One of London's oldest squares, St. James's was first laid out in 1670. It soon became the capital's most fashionable address; by 1720 it was home to 14 dukes and earls. These days you're more likely to find it populated with office workers eating their lunches under the shade of its leafy old trees on a warm summer's day, but it still has some prestigious residents. Most famous among them is the London Library at No. 14—one of the several 18th-century residences spared by World War II bombs. Founded by Thomas Carlyle, it contains a million or so volumes, making it the world's largest independent lending library and is also considered the best private humanities library in the land. The workplace of literary luminaries from T.S. Eliot to Bruce Chatwin, Kingsley Amis, Winston Churchill, John Betjeman, and Charles Dickens, the library invites you to read famous authors' complaints in the comments book. You must be a U.K. resident to peruse the collection; apply in advance for a day (£15) or week (£50) membership.
London, SW1, England