Skip to Content

1 Perfect Literary London Tour

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Greetings, Internet Stranger, and welcome to a perfect Literary London tour. London is one of the most famous literary cities in the entire world. Just think of the number of famous characters who have spent time here: Harry Potter, Hercule Poirot, Mary Poppins, Paddington Bear, to name just a few.

And today we’re going to visit one of the most famous characters of them all: Sherlock Holmes. That’s right, we’re even going to get to visit his house. Beyond that, we’ll learn about London’s literary history, experience its theater, and so much more. It will be a literary London tour to remember!

literary London tour

Literary London Tour

Where Do I Stay?

London’s a massive city, so there’s a gajillion choices available for hotels for your literary London tour. I can recommend my favorite choice for the budget-conscious traveler. (London’s gobstoppingly expensive, so we might all be a little budget conscious when we visit here, unless we are the King.) I’ve stayed at and enjoyed the oddly named 72QT

72QT is right on Hyde Park, on the other side of the park from Buckingham Palace, near Paddington Station. So you can go say hello to Paddington Bear’s statue in Paddington Station if you stay here. You can even leave him a jar of marmalade. Click here if that sounds appealing to you and you like saving money.

If you’d rather explore other hotel options in London, you can find about a billion and three excellent deals for every budget by clicking here. This search engine will help you find the perfect place to stay during your plans for your literary London tour. With plenty of options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something for your schedule and budget.

literary london tour

Literary London Tour

Morning: Sherlock Holmes Museum

The Sherlock Holmes Museum is a small but memorable attraction for any Holmes fan. I happen to be so obsessed with Holmes that I read all of the mysteries by the time I was 12, and I used to perform them in my room for my collection of stuffed animals. (Yes, I was an only child.)

The statue you can see above is at the Baker Street tube station, and the museum is just a short walk away. It won’t take long to visit, but you need to book your tickets in advance here on the website. Then get ready for…

Three Fascinating Facts: Sherlock Holmes Museum

literary london tour
1) Why is the museum at 221B Baker Street?

Because that’s where the great Holmes and his BFF/biographer Dr. Watson lived! (If you’re a fan of the Basil of Baker Street children’s mystery series, it’s also where the detective mouse lived, along with his best friend Dr. Dawson, who was also a mouse.)

I really recommend the Sherlock Holmes Museum for major fans. You’ll probably only spend half an hour inside the building, and then you can go explore the shop. (There’s no need to purchase anything. I didn’t.)

But it’s perfectly fine that we’re not going to spend all morning here. We’ve got a very busy day ahead of us, so this is just a bit of a treat before the main events.

london literary tour
2) What does it look like inside the museum?

Well, you can see one of the rooms in my photo above. For your first part of the museum visit, you’ll get walked through the rooms on the first floor by a paid docent. They are set up to look exactly like the description of the rooms from the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The docent pointed out the signs of some of Holmes’s hobbies like his violin, and the evidence of his drug addiction. There’s a deerstalker hat in the room, but the docent pointed out that this comes from the movies. Holmes never wears a deerstalker in the books.

Finally, the docent pointed out a a large VR decorating the wall, and asked us what we thought the initials stood for. I wasn’t the only one who knew the answer. Do you think you can solve the mystery?

literary london tour
3) What’s in the rest of the house?

You might be thinking from my photo that Holmes and Watson are waiting for you, but these are just wax figures. There are wax figures of all the major characters from the Holmes stories around the museum. You can’t miss arch-villain James Moriarty, aka the Napoleon of Crime, and his massive head. (Conan Doyle was a Victorian writer, and many people in the Victorian era believed that a large forehead was a sign of great intelligence.)

However, don’t forget that Moriarty is only in a couple of the Holmes stories. He became a much bigger character in the film and television adaptations.

My favorite part of the museum was getting the chance to see Holmes artifacts from all over the world. It’s a wonderful reminder of how Holmes seems like a real person to so many people.

literary london tour

Literary London Tour

Early Afternoon: British Museum

So I mentioned that we were only spending a short amount of time at the Sherlock Holmes Museum. That’s because our next attraction, the British Museum is going to take up so much of our time.

The British Museum is one of the largest museums in the world, and its collection contains works from the beginning of history to the present-day. (Some of those works are stolen, you might say, and you’d be correct. But we’ll get to that later.

