cities for Book Lovers

Do you want to get a better perspective on what made your favourite authors tick or engage with like-minded literature-lovers? Then you will definitely find something to write home about in these ten best cities for book lovers.

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Dublin library for book lovers
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Best Cities for Book Lovers: Dublin, Ireland

It’s only natural that the capital of the country with the gift of gab would produce some of the greatest writers in history. That’s why Dublin is one of the best cities for book lovers. Home to the likes of Joyce, Yeats, Shaw and Beckett, Dublin is a literary Mecca. It was named a UNESCO City of Literature in 2010, which is a testament to the fact it has produced more Nobel Prize laureates for Literature than any other city in the world. Today, fans of Joyce et al can get a taste of Dublin literary history by visiting the Dublin Writers Museum, the National Print Museum of Ireland and the famous Abbey Theatre.

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Downtown in Montreal
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Best Cities for Book Lovers: Montreal, Canada

Mordecai Richler’s vivid portrait of Montreal in the 1940s, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, is the de facto literary guide to the city. Though much has changed in the 54 years since its publication, there is no question the book still evokes Montreal’s distinct electric atmosphere. But Richler was not the only one to be fueled by Montreal’s reserves of inspiration. Yann Martel’s best-selling Life of Pi was finished here. Contemporary novelist Heather O’Neill’s Lullabies for Little Criminals casts a light on Montreal’s grittier, darker corners. Leonard Cohen authored Beautiful Losers in Montreal (and then became a world-famous musician). In fact, he’s still known to hang around Parc du Portugal on Boulevard St. Laurent. It’s no surprise it made it on our list of best cities for book lovers.

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St. Petersburg architecture
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Best Cities for Book Lovers: St. Petersburg, Russia

While a number of famous Russian novels (like Anna Karenina) take place in Moscow, during the golden era of Russian literature, St. Petersburg was the Imperial capital and one of the best cities for book lovers. A city of intrigue and light Western influence, the “Venice of the North” was the natural setting for some of the greatest works of Russian fiction. Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin are both set in this capricious city. Famous Russian emigre writers, like Nabokov and Ayn Rand, also hail from St. Petersburg. However, it is Dostoevsky and Pushkin who provide the best reason to visit, with both of their former residences having been turned into museum/memorials.

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Beacon Hill neighbourhood in Boston
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Best Cities for Book Lovers: Boston, USA

Victorian-era Boston was home to some of the greatest literary minds of the 19th century. Which is why it’s a great city for book lovers. Like Paris, the city attracted writers and thinkers from abroad in numbers, but also produced its own legends. The likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne, David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson lived and wrote in Boston, while expats like Charles Dickens and Henry James were temporary residents. Boston’s walking tours of erstwhile writer haunts places you in the author’s contemporary Victorian world. Boston has also provided a backdrop for countless works, from William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury to modern classics like David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s hard to find a single block in Boston without some literary connection.

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Famous Paris bookstore
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Best Cities for Book Lovers: Paris, France

Few cities in the world have inspired as many bons mots as the City of Lights. Who’s to say what inspires the literary air in France’s capital, but it’s certainly true that its difficult to admire its beauty without getting a little florid. And this is perhaps what inspired so many expat writers like Henry Miller and Gertrude Stein to leave their home countries to lift their pens at Paris’ cafes. Of course, Paris’ homegrown talent is legendary as well. Tributes to Balzac, Bergerac, Voltaire and Verne, among many other giants of French literature, can be found throughout the city in the form of boulevards, memorials and cafes. Check out this city if you love books.

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Downtown Toronto at night
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Best Cities for Book Lovers: Toronto, Canada

Toronto‘s large immigrant population provides for a rich vein of stories and that’s great for any book lover. From tales of war refugees (Kit Pearson’s The Sky is Falling and Anne Michaels’ Fugitive Pieces) to the immigrants who built the city (Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion), Toronto’s multicultural legacy not only provides for narrative tales, but richly evokes the very history of the city. The multicultural nature of the city still provides rich fodder for writers: Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For explores cultural identity in a cosmopolitan environment. After all, a city with a patchwork history like Toronto’s is best appreciated through the kaleidoscope of personal journeys.

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Street in Edinburgh, Scotland
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Best Cities for Book Lovers: Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh was UNESCO’s first City of Literature and rightfully so, for there is really no other city that is best seen through the pages of a book. Book lovers, unite! Edinburgh’s narrative runs the gamut from philosophy (David Hume and Adam Smith) to poetry (Robert Burns) to printing (the Encyclopedia Britannica was first printed here). And next to Burns, its most famous literary natives are Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott, no mere lightweights themselves. Meanwhile, modern novels like Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and the adventures of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus prove that the inkwells of Edinburgh’s scribes aren’t yet empty.

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London, England
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Best Cities for Book Lovers: London, England

London’s reputation as a centre of literature needs no lengthy justification. From Shakespeare to Dickens and Bond to Holmes, London has played host to some of the most famous authors and characters in the entire pantheon of English literature. Fortunately for the bibliophile, there are innumerable literary touchstones to be explored in this capital city. The British Library in London stocks some 14 million books. Fans of the Bard can find a reconstruction of the iconic Globe Theatre, for which Shakespeare wrote the majority of his works. 221b Baker St. is the real-life address of the fictional Holmes and Watson. And when you tire from a landmark tour, grab a pint or a coffee at one of the numerous pubs and cafes where famous names like P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie and Rudyard Kipling penned their best-known works.

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Busy street in Tokyo, Japan
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Best Cities for Book Lovers: Tokyo, Japan

Japan’s capital boasts almost 1,700 bookstores, the most of any city in the world according to UNESCO’s World Cities Cultural Report. However, much of Japanese literature (beyond the works of Haruki Murakami) remains enigmatic or unknown to outsiders. Tokyo’s International Literary Festival, whose inaugural edition was held earlier this year, aims to change this. After all, there are few easier ways to get a feel for the unique rhythms of Japanese culture than by wandering Tokyo while reading the works of Japanese literary greats like Yukio Mishima, Kobo Abe, Banana Yoshimoto and, of course, Murakami. Book lovers shouldn’t miss out on Tokyo.

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Farm in rural Canada
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Best Cities for Book Lovers: Rural Canada

Not a city, it’s true – in fact quite the opposite – but some of Canada‘s best and most famous literature is set in small towns and the country’s vast wilderness. Despite the fact that Canadians overwhelmingly live in urban areas, our literature is by and large forged from a frontier mentality. From Lost in the Barrens to A Complicated Kindness to Le Survenant (The Outlander), Canada’s vast open spaces and rural communities act as a backdrop to countless stories of adventure, isolation and discovery. These are quintessential characteristics of Canada’s frontier identity, after all. Rural Canada is an essential “destination” for all those city-dwelling book lovers who grew up reading tales of forests and small towns and dreaming up their own.

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