Fancy a page turner? Take some time out from the digital landscape and spend some time discovering London’s cosy and quirky bookshops.
An impressive collection of independent booksellers who have survived the online invasion of kindles and Amazon, upping their game, bringing a whole dose of café-style literary afternoons, with swoon-worthy lattes and ceiling high selections of some of the world’s best literature.
Could there be a better way to spend a Sunday discovering London’s best bookshops?
A labyrinth of literature, the inspiration for this bookstore came from Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges, who once wrote that “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” Libreria took this to heart when setting up. Colourful wall-to-wall bookshelves, clever use of mirrors extending the space, and reading nooks providing a perfect place for you to hideaway with a novel. Enjoy wandering the store and stumbling across books you wouldn’t have on your reading list as books are separated with rather more unusual sections including “enchantment for the disenchanted” and “mothers, madonnas, and whores”. Technophiles beware: phones are banned in here.
A treasure trove for the travel addict, Daunt Books pairs destination guides with the best literature from that region of the world, separating books into geographical locations. Aside from travel, its well stocked for literary fiction, biography, and more.
Each branch has its own charm, but the original shop in Marylebone is particularly beautiful: an elegant three-level back room complete with oak balconies, viridian-green walls, conservatory ceiling and stained-glass window.
Judging a book by a cover is actually what Ideas Books swears by. From no tech to tech immersion, this Soho-based bookstore uses the power of social media to showcase its offering. Family run business (named after founders Angela Hill and David Owen, and their two daughters, Iris and Edith), this bookseller snaps up the coolest, most coveted books from around the world, cherry-picking the rarest literature from trips to Paris, Tokyo, LA and New York, selling out of everything they buy in. IDEA Books specializes in illustrated titles including “Il Design Italiano 1964–1990”—a 2004 photo book by Tom Wood—as well as Salvador Dali’s erotic cookbook from 1973, a skinhead zine from 1981 and Charles Jourdan catalogues from the ’70s that caused an intense bidding war. Francophile staples Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot regularly appear in the stream. They are the most popular bookseller on Instagram, follow them, you’ll see why.
The London Review Bookshop
This is one of London’s most literary corners and a favourite of the literati. The London Review Bookshop celebrated its 15thbirthday this year, and while young, it fills its two floors with fiction, non-fiction and rare edition books; home to more than 20,000 titles covering politics, current affairs, audiobooks and more. And as you make your way through your wishlist, you may find yourself taking a seat with a cup of their top-notch espresso and devouring their gorgeously decorated cakes in the London Review Cakeshop.
A true book lover’s bookstore. Hatchards is the oldest bookshop in the United Kingdom, founded on Piccadilly in 1797 by John Hatchard. It was given a warrant from George III and apparently Queen Elizabeth still holds an account there. Jane Austen, Lord Byron, and Oscar Wilde have all been regulars during its nearly 250-year history so its seen many a literary genius. A beautiful five-storey bookshop on Piccadilly, perfectly sandwiched between London landmarks Fortnum and Mason and opposite the Royal Academy, and while it is owned by Waterstone’s, take a wander through old world charm and sink into a green leather sofa on the first or third floor, looking over the hustle of Picadilly.
The Notting Hill Bookshop
Made famous by Richard Curtis’s legendary romantic comedy, The Notting Hill Bookshop stocks old classics, discover new favourites, and as it was made famous by the movie, it has a particularly notable travel department, perfect for international adventure seekers. Its moments from the vibrant Portobello Market so worth a trip to discover the beautiful gift editions, irresistible pocket hardbacks, satin-bound classics and a wide range of golden gilt leather-bounds.
John Sandoe Books
Sitting in beautiful 18thcentury premises, you’ll find over 30,000 titles, carefully selected by staff with nearly 100 years of bookselling – and reading – between them, making Sandoe’s a legend among bibliophiles in London and around the world. Visually, think picturesque window boxes blooming with florals, narrow stairs leading up to a fortress of favourites and shelves stuffed with leather bound masterpieces. It’s one of the few places in the area that will take you back to Chelsea’s bohemian past.
Lutyens and Rubinstein
Another Notting Hill favourite, this is small but filled with light with large front windows and high ceilings. It was set up by Lutyens literary agents Sarah Lutyens and Felicity Rubinstein who had been running a successful agency for over 20 years and felt the time was perfect for a project very close to their hearts – opening a bookshop. The bookstore stocks fiction and general non-fiction, and there are special sections for children’s books, poetry and art books. It has an atmosphere perfect for browsing, with tea and coffee served in bespoke china cups and comfortable places to sit. There is also an annual subscription service called ‘A Year in Books’, where they’ll send you a beautifully wrapped book every month for a year.
Claiming to be the oldest indie bookstore in SouthWest London, owned by book lover Ray Cole, this charming shop has books stacked from floor to ceiling; all vintage, some rare, with second-hand copies of books comprising of all genres. It’s hard to miss it as you pass, but its worth visiting even if its not on your daily commute. The owner also owns a warehouse a couple of miles away filled with over a million more second-hand books! If you can’t find what you’re looking for in store, then he’s sure to have a copy, you just need to know where to look…Some days it opens at 9am-ish, so its best to call beforehand They say, ‘it is best to call’ before you pop in to avoid any disappointment.
Just like all the books stocked at Persephone Books, the shop itself has a tale to tell. Founder Nicola Beauman started Persephone Books in a room above a pub back in 1998 publishing neglected fiction and non-fiction, and out of print books primarily written by women. All of the 130 books are intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written and are chosen to appeal to busy people wanting titles that are neither too literary nor too commercial. You’ll find that every book is grey. So you can’t judge any books with these covers, but deep inside, you’ll find a whole world worth discovering.
Looking for more ways to spend a Sunday in London? Take a look at our top 5 tips here