Writers sometimes travel far from home to find inspiration, or even the freedom to express themselves.
Others are so closely associated with a place that it’s hard to know whether the city left its mark on an author, or if it was the other way around.
Here are 23 writers whose words helped define a particular place.
Some places have returned the love with museums and monuments. Others simply allow readers to walk in a writer’s footsteps and experience sites of great inspirations.
Mark Twain’s Mississippi River (Missouri)
Reading through “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” or “Huckleberry Finn” today, the landscape around the Mississippi River feels almost unrecognizable.
When he wrote in the 1800s, the river was frontier land, not the powerful transport network that links half the United States, lined with farms and dotted with major cities.
However, his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri has preserved some of the sights that the boy Samuel Clemson explored before he become famous — including the caves that became the scene of Tom and Huck’s escapades.
A riverboat called the Mark Twain plies the river and takes visitors to Jackson’s Island, where Huck and the escaped slave Jim first realized a manhunt was after them.
Amy Tan’s San Francisco (California)
San Francisco’s Chinatown is the setting, and arguably a character, in many of Amy Tan’s novels.
In her breakthrough “The Joy Luck Club,” which was also made into a successful film, the main character Waverly Place Jong was named after the street that her family lived on.
Parts of the traditional Chinatown are now more Vietnamese, or even Russian. But Waverly Place is still home to the oldest Chinese temple in the United States, Tin How Temple.
Waverly is known as the “street of the painted balconies,” because of the brightly painted shops and restaurants.
James Joyce’s Dublin (Ireland)
James Joyce spent almost as much of his life in Paris as in Dublin, but his hometown in Ireland dominates his work.
An entire industry now thrives on showing visitors the locales that inspired him, the scenes that appear in his novels, and the pubs where opinions on Joyce great and small can be shared.
Most essential: walk from No. 7 Eccles Street in the footsteps of Leopold Bloom’s journey in “Ulysses” to get a pork kidney in Ulysses.
The James Joyce Centre organizes workshops, lectures and exhibits designed to serve every level of interest from a casual tour to an in-depth discussion of “Finnegan’s Wake.”
James Joyce Centre, 35 N Great George’s St, Rotunda, Dublin; 353 1 878 8547
Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul (Turkey)
For all of modern Istanbul’s retail-powered lights, in Orhan Pamuk’s books the city is a melancholy place often lit by cool winter skies.
He writes about intimate details of neighborhoods against the grand sweep of Turkish history. In “The Black Book,” plastic bottles drift among shipwrecks of galleons in the Bosphorus.
His own neighborhood Cihangir exemplifies the city’s changes.
Once a Greek commercial district, the government drove out the Greeks in the 1960s and let the red lights move in.
Now it’s a high-priced hangout for artists and writers, attracted in part by Pamuk and his “Museum of Innocence.”
It’s an actual museum named after his novel, and was designed in tandem with the text. The double-story house contains relics of the novel’s love story, and each display correlates to a chapter in the book.
Museum of Innocence, Firuzağa Mahallesi, Dalgıç Sk. No:2, 34425 Beyoğlu, Istanbul (+90 212 252 97 38)
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Lagos (Nigeria)
For all of Nigeria’s literary contributions to the world, Lagos is a city that’s hard to romanticize.
Noise, traffic and pollution all make life hectic.
But for authors, the city exerts a powerful pull — illustrated in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “Americanah,” as the main characters return home after long migrations abroad.
Adichie shows readers her city with an insider’s casualness, so it’s easy to imagine where Obinze’s wife Kosi found “those pretentious fashion designers on The Island.”
New boutiques fill Victoria Island with places for the wealthy to spend their money.
Places like The Palms mall in Lekki and the posh neighborhoods in Parkview form the backdrop of the Lagos chapters, emblematic of the growing city’s new displays of wealth.
But there are also Adichie’s own hangouts, places she’s namedropped in interviews like the Jazzhole (Shop No. 168, Awolowo Rd, Falomo, Lagos; +234 706 064 8580), filled with CDs, and the bookstore at Terra Kulture (1376 Tiamiyu Savage St, Victoria Island, Lagos; +234 1 270 0599), where Nigeria’s literati are more likely to be spotted.
Anne Rice’s New Orleans (Louisiana)
In a city already overpopulated by ghosts of the past — friendly and otherwise — Anne Rice’s novels turned New Orleans into a hotbed of vampirism and witchcraft.
Her books exploded in the 1980s, clearing the way for “Sookie Stackhouse,” “Twilight” and the rest of the modern vampire scene.
In her novels, the raised tombs in Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 (1416-1498 Washington Ave, New Orleans) hold the Mayfair witches and the vampire Lestat.
Her own home in the Garden District at 1239 First Street inspired the home of the Mayfair witches. When Rice lived there, she famously welcomed fans — though those days are long gone as she now lives in California.
But the city’s landmarks fill her books, including the Gallier House museum (1132 Royal St, New Orleans, +1 504-525-5661), home to Lestat and Louis, the Pontchartrain Hotel (2031 St Charles Ave, New Orleans; +1 504-323-1400) and Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro (Clarion Hotel Grand Boutique, New Orleans; +1 504-593-9955)
Stephen King’s Maine
“Pet Sematary,” “Salem’s Lot” and “Carrie” make Maine seem, well, terrifying.
Many of Stephen King’s stories are set in his home state of Maine, and he has a house in the town of Bangor.
The Victorian mansion looks like it could be the setting for one of his novels, vaguely reminiscent of the “Addams Family” home, but with nicely painted red walls and a wrought-iron fence around the property.
It’s actually his house where he lives, so there can be gawkers outside. Sticking around too long turns gawkers into stalkers, so it’s not advised to linger.
Rather, take a tour of Bangor, which is the town of Derry in his books. A 31-foot statue of Paul Bunyan came to life, actual “Pet Sematary,” storm drains used by killer clowns and a time-travel coffee shop are all in Bangor.
Mikhail Bulgakov’s Moscow (Russia)
Mikhail Bulgakov’s communal apartment at Bolshaya Sadovaya ulitsa, 10, apartment 50 wasn’t just where he lived; it provided a setting for several of his works.
Most notoriously, the building hosted Satan’s Ball for dark figures from human history in “The Master and Margarita.”
The Soviets considered Bulgakov a counter-revolutionary, and in the 1990s the space was used by dissidents who wrote poetry on the walls.
That’s all gone, replaced by a museum, café and lectures.
(Mikhail Bulgakov Museum, Bolshaya Sadovaya ul., 10, 50, Moscow; +7 495 699 53 66)
Jane Austen’s England
Jane Austen’s legacy is lovingly preserved in the counties where she lived.
Her home in Chawton, where she died in 1817 at age 41, is a museum that cares for exhibits inspired by her novels as well as pieces from her life, including her writing desk.
In nearby Bath, the Jane Austen Centre (40 Gay St, Bath; + 44 1225 443000) maintains permanent exhibits about her writings and life, and conducts walking tours through places she would have known.
Although she also lived in Bath, she spent her first 25 years in Steventon, where she wrote most of “Pride and Prejudice” and “Sense and Sensibility.” Her father’s rectory was demolished by her brother Edward 200 years ago, but the 800-year-old St. Nicholas Church still stands.
That’s where her family attended services and she was first inspired to dream of grand weddings.
Despite the decades of embargo, Cuba always nursed a soft spot for Ernest Hemingway, who found inspiration on the island and the waters around it.
He loved his Cuban home so much that he sought to stay even as relations with the United States turned frosty and then frigid — much to the consternation of US officialdom.
At his Finca Vigia (Lookout Farm) outside Havana, Hemingway wrote “The Old Man and the Sea” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”
There he invited neighborhood kids to play baseball with his own sons.
The museum at the Finca (Finca Vigía Km. 12 ½, La Habana; +53 7 6910809) is designed to resemble the way it would have appeared when he lived there.
In Havana, almost every spot connected to him brags about the connection. A bronze statue of Hemingway sits at his old watering hole, Floridita bar (Obispo, La Habana; +53 7 8671300) — also famed as the creator of the daiquiri.
Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo (Egypt)
Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo trilogy set him on the literary map for his realist depictions of urban life, following a family from the period of British occupation through the first half of the 20th century.
The three books are named after actual streets: “Palace Walk,” “Palace of Desire,” and “Sugar Street.”
The first novel opens with the nocturnal sounds of Palace Walk, coffeehouses and bars that Amina can hear but not experience as she watches the street from behind a screen that keeps her hidden.
Tourists can see these places, though modern Cairo is much busier and noisier than the city of the novels.
