What would a book lover’s trip to England be without a tour of some bookshops? We stopped into a number of book stores during our 9 days in London and found that each had its own personality and story. Here, I wanted to share with you just a handful of the stores we visited in London, hopefully to inspire your own visit to check out these stores or share the love with others who have already discovered them. I’m not even including the libraries and museum gift shops that boast a wide range of literary finds. In each case, I’ve included the history about each bookshop from their website to give a bit more info and context to each store, along with my own thoughts of the visit.
I have sorted these around the Underground station that they are near to help you plan your visit to multiple shops!
Waterstones: Notting Hill Gate
Notting Hill Gate Station | 39-41 Notting Hill Gate
Waterstones Notting Hill is a busy Central London branch seconds away from Notting Hill Gate tube station and minutes from Portobello Road. It has the inviting feel of a neighbourhood bookshop, with a unique blend of international visitors, residents and local workers. We pride ourselves on our knowledgeable and passionate team and our fabulous range of recommended titles. We have a well-loved Children’s section, some superb Fiction recommendations and an eclectic range of Gifts and Stationery. You’ll never be stuck for the perfect book or gift at Waterstones Notting Hill!
This shop had a large selection of books. The main floor had the gifts, stationery and children’s/YA books while the upper floor housed a large array of fiction and non-fiction. There are a select number of chairs also placed out so patrons can sit for a bit and peruse some books.
Pictured on the left are their favourite YA books of the year, and this was where I was able to pick up a printed copy of Rainbow Rowell’s Kindred Spirits for only £1!
Baker Street Station | 219 Baker Street
ALEF’s mission is to create highly knowledgeable, intellectual, and well-read Arab communities throughout the world. We are very proud to have opened our first international store in Baker Street – London in October 2015. Selling a selection of curated English Books, Arabic Books, Children’s Books, Gifts, Cards and Stationery. We are an Egyptian chain who opened our first store in Heliopolis – Cairo in 2009 and now have 40+ Stores in different cities throughout Egypt.
ALEF is conveniently located right by the 221b Baker Street Sherlock Museum, which was how we discovered it. The Harry Potter display in the window caught my eye, and upon entering the store we found it full of fandom-type items as well as a nice selection of curated books.
It was not a large selection of YA books, but we generally found that the case in select bookshops. There was, however, a nice selection of Harry Potter merchandise, London books & souvenirs, and Sherlock/Baker Street items.
Baker Street Station | 83 Marylebone High Street
Daunt Books was founded in 1990 by James Daunt in the beautiful Edwardian premises at 83 Marylebone High Street in London – originally built for antiquarian booksellers Francis Edwards in 1910.
This bookstore is beautiful and charming on the outside, but once I stepped foot inside into the beautiful back room, it took my breath away. The high ceiling, brightly-lit two storey space is any book lover’s dream.
Pocket Shop: We Love Booooks
Liverpool Street Station | Liverpool Street Underground
Pocket Shop’s business concept is to sell good, affordable books – paperbacks – at central, highly visible locations with well-informed staff. We have done this successfully since 1989.
This Liverpool Street location opened in December 2016 and the name was certainly what caught my eye as we walked by! That and the purple shelves! It’s not a large location, but they have quite a good selection of books for the commuters on the go, all categorized by the headings at the top of the shelves.
Liverpool Street Station | Booth at Spitalfields Market
Like you, we LOVE books. We love reading them, recommending them and browsing them! That’s why we’ve come up with Undercover books: to marry the thrill of spontaneity of a second-hand bookshops with quality curation by book-lovers. You will receive no duds – only great reads make the cut for Undercover books. Undercover is a product created by the charity Child.org. All the proceeds will go towards helping children living in poverty get access to education.
We’ve seen this idea done by some as part of a fun game, but I loved seeing it as part of a fundraising for charity. Admittedly, the Justin Trudeau one in this photo gave us pause! I regrettably didn’t buy it in that moment, but my curiosity is getting the better of me. I might just be placing an order for this shortly.
Brick Lane Bookshop
Liverpool Street Station | 166 Brick Lane
Brick Lane Bookshop first appeared in Watney Market, under the guise of Tower Hamlets Art Projects (THAP). Up until a few years ago, we were known as Eastside Books. Brick Lane Bookshop is an independent bookshop on Brick Lane, London.
While we didn’t get a chance to stop into this bookshop as we were en route to another location, the sandwich board out front caught my eye and definitely gave me an impression on what kind of wonderful shop this would be!
