There are so many wonderful books that take place in London. I probably could have made a list that goes on for days, but I limited myself to some of my favorites with specific locations in London you can visit.
Paddington Bear by Michael Bond
Where you should visit: Paddington Bear statues can be found in several places in London, but the most famous is the bronze statue in Paddington Station which can be found under the clock by train track #1. If you fly into Heathrow Airport and take the Express train to Paddington Station, this can be your first literary landmark upon entering England.
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
Where you should visit: Author J. M. Barrie chose the spot for the Peter Pan statue that stands in Kensington Gardens. He had the statue installed during the night so that it would seem to children it had appeared overnight as if by magic. If you are expecting Peter to look similar to Disney’s version, you’ll be in for a surprise.
A second statue of Peter Pan and Tinkerbell sits outside the Great Ormand Street Children’s Hospital in London. Barrie bequeathed the rights to Peter Pan to the Hospital which still provides revenue for the hospital to this day. A few blocks away you may be able to find a blue plaque on another building which sits on the site where Barrie once lived.
Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Where you should visit: In reality, 221B Baker Street once was a lodging house like Sherlock might have rented. Today the building is a small museum dedicated to Sherlock Holmes. Some rooms are decorated as author Arthur Conan Doyle described, one for Sherlock, one for his sidekick John Watson, and one for the housekeeper Mrs. Hudson, while others contain wax figures of characters from the various mysteries.
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
David Copperfield is the fictional author of his own biography. The book follows the life story of a boy, his trials and tribulations growing up in the low society of Britain’s 17th century, and his eventual success as an author. The characters that come and go through his life are so memorable that they make an impression on your own life too.
Where you should visit: David Copperfield is by far my favorite Charles Dickens book. While not much of it takes place in London, if you visit the Charles Dickens House Museum in London, you’ll certainly notice many similarities between the life of Charles Dickens and his character David Copperfield.
[Read more about Charles Dickens in London: blog post to come.]
The Complete Works of Shakespeare
William Shakespeare’s plays are taught in schools, have been adapted numerous times in a myriad of ways, and are often challenging to understand today. While not the most fun to muddle through in school, taking in a theater performance of a Shakespeare play put on in its original and intended setting may just change your mind about the Bard.
Where you should visit: While William Shakespeare’s birth home can be visited in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the theater where he is most famous for producing his plays was The Globe in London. Although the original Globe Theater burned down, you can visit the replica for a performance or just take a guided tour between show times.
Harry Potter (#1-7) by J.K. Rowling
Rowling’s boy wizard and friends captured hearts and minds world wide. Today 11 year-olds hope their Hogwarts letters arrive while the generation that grew up with Harry have sorted themselves into Hogwarts houses. If you need an introduction, I’m not sure where you’ve been, but you’re going to need to purchase all 7 books at once.
Where you should visit: Not only has Rowling’s books inspired a film franchise, but all the props from the films have been collected at a studio just a train ride outside London where you can now see behind all the movie magic. I suggest taking the train and doing a self-paced tour rather than a bus tour from London because you’ll need an entire day to get through the experience. You’ll start in the Great Hall, then slowly meander through a room full of costume and props, find yourself on Platform 9 3/4, see larger sets on a back lot, and eventually get to the animatronics and models used in the films. I believe the Forbidden Forest has also been added to the experience since my visit.
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
This is a relatively new book on the scene. It is a mash up of several Victorian horror novels. The daughters of Dr. Jekyl, Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, and a few others come together to solve a mystery, with the help of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, related to their fathers’ experimentation.
Where you should visit: I would recommend starting your day at the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street and from there walk the streets, take trains, and just enjoy traipsing through the city. While the city may look much different today than it did during the Victorian era, I promise you’ll get just as much enjoyment from the parks, docks, and storefronts as the girls in the novel would have if they weren’t always on a mission to solve a mystery. And hopefully you won’t have to resort to scampering across rooftops after dark.
This list may grow as the blog progresses, so keep checking back for more. You can also add to the list with a comment below if you’ve read a book you think belongs on this list!
(Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, but I wouldn’t recommend a book I didn’t like!)