Guide to all 6 UNESCO Cities Of Literature

by Jules on December 12, 2012

Some say that the written word is dying out. More and more publications are being replaced by electronic devices and a fast paced lifestyle. The six cities on this list have all been designated as a UNESCO City of Literature and prove that there is still hope for literary enthusiasts after all. With an impressive dedication to promoting the written word, each of these locations has earned their place on this ranking of top literary destinations. With monuments to great author’s and literary works, award winning publications and institutes dedicated to rousing thoughtful and creative young minds, these locations have earned their place as literary landmarks.

Launched in 2004, in order to quality for consideration as a City of Literature (which is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network) the city must have a proven criteria in publishing, educational programmes, heritage within literary, drama or poetry and a solid network of libraries, bookshops and literary festivals and events.

World Cities Where Literature Makes a Big Statement

Norwich, UK
The newest addition to the prestigious City of Literature title comes Norwich which takes the mantle for 2012. Located in the east of England, Norwich, the capital City of Norfolk County makes an impressive statement on our list. It is the hometown of the first woman to write a book in the English language and the first English provincial library and Newspaper. The city stimulates a passion for books with the Forum Library the most visited library in the UK. It’s easy to see this city’s devotion to history with the over 20,000 items available in the Cathedral Library, some of which date back to the 1400′s. Norwich continues to inspire and produce award winning writers with its Writers Centre Norwich, and the biannual international literary festival. It’s clear that this city’s creative energy is both ambitious and awe inspiring, with ground breaking author’s like Thomas Paine whose publication, Common Sense drew some of the groundwork for the American revolution.

Norwich’s literary roots date back to the 13th century with Hebrew poet Meir of Norwich. Prominent Norwich authors through the ages include Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) who wrote 35 books, George Borrow (1803-1881) and Anna Sewell (1820-1878) author of ‘Black Beauty’. Many other published authors also call Norwich their home.

Catch the annual Spring Literary Festival which runs from February to June or the annual Autumn Literary Festival which is held each September to December. Visit the official site for more information.

Edinburgh, UK
Designated as the very first UNESCO City of Literature in 2004, Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh, made it onto this list of notable literary cities by being a wealth of resources for hungry minds. Storytelling and Scottish cultural tradition go hand in hand. This is clear inside the ground breaking Scottish storytelling centre, where the tradition comes alive in a comfortable and modern setting. The literary experience in this city is interactive, with the Scottish Poetry Library, a wonderful testament to the power of sonnet that often brings in some of the country’s famed and aspiring poets alike.

The birthplace of Scottish printing and center of publishing, it’s no wonder Edinburgh became the first city of literature. Monuments to the written word, and its creators, abound on every corner. Stop in and enjoy a cup of coffee in the same place where Harry Potter was written and see the sights of the city that inspired the minds of Robert Luis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Thousands of writers are connected with beautiful historic Edinburgh including Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle. The city also boasts plenty of contemporary writers such as Irvine Welsh, JK Rowling and Ian Rankin.

Dublin, Ireland
Dublin was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in July 2010. On an island famed for its revolutionary struggles, it’s no surprise that Dublin has inspired some truly remarkable works of literary genius. This bustling city of over half a million citizens now plays homage to its award winning past with festivities like the Dublin book festival, Bloomsweek and the Irish language literature festival.

While James Joyce may rule the region as the famed author of Ulysses, Dublin is home to an astonishing four winners of the Nobel Prize for literature, as well as a myriad of other authors who have taken home notable achievements in the literary field. This city is so deeply absorbed in books that one of their most popular tourist attractions is a book itself, The Book of Kells.

Famous writers from Dublin include playwright and poet Samuel Beckett, Maeve Binchy, playwright George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde and William Butler Yeats amongst many others.

Melbourne, Australia
Awarded the prestigious City of Literature status in 2009, Melbourne is the proud home to the largest literary publishing sector on the entire continent of Oceania. The bustling city still manages plenty of time to settle in with a good read, as shown by the numerous statistics marking it one of the most well-read cities in all of Australia. With more people borrowing books than anywhere else in the country, the State Library of Victoria can have a hard time keeping up; but with more than 3.5 million articles within her walls, she certainly does her best. The city continues to foster a love of books, poetry and other literature with the Overload poetry festival and the Centre for Youth Literature.

Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik proudly hosted the City of Literature 2011. Who would have thought, that nestled within a country that has one of the most unchanged languages on the planet lies a goldmine of literary achievement. Iceland’s only city, Reykjavik, is home to several award winning author’s including 1944′s Nobel Prize winner, Halldor Laxness. It’s also home to a rich library of medieval texts that tell the story of the country’s history with poetry and prose.

Iowa City, USA
Iowa City’s Writers University has put it on the map as one of the honourable cities of literature thanks to hosting the City of Literature in 2008. This American institution is credited with being the pioneer of the first ever creative writing program; a model that now sets the bar for other similar programs worldwide. Since 1955, the university has made a powerful statement to the literary world by producing hundreds of award winners. Students and staff alike have won upwards of 25 Pulitzer prizes. It’s clear that the city fosters a love of writing and books with more than 63,700 library patrons. With a population of only 63,000 these numbers are astounding.

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