9 Gorgeous Bookshops to Visit in London
For those with books on the brain, London is an absolute gold mine for finding new reads. With every conceivable type of bookshop out there, we’re really spoilt for choice in this city, and I’ve spent the last few years of my life exploring them as often as I can. Here’s a list of what are, in my opinion, the most gloriously beautiful bookshops that you can find in London. Do leave a comment and let me know if you’ve visited any of them!
Daunt Books, Marylebone
First things first, my personal favourite - Daunt Books. Although they have a number of branches in London their Marylebone shop is easily my favourite, and the most iconic.
Aside from that gorgeous view, the layout of this shop really makes for a unique visiting experience. Can’t guess what that would be? Well, all of the books downstairs are actually organised into geographical location, so you’ll find travel guides mixing with memoirs and fiction, all grouped together by the country they’re based in (or in some cases, that the author is from). It’s truly a way to explore the world one book at a time, and I think that’s wonderful.
Persephone Books is a recent favourite of mine, found in the heart of literary Bloomsbury. They specialise in publishing out of print titles by 20th century authors, most of whom are women. This bookshop is easily the most ‘aesthetic’ out of my list - it’s beautifully designed and has a very vintage feel. It’s somewhere that you’ll easily want to spend ages browsing, flicking through their titles until you find one that you fancy taking home with you.
I love how well designed all of Persephone’s books are, with uniform grey covers and colourful endpapers that are individual to each title. Plus they all come with a matching bookmark, which is a lovely touch.
It’s hard to think of a bookshop that feels more grand than Hatchards in Piccadilly. Having opened their doors in 1797, Hatchards is London’s oldest bookshop and definitely feels like it. Decked out with dark wooden bookshelves and filled with a huge array of titles, this is a place that you could easily lose yourself in on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
I was impressed, although not surprised, to learn that Hatchards is actually linked to royalty, and currently holds three royal warrants!
Waterstones Gower Street
This may not be the biggest of London’s Waterstones branches, but it’s definitely one of the best. To be honest, it’s still pretty huge, and has a labyrinth of rooms nestled into its 5 floor building. To me, Waterstones Gower Street feels much less like a branch of Britain’s biggest bookstore chain and more like an indie bookshop that’s brimming with charm and individuality. The decor is truly on point and their space has beautifully painted walls and window seats scattered throughout.
To top it all off, this is such a fancy bookshop that it actually looks kinda like Hogwarts from the outside. It’s definitely worth a visit.
John Sandoe Books
I’m venturing a little bit further out of central London now and into Sloane Square, a corner of London’s very upmarket borough of Kensington and Chelsea. A picturesque shop that’s spread over three floors, John Sandoe Books is a proper little indie bookshop that’s full of haphazard stacks of books and oozing with charm.
They sell a mixture of new and second hand titles, from general fiction and poetry to non-fiction titles that span across a huge range of topics. You’ll be sure to get a good recommendation here, as between all of their members of staff John Sandoe Books has more than 100 years of bookselling (and reading) experience, which I think is pretty impressive!
Lutyens & Rubinstein
I was first introduced to this Notting Hill based bookstore on Instagram - those hanging book photos are unmissable - but stayed for their great selection of books. Lutyens & Rubinstein focus on stocking books with an excellence in writing and narrative, and put together their core collection through speaking to hundreds of readers about their favourite books.
The result, this delightful bookstore, is a proper community bookshop selling everything from art books and poetry to general and children’s fiction. It’s a wonderful place to shop for a new read.
The Alligator’s Mouth
As a huge fan of books for young people, I just had to include a children’s bookshop on this list. Alligator’s is based in the very lovely area of Richmond, which is about 40 minutes away from central London on the tube from King’s Cross, and feels very much like its own quaint little town. The shop itself is well stocked, with highly knowledgable booksellers and gorgeous decor. Painted all in white and strewn across with bunting, it’s easy to feel at home in The Alligator’s Mouth.
I’m not just saying all of this because my lovely friend Helen (from the blog Watching Sparks, who also happens to be an award winning bookseller) works there, but it truly is a magical children’s bookshop. Alligator’s is a great place to visit whether you have little ones yourself, or you’re just a big kid like me looking for your next escape!
Left: The Alligator’s Mouth, Right: Foyles Charing Cross
Foyles Charing Cross Road
When YA fans ask me for London bookshop recommendations, Foyles on Charing Cross Road is my go-to. This shop has the biggest selection of young adult books that I’ve ever seen, including a number of imported titles from the US that can be hard to find over here in Britain.
Aside from that, Foyles sells an incredibly diverse range of books, including dedicated foreign language and LGBT+ sections, spread over 4 floors. It’s the largest bookshop to have opened in the UK this century, and a place that you definitely need to visit while you’re in town.
Last, but not least, here we have what I and many others fondly refer to as ‘The Mothership’. Waterstones Piccadilly is an absolute monster of a bookshop that spans over 6 floors, with two lovely cafes and a bar perched right at the top; it really is a place that you can’t pass by.
Fun fact: this is actually the biggest bookstore in Europe, and holds a collection of more than 200,000 unique titles across more than 8 miles of bookshelves. Amazing!