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The best bookshops in London

Beat a retreat from the digital world and discover the joy of the best bookshops in London

Is there a better way to spend a Sunday than browsing London's bookshops? We don't think so. The city is home to an impressive collection of beautiful, quirky and extensive stores celebrating printed pages. Despite (or perhaps thanks to) the rise of digital retailers, the city's independent booksellers have seriously upped their game. Those who've survived have done so thanks to the sort of literary niches, characterful service or café-style shopping experiences you simply don't get on the internet. Looking for something to read? Here’s our guide to the best bookshops in London, whether you're in central, north, east, south or west London.

VIDEO: Take a look at the UK's oldest LGBT+ bookshop

RECOMMENDED: Literary events and activities in London

Best bookshops in central London


So iconic is this travel bookshop it even gets a mention in Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’. Opened in 1901, it’s one of the largest specialist travel bookshops in the world and an essential destination for explorers, backpackers and map fanatics. There are three floors stacked high with travel writing, guides, maps and gifts and also regular events from the great and good of exploration and travel writing.

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Covent Garden

London Review Bookshop

The London Review of Books opened this thriving bookshop in 2003. The shelves are intended to reflect the ethos of the literary publication, in their words: ‘intelligent without being pompous; engaged without being partisan.’ Its focus is on classic and new fiction as well as history, politics and philosophy. There’s also an excellent and busy café plus a programme of high-profile literary events.

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Daunt Books - Marylebone

This may be London’s most beautiful bookshop. Occupying an Edwardian building on Marylebone High Street, it boasts an incredible galleried main room and stained glass windows that feel like they’re from a lost era. All the books are arranged by country – regardless of content – which makes for a fun and unique browsing experience.

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Foyles Charing Cross Road

Foyles’ flagship store is a vast temple to the printed word. Recently re-opened in a brand new spot on Charing Cross Road, it covers a whopping five floors, with a staggering 4 miles’ worth of shelves holding over 200,000 titles. You can easily lose yourself for a few hours in here. On the top floor there’s a café and exhibition space – look out for some high-profile authors doing readings and talks.

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On a corner in Soho in a slick, modern building is this excellent shop dedicated to graphic novels. Gosh! embraces the medium in all its guises; you’ll find stacks of colourful manga, European fiction, vintage children’s books and indie releases as well as mainstream superhero fare. Both diehard comic fans and complete newbies alike will find it hard to leave here empty-handed.

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Gay's the Word

This much-loved community bookshop is the only surviving LGBT+ bookshop in the UK. It stocks a large range of fiction as well as books on all aspects of queer theory, as well as titles covering sex, relationships, parenting and children. This isn’t just a place to buy books though; it’s an important community hub and hosts regular discussion groups and meet-ups.

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Koenig Books

The books at Koenig are displayed with their covers showing, giving due prominence to the beautiful designs of hundreds of publications dedicated to art, photography and architecture. The independent German business also stocks the bookshops at the Serpentine and Whitechapel galleries.

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Covent Garden

Persephone Books

This unique shop and publisher gives a new lease of life to forgotten, out-of- print novels, with a focus on interwar stories written by women. It released ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ back in 2001 and the book became a hit, eventually being made into a film. Each release is beautifully realised with grey covers and vibrant linings. The shop itself, a Grade II-listed building on Lamb’s Conduit Street – is also a delight.

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Quinto/Francis Edwards

For those who like their books a little musty (in a good way!), add this secondhand bookshop to your list. On the ground floor is Francis Edwards, specialising in rare, antique and collectible books while downstairs, in the basement, is Quinto, which has more general stock including fiction paperbacks. The latter is good for rummaging.

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Covent Garden


On Piccadilly, in a prestigious spot next to Fortnum & Mason, is the UK’s oldest surviving bookshop. First opening its doors in 1797, Hatchards covers four floors and is home to 100,000 books. Today it’s owned by Waterstones but it doesn’t feel like a chain store; three royal warrants means a visit here is still very much a refined experience. In 2014 it opened a second store in St Pancras Station.

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St James'

Best bookshops in north London

Primrose Hill Books

On what might be the prettiest (and poshest) high street in London, is this small family run bookshop. Owners Jessica and Marek, who’ve been here for nearly 30 years, sell both new and second hand books (the latter of which are also available through their website). They also host intimate literary events with names like Jeanette Winterson, Doris Lessing and Martin Amis.

