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One of my favourite things to do in any city is to track down independent bookshops. Whether it's a day trip or a lengthy vacation, I love to mark my travels with books instead of t-shirts and trinkets. With a book, you can write a few notes inside the cover, and eventually you have a shelf full of fun memories.
London is one of the world's best destinations for book lovers, and you don't have to go far to find a great independent bookshop. Below, we take a look at some of the most lovely.
The Most Beautiful Independent Bookshops in London, England
Housed in a lovely Edwardian building in Marylebone, Daunt Books is the sort of bookshop that makes non-readers wish they were book people. The building was originally designed in 1910, to house a different bookshop. Eighty years later, James Daunt would buy the place and open a shop specialising in travel and literature, and even today, books are arranged by country instead of genre.
There are a number of branches of Daunt Books, so if the look above is what you're craving, be sure to head for the Marylebone branch.
Address: 84 Marylebone High St, W1U 4QW, dauntbooks.co.uk
John Sandoe Books
Just off the King's Road, you'll find John Sandoe Books, a small and cosy bookshop that's perfectly designed for hours of browsing and getting lost in books. It was opened by John Sandoe back in 1957, and while he retired some time ago, it still bears his name.
The shop specialises in rare and unique books, so it's not the place to go if you want to be sure to find Ann Cleeves's latest – but true book lovers will be delighted at the prospect of happening upon something new and captivating.
Address: 10 Blacklands Terrace, SW3 2SR
Libreria describes itself as “an antidote for the technological age”, and they actually forbid the use of phones within their shop. Inside the shop, books tower overhead, stretching all the way up to the mirrored ceiling.
This one is particularly fun because the outside of the shop gives very little indication of what you'll find inside. The interior was designed by Spanish architects SelgasCano, and it's a fun, fanciful space that can't help but arouse creative feelings in its visitors.
Address: 65 Hanbury St, E1 5JP
Word on the Water
This dog-friendly floating bookshop is unlike anything you've probably seen before. Inside a century-old barge, you'll find all manner of new and used books, along with the occasional jazz night, poetry slam, or book reading.
Address: York Way, Granary Square, N1C 4AA
We didn't put this one first because honestly, they've already got enough going for them. Hatchards is not only London's oldest bookshop, it's also the most prestigious. They opened their doors back in 1797, and today they house more than 100,000 rare, limited, and first edition books – along with plenty of interesting contemporary selections.
The shop has been bestowed with at least three royal warrants, including one from Queen Elizabeth herself. If history, oak, and mahogany are your scene, make sure to plan a stop here on your next London trip. It's right next door to Fortnum & Mason.
Address: 187 Piccadilly, W1J 9LE
If you've got a subversive streak, you'll enjoy this socialist bookshop on Bloomsbury Street. Bookmarks has been equipping readers with the knowledge and inspiration they need to fight the man for more than four decades, making them one of the most un-Amazon shops you'll ever encounter.
Address: 1 Bloomsbury St, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3QE
The Open Book
At first glance, The Open Book doesn't seem any different from a million other small independent bookshops. Or rather, it doesn't seem any different from the 1000 or so remaining independent bookshops in the UK. It's cosy, full of interesting selections, and staffed by people who actually read.
What's magical about this shop, though, is that it's a bit like the TARDIS. Though the front of the shop is tiny, it stretches far back into the building, with a back door that opens up to a garden. It's the sort of place all book lovers should seek to support and preserve.
We should also note that this one is not technically IN London, but on the outskirts in Richmond near Kew Gardens.
Address: 10 King Street, Richmond-Upon-Thames
The Americans among our readers will likely remember a time when nearly every mall had a Walden Books shop. This Walden Books has no relation to the American chain – and it's actually one of those rare cases where the American one was older!
London's Walden Books is located on a quiet, leafy street that's just a 10-minute walk from Camden Market. They sell secondhand books, and you never know quite what you'll find in their lovely shop.
Address: 38 Harmood St, London NW1 8DP
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'Tis not long left till the big one— Alas! The last weekend! The postage dates have come and gone: No more can Foyles send (in time). And yet your list is missing ticks; Some names remain uncrossed. You’ve got your nieces Scalextric, Your uncle Hugo Boss; Your nut roast’s in the freezer, squat Beside your partner’s duck; For mulled wine old red wine you’ve got; For snow, this greyish muck. But something’s there you haven’t bought In all the hectic hum; Your foresight’s turned to afterthought: A present, left undone. Yet some solutions can be swift— And why get petrol station flowers When you can get the perfect gift To Click & Collect in as little as 2 working hours?* *Depends on 'vailability. We all know books can’t be outdone— So to a bookshop get thee And get books for everyone!
If you think independent bookshops can't possibly compete on size, think again. Foyles was once listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest bookshop in terms of shelf length (30 miles) and for the number of titles on display. Sadly, this one may not be entirely appropriate for this list, given that it was purchased by Waterstones back in 2018 – but it WAS independent for more than 100 years after its opening in 1903.
Address: 107 Charing Cross Rd, Soho, London WC2H 0DT
Brick Lane Bookshop
Brick Lane Bookshop has been serving London readers for more than 30 years now, and if you love cosy shops, this is your place. While there's a wide variety of titles in this tiny shop, they're particularly well-stocked in matters of local history.
Address: 166 Brick Ln, London E1 6RU
Lutyens & Rubinstein
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I’ve lived in London for close to a decade, but today is the first time I’ve made a trip to Lutyens & Rubinstein to peruse their shelves and (of course) take a look at their flying book display. Where in the world are you based? If I was ever in your country, which bookshops would you recommend?
Last but certainly not least is Lutyens & Rubinstein. It's a shop that somehow manages to be both cosy and airy, and it was founded in 2009 by established literary agents Sarah Lutyens and Felicity Rubinstein.
Address: 21 Kensington Park Rd, London, W11 2EU
What's Your Favourite Independent Bookshop in London?
Feel free to share your favourites in the comments – including those lovely shops that may no longer be with us. In a time when so many rely on Amazon and Kindle to purchase books, it's more important than ever to support these wonderful local stores so they'll be around for future generations to enjoy.
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