No other place had as much influence on Mark Twain as his boyhood home of HANNIBAL, an otherwise sleepy ensemble of nineteenth-century red-brick and clapboard gently sloping towards the Mississippi. Twain, born Samuel Clemens in 1835 in Florida, Missouri, based his seminal novels The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on his early life in Hannibal, and today the short stretch of historic properties on Main Street is crammed with restaurants, gift shops and museums dedicated to his memory.

The town is 120 miles north of St Louis, squeezed between two steep bluffs; walk up to the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse to the north (accessible by 244 steps) or drive up Lover’s Leap to the south (both sunrise–sunset; free) for killer views of the old houses and the muddy expanse of the Mississippi.