Literary Cities


In 2004, UNESCO created a network of countries with similar cultural characteristics that identify with the concept of creativity as a trigger to generate a better habitat. Currently, the literary cities are made up of 116 cities and 54 countries. Its main objective is to improve the environment through culture and art, which translates into a better quality of life for the inhabitants.


To be a literary city and be part of the UNESCO register, your country needs to meet a series of characteristics focused on the literary field, such as editorial quality and quantity, the presence of bookstores, libraries, and cultural centers, both public and private. The spaces dedicated to art must also accommodate the theater, and have active participation in the promotion and strengthening of reading and writing.



The first literary cities

The first literary city to join was Edinburgh in Scotland. This city represents the cradle of great authors who have woven their narrative from the streets of Edinburgh. A multitude of authors has grown up in it and have made it a participant in their stories. Walter Scott, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Robert Louis Stevenson are among others the best known worldwide.


The streets of Edinburgh are surrounded by local mystics offering a hot drink, and over time stories are woven around them for having sheltered prolific writers before they achieved fame. The aesthetics of the streets are immersed in the nearly 140 libraries that are complemented by the 45 bookstores located in the heart of the city. Since 1983, the International Book Festival has been held, globally recognized for its editorial reach and its cultural programs.


Paris is synonymous with high production and literary quality, it joined UNESCO as a literary city in 2008. The mere fact of thinking of the streets and landscapes evokes a literary and artistic sense in the viewer’s mind. For centuries its streets, cafes, and bookstores have been visited by great minds in search of the muse of inspiration. Julio Cortazar, Consuelo de Saint Exupéry, or Cesar Vallejo have woven their literary routes around the bewitching that their spaces produce.


In France, there is also Lyon, considered the world capital of crime novels due to its dark past of mafia and violence, now dissolved, and for the Quais du Polar festival, which attracts nearly 100,000 people, including detective novel writers and noir novels. In Lyon, you will also find independent bookstores with a special touch in each window. The bookseller’s recommendations and their way of presenting the book to the curious reader are the touches of familiarity that keep readers coming back and adopting their favorite bookstore. Immersing yourself in the atmosphere of the streets of Lyon is like introspecting the narrative of Sebastià Bennasar, Sophie Divry, and David Foenkinos.


The historical-cultural past is forged with the future

The literary creativity of Shenzhen, China, coupled with its engineering and architectural design is unprecedented. Their habitat is constantly growing hand in hand with technology and culture. Its concern to always maintain training within its inhabitants made it join UNESCO in 2010 with the category of the creative city. The lack of legacies and historical venues, compared to other capitals, is a factor that is used in favor to create new spaces, for example, the Shenzhen Bay Cultural Park cultural complex that intends to open its doors in 2023.


UNESCO works with the concept of a creative network bringing the metaphor closer to the cities that are part of this category. The goal is to stimulate sustainable development between cities hand in hand with culture, improving social integration and encouraging cultural activities that strengthen the economy of the place. Many times we think that the magic of spaces is proportionally determined by the age of its buildings or the magic of its streets, but some cities, including Shenzhen, are the perfect example that the magic of the place is not fought with the burden of the past. to load a symbolic landmark.

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