A taste of the past life is preserved at the cafe named for Mahfouz in the Khan El Khalili (Al Gamaleyah, Qesm Gamaleyah, Cairo Governorate; +20 2 25903788), the souk that’s the scene for much of his writing.
The café provides an escape with food and drink that Mahfouz’s characters would have enjoyed.
Haruki Murakami’s Tokyo (Japan)
Haruki Murakami’s novel “After Dark” opens in, of all places, a Denny’s, where a young man and woman are holding a late-night conversation.
Tokyo has several Denny’s, a bit fancier than their American counterparts, and they are in fact open late and a choice venue for young people hanging out.
More distinctive might be a run through Meiji Jingu Gaien, Murakami’s preferred route, which features in “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.”
It passes by Jingu Stadium, his favorite baseball venue, and the place where he was inspired to start writing.
James Baldwin’s New York
James Baldwin was born in Harlem, and as a teenager moved to Greenwich Village as he started exploring his sexuality and confronting the harsh realities of racism.
He left for Europe to escape racism’s yoke, but when he returned to the United States he came back to New York.
Baldwin finished “Go Tell It on the Mountain” while in Europe, but the book echoes his own path out of Harlem, as young John explores the city and senses its power and its injustice while looking at the skyline from a hill in Central Park.
A plaque marks his home in Greenwich Village at 81 Horatio Street.
His family moved a lot as a boy so there’s no such marker in Harlem, but in a sign of the neighborhood’s changes, there’s an upmarket condo complex named after him.
Victor Hugo’s Paris (France)
The Paris of Victor Hugo fell victim to the city’s redesign by Baron Haussmann in the mid-1800s, when many of the narrow, medieval streets were demolished in favor of the modern city’s broad boulevards.
Traces of his city remain, and not just at the hunchback’s lair at Notre-Dame.
Hugo’s home is a (free) museum, simply called Maison de Victor Hugo, that explores his life and work. (6 Place des Vosges, Paris; +33 1 4272 1016)
In the Marais, the Church of Saint Paul — Saint Louis is where Cosette and Marius wed in “Les Misérables.” (99 Rue Saint-Antoine, Paris; +33 1 42 72 30 32).
Jean Valjean and Cosette took walks in Luxembourg Gardens.
And the Comédie-Française staged Hugo’s plays, which during his lifetime were considered scandalous productions of Romanticism that sparked violent protests. (1 Place Colette, Paris; +33 825 10 16 80)
His work is still staged today — to considerably less outrage.
VS Naipaul’s Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago)
Many of VS Naipaul’s novels are semi-autobiographical, but “A House for Mr. Biswas” is clearly modeled on the author and his own father.
The house of the title appears only at the end of the book, when Biswas finally moves into a home of his own, assuming control of his own identity, but then suddenly dies.
That house was recently turned into a small museum in his honor (Naipaul House and Literary Museum at Nepaul Street in St. James, Port of Spain).
Garth Greenwell’s Sofia (Bulgaria)
“What Belongs to You” opens at the Sofia National Palace of Culture (National Culture Palace, Boulevard, Sofia; +359 88 621 7240), or the cruising grounds of the men’s room anyway, and carries readers along an intimate journey where the details of the city are as carefully observed as the details of the unnamed protagonist’s relationship.
His first journey with a new lover runs down Vasil Levski Boulevard (also home to the National Library and Sofia University) to the electronic shops of Graf Ignatiev, to the Soviet apartment blocks in Mladost.
The transitions between neighborhoods cross boundaries of class and background, as the two men do in their relationship.
Pablo Neruda’s Santiago (Chile)
Pablo Neruda had three homes around Santiago, which are now managed by a foundation in his name. Architecturally, they’re eccentric places that he designed.
In the city itself, La Chascona (Fernando Márquez de la Plata 0192, Barrio Bellavista, Providencia, Santiago; +56 2 2777 87 41), meaning the tangle-haired woman, was named for his wife Matilde.
In nearby Valparaiso, La Sebastiana (Ferrari 692, Valparaíso; +56 32 225 6606) offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and part of his collection of artwork.
Isla Negra (Poeta Neruda s/n, Isla Negra, El Quisco; +56 35 2461284), just outside Santiago, is his largest home and was designed like a ship. He and his wife are buried here, and this home hosts the largest collection of his personal items.
The homes are more than museums: They also host workshops that nurture new poets.
