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The world’s most written about cities

Aug 07, 2020
The world’s most written about cities

As we all continue to spend more time at home in the coming months, taking the time to relax and read a captivating book can ignite our imaginations and take us on a trip to the world’s most extraordinary destinations – even if it is just from the comfort of our sofa.

The top 20 most written about cities in the world


From the wealth of cities we explored, our data revealed that New York is the most written about city in the world, with 79,384 published books based on the Big Apple. London ranks in fourth spot (31,368) behind Washington (43,977) and Rome (34,981). 
In the top 20 the most prominent country is the US with seven cities in total – New York, Washington, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. 
From the OpenLibrary recommended reading list, there are some familiar novels including The Chronicles of Narnia, which alongside the fictional world, is set in London, and the Time Traveller’s Wife which is based in Chicago. 

The top 10 most written about cities in the UK & Ireland

Whilst London (31,368) and Dublin (3,228) are the most popular cities in the UK and Ireland, Oxford and Cambridge are also featured in over 2,000 literary works each. 
Other cities include Manchester, where the Dickens classic, Hard Times, is set, Birmingham where Judith Cutler's Staying Power is located and Edinburgh the 18th century setting of The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley.

The most popular cities by genre 

Which cities are featured in the most romance novels? And which feature in famous classic literature? To find out, we drilled into the data, breaking it down by the most popular genres.  


When it comes to romantic novels, London is perhaps surprisingly the location that yields the most love, with 1,568 books based in our captivating capital. 
However, we can’t talk about romance without mentioning Paris which ranks third with 459, behind New York in second place with 1,017.
If you want a story to sweep you off your feet, we recommend taking your imagination to Verona with Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, or heading back to the roaring twenties in New York with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby. 

Classic Literature

When exploring the world’s most famous classic literature, we found 3,277 books set in Rome, making it the most popular overall. Packed with history and culture, New York (2,192) is the second most written about city, followed by London (1,221) where Charles Dickens’ set his world famous read, A Christmas Carol. Dickens’ then took a trip to Paris, where he based A Tale of Two Cities 16 years later. Both classics scored first place on the OpenLibrary recommended reads.  

Mystery and Detective

If mystery and detective novels keep you on the edge of your seat, you will find that the majority are based in the world’s biggest cities. New York leads the way for mystery and detective stories at 650.
London is the location for 559 mystery reads, proving to be more popular than the glamorous Paris and Los Angeles. 
Well known for detective novels, Oxford also ranks in the top 10 at six with a total of 157 books based in the English city. 


Despite some of the world’s most famous poets coming from the UK, most published poems are linked to the romantic Italian capital, Rome. With 1,355 published works, it seems poets are captivated by the rich history and beauty of the city.
New York and London once again also rank prominently with 511 and 321 published poems respectively. 


For those who like a chilling read, take a look at the spine-shivering cities featured in the most fictional horrors. The top 10 is dominated by US cities, with New York leading the way with 262. Six US cities make up the rest of the top 10 list. 
London and Oxford also rank as the most popular places for a frightening tale.  
Amongst the recommended reads, you’ll see the notoriously frightening book, The Omen, along with one of Roald Dahl’s most famous short stories, The Landlady.  

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To get our results on the world's most written about cities we used a digital data scraping tool to search for every location category featured on the openlibrary.org database. We then used this information to gather the number of books located there and filtered by the genres used on the OpenLibrary database to source our more detailed findings.
OpenLibrary is an editable, digital database of books and e-books containing over 20 million edition records online and providing access to 1.7 million scanned versions. Whilst its goal is to record every book ever published, it hasn't quite reached it yet, so our research is based solely on what's provided on the database.
Our findings were accurate at the time of publication, however are subject to change.
Data was originally published in 2020 and then updated in February 2023.