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CHARLES DICKENS MUSEUM
This year is the 150th anniversary of the author's death and it's a great time for Dickens fans to visit London, a city he so vividly brought to life, from the sumptuous to the squalid, in his prose. In the genteel back-streets of Holborn, the Charles Dickens Museum occupies the Georgian terraced property where he lived from 1837 to 1839, penning Nicholas Nickleby, The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist here. Snoop into Dickens' study - which has old family furniture, ornaments and manuscripts - and enjoy exhibitions, talks and performances that will draw you deeper into Dickensian times. The museum also has a Curiosity Shop stocked with books and gifts.
THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Around the corner from Lincoln's Inn Fields, at 13 Portsmouth Street, Holborn is a shop said to be the original one immortalised by Dickens in his 1840 novel. The claim is etched in antique-style font on the crooked facade of this 16th-century building, which is now a quirky shoe boutique and one of the oldest shop premises in central London. You'll take in other Dickensian locations, such as the hidden nooks, crannies and courtyards of the Temple district, on themed walking tours. Guides tell Dickens anecdotes, unfurl quotes from his stories and reveal the inspiration for his creations such as Ebenezer Scrooge and the Artful Dodger.
YE OLDE CHESHIRE CHEESE
Dickens drank in several London pubs, including this quaint watering hole and restaurant, which is tucked down an alley off Fleet Street and has changed little since the author's day. Comprising an intimate maze of bars and rooms, with low ceilings and timber beams, it's the kind of place in which you can picture characters such as Pip from Great Expectations nursing an ale. South of the River Thames, Dickens also frequented the George Inn, Southwark, mentioning it in Little Dorrit. Now National Trust-owned, this 17th-century coaching inn has a snug interior and a courtyard that throngs with revellers when the weather's fine.
Dickens' story began in this south-coast English city, where his father, John - a navy office clerk - and mother Elizabeth moved during the Napoleonic Wars. Charles was born in a humble Regency-era house in 1812 and the property is now a museum detailing his life and work. It's decorated with personal possessions such as his snuffbox, inkwell and paper knife while the furniture includes the couch on which Dickens died in Kent (on June 9, 1870). Usually open from April to September, the museum has a special opening on February 7 (Dickens' birthday). A life-size bronze statue of the author, seated and surrounded by books, graces Portsmouth's Guildhall Square.
This county, south-east of London, had a special place in Dickens' heart. When he was five, the family moved to Chatham, with his father transferred to work at its historic dockyard. Dickens later incorporated this and nearby sites such as the castle and high street of Rochester, and the mist-shrouded Medway marshlands, into his stories. He often holidayed in Broadstairs, a pleasant Kentish seaside town that has a pub and museum in his honour and hosts a Dickens Festival each June. Enjoy tearoom refreshments and yoga classes at Bleak House, a cliff-top mansion where Dickens lodged and wrote David Copperfield (incidentally, a new movie, The Personal History of David Copperfield, starring Dev Patel, is out this year).
Dickens wanted to be laid to rest in his beloved Kent. But following his death, aged 58, at his country home, Gads Hill Place - now a school near Rochester - his remains were moved back to London and Westminster Abbey. Boosted by public opinion, it was decided this was a more fitting burial place for a man of Dickens' renown. A small marble stone with a simple inscription marks his grave at the abbey's Poets' Corner, where he's in good company. Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Hardy and Rudyard Kipling are among the other literary icons buried here.