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New York City Library front | © melanzane1013/Flickr
New York City Library front | © melanzane1013/Flickr
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10 Literary Landmarks in Manhattan to Explore

Picture of JW McCormack
Updated: 3 October 2017
Manhattan occupies a curious paradox, with one foot firmly in the immediate present and the other in its past. While other cities are consumed by nostalgia, Manhattan is an organic borough and a kind of living organism, in which every person to have ever called the city home, is part of it. Hence, its literary destinations are not memorials to a dormant past: They are meeting places, hubs, reading hosts, bookstores, and flourishing businesses.

There’s an endless number of world-famous tourist sites to explore in Manhattan alone, but some of the most notable deserve special mention for their rich past and dynamic present. Below are 10 literary landmarks that make Manhattan the country’s foremost mecca for writers, readers, and the bookish at heart.

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White Horse Tavern

It may be stereotypical, but no discussion of Manhattan’s literary presence can avoid the White House Tavern; the legendary ale house on Hudson and West 11th where Dylan Thomas drank himself to death. It can get a bit crowded these days, but nothing can diminish its credentials as the official club house of writers such as Jack Kerouac and Delmore Schwartz.

White Horse Tavern, 567 Hudson St, New York, NY 10014, USA, +1 212 989 3956

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The Algonquin Hotel

59 West 44th is home to The Algonquin Hotel, the luxury one-time boudoir of Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and many others. The hotel has also preserved its round table, where New York’s literary elite, including Dorothy Parker, came to drink, gossip, and argue late into the night.

The Algonquin Hotel, 59 W 44th St, New York, NY 10036, USA, +1 212 840 6800

Central Park

There’s no shortage of literary stops in Central Park, from the Poet’s Walk to the statue of Alice in Wonderland. Other statues to giants of the written word include Hans Christian Andersen, Robert Burns, and Mother Goose, plus the fountain named for Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of The Secret Garden.

Alice In Wonderland, Central Park
Alice In Wonderland, Central Park | © Jere Keys/Flickr
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Ralph Ellison Memorial

Riverside Park is home to the Ralph Ellison Memorial, perhaps the greatest of Harlem’s many luminary writers, just across from where the Invisible Man author lived at 730 Riverside Drive. Unveiled in 2003 with a huge jazz celebration, the Memorial is a reminder of the city’s place in African-American history.

Riverside Drive & W 150th Street, New York, NY 10031, USA

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KGB Bar

Famously cool (and infamously cramped), the Soviet-themed KGB Bar is host to many of the city’s best-attended reading series. Beginning life as a refuge and speakeasy for Ukrainian socialists, the bar’s current incarnation is regularly acclaimed as the city’s best literary venue, as you can almost always catch poetry and fiction being performed in the shadow of the hammer-and-sickle.

KGB Bar, E 4th St, New York, NY 10003, USA, +1 347 441 4481

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Housing Works Bookstore

Manhattan is home to many (but still not enough) legendary bookstores, including Bluestockings and The Strand, but the non-profit Housing Works stands out for its charity efforts – it uses proceeds from the cavernous used bookstore to combat homelessness and AIDS. As well as being involved in healthcare initiatives and outreach to countries devastated by natural disasters, Housing Works also boasts charming gimmicks, such as a rack of vintage pulp paperbacks and pre-wrapped “mystery” books.

Housing Works Bookstore Café, 126 Crosby St, New York, NY 10012, USA, +1 212 334 3324

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Patchin Place

Something of a deep cut in terms of literary pilgrimage sites, Greenwich Village’s Patchin Place is a gated cul-de-sac where a stunning number of classic New York writers have lived over the years, perhaps most notably Djuna Barnes, Theodore Dreiser, e.e. cummings, and John Reed (as depicted in Warren Beatty’s biopic Reds).

Patchin Place, Greenwich Village, New York, NY 10011, USA

New York Public Library/Bryant Park

Of course, the NYPL is Manhattan’s premiere literary destination (not just for Ghostbusters tourism!), but there’s more to do here than simply admire the peerless collection and iconic lions. You can attend readings (and after-parties), view the original Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed animal (plus Piglet and Eeyore, but sadly Roo, is long lost), or admire the statue of Gertrude Stein that adorns the surrounding Bryant Park.

NYPL, 174 E 110th St, New York, NY 10029, USA, +1 212 534 2930

Bryant Park, New York, NY 10018, USA, +1 212 768 4242

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Delacorte Theater

Central Park’s Delacorte Theater has been home to Shakespeare in the Park, the city’s premiere free drama festival, since 1962, when James Earl Jones and George C. Scott performed in The Merchant of Venice. 1,800 seats wide and open to the air, the theater is well-worth investigating regardless of how long you’ll be in the city, as you might just catch one of its frequent performances by celebrities such as Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldblum, or Christopher Walken.

Delacorte Theater, 81 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023, USA, +1 212 539 8500

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Mark Twain’s House

There’s an abundance of writers’ homes you can tour in Manhattan (a short list would include John Steinbeck, Langston Hughes, and Truman Capote), but Mark Twain’s house – where the man born as Samuel Clemens lived from 1900 – is particularly picturesque, located at .

Mark Twain’s house, 14 West 10th Street, New York, NY 10011, USA