If you’re planning to visit various bookstores in London, boy do I have both good and bad news for you.

The good news is that as a major hub for English publishing for centuries, this city is packed with unique bookstores and even the “franchises” have something special about them. The bad news? There are so many you’re going to need to live here for a year just to see them all! (Okay, maybe that’s not bad news.)

And… as much as I would love to eventually visit all the bookstores in London, it’s probably good to narrow down the list. Through my many visits to London over the years, I’ve put together some places you won’t want to miss as well as even more bookstores I want to visit on future trips!

Quick London Travel Guide

  • Names: This is the part where I guess that “bookshop” is more common than “bookstore” in the UK, but I’m American, so here we are.
  • Getting in: London has FIVE airports, but likely you’ll come in Heathrow, Stansted, or Gatwick. You can take the Tube to wherever you need to go in the city and, yes, you can use Apple or Google pay or tap your CC!
  • Getting Around: Bus, tube, or foot! Buses are nice because they’re one fee no matter what. The Tube is convenient but gets so hot and can get pricey. If the weather is nice, I love just walking even if it takes 30-40 minutes. Bring comfortable sneakers!
  • Stay Connected: Get an e-SIM. I always get one these days! Literally just buy it on my way and then activate while waiting to go through customs at Heathrow.
  • Read Before You Visit: The thing about London is that there is an ABUNDANCE of books to choose from. Pick your poison from Charles Dickens to Sophie Kinsella. For an actual travel guide, I’ve personally bought London, Block by Block and The 500 Hidden Secrets of London.

18 Lovely Bookstores in London You Simply Must Visit

1-9. All the Bookstores in Cecil Court

Neighborhood: Covent Garden

Cecil Court has become known as Bookseller’s Row on social media because this one narrow alley is jam packed with not only tiny, independently-owned bookstores but other quirky antique shops. Around since the 1600s, it links Charing Cross Road and St. Martin’s Lane and is right by Covent Garden. If you have time to visit only one place on this list, come here!

  • Alice Through the Looking Glass – everything about Alice in Wonderland
  • Bryars & Bryars antique atlases and maps and antiquarian books
  • Goldsboro Books – has a ton of first edition signed books
  • Marchpane – specializes in children’s and illustrstrated books
  • November Books – fashion, design, etc type books
  • Watkins Books – pretty spacious and all dedicated to tarots, crystals, the occult, and more. It’s the oldest bookstore in London to focus on esoterica and is the oldest continuous business in Cecil Court.
  • Tenderbooks – focuses on contemporary art, fashion, design,e tc
  • Tindley & Everett – lots of first editions of 20th century literature
  • Travis & Emery Music Bookshop – everything related to music

10. Books for Cooks

Neighborhood: Notting Hill // Instagram: @booksforcookslondon

Books for Cooks is for all you cookbook lovers – a bookstore entirely dedicated to them. I popped in here while in Notting Hill and wound up picking up a book all about salads to try and get some greenery inspiration for the future. Cookbooks are part of how I’m trying to be “be less online.” Instead of looking up a recipe on Google, I want to be able to pull from my cookbook collection and go from there!

11. Daunt Books

Neighborhood: Notting Hill // Instagram: @dauntbooks

Oh I fell in love with Daunt Books, especially their Marlyebone location. While they do have a general fiction, non-fiction, etc section, their real appeal is that they split up the rest of their books by destination. I mean – have you heard of anything more up my alley than that? While you’ll get typical travel guides on the upper shelves, the lower shelves are full of fiction and nonfiction reads.

I practically wiped the whole bottom shelf of the Vietnam section, thrilled I both found books I’d had on my list and brand new books I’d never heard of! The only reason I didn’t do the same to the Korea section is because I already owned a lot of them or they were so thick, I knew they wouldn’t fit easily into my suitcase.

Plus – I found the Moon Guides I’m featured in!! That was a really exciting moment!!

12. Oxfam Books

Where: All Over London // Instagram: @oxfambookshops

I’ve run into Oxfam Bookshops quite a few times now as they’re all over London. They’re secondhand charity shops for books, and the deals are as good as you’re imagining. I like going in to see if I can find any authors or more obscure books I’ve been wanting. Plus all proceeds go to Oxfam, which is a group of 21 NGOs focused on alleviating poverty.

the notting hill bookshop - bookstores in london

13. The Notting Hill Bookshop

Neighborhood: Notting Hill // Instagram: @nottinghillbookshop

Alright, fellow romcom lovers – The Notting Hill Bookshop is, in fact, the real life Travel Book Shop from the movie! (Don’t get fooled by the souvenir store called The Travel Bookshop). It’s absolutely packed with gems and some absurdly cute tote bags I had to stop myself from buying. I will say the aisles are pretty slim, so compared to other bookshops on this list, it’s not the most pleasant to browse. I almost imagine it’s almost always crowded given it’s Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts connection.