The British Museum is completely free to visit, but you’ll get more out of it with this excellent guided tour. You can go ahead and book it by clicking here. After all, such a large museum can be rather overwhelming. But before we get to that, let me share with you

Approximately Top 5: British Museum

literary london tour
1) Brunch at Paul Rothe & Son

No, sadly beans and toast have not yet been placed in the British Museum. However, we’re having tea instead of dinner, so let’s get something in between breakfast and lunch to tide us over until then. (The portions at tea are going to be massive.)

That’s why I’m taking you to Paul Rothe & Son, a deli that has existed since 1900. It’s really not fancy enough for me to think of it as brunch, but I couldn’t think of another word for a meal between breakfast and lunch.

This place is famous for its creative sandwiches, but I just stuck to the delicious British classic, beans on toast. I’ll have to try one of their delicious sandwiches like anchovy and egg next time.

literary london tour
2) Lewis Chessmen

There are so many amazing objects in the British Museum, so I’m only going to be able to show you a few of my favorites. And I absolutely adore the Lewis Chessmen, so much so that I bought a replica of one of the pieces at the British Museum, and I have it hanging around my house, just being chessy.

Now I know this is a literary London tour, but the Lewis Chessmen don’t have anything to do with C.S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia or Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. These pieces were actually found on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland.

Apparently some of the pieces were red because in Medieval England they used red and white instead of white and black. Hey! The chess pieces in Through the Looking-Glass were also red and white, so maybe this does have something to do with Lewis Carroll after all.

literary london tour
3) Ashurbanipal Library Project

I promised you a literary London tour, didn’t I? Well, what’s more literary than one of the oldest libraries in the world? This library in ancient Mesopotamia contained over 30,000 clay tablets, some of which you can see here. The British Library is dedicated to getting their content online, along with translations.

These tablets were found in the ruins of the city of Ninevah, which was the capital of Ashurbanipal’s empire. (PS. How many times do I have to keep typing out the name Ashurbanipal? It’s hard on the fingers.)

The flood tablet is probably the most famous of these clay tablets because it tells the story of a great flood that wiped out the earth. You might be thinking that sounds like the story of Noah from the Bible, and you’d be right! But this story pre-dates the Bible, so it just shows humans have been telling this story of a monster great flood for a long time.

london literary tour
4) The Knowledge Room

No Literary London tour is complete without a visit to the Knowledge Room in the British Museum. This room used to have a lot more books in it because George III (yes, the King from the American Revolution and Hamilton) donated his collection here. However, that collection has since been moved.

If you tour the Knowledge Room today, you’ll find everything from fossils to busts to strange paintings of birds. My favorite fossils were the ones collected by Mary Anning, who was a 19th century paleontologist. It wasn’t easy being a female scientist back in those days, but she became renowned for her amazing fossil collections. Some people say the tongue twister “she sells seashells by the seashore” is about her.

The only tongue twister about me is one an ex-boyfriend made up about me, and that’s not repeatable on a family blog.

literary london tour
5) Dancing Skeletons

The Japanese collection at the British Museum isn’t very large, but it has some fascinating pieces. I was especially interested in this little book depicting dancing skeletons. It’s by the 19th century Japanese artist Kawanabe Kyosai.

According to the docent notes, the skeletons are enjoying a wild party on a summer night. One of the skeletons is even hurrying home to greet his children. How…do…skeletons have children? I better not think about that one too much or my head might explode.

literary london tour
6) The Rosetta Stone

You might be wondering how one could stop at the British Museum, and yet not mention the Rosetta Stone. You’d be right! The Rosetta Stone is an amazing tablet that the great French linguist Jean-Francois Champollion used to decipher the mystery of hieroglyphs. It’s thanks to him and the stone that we can read many ancient Egyptian treasures.

You might be wondering where my photo of the Rosetta Stone is, and my answer is that it’s so crowded around the Rosetta Stone that I can’t get a proper picture. Enjoy this photo of an angry rooster flask instead.

literary London tour

Literary London Tour

Late Afternoon: Tea at Fortnum and Mason

Normally I recommend spending the hours between 5 and 7 maxing and chillaxing at your hotel. But no guide to what to do in London for a day is complete without afternoon tea. And surely having afternoon high tea at Fortnum and Mason will be just as relaxing as napping in a Latvian hotel, no?

literary London tour

After all, F and M has a Royal Warrant from the Windsor Family, and if it’s good enough for the monarchy, I think it’s good enough for you, Internet Stranger! Go ahead and make your reservation here. I’ll wait.

