London had called on me three years ago for my love for literature, history and travel. I used to read a lot in those days and had found myself a course for a Master's degree to help me stay in the city long enough to take in me its elegance, its heritage and the sweet sound of the English accent to last a lifetime.
I was a student of English literature at the University of Delhi and had an itch to see the places I was reading about. Lucky for people like me, upon finally embarking on literary walks in the city I found that England took its heritage more seriously that one would expect. You would find that the state has beautifully preserved everything from a writer's home, their artworks to their grave and how, like me, your context would change from the modern day High-Definition to the monochrome of your favourite literary era.
When you feel like a bit of historical diversion from the shopping and selfies, follow the list below.
1. Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
Located at: 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, Southwark, London SE1 9DT
Literary era it'll take you to: Elizabethan (1558–1603), Jacobean (1603–25)
The globe theatre at the South Bank of the river Thames is a reconstruction of the original playhouse that Shakespeare's company built in 1599. Watching a play in the open air theatre is absolutely unmissable for a literature enthusiast, especially knowing that the plays stay true to Shakespeare's style as the actors constantly interact with the audience and perform in the minimalist set up as it would have been back in the day.
I watched Julius Caeser there. They sell tickets at different prices, as they used to, based on the economic categorisation of the audience. You can buy a pricier ticket to sit where the aristocrats sat, but I watched it standing like a peasant. It was the best.
2. Charles Dickens Museum
Located at: 48 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LX
Literary era it'll take you to: Victorian (1837-1901)
48 Doughty Street, where Charles Dickens lived in for two years, from March 1837 to December 1839 has been converted into a museum dedicated to the author which houses rare photographs and books by the author. It was in this house that he wrote many of his popular works, including Oliver Twist. A tour of the house will take you into his study, where he wrote, into the dining area where he was regularly visited by friends, among whom was the popular writer William Thackeray and into the bedrooms of Dickens and his wife Catherine and their children's nursery.
The museum also has a little gift shop on the ground floor where you can buy all things Dickens.
3. Sherlock Holmes museum
Located at: Between 237 and 241 Baker street, London NW1 6XE
Literary Era: Victorian (1837-1901)
The fictional residence, 221B Baker Street, of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character Sherlock Holmes is as popular he is himself. The address bears 221B instead of the real address in dedication to the character and the cases he solved in one of the most exciting places a Sherlock lover can visit. Conan's stories suggest Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson lived at the address between 1881 and 1904, and the time period has been carefully preserved on the premises.
You can sit by the fireplace with the classic Sherlock's hat and his pipe, and pretend to solve a case! Also, you can buy everything on Sherlock that you can't find online in the museum gift shop.
4. The George Inn
Located at: 77 Borough High Street, Southwark, London SE1 1NH
Literary Era: Medieval period
The George inn is reported as being frequently visited by Charles Dickens and Shakespeare in their times. It remains the only surviving galleried coaching inn in London, which is considered to the inspiration for the theatre. It is also the oldest pub in London and was mentioned by Dickens in his Little Dorrit.
5. Fitzroy Tavern
Located at: 16A Charlotte Street, London W1T 2LY
Literary Era: Modern
The tavern (basically a pub) is popular for being a regular meeting spot for intellectuals between the 1920s and 1950s. Among the popular names was drank there were George Orwell and Dylan Thomas.
Sitting there for a couple of drinks might actually be what you were waiting for to start thinking about the bigger questions.
6. Highgate Cemetery
Located at: Highgate cemetery, Swain's Ln, London N6 6PJ
Literary Era: Several
You would feel more overwhelmed here than everything combined on your entire tour. There are more intellectuals and thinkers together here than anywhere else, so try to book a tour in advance, it might a little difficult to locate everyone by yourself.
You will be able to visit the graves of the philosopher Karl Marx, author George Elliot, poet Christina Rossetti, physicist Micheal Faraday, anatomist Henry Gray, biologist Herbert Spencer, wife of Charles Dickens - Catherine Dickens, parents of Charles Dickens - John and Elizabeth Dickens among so many others.
7. A Conversation with Oscar Wilde
Located at: Adelaide Street, WC2 (Near Charing Cross Station)
Literary Era: Victorian Era
The bronze and granite sculpture has only Oscar Wilde's head and a hand that is holding a cigarette. The sculpture doubles up as a bench where one can 'have a conversation' with Wilde. The installation is accompanied by a quote engraved in stone by him, which reads, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”
8. Bookstores at Charing Cross
Located at: Along Charing Cross Road
Literary era: Several
The road is hugely popular for its second hand and antiquarian bookstores. You could visit the Quinto bookstop or Any Amount of Books among many others and get lucky with first editions, signed editions and other such dreamy things. I found a 200 year old book there, which had been passed down by I don't know how many readers until it finally reached the bookshelf. It's a chocolate factory to say the least, you'll find invaluable possessions here and titles that you might not find anywhere else.
The road also houses the Foyles bookstore, which has been mentioned in the Guiness Book of World Records as the largest bookstore in the world. It has been refurbished now and is a tourist spot in itself.
9. Platform 9 3/4, King's Cross Station
Located at: King's Cross Station, London N1 9AP
Literary Era: late 1800 to 1900s
This one doesn't need any introduction. A wall at the King's Cross station has been dedicated to all those refuse to be in an all-muggle world and need to transcend into the magical. The platform 9 3/4 at the station has trolley that's built half into the wall so you could get a perfect going-across photograph.
The platform also has a Harry Potter store to get all your magical goodies in stock!
The good thing about these spots are that most of them are very close to each other, the city used to be much smaller that it is now and all other developed areas around, 'The city of London' as it called now, were villages. They say that these spots are walkable but then again Londoners can walk much longer than an average Indian. So you must wear a pair of good walking boots and carry an umbrella. Note: Always carry an umbrella in London, no matter how sunny it is. The English are fancy, they have no weather rules.