I was enthralled by my recent visit to the British Library, a 1.2-million-square-foot haven of novels and history galore! Not only does it house precious book collections, but it’s also currently hosting the enchanting Alice in Wonderland exhibit. With its array of manuscripts and illustrations, I witnessed the historic progression of Lewis Carroll’s timeless tale throughout the centuries, which has transcended various interpretations, and was inspired me to compile a list of London must-sees for fellow bibliophiles and history geeks.
I spontaneously ventured into Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery, which I recommend as a must-see for any history buff. This stunning archive houses the likes of Magna Carta, Gutenberg’s Bible, original Canterbury Tales, Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches, and The Beatles’ original lyrics—all in one room! But most importantly for us students, the exhibit is free!
Just around the corner in King’s Cross Station is Harry Potter’s Platform 9 ¾, the secret passageway to Hogwarts Express. You can finally fulfill your lifelong dream of attending Hogwarts by pushing your luggage trolley through the magical brick portal to catch the train. Yes, it can become a tad awkward with the long queue of Muggle tourists and Potterheads gawking at your un-candid Instagram pose, with your striped House scarf flying midair – but is actually being held up by an attendant whose job is to do just that!
If you fancy grabbing a pint or working on your latest novel, Ye Olde Chesire Cheese pub is suitable for both endeavors. It boasts a long list of illustrious literary figures: Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Alfred Tennyson, Voltaire, and Charles Dickens have all passed through its doors. With its dimly lit interior, charismatic dark wood, and sawdust-covered floors, the pub transports you back to the Victorian era. Perhaps this is why it appeared in Dicken’s Tale of Two Cities, as the scene fits in quite well with the pub’s dark, mysterious atmosphere.
Charing Cross Road serves as a literary artery with its eclectic array of secondhand and independent bookshops. A stroll down the quaint street will allow you to stock up on cheap-as-chips paperbacks for 1 pound, or peruse vintage collections of rare hardcovers. Each quirky window display reflects the shops’ niche personalities, and main store floors house a satisfactory mix of literature and non-fiction.
Bloomsbury Square Garden’s lush greenery was the meeting place in the 1920s and 30s for a collective of influential writers and artists known as the Bloomsbury Group. The best-known members of this intellectual aristocracy included Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, E.M. Forster, and Lytton Strachey. Not only is it a historic hotspot, but it’s also a wonderful park to stroll through on the rare sunny London day.