The finest hideaways for London’s bookworms
Words Helen Brown
There is nothing better than winding down with a good book, especially during the windy and wet weekends of winter. Whether you have a preferred genre or are on the hunt for a specific title you’re sure to find it in one of the many independent bookshops across London. The capital has every shop a book lover could possibly need for browsing, reading, rare treasure hunting and gift shopping. We’ve rounded up the finest five hideaways to while away the weekends submersed in the comforting smell of paper and ink.
Daunt Books | Marylebone
Founded in 1990, Daunt Books is a beautiful Edwardian establishment amidst the shopping haven that is Marylebone high street. Complete with conservatory ceiling, sea-green walls and a gorgeous oak mezzanine reminiscent of an old library, Daunt is first-and-foremost a travel bookshop. Globetrotters can traverse row upon row of literature arranged principally by country. Under Italy, for example, along with an enormous range of hotel and travel guides, you will find maps, phrase books, travel writing, books on pasta and Pisa, history, recipes and food guides, along with a more general collection of modern fiction for holiday reading.
83 Marylebone High Street, W1U 4QW
Open Monday – Saturday 9am-7:30pm, Sunday 11am-6pm
Sotheran’s | Piccadilly
Founded in York in 1761, Sotheran’s is the world’s oldest antiquarian bookshop and has a history as long and rich as its treasure trove of stock. This London literary landmark can proudly claim to have sold a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare’s Folios and Lord Byron’s manuscripts. What’s more, it bound the infamous Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the most expensively bound book in the 20th Century, that then went down with the Titanic. They have an open door policy that encourages browsers to peruse this most fascinating array of books, ranging from a few pounds to a few thousand.
2-5 Sackville Street, W1S 3DP
Open Monday – Friday 9:30am-6pm, Saturday 10am-4pm
Foyles | Charing Cross
For longer than a century, Foyles has boasted the legendary stature as Britain’s biggest independent book shop. With four floors and an astonishing 6.5km of bookshelves crammed with every kind of title imaginable, it’ll take much longer than one rainy Sunday afternoon to work your way around this literary temple. There are four Foyle’s book shops across London but this flagship store is our favourite with a café, auditorium, gallery and regular literary and music events.
107 Charing Cross Road, WC2H 0DT
Monday – Saturday 9:30am-9pm, Sunday 11:30am-6pm
Libreria | Hanbury Street
Libreria is one of the capital’s latest heavens for book-lovers and offers a reading experience like no other. Neighbouring the Second Home premises – East London’s space for entrepreneurs and creative businesses – this new literary shop, printing press and multimedia establishment explores new ways of presenting and exploring books. Founded as a ‘re-imagining’ of the traditional bookshop, Libreria offers a cosmopolitan atmosphere with stock arranged not according to standard categories – fiction, biography, science, for instance – but in suggestive themes designed to provoke browsers into making unexpected connections; between the sea and the sky, for example, or family, love and enchantment for the disenchanted.
68 Hanbury St, London E1 5JL
Open Tuesday – Wednesday 12-6pm, Thursday – Saturday 11am-10pm, Sunday 12-6pm
Magma | Covent Garden
Magma is a useful little gem, nestled in the bustling streets of Short Gardens. Packed with books and magazines, on offer is a vast subject range covering all aspects of contemporary visual arts, fashion, photography, graphics, design, typography, art and architecture. Considerably bigger than any of their previous shops, this ambitious new space aims to reflect the evolution of the Magma brand – from bookshop to complete creative and lifestyle concept. On top of a plethora of reading material, Magma stocks their own high quality product line, ranging from prints to t-shirts and totes to stationery produced by an eclectic mix of artists, illustrators and designers.
8 Earlham Street, WC2H 9RY
Monday – Saturday 10am-7pm, Sunday 12-6pm