Foyles Charing Cross Road

Critics' choice

If the old Foyles was a bookish uncle in a soup-stained cardigan, the new Foyles is a hip teenage cousin: ahead of the curve where apps and indie cinema are concerned, but sporting a pair of off-puttingly flash trainers. Foyles has always been one of those shops which trade partly on sentiment, with its labyrinthine layout, oddball-friendly café and loyal staff: Giles, its longest serving, has clocked up an impressive half-century on the payroll. News that Foyles was moving, and its much-loved café closing, was greeted with understandable dismay by Time Out readers. But standing in the vast new premises (just a couple of doors down, in the former Central Saint Martins HQ) it's easy to understand the decision.

Foyles CEO Sam
 Husain describes the new store
 as ‘a bookshop for the twenty-first
 century’, with 37,000 square feet of floorspace laid out immaculately by architects Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands around an impressive central atrium, and eight levels (four actual floors) packed with more than 200,000 books. Wherever you stand, you can see every part of the building, and the place is bathed in a gentle, contemplation-inducing glow. It’s light years away from the dusty nooks and crannies of the old building, and a bold visual statement of Foyles’s ambition and new image.

In the age of the e-reader and Amazon, punters need a good reason to visit a bookshop, and the new story has plenty. Books aside, the focus is on the social aspect of reading. A whole floor is dedicated to events, from readings by Michael Palin and Jarvis Cocker, to themed reading groups or literary tours. The swish new cafe is run by Leafi, the people behind the Whitechapel Gallery's smart bistro, so expect something slick rather than homely.

A capacious art space will be curated by Future city which kicks off with Turner Prize nominee and ex-Central Saint Martins student Mark Titchner. Otherwise, there are no real signs of the building’s former life, although one was uncovered during the redevelopment, in the form of ‘a big wall that had been given a going over by some art students’, according to the shop’s manager. This is in stark contrast to the old premises, where expansion work turned up disused rooms and even lifts that no one knew anything about.

Foyles veterans may find the new store a smidge anodyne, but any business making such a gutsy statement in favour of ink and paper, and bringing the printed word to life in such a sociable setting, deserves an exciting new chapter.


Branches Southbank Centre, Riverside, SE1 8XX (7440 3212); Waterloo Station, Lower Concourse, SE1 8SW (3206 2680); Westfield, W12 7GE (3206 2656); Westfield Stratford City, E20 1EJ (3206 2671).

Foyles is number 40 in our list of the 100 best shops in London.

Venue name: Foyles Charing Cross Road
Address: 107
Charing Cross Road
Transport: Tube: Tottenham Court Road

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  • Photography Sun March 29th 2015 - Sun May 3rd 2015 Free
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    Charing Cross Road London London WC2H 0EB

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Emma Perry
Staff Writer

The new Foyles is a friendlier place than the old Foyles. Sure, you could get lost in dark corners in the old version, and find yourself absorbed in a book on a subject you hadn't come in to browse. But you can still do that in the new shop, only surrounded by light and hope. And the book world needs some hope in the digital age. If you watch the customers, they are happy; strangers smile at you on the stairs. What's more, Foyles has retained its knowledgeable staff, who can whisk up a fantastic choice of books given certain parameters. They are brilliant when your task is to find a present for a friend with interests outside of your own. The old cafe was an institution, but the new cafe is actually a nicer place to sit, with more space around the tables and much more natural light. It's pleasing they've retained a bar with stools so shy lone customers can feel comfortable sitting there on their own. The gallery and event spaces add life to the place without losing any of the calm. All in all, a triumph of design and intent which fosters a sense of community.


I am missing the old Foyles - alas the Mecca of bookshops was brought in for disassembly, however a new ship was launched and what a modern thoroughbred of bookshops it is. Waterstones et al, have nothing on this baby - I would say one thing - things will never be the same. CEO? Profits and marketshares? This is just not Foyles.

The Man on the Street

I loved the blog post about the new Foyles opening next week.

I'm intrigued to see their new performance space. God I remember how quirky Foyles used to be, handing the book in to someone behind the counter who filled out a form which you then went to another counter where you paid and receipt was stamped, then back to the original desk, handed in the receipt and collected your book. Christina Foyle was bonkers but that's how it was done! I look forward to visiting the new store.