Spine-Tingling Travel Experiences for Book Lovers

Amusement parks, museums, and hotels for your next literary pilgrimage.  
Book and Bed Tokyo
Book and Bed Tokyo attempts to recreate the “2am-but-I-must-read-a-little-more” experience. It takes its reputation as a reading nook very seriously. Photo courtesy Book and Bed Tokyo

Love the scent of glue and paper that comes with a new book? Always wondered what sleeping in an old library would feel like? Secretly want to run a bookstore? We’ve got you covered. Our list of travel experiences for book-lovers spans cemeteries, amusement parks, even a perfumery that creates scents inspired by Sylvia Plath and Jane Austen.

Scents and Sensibility: Immortal Perfumes, Washington, U.S.A.

Immortal Perfumes

If Immortal Perfumes is to be believed, Sylvia Plath smells like a mix of cedarwood, black tea, vanilla, clove, cassis, and fig. Photo courtesy Immortal Perfumes

Immortal Perfumes in Seattle is a micro-perfumery that creates scents inspired by famous authors and literary characters. If you too have wondered “what Mr. Darcy’s estate, Pemberley, smelled like after a fresh rain”, this is the place for you. Popular fragrances include Sylvia (inspired by Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar), Death in the Afternoon (for Ernest Hemingway’s stories), and Pemberley, a blend of rosewood, cedarwood, honeysuckle, and vetiver, that’s meant to evoke Darcy’s country estate from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Order a vial online at www.sweetteaapothecary.com.

Bond with Bond: Cambridge Book Shop, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand

To meet one of the living greats, visit Mussoorie in Uttarakhand’s Dehradun district where Ruskin Bond signs books every Saturday between 3.30p.m. and 5.30p.m. at Cambridge Book Shop. The author, best known for his nature writing and children’s books, is charming, friendly, and happy to talk to patrons young enough to be his grandchildren and old enough to be his contemporaries.

Book a Novel Suite: Library Hotel, New York City, U.S.A.

Library Hotel

The Writer’s Den and Poetry Garden at the Library Hotel. Photo courtesy Library Hotel

The 10-storey Library Hotel is inspired by Dewey’s Decimal system of library classification. Each floor is dedicated to a different subject, including social sciences, history, religion. The eighth floor is an ode to literature with rooms named after popular genres: Mystery, Fairy Tales, Poetry, and Erotic Literature. Each has a collection of books from the finest authors in the genre. www.libraryhotel.com

Run a Bookstore: The Open Book, Wigtown, Scotland

Open Book

Spend the weekend role-playing as a bookstore-owner in The Open Book in Wigtown, Scotland. Photo courtesy The Open Book

Scotland has a National Book Town called Wigtown and they take their title very seriously. The seaside settlement is a cheery place, home to 1,000 residents, 10 bookshops, and the 10-day annual Wigtown Book Festival. But the most popular place is The Open Book, a bookshop-cum-apartment on Airbnb that allows guests to run the store. Spend the day behind the counter, and evenings curled up with a book in the apartment above. Plan in advance though: it’s all full up until 2019. www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/7908227

Step Inside a Book: Museum of Innocence, Istanbul, Turkey

Museum of Innocence

Istanbul’s Museum of Innocence brings to life the characters of Orhan Pamuk’s book by the same name. Like his novel, the museum focuses on the details of ordinary people. Photo courtesy Museum of Innocence

The Museum of Innocence is a novel and a museum conceptualised by Turkish novelist and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, while he was writing the fictional book about unrequited love in 1970s Istanbul. Filled with objects that the novel’s characters used, wore, heard, saw, collected and dreamed of—all neatly arranged in boxes and display cabinets—it feels like walking through the pages of a book. As the museum’s site testifies, “It is not essential to have read the book in order to enjoy the museum, just as it is not necessary to have visited the museum in order to fully enjoy the book.” www.en.masumiyetmuzesi.org

Learn to Brew Potions: Parc Astérix, near Paris, France

Parc Asterix

The rides at Parc Astérix are family-friendly, thrilling and, like the Discobelix (right), often part of a larger story. Photo courtesy Parc Astérix

An hour-long drive from Paris, this amusement park brings the Asterix universe to life, with rides like the Discobelix, inspired by the discus Obelix threw after he fell into a cauldron of magic potion and got his legendary strength. Spend the day taking roller-coaster rides, watching Gauls and Romans go head to head, and exploring the laboratory of the druid. Round off the day with boar burgers. www.parcasterix.fr/en

Sleep in a Bookshelf: Book and Bed Tokyo, Japan

Book and Bed Tokyo

Book and Bed Tokyo takes its reputation as a reading nook very seriously. Photo courtesy Book and Bed Tokyo

Book and Bed Tokyo attempts to recreate the “2am-but-I-must-read-a-little-more” experience. The hostel offers what they call “bookshop-accommodation”: mattresses nestled in corners between book shelves accessed by wooden ladders, “There are no fluffy pillows nor lightweight and warm down duvets,” the website warns. Instead Book and Bed offers the comfort of a different kind: falling asleep with books above, below, and all around. www.bookandbedtokyo.com/en

Have Tea with Austen: Jane Austen Centre, Bath, U.K.

