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Traveling Through Frankenstein: A Literal Tour of The Classic Mary Shelley Book

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Geneva/Photo: Jonathan Ansel Moy de Vitry

“Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.”

-Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Frankenstein was the book that set off my wanderlust for Europe. The way Mary Shelley masterfully describes the beautiful and remote settings throughout her story made my heart yearn to see these places in person. While some of the scenes in the book are fictitious, there are actual locations you can visit to replicate the wonder Shelley might have felt when she was there.

Creating a travel itinerary that includes all the locations mentioned in "Frankenstein," places related to Mary Shelley's life, and where she wrote the book is ambitious. Shelley was a well-traveled European (for her time) who relied on her own experiences and vast imagination to create a story spanning the continent. That said, the real destinations in the book are some of the most gorgeous in Europe, so why not visit them?

Just for fun, and because Frankenstein is in my top ten books of all time, I've created a travel itinerary around actual sites and places that capture the novel's essence.

Here's my suggested itinerary:

Day 1: Geneva, Switzerland

“"I am by birth a Genevese, and my family is one of the most distinguished of that republic. My ancestors had been for many years counsellors and syndics, and my father had filled several public situations with honour and reputation."

Photo: Pablo Velasquez

• Arrive in Geneva, Switzerland, where the novel begins. Explore the city's picturesque streets and visit landmarks that evoke the setting of Victor Frankenstein's early life.

Day 2: University of Ingolstadt, Germany

"It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils. With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet. It was already one in the morning; the rain pattered dismally against the panes, and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs."

Photo: Nelson Wong

• Travel to Ingolstadt, Germany, where Victor Frankenstein continues his studies. Visit the university and explore the town to get a sense of the academic environment in which Frankenstein created his “monster.”

Day 3-4: Swiss Alps

Photo: Marco Myer

• Head to the Swiss Alps, mirroring Victor's escape to nature after creating the creature. Enjoy the stunning alpine landscapes and consider hiking or outdoor activities.

Day 5: Scotland

"I had admired the perfect forms of my cottagers—their grace, beauty, and delicate complexions; but how was I terrified, when I viewed myself in a transparent pool! At first I started back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror; and when I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification."

Photo: Bjorn Snelders

• Travel to Scotland and explore the rugged landscapes that the creature encounters while observing the De Lacey family. Consider visiting remote villages to capture the isolation and mystery depicted in the novel.

Day 6-7: Arctic Region

“I am satisfied: miserable wretch! you have determined to live, and I am satisfied.”

Photo: Jeremy Bishop

• Move northward to capture the climactic Arctic setting where Victor pursues the creature. While you won't be able to replicate the remote Arctic conditions, consider visiting northern regions known for their cold and desolate landscapes. I recommend Iceland and maybe trying to catch the Northern Lights.

Day 8-9: Lake Geneva, Switzerland (Villa Diodati)

Photo: Armand Khoury

• Return to Geneva and visit Villa Diodati, where Mary Shelley wrote "Frankenstein." Although the villa itself isn't open to the public, the area is significant for its literary history.

Day 10: London, England

Photo: Alex Azabache

• Travel to London, where Mary Shelley spent a significant portion of her life. Explore the city's cultural and literary landmarks, including museums and historic sites.

Day 11-12: England's Lake District

• Visit the picturesque Lake District in England, where Mary Shelley spent time with her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and other notable writers. The romantic and natural landscapes could evoke the spirit of creativity that inspired "Frankenstein."

Day 13: Return Home

• Return to your departure city or continue your exploration of Europe.

While some locations are fictional or might not have preserved the exact settings from the novel, this itinerary is a fun way to capture the essence of "Frankenstein" and Mary Shelley's life.

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