10 Places That Inspired Your Favorite Books

Places in literature that have animated the words of wanderlust authors.

1 Paris, France
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Ah, Paris, the City of Lights and Love! From the Dome, to the Select, to the Coupole, to the Rotonde and the Closerie de Lilas. This is where Hemingway drafted The Sun Also Rises, a story about expats in the city of lights who get entangled in love triangles that prove difficult for the soul and identity. What better place is there than Paris for a story dedicated to finding yourself through others?

Paris Banks of the Seine

2 Dublin, Ireland
James Joyce’s Ulysses

Walk the cobblestone streets of Grafton and Nassau or spread your toes in the grass of St. Stephen’s Green with Leopold Bloom, the main character of Joyce’s famous—and famously difficult—novel, Ulysses. Today, you can recreate Bloom’s day-long journey, and stop at Glasnevin Cemetery, the inspiration for the novel’s Chapter 6, entitled Hades.

Glasnevin Museum and Cemetery

3 Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts
Henry David Thoreau’s Walden

Do you think you could live alone in a cabin for two years, two months, and two days? Well, Henry David Thoreau could—and did! On July 4, 1845 (his own personal Independence Day, as he put it), Thoreau went to live on the idyllic shores of Walden Pond in a cabin he built himself. He would stay until September 6, 1847, eventually writing a book about his experience named after the placid pond, which continues to ripple and shimmer for all to see. Not bad for the son of a pencil maker.

John Burroughs Looking across Walden Pond from Thoreau's Nook, 1917 (From the collection of The Henry Ford)

A bit more popular now, Thoreau may not have found the silence he originally sought at Walden Pond nowadays.

The Pond-Walden, Wisc., by Wallace Kirkland (From the collection of LIFE Photo Collection)

4 Rome, Italy
The Marble Faun, Nathaniel Hawthorne

Once considered the ultimate guide to Rome, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Marble Faun was the perfect mixture of fantasy, plot twists and reality. Hawthorne carefully chose some of the most beautiful and emblematic spots of modern Rome, heavy with ancient symbolism. This novel about human suffering and the difficulties of living outside one’s home country chose an ideal setting, with 2000 years of history to help mirror his points.

Piazza Navona (From the collection of Youth Committee of the Italian National Commission for UNESCO)

5 Central Park, New York City
Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger

Catcher in the Rye is the ultimate story of disaffected youth, and Holden Caulfield is the OG of adolescent angst. In the novel, Holden famously—and poignantly—wonders what happens to the ducks that float on the “Conservatory Water” lagoon in Central Park when winter rolls around (Holden has a “sensitive side”). One of the book’s most crucial scenes takes place near the Central Park Carousel, which still delights visitors today.

Central Park

6 Cornwall and Dorset, England
The novels of Thomas Hardy

The dramatic cliff top views and crashing waves of Cornwall, along with the rolling hills and verdant fields of his beloved Dorset, all feature prominently in the novels of Thomas Hardy. The Southwest coast of England serves as the backdrop for such well-known novels as Far from the Madding Crowd and Tess of the D’Urbervilles, becoming the fictional country of “Wessex.”

Tintagel Island (From the collection of English Heritage)

7 Pamplona, Spain, Festival of San Fermin
Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises

Everyone’s seen the pictures of the brave—or merely traditional—men in all-white clothes with blood-red bandanas being pursued through the streets of Pamplona by an angry bull, but Hemingway lived it. This author and book is worth another mention, as The Sun Also Rises may have begun in Paris, France but its restless characters moved found their way to Spain to see the bull fights. Hemingway definitely knew how to travel. And how to take us with him.

8 Greece
Homer’s Odyssey

Not exactly a book, Homer’s Odyssey is one of the longest poems ever written, so it definitely makes the cut. This classic of Western literature, chose the perfect location to call home – a classic destination of the ancient world - Greece.

Dmitrei Kessel, 1944 (From the collection of LIFE Photo Collection)

Though scholars have varying opinions as to the exact locations of Homer’s journey, a substantial part of his travels are accounted for and remain modern day marvels of this mythical journey. Some of the Greek destinations include the Peloponnese in southern Greece, which include Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic games and the Ionian Islands that to this day include popular travel destinations such as Corfu and Paxos. So without knowing it, you may have already followed in the steps of Homer, or at least part of his 20 year journey.

Peter the Pelican on Mykonos (From the collection of LIFE photo collection)

9 Venice, Italy
Thomas Mann, Death in Venice

Lie on the lovely beach at the Lido like the aging writer Gustav von Aschenbach in Thomas Mann’s novella, basking in golden sunlight and pining away for the love of young Tadzio. Like Paris, a visit to Venice and St. Mark’s Square or the Doge’s Palace promises a sure brush with literary fame. Or take a walk past the Grand Hotel des Bains (today, a luxury apartment complex), where the ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev died, upon whom Mann based the character of Aschenbach.


10 London, England
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter

Though the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry doesn’t exist on any actual map, the original inspiration for the imaginative world of Harry, Hermione, and Ron can be found simply by strolling through the streets of London. Feel like a real wizard as you wander past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament or visit Platform Nine and Three-Quarters (9 3/4) at King’s Cross Station.

Study of Platform Nine and Three-Quarters by Jim Kay, for The Philosopher’s Stone (From the collection of The British Library)
London Eye
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