Tottenham Court Road Station | 107 Charing Cross Road
Foyles is a renowned, even legendary award-winning independent bookstore with a long history. Our stores reflect their local markets, but are always noted for their range of Fiction, the Arts and Children’s books in particular as well as our friendly and knowledgeable staff. Our largest and best known store is our five-storey Charing Cross Road branch which is famous for covering every specialism and now includes the largest Foreign Language selection in the UK, as well as Sheet Music, Classical and Jazz Music on CD and Vinyl, and a DVD department..
This large store carries a wide selection of books and gifts. Taking a few steps down in the lower back area, you’ll find all the children’s and YA books as well as local interest London ones. On one of the upper floors is also a cafe, although fair warning, the hot food service is not continual. We had just missed the breakfast by a minute at 11:30am, and was informed that lunch would not be available until noon with no hot foods available in the half hour in between. Apparently this is normal in Europe, so I’m told but this Canadian girl just wanted some hot food at 11:35! 🙂
Tottenham Court Road, Piccadilly Circus Stations | 1 Berwick Street
With a 30-year track record in the industry and enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff, Gosh! Comics remains London’s must-visit store for those who love the medium. Our range of graphic novels is second to none, and we’re always striving to source new and interesting product, whatever the genre. From translated European albums to mainstream superhero antics; vintage children’s books to contemporary graphic fiction; compulsively readable manga to cutting edge small press: we’ve got something for everyone.
Perhaps surprisingly, but I didn’t really notice many comic shops in London – this being the only one we saw. It has a lovely selection of small print as well as the big titles, and they include a section of kid’s picture books as well which is such a great idea to include in the “graphic novel” category! The store also has a lower floor with even more comics to discover. Very friendly staff!
Piccadilly Circus Station | 187 Piccadilly St
Hatchards Piccadilly, London’s oldest bookshop and booksellers to the Royal households. Hatchards Bookshop was founded by John Hatchard in 1797, and holds three Royal Warrants. It is a beautiful five-storey bookshop on Piccadilly, located next to Fortnum and Mason and opposite the Royal Academy.
Hatchards was such a lovely, quaint bookstore. There are a number of floors of books, accessed via the winding staircase in the centre of the store. They also offer a great subscription service that I haven’t seen before from a bookstore. After a consultation with one of their booksellers, an appropriate book is hand-picked and delivered to the subscriber’s doorstep each month! The types of subscription include: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Mixed, Children’s, Travel and Artist’s Year.
At the time we were there, they had an immersive display set out for Kate Summerscale’s newest novel The Wicked Boy. If we tweeted a photo of us interacting with it, we could get a copy of the book for free! Such a wonderful idea and we were truly surprised that there were still copies available!
— Michele (@JustALilLost) March 13, 2017
Piccadilly Circus Station | 203-206 Piccadilly St
Waterstones Piccadilly is Europe’s largest bookshop offering a peerless selection of titles across every genre. Over eight miles of bookshelves… Occupying a beautiful art deco building, formerly Simpsons’ department store, in the heart of London’s West End, Waterstones Piccadilly offers six huge floors of books with over 200,000 unique titles. There is truly something to be found for even the most discerning of readers, from our flagship Fiction, Travel, History and Art sections or from across the wider branch. We are especially proud of our Children’s section, modelled on a (Piccadilly) Circus theme and full of activities and events as well as the latest releases and old favourites.
We visited this large bookshop on our last evening as we had bought tickets several weeks prior to see the Q&A with MinaLima. While the store is impressive in size and selection, it was actually surprisingly difficult to find someone on the main floor to help us and direct us to where the event was going to be – and which the woman I spoke to didn’t even quite know what I was referring to and had to go back and check. Additionally, upon picking up a chicken and avocado sandwich from the cafe downstairs, I was given the oddest sandwich consisting of two very large pieces of bread slapped around loose pieces of chicken and avocado. There was barely any spread inside, and it wasn’t sliced in half. When I asked to have it cut, the woman sliced right through the saran wrap as well so I was picking out small bits of saran as I tried to eat it.
However, that being said, the bookshop’s staff downstairs were much more helpful and pleasant. It certainly turned my experience around once I got downstairs and situated for the event! It’s a beautiful store and a great location.
Generally, it was interesting to see that the majority of books were all the same height! It looked so nice and uniform on the shelves where, in North America, it seems that books come in all different heights, making for a bit of a challenge at times when shelving.
Have you been to London? Which are some of your favourite bookshops in the city?