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Primrose Hill

Word on the Water

Perhaps the most unusual of all London’s bookshops, ‘Word on the Water’ is housed in a 100-year- old Dutch barge moored on Regent’s Canal in King’s Cross. Poetry slams and jazz nights happen on the ‘roof stage’ and inside there’s a wood-burning stove plus hundreds of new and second-hand books with a particularly large children’s section.

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Regent's Park

Owl Bookshop

As the playful name suggests, this bookshop on Kentish Town Road does a great line in children’s books. It also hosts a range of kids’ events, from storytime sessions at the weekends to one-offs like a midnight opening for big franchise releases. Unsurprisingly it’s popular with families. There’s lots for adults, too: it’s strong on classic fiction, food and drink, gardening and sport and boasts a programme of popular author events.

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Kentish Town

Best bookshops in east London


This new kid on the block, founded by tech entrepreneur Rohan Silva, is designed as an antidote to our technological age. It embraces all things analogue: mobile phones are banned and there’s a printing press in the basement. The design feels very twenty-first century, though; yellow, curving shelves, designed by graduates of Slade make this a fun and inspiring place to hang out.

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Broadway Bookshop

Broadway Market is a prime spot for browsing and no wander around these parts is complete without popping into this cosy bookshop. It’s larger than it looks from the outside, with steps leading down into a basement filled with new fiction, local history and children’s books. They also hold intimate events here – keep an eye on their Twitter feed for the latest.

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South Hackney

Newham Bookshop

Originally founded to provide educational materials as part of Newham Parents’ Centre, this community-focused bookshop has grown into an important neighbourhood resource. The stock is geared to local residents – half of it is dedicated to children and there are strong politics, social science and self-help sections, plus a significant number of bilingual dictionaries reflecting the diversity of the area.

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Upton Park

Best bookshops in south London


This Brixton institution is everything you could want from a second-hand bookshop. Run by American-born Patrick Kelly, who opened the shop’s doors over twenty years ago, it’s developed a devoted following. Its stock is inspiring and well-organised, if slightly overflowing, and there’s a resident dog, who adds to the charm.

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Kirkdale Bookshop

Kirkdale’s is a neighbourhood bookshop that also doubles up as a local cultural hub with a tiny gallery, regular music events and a bimonthly book group. It encompasses two floors, includes new and second-hand books and also sells gifts and cards. In 2016 it celebrated its fiftieth birthday.

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Review Bookshop

Review is the brainchild of Roz Simpson, founder of the Peckham Literary Festival and author Evie Wyld. It’s a tiny shop that’s intelligently curated and famously dog-friendly (their website even has a dog-themed reading list). The events programme is particularly strong and the shop is also the home of the aforementioned Peckham Literary Festival, which takes place each November.

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Peckham Rye

Best bookshops in west London

Foster Books

Foster Books is a must-visit for any self-respecting bookworm. The tiny historic bookshop in the heart of Chiswick specialises in hard to find, out of print, used and rare books. 

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Turnham Green

Lutyens & Rubinstein

With its elegant striped awning, it’s hard to walk past Lutyens & Rubinstein and not be intrigued to find out what’s past the smart exterior. Set up by the literary agency of the same name, this beautifully designed bookshop aims to provide an idiosyncratic browsing experience. The stock was assembled after canvassing hundreds of readers, meaning each book has found its way here following personal recommendation. Alongside fiction, there’s also a strong poetry and art selection.

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John Sandoe

Stumbling across this beautiful bookshop in a Chelsea back street, you might feel like you’ve entered a Dickens novel. The shop occupies three floors of three connecting eighteenth-century shops with gorgeous window boxes outside displaying floral blooms. Inside, piles of books fill every surface with what it calls a ‘bias for the humanities’.

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Nomad Books

Bright and airy, with wooden floors and comfy sofas Nomad is a lively and popular shop and cafe on Fulham Road. We love the sound of their ‘reading clinics’ in which an advisor will sit down with you, ask you some questions and devise six books for you to receive over the coming year. There’s also a strong children’s section, gifts and stationery and a regular book club.

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Parsons Green

Discover more shopping inspiration

The 100 best shops in London

We've managed to whittle the list of thousands down to the 100 best shops in London. There's something to please every taste and budget, including a selection of the best department stores, quaint little boutiques, cavernous thrift stores, chic homeware outlets and designer fashion shops. 

