Last updated on February 27th, 2023
London is arguably the greatest literary city in the world, and there is nothing better than losing yourself in the stacks and shelves of the capital’s bookshops. Sadly, lockdown and social distancing have thrown an economic spanner in the works for our capital’s booksellers. But fret not book lovers, here are some of London’s best independent bookshops from which you can buy – online, or with a simple click and collect.
Now, more than ever, it’s time to ditch Amazon and support our local, independent bookstores. Due to the current lockdown, the following London bookshops are offering shipping, and most are also offering a click and collect service.
Discover some of the best independent bookshops in London
A British classic
If you love Paris’s Shakespeare and Co, then you’re going to fall head over heels with John Sandoe, tucked away on a street off the busy King’s Road. The shop was set up in 1957 and has largely remained the same since it first opened. It’s easy to get lost in this most delightful hodge-podge of books. Mary Quant, Keith Richards, Lucien Freud and Dirk Bogarde were fans, and so is this Londoness.
Visit the John Sandoe website here.
Best for: books about women (and by women)
Persephone lovingly reprints fiction and non-fiction by female writers of the (mostly mid) twentieth century. You might be mistaken and think you’ve walked into a Farrow and Ball paint and wallpaper shop: the books are all gorgeously bound in the bookseller’s trademark dove grey and finished with pretty, patterned endpapers. It stocks everything from novels, cookery books, diaries and short stories.
Check out the Persephone Books website.
London Review Bookshop
Best bookshop café
A book lover’s mecca, the London Review of Books is a cult favourite among London’s literature-loving crowd. Enjoy one of Terry Glover’s glorious bakes as you flip through some of the best curated books in the city.
Visit the London Review Bookshop here.
Alice though the Looking Glass
Best for: Alice in Wonderland fans
Tucked away behind Leicester Square on Cecil Court is the curioser and curioser Alice through the Looking Glass. The shop specialises in Alice iconography including first edition books, games, artwork and clothing, and there is also a mini museum.
Visit the Alice through the Looking Glass website here.
Primrose Hill Bookshop
Best for: Books and marmalade sandwiches
The Primrose Hill Bookshop is an independent family run bookshop located on Regent’s Park Road. It’s surrounded by some of the prettiest shops and restaurants in north London, and it’s only a hop skip and a jump to Paddington Bear’s House on Chalcot Crescent.
Visit the Primrose Hill bookshop here.
Best for: Globetrotters
Any self-respecting London blog would have to mention Daunt Books. It’s one of the capital’s favourites, with five branches across town. Daunt styles itself as a travel bookshop, but it’s a real treasure trove of books for all tastes and ages, and it is the best place to sit in London when it’s raining. Don’t forget to get your literary goodie packed up in one of bookshop’s famous cotton bags. They have cute ones for children too.
Visit the Daunt website here.
Word on the Water
It’s David Walliam’s favourite bookshop
Word on the Water is a charming, floating bookshop which you’ll find parked on the Regent’s Canal. The buoyant barge comes with friendly staff, a cosy armchair and a warm stove, and it sells well-priced new and pre-loved books. Their online BookBarge can arrange to have any of 5 million titles delivered to you.
Check out the Word on the Water website.
Lutyens and Rubinstein
Best for: Intellectuals
Founded by two literary agents, Notting Hill’s Lutyens and Rubinstein sells books with an emphasis on literary excellence. There’s also a children’s section and a poetry and art corner. Head over to their Instagram and Twitter accounts for rarefied recommendations.
Check out the Lutyens and Rubinstein website.
Best for: Personalised service
Heywood Hill is a grande dame of Mayfair, once famously hiring Nancy Mitford as a sales assistant and forevermore putting the shop on the tout London scene. It’s now owned by Peregrine Cavendish, 12th Duke of Devonshire, and sells new, old and antiquarian books. They offer a nonpareil personalised subscription service, and they will ship anywhere in the world. The luxe service isn’t just for grown-ups: there’s a children’s department as well.
Check out the Heywood Hill website.
The Second Shelf
Best for: Girl Power
This Soho gem is all about “Feminizing your Bookshelves.” It sells rare books by female artists and holds about 3000 titles in stock. This independent bookshop includes modern literature, rare and antiquarian books, affordable first editions and collectible Penguin paperbacks. It’s definitely your first port of call if you want to build a library with some serious female punch.
Check out the Second Shelf website.
