It is just a fact of life that some cities are known for certain unique things. For example, Los Angeles is known for its entertainment industry, and San Francisco is well-known as a hub for big tech. Accordingly, in the United States, some cities are more recognized for their writing or literary communities than others. And living in one of these writing meccas in the United States can have great benefits. New York City, for example, is among the places writers most often flock to, with a grand plethora of diverse publishing houses, writing communities, and cute spots to work. Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Philadelphia also present many enticing, individual attributes for writers. But how about on a larger scale? What cities in the world are hospitable and inspiring places for writers to settle down?
You obviously don’t have to live in the United States to write for an American, let alone English-speaking, audience. Even some quintessentially “American” literature has been penned abroad, such as many works by Hemingway, who resided in Paris and in Cuba, along with many other places. And there can be such great benefits to going abroad to write: many cities in the world are lush with inspiring histories, ripe with writing opportunities, or full of literary communities to call home. What are some of those cities, and what are some reasons they may be enticing to live in?
It’s a good thing you asked. One such of these cities is the stunning Amsterdam. A beautiful, lively city, Amsterdam is not only the capital of the Netherlands, but it is also known as the “book capital of the world.” The literary scene there is thriving, as it is the hotbed for the Dutch publishing industry, but expatriate writing communities flourish in the city as well. It is a diverse place, so you will never be the only one reading and writing in English (Brown). Writing groups and workshops, such as the Amsterdam Writing Group or ‘Shut Up & Write’ are a-plenty, giving any writer a community. Adorable bookshops and idyllic city features are around every corner, good for avid readers and those who thrive off visual inspiration.
Another “capital city” in the writing world is located on another continent. Santiago, the capital of Chile and a rapidly growing urban center, is a major hub for Spanish-language writers. Chile has a rich literary tradition and has seen two Nobel prize winners for literature, along with three winners of the Miguel de Cervantes Prize, an incredible feat for Spanish lit (Britannica). It is a young, upcoming city, with a population slightly larger than L.A.’s, facing steady economic growth on top of an already strong economy. That’s not even mentioning that being an hour away from both the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Santiago’s people have plenty of breathtaking nature within an arm’s reach. These picturesque, idyllic natural scenes are begging to inspire a beautiful story or poem. If you’re going to visit in June, though, don’t forget your coat, as the city is in the southern hemisphere, and thus has winter from April to September and summer in the year’s closing (and opening) months.
Traveling back to the northern hemisphere, a city you’ll find on every writer’s list is Paris. Paris has consistently been one of the most culturally important cities to literature and writing for centuries. Not only is the city physically breathtaking (in most parts), but the French language and literary tradition are incredibly beautiful and useful to a writer, despite what language you’re writing in. Prestigious French universities, the sizable French publishing industry, the many major and influential French newspapers, journals, and salons, and the thriving community of writers there have long made Paris a desirable city for writers.
Tokyo may not be the first city that comes to mind when thinking of writing, but it is, without a doubt, an important center of culture and literature in the world. The Japanese literary tradition is expansive and rich, and often virtually untouched by the Western education systems. Unlocking the centuries of stories, literary movements, styles, and ideologies could expand the horizons of any writer, especially an expat one who has their own cultural identity and awareness of their own culture’s literary tradition. Many writing communities in many different languages are centered there as well, such as the English-speaking Tokyo Writers Workshop, ensuring that no writer would ever be alone (Milne).
Heading back to Europe, the final World’s Writing Capital is the bedrock of the English literary tradition: London. A beautiful, historical, and inspiring city, just like Paris, London has plenty of writing communities, publishing companies, and opportunities for writers, as any writing mecca should. London is also one of the world’s most diverse, multicultural cities (Ro), providing myriad invaluable experiences with international cuisines, businesses, and festivals, along with an expansive, diverse writing scene. London is also the heritage of all English-language writers, with great, iconic figures such as Chaucer (sometimes known as the “father of English literature”), Shakespeare, Dickens, and Woolf dotting its literary history. It is clearly an ideal place for a writer to make their home.
Of course, these are not the only cities in the world that are good places for writers to settle down. Some honorable mentions include Granada, Spain, whose prestige in the Spanish literary world is unrivaled; beautiful Prague, which houses many opportunities for expatriate writers; Nanjing, the seat of an extensive and beautiful Chinese literary tradition; Melbourne, the hotbed of writing in Australia, with many universities and writing communities to help you succeed; or St. Petersburg, Russia, the center of all things literature in Russia, which also has its own extensive history in literature and writing. Altogether, selecting the next city you live in (or travel to) can be a daunting task, especially as a writer. The opportunities available for wordsmiths, though, in any of the cities discussed above are bound to make a trip to any one of them unforgettable.
Brown, Max Goodwin. “Amsterdam’s Literary Scene: Understated and Surprising,” The Culture Trip, https://theculturetrip.com/europe/the-netherlands/articles/amsterdams-literary-scene-understated-and-surprising/. Accessed February 13, 2021.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Cervantes Prize". Encyclopedia Britannica, 8 May. 2018, https://www.britannica.com/art/Cervantes-Prize. Accessed February 15, 2021.
Milne, Rosie. “Tokyo Writers’ Workshop,” Asian Books Blog, http://www.asianbooksblog.com/2014/11/raelee-chapman-our-indie-correspondent.html. Accessed February 16, 2021.
Ro, Christine. “5 Reasons a Writer Should Move to London,” Literary Hub, https://lithub.com/5-reasons-a-writer-should-move-to-london/. Accessed February 16, 2021.