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By: Danielle Goldstein


Rod G

Any tips on secondhand bookstores with a good selection of hardback fiction (looking specifically for Stephen King first editions).


Paul A

Does anyone know a book shop in London that sells "The Origin of Our Left-wing Species?"

Eva von Zobeltitz-Jope

Can anyone tell me a good book shop in London for children´s books, fiction and facts and also encyclopedia of various kinds? Is there a low budget store of books somewhere? I teach German kids English and want them to look at pictures and text, Thank you for your help


Stansfield is publishing THE BRUNELS Engineers Extraordinaire, A celebration in verse on 21 JAN 2013. This well researched book will appeal to anyone interested in The Industrial Revolution and its main players....


Hello there, My two non-fiction books, distress and ache in my heart, published by Wordclay.com, author id. 85880. Please order number of copies you desire. Thanks Regards, Fatema Miah


I am trying to locate bookshop called "The good book guide store" in London Please help


What about Victoria Park books?- It's an amazing indendent children's bookshop, stocking everything from board books to young adult novels.


new book shop opened in wealdstone high street in the inshops centre selling new and second hand books from the 18th century to today and everything inbetween including foriegn language, education, religion as well as childresn toyas and crafts


Dorothy, how about the Beckenham Bookshop, on the 54 bus route? small friendly shop with great customer order service!


Does anyone know of a good bookshop in the Lewisham area, easily reachable by public transport (I know there's Waterstones in Bromley)?


how about a little update Time out please, this list is far from complete. The title London's best bookshop may be a good hook but does not deliver. One more effort to show you care.

Keny E-B

How about the AA bookshop ? shouldnt it be referenced too ?


RD Franks has now closed down :(


I remember buying discounted books from a shop where I got out from the tube station (can it be Piccadily Circus) and across the street was a H&M shop. I remember the shop being a book publisher association or sth. like that. I haven' been in London for years now and will be there in June if yu know the place , I would appreciate if you mentioned it here. Thanks.


I second Clerkenwell Tales & Victoria Park Books, but am most surprised to see Artwords missing from the East list. Great Art, Fashion & Design specialists, run by friendly owner Ben. On Rivington St and new larger Broadway Market branch.

George Hill

Also, I have just learned that Skoob Books — missing from your little roundup — you named this year as "Best Bookshop" in London. At the head of this article you describe yourselves as "Time Out Consume [no 'r'] Editors". Makes me wonder what you've been consuming!

George Hill

How could you omit Skoob Books — a basement full of treasures, entrance at the back of Waitrose at the Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury?


I highly recommend Victoria Park Books in Hackney; by far the best children's bookshop in North London - also has an interesting selection of specialist adult books too.


Can someone tell me a REALY GOOOD book shop where I can buy finance books?


Can someone tell me a good bookstore where I can find books about espionage world?

Susanne Hosoien

I would like ti visit a good bookshop for language teachers. Does anyone know any I can visit?


anyone know of a great magazine shop? browsing for new and different titles is one of my great pleasures but we've lost all decent selections up here in leeds.


Concrete Hermit in Shoreditch, on Club Row has a cool selection of illustration, design and photography titles, as well as a selection of art based zines. They have some nice shows in their little gallery.....


Only just found this artcle - Can't believe Clapham Books isn't on your list - great selection of the classic the popular and the quirky - next day ordering friendly knowledgeable staff and fab author events - South London's best book shop !!!!120 Clapham High St sw4 7uh - easy to find btwn Clapham Common and Clapham North tubes


Please, help me. I'm interested in Shooters bible 100th edition. Where can I buy this book in London?


I discovered new russian-language bookshop in Central London that has a huge range of both fiction and non-fiction Russian books. It's my favourite Russian bookshop in London: 23 Goodge Street London W1T 2PL www.booksinrussian.co.uk


Could you tell me please wich one of these libraries will be the best to find books on fixed gear / art & bike / photographies... THX


Clerkenwell Tales is a great new bookshop just opened on Exmouth market. Pete, the owner, is lovely and really helpful and he has stocked the shop with lots of lovely books. It's small and beautifully presented and has a strong quirky mix of Fashion, photography and contemporary fiction and a great Travel Lit section. My new favourite bookshop in London! www.clerkenwell-tales.co.uk 30 Exmouth Market Clerkenwell EC1R 4QE


If you're a bargain hunter there's a great second hand bookshop on Bell Street in Marylebone. I picked up Updike's Rabbit Redux the other day for 50p and the rough guide to Vietnam for £1.50. Cheaper than most charity shops; heaven knows how they make a living.


