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The twenty most popular cities in literature emerge

by | Aug 30, 2023 | Articles and Reports

Aura Print worked with Google Books which has approximately 25 million books to identify the cumulative mentions of 31 prominent European cities across books spanning from 1920 to 2019.

Here are the results:

Rank European City Most popular decade Total occurrences in books (1920-2019)

1        London 1960s 286,675,501

2        Paris  1920s 95,290,475

3        Rome 1920s 48,840,949

4        Berlin 1940s 37,079,709

5        Moscow         1980s 31,405,361

6        Florence         1920s 19,414,470

7        Vienna  1980s 18,995,437

8        Athens  1960s 15,118,606

9        Dublin  1920s 15,021,998

10      Amsterdam    1990s 12,868,807

11      Brussels          1990s 10,949,717

12      Venice   1920s 10,237,695

13      Madrid 1990s 9,883,636

14      Stockholm      1980s 8,813,100

15      Warsaw 1980s 8,054,316

16      Munich 1990s 8,025,343

17      Milan 1960s 7,917,978

18      Copenhagen  1950s 7,317,785

19      Prague  1960s 6,702,244

20      Porto 1920s 6,604,087

Dubbed by Charles Dickens as the ‘magic lantern’ that fired his creativity, the British capital has played host to a multitude of novels over the last century.

It is followed by Paris with 95,290,475 literary mentions. The romantic and intriguing City of Lights has charmed and inspired a plethora of romance and fiction authors. Rome claims the third spot. It is mentioned 48,840,949 times.

Rome triumphs over other Italian cities with an impressive 74% greater share of literary attention than Florence (6th), Venice (12th) and Milan (17th), on average.

With 37,079,709 mentions Berlin takes fourth place. Steeped in history with a turbulent past, the partially destroyed German capital offers a striking cityscape, serving as a wellspring of inspiration for historical fiction and thriller writers.

Experts from Aura Print compiled a list of the most prominent European cities, establishing a seed list comprising of 31 cities.

They then utilised Google Ngram Viewer to find the percentage of mentions for each city during every decade for the past 100 years (1920 – 2019).

To ensure relevancy, each search term was appended with the “_NOUN” suffix, indicative of instances where the term was used within a noun-related context.

The experts obtained the total word count spanning the last century from Ngram and calculated the number of mentions accrued by each city. To do this, the total word count was multiplied by the corresponding percentage of mentions.

Finally, the total occurrences from 1920 to 2019 were ranked to reveal the most popular European cities named in literature.

Some book recommendations

Dublin: Ulysses by James Joyce and The Red Man by Catherine Gore

London: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, The House by the Thames by Gillian Tindall, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo, Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan, The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak, Asylum Road by Olivia Sudjic,

Paris: Paris Is Always A Good Idea by Jenn McKinlay, The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, Panorama of Paris by Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Paris Vagabond by Jean-Paul Clébert, A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, Astragal by Albertine Sarrazin, Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner, Insel by Mina Loy, Last Words from Montmartre by Qiu Miaojin

Rome: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, Conclave by Robert Harris, Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

Berlin: Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood, Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada , The Artificial Silk Girl by Irmgard Keun


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