Jane Austen Centre

Corsets, corsages, and cucumber sandwiches at the Jane Austen Centre in England. Photo courtesy Jane Austen Centre

At the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, ladies and gents learn to dress, talk, even flirt like the Victorian characters from the famous English author’s novels. The three-storey museum is dedicated to all things Austen, especially her time in Bath, which is the backdrop to her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. There are cupboards full of vintage clothing (that you can try on), a tea room that serves tea, cake and sandwiches, and a room that replicates Austen’s study, where you can write love letters to your own Mr. Darcy. Read more here.

In Bed With the Bard: Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France

Shakespeare and Co

Paris’s Left Bank is lined with cafés, and legendary bookstores like Shakespeare and Company. Photo: Andrew Duthie/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Inarguably one of the world’s most famous bookstores, Shakespeare and Company has hosted legends from Beat poet Allen Ginsberg to contemporary greats like Martin Amis and Zadie Smith. The Paris shop offers board to guests in return for helping out in the shop. There is no payment for accommodation. Instead, guests are expected to read “a book a day” and write a single-page autobiography for the owner’s archives. www.shakespeareandcompany.com/51/shakespeare-and-company/56/tumbleweeding

Buy a Book: Livraria Lello in Porto, Portugal

Livraria Lello

The crimson staircase at Livraria Lello is one of the bookshop’s most striking features. Photo: Mike Norton/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Famous for being the alleged inspiration for the Hogwarts library in the Harry Potter series, Livraria Lello is arguably one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world. Rich, intricate, and stately, it has carved wood panelling, a stained-glass ceiling and a crimson staircase stately enough to be in a palace. Soak in its architectural details, while you browse through their collection of local authors: the Journey to Portugal by José Saramago is highly recommended by one of the owners, José Manuel Lello. Read more here.

Christie’s Mysteries: Greenway Estate, England, U.K.

Agatha Christie

Queen of mystery Agatha Christie penned numerous novels with her champion detectives Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Photos: Jeremy Crawshaw/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa) (murder on the links); admiral.ironbombs/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa) (towards zero)

Crime novelist Agatha Christie’s home still has her cutlery, childhood portraits and her favourite chair. And it’s open to visitors. The three-storeyed white Georgian house at Greenway Estate in Devon, southwest England, was the setting for at least three of her novels. It’s an altar for fans of her elegant novels, and those who cannot get enough of Hercules Poirot, the Belgian detective with sharp wit and a sharper sense of style. Read more here.

Listen to a Story: Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, England, U.K.

Roald Dahl Museum

At the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, visitors are encouraged to be creative, even create their own gibberish words. Photo courtesy Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

Sample a slice of the Bogtrotter chocolate cake (remember Bruce Bogtrotter from Matilda? The boy who stole a piece of Trunchbull’s chocolate cake) at Café Twit when you visit the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. Treasured children’s writer, Roald Dahl, lived and wrote in the English village of Buckinghamshire, an hour and half’s drive from London, for 36 years, where the museum and story centre now stand. The museum explores Dahl’s childhood and travels through interactive galleries. At the Story Centre, unleash your own imagination: you can “create a character or a gobblefunk word”. www.roalddahl.com/museum

Drink Butterbeer: Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Florida, U.S.A.

Diagon Alley

Stop by Ollivander’s Wand Shop in Diagon Alley to pick out your own wand at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Photo courtesy Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Sample Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios’ parks in Orlando, Florida. The theme park recreates the thrills of Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, Hogwarts, and other magical experiences. Rides include a roller coaster on a hippogriff that flies past the pumpkin patch and Hagrid’s hut, and a 3D-ride through corridors and classrooms inside Hogwarts. www.universalorlando.com/harrypotter

Small Reads: The Baroda Central Library, Vadodara, Gujarat

Built around 1910, the Baroda Central Library has centuries-old books, and photos of its founder, Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III. But the most fascinating of its exhibits is a two-foot-high cabinet that holds a collection of 73 miniature books, carefully crafted by hand, testament to the fact that good things come in small packages. Read more here.

Pay your Respects: Père Lachaise, Paris, France

Père Lachaise

The haunting sculptures at Père Lachaise stay with you long after you’ve left the cemetery. Photo: Guy Renard/Flickr/Creative Commons (http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

Père Lachaise is not your average cemetery. The 110-acre grounds are the final resting place for thousands of Parisians, including literary legends like Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein, as well as Jim Morrison from the band, The Doors. Centuries after these greats have passed on, fans still leave mementos behind: flowers, notes, little figurines, making for an evocative walk. It’s testament to just how deeply a good book can influence our lives. Read more here.

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    Fabiola Monteiro is Features Writer on National Geographic Traveller India's web team. She loves beaches, blue skies, and baking, and is most centred while trying a new cake recipe. She tweets as @thefabmonteiro.

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