Goldsboro books (7 Cecil Court WC2N 4EZ) should definitely be on this list. Although situated in the heart of the West End, It is a peaceful retreat from all the hub. Always friendly courteous staff, which are knowledgeable and passionate about the books they sell. Enabling you to purchase a signed first, with many at publishers pricing! Goldsboro boasts a generous loyalty scheme (with real rewards, unlike Waterstones!!) and an amazing book of the month club with a further 10% off books, for members. All in all a brilliant find!

Double Dutch

'Um, Quinto's 2nd hand bookshop near British Museum is something to be seen...' someone remarked. It was indeed, but I'm afraid it's no longer there. I closed down more than a year ago. The branch on Charing Cross Road has just been beautifully refurbished though. Worth a visit!


The Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green is becoming something of a sensation in North London. Well worth a visit, and well worth checking out their blog Open a Bookshop, What Could Possibly Go Wrong. I love it.

Tamara Budhan

Why isn't The Book Box in Hackney on the list?! A really lovely shop with an excellent range of children and adults books. And they organise author events and book groups. My first choice! 53 Chatsworth Road Claption London E5 0LH www.bookboxonline.co.uk


the comment below is maybe a bit harsh, but have to say I've only found the staff at Koenig Books on the Charing Cross Road to be really unhelpful. Now Shipley Art Booksellers has gone, I find the best art books are at Donlon Books in the East End.

Christian Whitehead

I was surprised that Motor Books, London's only motoring, railway, military and aviation specialist bookshop didn't get a mention in your list The shop moved to Cecil Court in 2007 after celebrating its 50th anniversary in nearby St Martins Court and have been there for a year and a half. Cecil Court is worth the trip alone if you really like independent bookshops. Motor Books address is 13-15 Cecil Court and the nearest tube is Leicester Square.


A number of other places surely deserve a mention: West End Lane Books in West Hampstead has a finely-judged selection of fiction and non-fiction, has knowledgeable staff and is well laid-out. Judd Books on Marchmont Street, WC1N, has two floors of new and secondhand and is worth checking out, as is the cavernous Skoob Books, just round the corner near the Brunswick Centre.

Art Books

Great new shop has just opened in Marylebone with some beautiful art books. Address is: Other Criteria, 14 Hinde Street, W1U 3BG Other Criteria started as a web based company and now has two shops, the first is on New Bond Street specialising in editions. Books by Damien Hirst, Michael Joo, Paul Fryer etc. It also sells t-shirts, posters and editions.

Chris Thomas

If you're into philosophy and unexpected titles, The Swedenborg Society Bookshop on Bloomsbury Way (between New Oxford St and Holborn) is a great find: a publishing house since 1810, it specialises in titles by the Swedish philosopher and mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg, and publishes books of essays discussing his ideas. Also lots of books about William Blake, works by Yeats, Dostoyevsky, Baudelaire who were all inspired by his radical philosophy.

Keith Lucas

Isn't Housmans at Kings Cross on the list? Besides being one of the last political/radical bookshops left in London, it's full of strange stuff you'd almost never be able to browse through anywhere else. And its hundreds of radical magazines must be the widest range anywhere.

Jim MacSweeney

I'm surprised you haven't included Gay's The Word in your list. This iconic bookstore celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and stocks a fantastic range of books - history, academic, queer & gender studies, fiction, poetry, transgender etc. Check it out at 66 Marchmont Street and discover why so many lesbian and gay tourists to London make it their first port of call.


Urban Forms and Colonial Confrontations: Algeria Under French Rule (Hardcover) can anyone tell me where I can find this book? It would be very helpful . thanks !


PLEASE GO to the Black Gull Bookshop in East Finchley...It has the best collection of art books etc.... Worth the trip!

Dave Daveson

slightly belated...but best bet for academic remainders and second hand is the Blackwell's on the corner of Mallet Street in the University quarter. They have a very good range (check upsatirs as well as the racks by the stairwell).


Anyone know the location of the bookshop which sells quirky titles?