14. South Bank Book Market

Neighborhood: South Bank // Instagram: @southbankcentre

Does an outdoor book market belong on a list on bookstores in London? I say, yes only so I can tell you this funny (and only a little pathetic) tale. Back in 2012 when I was visiting London, we wound up at South Bank Book Market.

You see, I was tagging along with some sorority sisters who were visiting their baseball friends studying over in Royal Holloway. The girls wanted to ride the London Eye while the guys had either already been or were going when parents were visiting later. Being on a strict student budget, I opted to wait with the guys and while waiting we discovered this book market happening under Waterloo Bridge.

Now, as an English major in London for the first time, I was delighted as was another English major with extremely nice, floppy hair. Since the London Eye line was long, we had a lot of time to comb over all sorts of used books, and he came away with a giant book of Shakespeare’s completed works.

Anyway, imagining that he would fall in love with me, I volunteered to carry the book in my purse and spent a good part of that day lugging Shakespeare around London. He never did fall in love with me and the only thing I remember about him now is his Prince Charming hair.

That’s all to say, when I ran by the book market ten years later while on a run along the Thames, I was smacked with that memory and vowed to come back here to make a less pathetic one!

The market itself has been around since 1983 and has eight different stalls with all sorts of books, maps, and prints. It’s open daily from 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM and really quite close to the iconic view of Big Ben and Parliament, so it’s very worth coming for a browse. You never know what you’ll find – hopefully not a ginormous Shakespeare book you then have to carry around the city!

south kensington books - bookstores in london

15. South Kensington Books

Neighborhood: South Kensington // Instagram: @southkenbooks

After visiting the V&A Museum, pop over to South Kensington Books to peruse their selection. This indie bookshop has been here since the 1940s and has quite a few gems. It’s another one that’s quite small but worth it for browsing. Check their shelf right at the entrance for some really good deals. I picked up a book for about 4£!

16. Walden Books

Neighborhood: Camden

I discovered Walden Books while in Camden because there was a little sign on the sidewalk that said “secondhand books 200m this way.” How could I say no?! (I should also emphasize that it would not be that difficult to trap me in a cult lol).

This place is the kind of cluttered used bookstore you hope to find so you can spend hours exploring every single spine while stifling a sneeze or two from the dust. It almost feels like someone decided to turn the bottom half of their house into a bookstore! Things are tight but there’s a huge section right in front of the shop which is where I found the two books I wanted. Honestly, such a nice find to avoid going into Camden Market itself!

waterstones - bookstores in london

17. Waterstones

Neighborhood: All Over London // Instagram: @waterstones

I feel like Waterstones is the UK’s version of Barnes & Noble. You can always find at least one in every city, and it’s a good place to go if you still can’t find that book you’re looking for but want to avoid ordering or going to Amazon. They’ve got a ton of locations in London but I popped into the one near Covent Garden.

18. W.H. Smith

Where: Airports & Train Stations // Instagram: @whsmithofficial

Okay, hear me out – no, I would not normally recommend W.H. Smith. There are a ton of fantastic bookstores in London – go to them first. But if you’re in one of London’s airports and find yourself wanting to throw hands with whoever runs the British aviation industry, I promise you a 20 minutes in W.H. Smith’s book shops will restore peace and order to your mind. At least it does to mine whenever I have to go through Heathrow. They usually have the latest releases and always will have a buy one, get one half off deal!

14 Bookstores in London still on My List

  • The Atlantis Bookshop (near British Museum) cool bookshop for anyone interested in magic
  • Book Bar (Finsbury Park)– A book shop meets a wine bar.
  • Bookmarks (near British Museum) – the largest socialist bookshop in Britain
  • Bookmongers (Brixton) – The main thing I know about this shop is that it has a resident cat named Popeye. It also specializes in secondhand books.
  • Foster Books (Chiswick) – Tell me that exterior doesn’t remind you of Honeydukes in Diagon Alley! Go here for rare and out of print books.
  • Foyles (Holborn) – Largest bookshop in the UK
  • Gay’s the Word (near British Museum) – the oldest LGBTQ bookstore in London
  • Hatchard’s (Piccadilly) – Oldest bookshop in the UK and rumored to be the Queen’s favorite
  • Libreria (Spitafields) – Gorgeous little bookshop with whimsical organization instead of typical genres (ie “Enchantment for the Disenchanted”)
  • London Review Bookshop (near British Museum) – Opened by London Review of Books; yo ucan also come for coffee and cake!
  • New Beacon Books (Finsbury Park) – first bookshop dedicated to Black authors
  • The Second Shelf (Soho)- Rare books about women by women
  • Skoob Books (near British Museum) – broadest selection of secondhand books
  • Word on the Water (by King’s Cross) – literally a barge floating on Regent’s Canal

And there you have it – a giant list of potential bookstores in London to help you narrow down your own bucket list! Any I’m missing? Let me know below!


bookstores in london

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