10 classic books set in London

From the townhouses of Marylebone to the streets of Bloomsbury and the pubs of Peckham, London has provided the settings for many classic works of literature. If you're planning a trip to the Big Smoke, why not read one of these classic books set in London before you go, and then pay a visit to some of the iconic London locations in which they are set.

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

One of Dickens' best-loved novels, Great Expectations is the story of Pip, an orphan boy who travels to the smog-filled London of the industrial revolution hoping to escape his humble origins and make his fortune. To see one of the first landmarks that Pip encountered when arriving in the city, visit the still working
Smithfield Meat Market in Farringdon.

Mrs Dalloway

by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf's experimental twentieth-century classic charts a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a wealthy high-society woman living in London in the years after the First World War, as she prepares for a party at her home that evening. Visit where Mrs Dalloway begins her walk in
London's St James' Park.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and other stories

by Robert Louis Stevenson

In his 1886 novel, Stevenson presents the strange case of mild-mannered surgeon Dr Jekyll and his violent alter ego, Mr Hyde. Visit London's Soho, the location of Dr Jekyll's house, which is thought may have been
inspired by the residence of prominent eighteenth-century London surgeon, John Hunter.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

by Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, is perhaps London's most well-known literary character. Head to Marylebone Road to snap a selfie with the

Sherlock Holmes Statue

outside Baker Street station before paying a visit to

221B Baker Street,

which is now a museum dedicated to the famous detective. 

The Time Machine

by H. G. Wells

A brilliant scientist builds a machine which propels him into the future in this groundbreaking work of science fiction writing, which was first published in 1895. Author H. G. Wells lived in London for much of his life, and The Time Machine begins in

the suburb of Richmond,

now part of Greater London. 

The Ballad of Peckham Rye

by Muriel Spark

Book cover for The Ballad of Peckham Rye

First published by Macmillan in December 1960, The Ballad of Peckham Rye is the tale of Dougal Douglas, who is hired by a Peckham textile firm to 'bring vision into the lives of the workers', but instead wreaks havoc on their lives. Visit The White Horse on Peckham Rye, which is just one of the many public houses to feature in Spark's celebration of South London in the 1960s.

Hangover Square

by Patrick Hamilton

Book cover for Hangover Square

Set in the period between the Munich agreement and start of the Second World War, Hangover Square is a darkly comic novel about a group of listless Londoners who spend their days drifting between the pubs of West London's Earls Court. To see the setting of this story of 'darkest Earl's Court' (the original subtitle given to the book), visit the streets around Earl's Court tube station and Warwick Road in SW5.

The Magic Toyshop

by Angela Carter

Book cover for The Magic Toyshop

When Melanie's parents are killed in a plane crash over the Grand Canyon, she and her siblings are forced to leave the house of their idyllic countryside childhood and are sent to live above her tyrannical Uncle Phillip's toyshop in South London, with relatives they have never met. Visit Crystal Palace triangle and park which Angela Carter described in the novel as a 'wedge-shaped open space high on a hill'.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

by George Orwell

Book cover for Nineteen Eighty-Four

London is the setting for George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, although Britain is now called 'Airstrip One' and is part of super-country Oceania. Visit Senate House in Bloomsbury to see Orwell's inspiration for the book's fictional Ministry of Truth building, where Winston Smith spends his days rewriting the past on behalf of 'the party'. Orwell's wife worked in Senate House during the Second World War, when the building was used for the UK Government's Ministry of Information.

The End of the Affair

by Graham Greene

Book cover for The End of the Affair

The End of the Affair, which is set in the area around Clapham Common where Graham Greene lived and worked in the 1940s, is the story of an affair gone sour, and the consequences of when love turns into obsession. Visit St Mary's Church on Clapham Park Road and the surrounding streets to see the setting for this dark novel.

For more pubs with literary connections, check out Book Break's literary pub crawl:

If you're looking to explore more of London's literary landmarks, take a look at our Book Break episode which explores some of the beautiful London parks that have been immortalised in literary classics: