One of my pre-trip planning tools is the UNESCO World Heritage site list. I like to see if the place I’ll be traveling to has any nearby World Heritage designated areas, consider if it’s something we may be interested in seeing, and possibly add it to our itinerary.
I’ve seen quite a few places that I might have missed anyway. One was the Zollverein in Essen, Germany. If you don’t know, I lived in Essen for almost five years. Although the Zollverein is a popular attraction for our city, it was the fact that it was a UNESCO World Heritage site that prompted me to drag my 7-month pregnant self to this former coal-mine in the middle of the summer so many years ago.
I’m glad I did.
Years later the popular book for adults, All the Light We Cannot See, brought me back to the Zollverein. Yes, that book takes place, partially in the Zollverein.
Some things clicked and I wondered if there was a list somewhere of children’s books that have been written about World Heritage sites. And that’s when I discovered the UNESCO Cities of Literature.
UNESCO Cities of Literature are a branch of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. The other branches include
- Crafts & Folk Art
- Media Arts.
For more information on what makes a UNESCO City of Literature, keep reading.
What are UNESCO Cities of Literature?
Great question. According to the City of Literature site,
The UNESCO Cities of Literature are a global network of cities which specialise in literature.
The UNESCO designation ‘City of Literature’ recognises excellence and places an obligation on cities to nurture and support their artform and collaborate internationally by sharing best practice, supporting freedom of speech and through projects which ensure literature reaches as wide and diverse an audience as possible, locally and internationally.
Want more information? Check out this website.
Which cities are currently designated as a UNESCO City of Literature?
Since they were established in 2004, there are 28 cities on the list. Here’s a list of them in order that they were inducted.
2004 UNESCO City of Literature
- Edinburgh, Scotland
2008 UNESCO Cities of Literature
- Melbourne, Australia
- Iowa City, IA, USA
2010 UNESCO City of Literature
- Dublin, Ireland
2011 UNESCO City of Literature
- Reykjavik, Iceland
2012 UNESCO City of Literature
- Norwich, UK
2013 UNESCO City of Literature
- Krakow, Poland
2014 UNESCO Cities of Literature
- Prague, Czechia
- Heidelberg, Germany
- Granada, Spain
2015 UNESCO Cities of Literature
- Ulyanovsk, Russia
- Baghdad, Iraq
- Tartu, Estonia
- Lviv, Ukraine
- Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Barcelona, Spain
- Nottingham, UK
- Óbidos, Portugal
- Montevideo, Uruguay
2017 UNESCO Cities of Literature
- Bucheon, South Korea
- Durban, South Africa
- Lillehammer, Norway
- Milan, Italy
- Utrecht, the Netherlands
- Manchester, UK
- Québec City, Canada
- Seattle, WA, USA
How does the UNESCO City of Literature designation apply to children’s books?
In most cases, these cities of literature don’t only have a strong literary culture that appeals to adults, but also one that appeals to kids. This includes, but definitely isn’t limited to, famous children’s books authors who called these cities home for some part of their journey, family-friendly sites and events that celebrate books, settings that may feel familiar from much-loved books, and a plethora of bookstores to wander around in.
As part of this website, though, I’m going to attempt to make that search just a bit easier. I will be posting child-friendly aspects of the UNESCO Cities of Literatures, starting with the first one, Edinburgh. Bookmark this page as I add links to the cities above when I update.