Best for: Deep pockets
Maggs is one of the oldest booksellers on the planet and is still under the same family ownership. It’s famous for having purchased Napoleon’s family jewel (and I don’t mean a gem) when was carved off the dead emperor. In 1998, Maggs bought a copy of William Caxton’s The Canterbury Tales, the first book every printed in England. These days, the in-house team of twenty will help you ferret out some of the finest gems of the antiquarian book world.
Check out the Maggs Bros website
Best for: Books with a side of festival.
There are many reasons to visit Barnes in south west London: the Saturday farmer’s market (which is one of London’s oldest), the Olympic cinema and café, the quaint village pond and the villagey range of independent shops. Every summer, the Barnes Children’s Festival descends on this London outpost, and at its epicentre is the Barnes Bookshop. The shop sells a fantastic range of fiction and non-fiction – and children’s literature, obviously. Look out for the inaugural Barnes Book Festival which, due to Covid-19, has been postponed to February 2021. Guests include Michael Morpugo, Gyles Brandeth and Andrew Graham-Dixon.
Check out the Barnes Bookshop website here.
Best for: Couch potatoes
It’s famous for its fab kids’ book corner and its comfy couches, but Nomad Books is great for the grown-ups too. Located on a corner of the Fulham Road, it’s been a much-loved local since the 1990s.
Check out the Nomad Books website.
Tales on Moon Lane Children’s Bookshop
Best for: Kids
The name says it all: this magical book den for children has one of the city’s most coveted façades, and the interior is rather scrumptious too. The website is a source of inspiration for parents, and the award-winning shop also holds regular talks, storytelling, book fairs and festivals.
Check out the Tales on Moon Lane Bookshop website here.
A local institution
Famous for its Instagram-worthy eighteenth century shop front, Foster Books has been a Chiswick institution since the 1970s. The building itself dates to 1790, and it also takes the prize for being Chiswick’s oldest shop. Foster Books specialises in used, rare and out of print books.
Check out the Foster Books website.
Best for: Lifting the spirits
Maison Assouline is the chicest bookstore in town and one of its most photogenic. Its flash shelves are filled with lustworthy coffee table books, and it’s a cabinet of curiosities too. Whilst you’re there, you could swig down a martini in the gorgeous bar, or you might prefer cake and tea instead. Either way, you’ll feel like a queen when you step inside this culture palace.
Visit the Assouline website here.
Best for: A slice of London history
Yes, Hatchards is owned by Waterstones, but I’m giving this one a free pass in this post. It’s got a royal seal of approval and it’s the oldest bookshop in London. Her Majesty the Queen gets her books from Hatchards, Jane Austen was a fan, and it was Oscar Wilde’s favourite.
Visit the Hatchards website here.
Ditch Amazon books for Bookshops.org instead
Independent bookshops across the UK have come together to battle against Amazon with their own online retail platform. Check out the new kid on the literary block: Bookshop.org.
Jan (@Chimptrips)November 23, 2020 at 7:50 pm
Oh I love the idea of the floating bookshop. I think I’d be rather tempted to curl up in the armchair and stay for the day!
ScarlettNovember 24, 2020 at 7:30 pm
Couldn’t agree more, Jan!
Catherine BoardmanNovember 23, 2020 at 12:49 pm
Why I haven’t visited John Sandoe is a mystery to me!
ScarlettNovember 23, 2020 at 1:00 pm
This must be remedied!
Angie VincentNovember 18, 2020 at 2:19 pm
This is a great selection of book shops Scarlett. Bookshops was one of the things I missed more than anything else during the last lockdown, and I’m missing them all over again during this one.
ScarlettNovember 19, 2020 at 7:39 am
I couldn’t agree more, Angie! Bring ’em back soon, please!
BejalNovember 12, 2020 at 9:28 pm
I had no idea that London had so many bookshops. They look fantastic and I must check them out when I can! I must admit, to this day, I love holding a book in my hards rather than an electronic reading device. Also teh smell of book shops remind me of my childhood. B xx
ScarlettNovember 14, 2020 at 9:35 am
Couldn’t agree more about the smell of bookshops!
Laura BaileyNovember 12, 2020 at 6:00 pm
I still love going to a book shop, I never buy books on-line, nothing like holding them in your hand before you buy.
ScarlettNovember 12, 2020 at 7:04 pm
It’s the smell of bookshops that gets me! But sadly, online is the only way for now.