Literary Tourism: 4 UNESCO Cities of Literature You Might Want to Visit

In 2004 UNESCO started an initiative called Cities of Literature, in order to “promote the social, economic and cultural development of cities in both the developed and the developing world.”

Basically “Book cities”, right? We’re talking cities dedicated to books.

So far, most Cities of Literature are in Europe but the U.S. has one (just one!?) magnificent city that has earned the title. Before you scroll down, try to guess which city it is.

To become a City of Literature a city has to , among other things, score highly for:

  • Quality, quantity and diversity of publishing in the city
  • Hosting literary events and festivals which promote domestic and foreign literature
  • Existence of libraries, bookstores and public or private cultural centers which preserve, promote and disseminate domestic and foreign literature

So let’s take a look at some of the magnificent cities that have been Cities of Literature in the past (aka, your travel plans for the next years).

Granada, Spain

Granada is a grand old city in southern Spain. It is draped across the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains and sits there, chilling in the Spanish heat. Oh, it also has the Alhambra, an absolutely breathtaking palace-city, built and ransacked alternatively by Christians and Moors, now standing in grand old fashion over the city.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana photo by K is For Kani

Ljubljana (pronounced Liu-blee-ana) is the capital of Slovenia and is located smack-dab in the middle of the country. It’s a very pretty capital in one of the calmest and most peaceful parts of Europe. It’s known for it’s pretty bridges, nice weather and, of course, libraries and book stores.

Reykjavik, Iceland

We’ve spoken about Reykjavik before here on Book Riot. Iceland has more books published per capita than any other country in the world (well, the Vatican actual does, but they don’t count as a proper country, right?), Christmas brings something called a “book flood” and there’s a surprising amount of bookstores for such a small country (total population is 330,000).

Oh, and it’s also sorta pretty.

Iowa City, U.S.A.

Photo credit: Billwhittaker

Yup, the only city in the U.S. to be named a City of Literature is Iowa City, Iowa. Home of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, whose graduates include John Irving and Flannery O’Connor, Iowa City also has a number of literature-themed festivals through the year, including the Iowa City Book Festival in October.

Did you guess Iowa City?

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