The world’s most written about cities


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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.

From the bustling streets of New York, to the historic monuments in Rome, we’ve taken a close look at the cities featured in the most literary works from around the world.

We analysed the digital library catalogue, OpenLibrary.org, to find out where every book in their database is located. We also split the results by the genres used on the platform, and took a close look at the top recommended reads from book lovers who use the site.

If you want to find out more we’ve included our full methodology at the bottom of the page, but now it’s time to get your reading list at the ready and explore the world’s most literary cities.


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 8,510 published books based on the Big Apple. Next up is the UK’s capital city, London, followed by European hotspots Rome and Paris. 

Whilst the US may dominate the list, you’ll also spot Dublin and Oxford in the top 20, along with five Italian favourites, including Florence, Sicily and Naples.

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 and Dublin are the most popular cities in the UK and Ireland, Oxford and Cambridge are also featured in over 300 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.  

Romance 

When it comes to romantic novels, London is perhaps surprisingly the location that yields the most love, with 813 books based in our captivating capital. 

However, we can’t talk about romance without mentioning Paris, Verona, and Naples which all appear in our top 10 list. Interestingly, Venice doesn’t appear, despite being a famous destination for romantic breaks.  

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 3,676 books set in New York, making it the most popular overall. Packed with history and culture, Rome is the second most written about city, followed by London 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. London is the location for 324 mystery reads, proving to be more popular than the glamorous Los Angeles. Speaking of glamour, Hollywood also makes the top 10, thanks to its history of celebrity scandal. Surprisingly, despite Oxford and Edinburgh being well-known for detective novels, the OpenLibrary database didn’t categorise them in the top 10.

Poetry 

Despite some of the world’s most famous poets coming from the UK, the majority of published poems are linked to the romantic Italian capital, Rome. With over 1,099 published works, it seems poets are captivated by the rich history and beauty of the city.

Lisbon makes its first appearance here, too, with 130 poems set in the Portuguese capital. Alongside this, San Francisco, Canterbury, and Venice are amongst the most popular places for poetry.  

Horror 

For those who like a chilling read, take a look at the spine-shivering cities featured in the most fictional horrors. Whilst seven US cities make up the top 10 for this genre, you’ll also see Paris, London and Cambridge make 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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Methodology

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.

If we’ve left you wanting more, download our full dataset here, to discover where genres including science-fiction, historical fiction, plays and short stories are most likely to be set.