Arundhati Roy’s Ayemenem (India)
The village in Kerala that frames Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things” is well off India’s tourist path.
Getting to Ayemenem requires a flight to Cochin and then a bus ride. There’s no organized tour, though interest is sure to revive with the 2017 release of her second book “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness,” 20 years after the first.
Roy’s childhood home remains, shrouded by trees. No one lives there now, and the neighbors may not be thrilled by fans snooping around.
The novel shifts in time between 1969 and what was then a current 1993.
India has changed even more since then. Cochin has a new airport, but the roads to the village still cut through lush greenery into a place that remembers the past well.
Ayemenem is a place to glimpse an old India, and the small things that have changed or endured.
Doris Lessing’s Harare (Zimbabwe)
One of the most interesting ways to appreciate Doris Lessing is with a visit to the Harare City Library (Cnr Rotten Row / Pennefather, Harare; +263 86 441 23929)
After her death in 2013, she donated more than 3,000 books from her personal collection.
They’re now kept as a special collection in the recently upgraded library, including titles as varied as “The Dinosaur Hunters,” “Leonardo da Vinci: Flights of the Mind,” and “Long Overdue: A Book about Libraries and Librarians.”
The colonial landmarks from her books are still around too.
The Sports Club (+263 73 446 8874) that Martha Quest found so stultifying remains open to bowlers and drinkers.
Martha Quest found it full of the “invisible tensions” of white Rhodesian society, but the racial barriers have long since fallen and it’s a perfectly fine spot for a beer.
Yaa Gyasi’s Cape Coast (Ghana)
In her debut novel “Homegoing,” Yaa Gyasi follows two stepsisters who end up on tragically different paths: One is sold into slavery and the other married off to a British slave trader.
The novel follows the repercussions of slavery over hundreds of years in their families.
Their fateful split is symbolized at the Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, where one sister languishes in the dungeons awaiting the Middle Passage to the United States, and the other lives with the Briton who presides over it. (Victoria Rd, Cape Coast)
This is the largest of the “castles” built by Europeans to anchor the slave trade on what was then called the Gold Coast.
Today it’s an excellent museum chronicling the horrors that once took place there.
Lu Xun’s Shanghai (China)
One of the great writers of 20th-century China, Lu Xun occupies a peculiar place in the country.
A leftist who never joined the Communist Party, his blistering critiques of tyranny still shape political thought today.
Because the party embraced him, his presence in Shanghai has been enshrined. There’s a Lu Xun Memorial Hall (200 Tian’ai Rd, LuXun GongYuan, Hongkou Qu, Shanghai; +86 21 6540 2288), a Lu Xun Park (2288 Sichuan N Rd, LuXun GongYuan, Hongkou Qu, Shanghai; +86 21 6540 1561), and the Lu Xun Memorial Tomb.
The selections of his works on display are, needless to say, carefully selected to avoid any possible critique of the current government.
While the park is beautiful, it’s more interesting to wander through what used to be foreign concessions where he set up his League of Leftist Writers. The league’s building is on Duolun Road, now a popular tourist and shopping area.
Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm (Sweden)
The global publishing success of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy — not to mention the films made from them — has given Stockholm a new appeal for fans of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
The Stockholm City Museum runs a walking tour that takes fans into the world of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, or at least into their trendy neighborhood of Sodermalm.
It’s a chance to see where Larsson placed the fictional sites in his books, from journalist Blomkvist’s favorite café to Salander’s favorite tattoo parlor.
JRR Tolkien’s Birmingham (England)
The film versions of “The Lord of the Rings” made New Zealand synonymous with the novels, a role the country has eagerly embraced. (The national airline featured the characters in a safety video).
But the actual inspiration for the books more likely draws from Tolkien’s life in England. Born in South Africa, his family moved outside of Birmingham when he was four years old.
His childhood centered on the bucolic hamlet of Sarehole, where the pastures, streams and woods are widely considered as the inspiration for the Shire and Hobbiton.
Nearby, the towers of Perrott’s Folly (44 Waterworks Rd, Birmingham) echo “The Two Towers.”
When Tolkien was a boy, the clanking engine and steam from the Edgbaston Waterworks would have sounded like Mordor’s Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower.
The city of Birmingham maintains a Tolkien Trail to help visitors find the sites.
Griffin Shea is a writer based in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he also runs Bridge Books — an independent bookstore in an old, columnated bank building.