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On the trail of Sherlock Holmes in London

By A. Pawlowski, CNN
  • New movie "Sherlock Holmes" inspires guides to places of interest to fans of the detective
  • Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221b Baker Street in London recreates sleuth's lodging house
  • Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson met at St. Bartholomew's Hospital
  • Itinerary also includes a restaurant featured in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories

(CNN) -- Forget umbrellas and raincoats. The hottest accessories for tourists flocking to London, England, this holiday season may be deerstalker hats and magnifying glasses.

"Sherlock Holmes" intrigue is building across the city as literature's great detective is reincarnated once again -- this time in a big-screen extravaganza starring Robert Downey Jr. as the sleuth famous for his powers of deduction and Jude Law as his sidekick, Dr. Watson.

With the movie hitting theatres on Christmas Day in the United States, British tourism officials are eager to put fans on the trail of Sherlock Holmes in London -- never mind that his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, once called the city "that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained."

For many, the detective's continuing appeal is elementary.

"Sherlock Holmes was the Victorian 'CSI' -- he was always the smartest person in the room," said Katrina Sutton, film tourism and public relations manager for VisitBritain, the country's national tourism agency, which has just created a guide to places of interest for fans of Sherlock Holmes and the new movie.

Video: 'Sherlock Holmes' premieres

"Films serve as a moving postcard. ... It's a really exciting and different way to interest travelers in coming to Britain," Sutton said.

Eccentric fans

A good starting point may be the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221b Baker Street in London, the address where the fictional detective lived, according to the stories by Conan Doyle. Nearby, a 9-foot statue of Holmes greets visitors at the Baker Street Underground station.

Inside the museum, visitors can check out Holmes' study, sit in his armchair by the fireside, examine his calabash pipe and observe his chemistry equipment.

"The interior has been faithfully maintained for posterity exactly as described in the published stories," the museum's Web site boasts.

About 70,000 visitors a year stop by the Victorian lodging house, though officials are expecting a spike of interest fueled by the new movie, said John Aidiniantz, assistant curator. The museum receives about 50 letters a week addressed to the detective, he added, and some of the visitors who show up can be "eccentric."

"But the most eccentric fans are those who work in the museum," said Aidiniantz, who has worked there for 20 years. "Sherlock Holmes has a habit of taking over everybody's life."

The most popular items in the gift shop? The detective's deerstalker hat, the bust of Holmes and the Baker Street sign.

'Darker, grittier London'

Fans interested in seeing where Holmes first met Watson should head to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, founded in 1123 and home to a museum showcasing works of art and medical equipment used in centuries past. It was at a chemical laboratory inside the hospital that Conan Doyle had his two famous characters introduced to each other in "A Study in Scarlet," published in 1887.

Not far away stands Saint Bartholomew the Great Church, one of London's oldest churches and one of the locations used in the new movie "Sherlock Holmes." (Warner Bros., which is owned by the same parent company as CNN, is distributing the film.)

VisitBritain also recommends exploring St. Paul's Cathedral, another key location in the movie and the site of a chase scene on a spiral staircase, Sutton said.

"In the film, it's going to be a darker, grittier London than you'd see today," she added.

For die-hard fans, has created a map of places mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes stories, including Old Scotland Yard and Millbank Penitentiary.

'Toad in the hole'

The detective's powers of deduction may be hard to emulate, but feasting Sherlock Holmes style isn't hard to do, even in modern London.

"Conan Doyle was something of a gourmet and today you can dine where Doyle and Holmes enjoyed some of London's finest food," advises

The Web site highlights Simpson's-in-the-Strand as one of the establishments that Conan Doyle liked and featured in his Holmes mysteries. The restaurant lists Sherlock Holmes, along with Vincent Van Gogh and Charles Dickens, among its "famous guests."

For a less formal, but still Sherlock Holmes-centric and food-filled stop, head to the Sherlock Holmes Public House and Restaurant.

Here you can feast on Holmes-themed dishes such as the Hounds of the Baskerville -- described as "traditional toad in the hole [sausages in Yorkshire pudding] served with buttered mash potatoes, gravy and vegetables" -- and The Noble Bachelor, described as "medallions of chicken breast with scallion, carrot, sage and onion stuffing and a creamy mushroom sauce."

The pub also boasts a replica of Holmes' and Watson's sitting room and study, including the stuffed and mounted head of the Hound of the Baskervilles. Visitors have plenty of chances to look at the beast while chowing down on their food.

"This room is given pride of place adjacent to the restaurant, where diners are able to view the whole area through a large glass partition," the pub's Web site explains.

Hungry for more? VisitBritain also suggests itineraries outside London, with visits to places like the Dartmoor region of England, where fans can see estates said to have inspired Baskerville Hall in Conan Doyle's "The Hound of the Baskervilles."

It's enough to fill up a mystery lover's travel wish list for a long time.