Each year on September 8, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization encourages us to honor literacy through International Literacy Day. Known as UNESCO to most travelers, many of us have visited destinations around the world which have been preserved for their cultural or natural significance. There are over 1000 such UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world, including well-known ones like the Taj Mahal in India and lesser-known destinations like the Bay and Old Town of Kotor, Montenegro.
UNESCO also honors sites for others reason, including some as Cities of Literature. These cities have an important heritage in encouraging literacy around the world, and some are great destinations to study abroad. If you want to help understand the significance of literature and improve literacy later in your career -- or if you're a literature major and want to study abroad -- , consider one of these cities and some of the great literature study abroad programs which operate there.
Melbourne is a literary hub in Australia; more people borrow books from libraries in Melbourne than anywhere else in the country! The city also hosts four literary festivals each year and is home to the biggest publishing network in Australia.
If you want to study abroad in Melbourne, there are a bunch of providers and universities that offer programs that include a focus on creative writing and literacy. Check out our guide to studying abroad in Melbourne.
Dublin is famous the world over for its contributions to the annals of literature. Home to famous writers including James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, and Seamus Heaney, the city is obviously inspiring for those who wish to learn more about the literary arts.
You can find a variety of study abroad opportunities in Dublin, including at Trinity College (be sure to check out the famous library!), as well as many others where you can focus on learning about literature and its history in Dublin. Read our helpful guide to studying abroad in Dublin to see all your choices.
You might be surprised that the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik, is also recognized as a UNESCO City of Literature. If you've ever visited though -- you might not be! Reykjavik has a strong literary heritage focusing on its unique cultural heritage, including the Viking sagas. They even have an annual publishing rush just before Christmas, called Jolabokaflod, when many books are released and you can attend readings all over town.
Iceland is an unconventional study abroad destination, but a hugely popular tourist destination. What better way to immerse yourself in the literary heritage of Iceland than by studying abroad for a semester in Reykjavik. Read our guide to studying abroad in Iceland and browse the programs available.
Dunedin, New Zealand
Named after another UNESCO City of Literature (Edinburgh), Dunedin is located on New Zealand's South Island and is a popular destination for studying abroad -- and studying literature. The city is the ancestral home of the Kāi people, who play an important role in New Zealand's traditions of oral history and storytelling, and it's also home to the Centre for the Book, which displays and explores literary traditions and technology.
There are plenty of programs to choose from if you want to study abroad in Dunedin, including the University of Otago which is home to the Centre for the Book. Check out our guide to studying abroad in Dunedin to get started planning your semester.
Granada was recognized as a UNESCO City of Literature for two main reasons, both of which draw travelers, book-lovers, and students to the region: the Alhambra and the International Poetry Festival which takes place each year in May. The Alhambra has been called a "poem in stone" due to the beautiful calligraphy etched into many of the walls and doorways. What better place to be inspired by the history of literature?
Touted by alumni and many travelers as one of the most beautiful regions in the country, studying abroad in Granada is a great destination for either semester. Learn more in our guide to studying abroad in Granada, Spain.
As the capital of Uruguay, Montevideo has a long, important history for trade -- including the trade of arts and culture through the region in South America. The city is home to poetry festivals and the origins of both Creole and Gaucho literature and is a truly unique place to study abroad if your interests are inclined toward the literary arts.
Though off the beaten path, Montevideo is a great destination to learn history, explore the culture of the city, and have access to other countries like Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil during a semester abroad. Check out our guide to studying abroad in Uruguay to see programs in Montevideo.
Turn the Page on Your Next Adventure
If you have a passion for literature, want to better understand its roots, and want to encourage literacy around the world, studying abroad in one of the UNESCO Cities of Literature can be a great opportunity. Some destinations are popular, others unconventional. All have played an important role in the history of literature around the world.
This post was originally published in September 2017, and it was updated in November 2020.