London’s cosiest bookshops to explore on winter afternoons
Unlike some other major cities, London still has plenty of unique, independent bookshops, each with its own individual aesthetic and character. Here's a selection of some of the city's cosiest ones for you to check out this winter.
Editor's note: travel restrictions may be in place or opening hours may be affected during COVID-19. Always check ahead and follow government health advice.
65 Hanbury St, Spitalfields, London E1 5JP
It’s surprising how many books have been crammed into this tiny, modern bookseller, which is strategically placed on a quiet street off Brick Lane. There are plenty of reading nooks throughout the store, but be warned: no Wi-Fi is available and a strict “no phone” policy is in place; you really are there for the books! When you make a purchase at Libreria, you even have the option of stamping it with the shop's logo – a great touch if you like to remember where you bought your books.
59 Lamb's Conduit St, Holborn, London WC1N 3NB
Persephone Books reprints neglected literature authored by twentieth century women. Every book is the same soft, blue-grey color. Open one, however, and you’ll find a beautiful pattern specifically chosen for that individual work. This small shop also acts as the publishing HQ, and if you look past the cash register you can see boxes and boxes of books travelling in and out of the shop. There is only one seat in the shop for reading, but just outside is littered with beautiful coffee shops to bring your new book into.
London Review Bookshop
14-16 Bury Pl, Holborn, London WC1A 2JL
The London Review Bookshop, located very close to the British Museum, is a fantastic place to both socialise and check out the latest and greatest literature the city has to offer. The shop has been a staple of the Bloomsbury neighborhood since it’s opening in 2003, and the passionate clientele will be sure to tell you all about it. There are couches downstairs if you feel like relaxing and reading, or perhaps you can head next door to the London Review Cake Shop, if you feel peckish.
Gay’s the Word
66 Marchmont St, Saint Pancras, London WC1N 1AB
This adorable bookshop is located on lively Marchmont Street in London, having opened its doors 40 years ago, in 1979. Gay’s the Word is one of the only LGBTQ bookshops in the United Kingdom, and has a rich history of works documenting the London LGBTQ scene in stock. There used to be a café inside, however these days the shop is filled with so much relevant literature that the books have completely taken over! Instead, you can bring your book to one of the numerous pubs in the surrounding area.
83 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4QW
Daunt Books has been on the London bookshop scene since 1990, and its beautiful interiors also make it one of the most photogenic. Originally custom-built in 1912 as an antiquarian bookseller, the store was later purchased and repurposed by John Daunt, who had intended for it to house travel books. There are plenty of chairs to park yourself on, as well as longstanding customers to chat with inside. Daunt now has nine locations under its umbrella, but its Marlyebone location remains the most famous.
187 Piccadilly, St. James's, London W1J 9LE
Hatchards is London’s oldest bookshop, and has been sitting in Piccadilly since 1797, though it did move a few buildings down in 1801. The ownership has changed hands in the last few decades, with the store being recently purchased by Waterstones. Walking past it, however, you may feel you've been transported back to the 18th century. There's plenty to see inside as well, with four stories of books to experience, and plenty of comfy, worn chairs and couches scattered throughout.
10 Blacklands Terrace, Chelsea, London SW3 2SR
Another longstanding bookshop, John Sandoe opened its doors in 1957. To this day, it exists as a labyrinth of affordable books, despite much of the neighborhood being high-end retailers. Inside is littered with framed prints, strategically placed stools and chairs, as well as a huge variety of books. Their dedication to reading goes beyond the call of standard customer service, as they’ll even hunt down rare and out-of-print editions if you request it.
Books for Cooks
4 Blenheim Cres, Notting Hill, London W11 1NN
This is exactly what it sounds like: a bookshop dealing exclusively with cookbooks and books about food - definitely the place to go if you really need a specific recipe for a Peruvian stew! There’s a kitchen down the back that you can order lunch from, and every couple of days a new starter and main are put on offer, using recipes which are randomly selected from one of the books on the shelves. What better place to pick up your cookbooks than a shop that actually tests them for you?
Lutyens & Rubinstein
21 Kensington Park Rd, Notting Hill, London W11 2EU
This stunning bookshop in Notting Hill was founded in 2009 by two literary agents, Sarah Lutyens and Felicity Rubinstein – the 'flying' literature dangling from the ceiling alone makes this gorgeous building worth the trip. There’s no seating inside the store, but you can take your book to Biscuiteers across the street for some gingerbread, tea, and a bit of reading time.
781 Fulham Rd, Fulham, London SW6 5HA
A hallway lined with literature connects both sections of this beautiful shop. At the front is a tastefully selected table of books and reading-related gifts, then towards the back of the store lies a children’s paradise, with plenty of reading space and shelves of colorful books and toys. Once everyone has picked out their reads, the cosy oval couch in the children’s section has plenty of room for adults as well.
91 Fulham High St, Fulham, London SW6 3JS
There are no windows in Hurlingham Books. Well, there are, but they’re covered in books! The warm and welcoming nature of this shop is clear from the moment you walk though the door, although opening hours can occasionally be sporadic, so it’s suggested to call before coming in to make sure someone will be there. You’re likely to even meet the original owner, Ray Cole, who has opened the doors every morning since 1968. There's very little room in to sit down, but the beautiful 17th century tavern next door, Eight Bells, will welcome you and your new book purchase with a comfortable seat and a pint.
183 Chiswick High Rd, Chiswick, London W4 2DR
Another bookshop established in the 1960s, Foster Books was a longstanding family-run business, though it has since been passed down to a new generation of vetted book-lovers. If you could not tell from the exteriors, they specialize in antiquarian books, fine bindings, and first editions. They also have an extensive website which will show you what books are available to view and purchase in-store.
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This article was first published November 2019 and last updated November 2020.