Travel

9 Must Visit Bookshops in London

9 lovely places to shop for your next read

Ah, bookshops. There’s nothing quite like browsing shelves for an hour, reading the first few pages of a good book, and then deciding to take it home.

COVID has changed the boom buying landscape. I know that I’ve become accustomed to buying books online right after seeing them on social media. And sometimes when I finish the first book in a series, I’ll go online and buy the second so that it will get to me ASAP.

But nothing can replace the value of the in person bookshop browse. A great independent bookshop is like magic. Some of my favorite books have been ones I picked off the shelf at random, or pulled out of the stack because the staff had hand-written a personal recommendation for it. Websites can generate hundreds of recommendations based off of your recent purchase, but they can’t replicate the experience of the bookshop browse.

This semester I’ve been getting back into shopping at physical bookshops. I picked up more books than I care to admit this semester, but there are no regrets there. Without algorithms tailoring the browsing experience, I’ve found myself reading and loving titles that I never would have considered before. Local bookshops are treasures to our communities. Next time you’re planning to buy a book, consider popping in for a browse at your local bookshop.

There’s no place quite like London when it comes to literature. The city is filled with both a rich literary history and a robust modern literary landscape. After five months of living in London, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many bookshops in the city. If I could’ve visited every bookshop in the city, I would’ve.

I am happy to share with you some of my favorite places. If you’ve been to London and have visited any other wonderful bookshops, let me know! Whether you’re a London native or just visiting, a trip to one of London’s bookshops is sure to brighten your day.

1. Daunt Books — Marylebone

Image: Julia Dath

No doubt you’ll see someone walking around with a Daunt Books tote on your trip to London. I’ll admit to purchasing one myself. This charming Edwardian bookshop has everything a book mover could dream of. Beautiful architecture, a magical atmosphere, and a fantastic selection of books. Located in posh Marleybone, Daunt Books is a must-visit independent bookshop!

2. The Notting Hill Bookshop — Notting Hill

Image: Julia Dath

An absolute must-visit for fans of the iconic film. Although The Notting Hill Bookshop is not featured in the film, it did inspire Hugh Grant’s charming little travel bookshop. Even if you’re not a fan of the film, this quaint shop feels cozy and has a small but wonderful collection of books here. I was able to pick up a paper-wrapped surprise novel here (which you can read my review of here)!

3. Lutyens & Rubinstein — Notting Hill

Image: Julia Dath

Both a bookshop and a literary agency, Lutyens & Rubinstein is a great place to find excellent writing on the shelves. The bookshop places an emphasis on offering quality titles in both fiction and nonfiction. The shop is small with a great variety of titles.

4. Foyles — Soho

Image: Julia Dath

A trip to central London is not complete without a trip to the Foyles on Charing Cross Rd. There are four full floors of books about everything from romance to music to art and science. Aside from the books, a true allure of Foyles is the Cafe on the fifth floor. Pop on up for a cup of tea and a delicious treat to enjoy along with your new book.

5. Waterstones — Picadilly Circus

Image: Stock Editorial Photography

Yes, you can find Waterstones all over the UK. But no other Waterstones claims to be the largest bookshop in all of Europe. Myth or not, this place is six floors of books. A place that could be browsed for hours and hours. Located just next to Picadilly Circus.

6. Gay’s the Word —Bloomsbury

Image: @gaysthewordbookshop

The oldest LGBT bookshop in the UK is rich in history. Today, this welcoming space offers a great selection of LGBT literature, including both fiction and nonfiction. I found so many titles in this bookshop that I had never seen before. It is truly a great place to step inside and find that next favorite book.

7. Words on the Water — King’s Cross

Image: Julia Dath

Tucked not far behind King’s Cross station is this magical bookshop barge. The small boat fits a surprisingly large amount of titles by utilizing every space possible. This unique shopping experience is one to absolutely not miss!

8. Skoob Books — Bloomsbury

Image: Julia Dath

A second-hand bookshop with a large selection of titles. Walking downstairs to Skoob books is like walking into a magical basement of literary heaven. The perfect place for a quiet browse through a wide range of topics.

9. Libreria — Brick Lane

Image: Libreria

This east London bookshop will keep you browsing forever with its unique sorting style. The shelves are organized thematically to offer connections between texts across traditional genres. Libreria is a phone free zone, which really lets readers sink into the browsing experience.

Also, they’ll stamp the cover page of your book if you’d like, and that’s just amazing.

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