There’s no better way to rediscover your favourite destination, or to try somewhere completely new, than with a good book as your tour guide. In fact, some of the greatest locations are hidden within the very pages of a well-thumbed story. Stroll the streets of these stunning cities and you’ll soon see why they inspired some of the world’s most beautiful novels.
Looking for holiday inspiration? Here’s a guide to the best cities in Europe, from the authors who loved them most.
Delft, Netherlands – Girl with a Pearl Earring
Tracy Chevalier’s historical novel captures 17th century Delft, where Johannes Vermeer painted his famous Girl with a Pearl Earring. The Dutch painter is buried in the Oude Kerk (Old Church) in the centre of Delft, while his masterpiece has lived a 25-minute drive north in The Hague’s Mauritshuis art museum since 1902.
“It was the kind of day when children ran up and down the streets and shouted, when couples walked out through the town gates, past the windmills and along the canals, when old women sat in the sun and closed their eyes.”
Brussels, Belgium – The Adventures of Tintin
Brussels is well known for being the birthplace of beloved cartoonist Hergé, but street art tributes and comic book museum aside, did you know the city has been the unsung star of Tintin’s backdrop? While the author was careful to set the stories in a largely neutral setting, he did draw inspiration from his surroundings.
Parc du Cinquantenaire appears in King Ottokar’s Sceptre, while Place du Jeu de Balle, the daily flea market, sets the scene in the opening of The Secret of the Unicorn, and Tintin’s home in the early comic books is modelled on Rue Terre Neuve in the Marolles district.
Rural Germany – Three Men on the Bummel
In Jerome K. Jerome’s lesser known novel, three of literature’s most famous men set off on a bike ride across Germany on a “bummel”, a German word for “a journey, long or short, without an end.” The scenic German countryside plays a central character in the form of the stunning Black Forest through which the protagonists ride. Mark Twain describes a walking tour through similar rural scenes in A Tramp Abroad.
“Now I happen to possess the bump of locality… That things occasionally get in my way—mountains, precipices, rivers, and such like obstructions—is no fault of mine.”
Paris, France – A Moveable Feast
Ernest Hemingway’s memoir of life as a struggling writer in 1920s Paris is a treasure trove of names and places frequented by notable writers and artists of the time, many of which are still open today. Visit the “wonderful, narrow crowded market street” of Marché Mouffetard or stay in the Hotel d’Angleterre where Hemingway landed on his first night in the city.
“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
Dublin, Ireland – Ulysses
Life in the historic streets of Ireland’s largest city inspired the genius James Joyce to compose one of the world’s most revered works of modernist literature. The story contained in Joyce’s delicious prose takes place all through the centre of Dublin, where protagonist Leopold Bloom’s home at 7 Eccles Street now houses the James Joyce Centre.
“Me sits there with his augur’s rod of ash, in borrowed sandals, by day beside a livid sea, unbeheld, in violet nigh walking beneath a reign of uncouth stars.”
If this has inspired your very own European escape, take a look at our Adventure Planner, which lets you pop in your preferences to plan your next getaway.
Featured image by Moyan Brenn.