If you’re a fan of literature, there’s no better place to visit than London. Book a London literature tour with a Blue Badge Tourist Guide and walk in the footsteps of authors like William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, and Charles Dickens. The city has preserved its history so well in places that you can still feel the source of the writers’ inspiration.
Here is a small sampling of some of the many literary sites in London:
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Your Blue Badge Tourist Guide can tell you all sorts of everyday English expressions that go back to Shakespeare, and entertain you with the many stories of Shakespeare’s south London, featuring tales of drunkenness, bar fights and much more! The American actor and director Sam Wanamaker had the vision to rebuild Shakespeare’s world-renowned theatre. Since 1997, Shakespeare’s Globe has been in almost the same spot (230 metres away, to be exact) where the author of Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, etc., used to write and act himself. Its wonderful thatched roof and Elizabethan (that’s Elizabeth I – it was first built back in 1599 – not Elizabeth II, the current queen) building means it breaks modern health and safety regulations. This is one reason why the original theatre held 3,000 spectators compared to today’s limit of 1,400!
Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury is full of the beautiful Georgian squares that characterised the area when Woolf was writing here with her cohort of artistic and literary friends. It was said of the so-called Bloomsbury Group that they “lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles.” Let a Blue Badge guide show you around the area and the sites connected to the author of Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, A Room of One’s Own and more.
George Orwell’s perfect pub – Is it the Moon Under Water in London’s Leicester Square? Did you know that the author of the classic novels Animal Farm and 1984 was also a journalist? The creator of Big Brother wrote an essay in the 1940s describing his ideal English pub, the fictional Moon Under Water, and the contemporary location of the same name pays homage to Orwell’s perfect pub. Your Blue Badge Guide can show you other places in London that inspired Orwell. Victory Square in 1984, for example, was modelled on London’s Trafalgar Square.
Charles Dickens’s Fleet Street shows the links in his writing between the lawyers, who are still here, and the journalists who have now gone. Though the Art Deco former newspaper buildings now house other types of businesses, their exteriors have been preserved. Your Blue Badge guide can show you Dickens’s chair in his favourite Fleet Street pub, barely changed since his day. Enjoy a classic English pint over lunch before heading out to see other sites linked to Dickens in London. These include the writer’s former house, now a museum and Leadenhall Market, widely believed to be where Scrooge sent a boy on Christmas morning to buy a turkey in Dickens’s classic story A Christmas Carol.
Investigate Sherlock Holmes’s London!
The real-life site of the fictional detective’s flat at 221b Baker Street became something of a tourist draw, so much so that the Abbey National Building Society, which occupied a building on that part of the street, used to employ a full-time secretary to answer mail addressed to Sherlock Holmes. Today you can visit a recreation of the flat in the Sherlock Holmes Museum, located in a townhouse at the address 221b Baker Street. There are plenty of other London sites related to detective stories. Your guide can also clear up various myths – for example, the phrase “Elementary My Dear Watson” probably came from an American newspaper. Holmes’s inventor Arthur Conan Doyle never quite used that exact phrase even though it appears in Sherlock Holmes’s films.
Get ready to travel to J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts
Start your Hogwarts Express trip at Platform 9 3/4 in busy Kings Cross station. There’s a spot in the station where you can choose a scarf in your preferred Hogwarts house colours and have your photo taken disappearing with your luggage trolley embedded in the wall. Your Blue Badge guide can lead you to the Platform 9 3/4 photo spot, which is accessible at all hours. You do not have to pay to take your own photographs, but you can only choose a scarf by having a professional photo done. The Harry Potter shop next door is a mecca for Hogwarts fans. Modelled on Ollivander’s wand emporium, it sells time turners, Horcruxes and Harry Potter games. Your guide will know the best times to visit the trolley spot and shop, when the queues are shortest, and can also lead you on a walk around the capital to see locations where scenes from the Blockbuster Harry Potter films were shot.