I suggest starting your tea with a helping of rose champagne. Highly civilized! Then it’s on to the proper tea!

literary London tour

At the bottom come the sandwiches, and you can have as many as you like. Mine were ham and mustard, cucumber, smoked salmon, egg salad, and my personal favorite: the curried chicken. Between the tea and the curry, Fortnum and Mason should just title this meal, “Things We Stole From India”.

Next come the scones: one fruit and one plain. We’re not animals; we don’t expect you to live on one scone. They are served with clotted cream, strawberry preserves, and lemon curd. The lemon curd is my favorite thing on the whole menu.

literary london tour

It tastes like someone took the world’s happiest lemon, killed it very quickly and silently so the lemon would never know one moment of sadness, and then buried that happy lemon in a beautiful custard.

Finally, come the desserts. I got these all to myself and my eight-year-old self would have been so proud of me because I ate them all. They were a peach mousse, a chocolate hazelnut cream with a chocolate shell, elderflower mousse, a strawberry roll up, and a rose eclair. I challenge you to see if you can finish yours off all by yourself too.

literary london tour

The Brits enjoy their rose desserts more than we Yanks typically do. Fortnum and Mason even sells rose chocolates. I recommend the rose éclair because it wasn’t too heavy. It’s smart that so many of the desserts were fruity when it is such a heavy meal.

There is a separate cake table when you eat at Fortnum and Mason and you can take as many of the extra cakes as you want. You can even ask for one of the extra cakes to go! The waitress looked simply too shocked and disappointed with me when I said I didn’t want one, but as I spend so much of my life eating in restaurants, I have to say no sometime or none of my clothes would fit.

literary London tour

Literary London Tour

Evening: The TheaTRE

You can’t end any guide to a literary London tour without mentioning the West End. As a native New Yorker, it pains me to say this, but I would rather go out to the theater in London than New York. The crowds aren’t as insane and the tickets are cheaper. But which show should we see?

literary London tour

Let’s not see Hamlet because the lead actor was a certain James Moriarty and he was just so mean to Sherlock Holmes that I don’t think I can support his acting career. Instead, let’s catch a comedy called The Play That Goes Wrong.

What to Do in London for a Day

This play was so funny that milk snorted out of my nose when I was watching it, and I wasn’t even drinking any milk. I could tell you all about the plot, but you might not want to go see the play for yourself then. So instead, I will share…

Approximately Top 5: The Play That Goes Wrong Quotes

  1. “James, where’s your peach?”
  2. “A ledger?”
  3. “Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand” (2nd Duran Duran reference of the night! Woot!)
  4. “This isn’t a pantomime!”
  5. “Of course, Florence, that’s what brothers are for”
  6. “Not so fast, Inspector!”

There! I hope those hilarious jokes, taken completely out of context, have convinced you to see the play. You’re welcome!

literary London tour

Literary London Tour

Tools For Travel

  • A cell charger so that you’ll be able to keep taking photos of your literary London tour
  • The best international travel adapter because if you’re American like I am, you’ll need one to be able to plug in electronics during your literary London tour
  • My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips.
  • The most reliable travel umbrella that is small enough to fit in my purse, but strong enough to stand up to powerful winds.
  • These great TSA approved clear toiletries bags, so I can always keep spare toothpaste and travel sized toiletries in any carry-on.
  • My book Get Lost, that I wrote myself with all my best travel tips. This book will show you how travel can take you on a journey of self-discovery.
literary london tour

That’s a Perfect Literary London tour

Did that help you find what to do on a literary London tour? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in London right now? Please email me at and let me know!

Note: Keep in mind that while this article is about what to do in one literary London tour, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY know what to do in London for a day with a literary London tour. If you want to add a London itinerary, try this one.

If you want yet another London itinerary, it’s all yours. And if you want to add on other destinations in the United Kingdom, I’ve got you covered too, right here.

1 Perfect Literary London Tour 1