Fact: We rely too much on the internet for our shopping; Christmas included.
Is not part of the joy of giving to be able to tell a story about the great place where you bought a present, or how you ended up in the tiny little shop that sold this beautiful, unique item? Online shopping doesn’t cater to that. So, if you are headed to London for a good old round of window (and actual!) shopping, you need the right addresses. London is the city of many things, it’s great for food, sights, pigeons, parks… and books!
Not only could you go on a tour of city based on where books are set, but you can browse the most fabulous book shops!
The heart of the book world is – except for Bloomsbury – on Charing Cross. Many hours – and pounds – were spent in the book shops up and down the road. After a LOT of research, I have chosen my favourite ones. First of all, not only because of the name, Claire de Rouen Books (First Floor, 125 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0EW), the only specialist photography and fashion bookshop in London. While it is not the place to browse for novels, the books are beautiful and especially for presents, it is perfect!
Walking down Charing Cross Road, my heaven is at Foyles’ Flagship Store (107 Charing Cross Rd, WC2H 0DT). Independent book sellers are great, but Foyles holds a special place in my heart. My first memory is a story my dad told me in 2002, when I first came to London: Years back, he went to London and a colleague sent him to Foyles for a chess book, on moves with the pawn. Dad believed it was ridiculous to look for a book that specific, but ask anyway. The answer “Which one? The black or the white one?” I am going to assume the story is true. Should it not be, it is still what I am telling people about how Foyles and I met.
The new shop, a few doors down from the old one, is beautiful, the cafe always crowded, and my favourite part: The greeting.
Moving on, Koenig Books is next, at 80 Charing Cross Road (WC2H 0BB). It’s an endless resource of architecture, art and photography, which is great for specialists and presents. The best part: The shop (also the branch in the Serpentine Gallery) is a gateway to the mammooth bookshop in Cologne. From London, you have full access!
Next is Henry Pordes Books (58-60 Charing Cross Rd, WC2H 0BB). It is the perfect used book shop! Walking in it seems underwhelming, but wait until you make your way down the stairs… Room three is all fiction and through the doorway is Crime Fiction and Thriller heaven!
Last on Charing Cross but by no means least is Any Amount Of Books (56 Charing Cross Rd, WC2H 0QA). Inside is a mix of fiction and non-fiction, again, don’t forget to go down the narrow little stairs, but the best deals are outside. During my last “research trip” last week, I found a Christmas themed novel (around Christmas time, expect a review) for £1. Normal for a used book shop you say? Let me add this detail: It is in perfect condition and a new release. Yes, books published in 2015 for one pound! The three boxes full of books which draw you to the shop are full of everything from old, outdated books to brand new ones!
Moving away from the centre, there are a few lovely shops here and there:
A fun place to peruse is under Waterloo Bridge. Right under the bridge, books find cover from the elements at Southbank Book Market. There is a little bit of order at times, but the only way to make sure you haven’t missed anything is to look at every single cover. Just because you found three books of an author on one table doesn’t mean there aren’t ten more scattered around somewhere
Daunt Books has a number of shops around the city. The main one is at 83 Marlybone High Street (W1U), but my favourite is 158-164 Fulham Road (SW10 9PR). If you taking a walk in Chelsea and Kensington, maybe to Battersea Park, make sure you stop by. This Edwardian shop is the perfect hideaway for any bookworm. Although it focuses on travel literature, it is by no means restricted to it and it is worth to taking a peek just for the stained glass windows and beautiful interior.
Another place worth popping into is Primrose Hill Books (134 Regent’s Park Rd, NW1 8XL). There are lots of independent shops in the area to find Christmas presents and the beauty of this book shop is that while it isn’t big, they have an excellent taste in books. They may have a fraction of the choice, but you will want to buy almost their entire stock!
Lastly, I have fallen in love with Brick Lane. It doesn’t help that is it close to my work, and you can find amazing take-away and street food in the area, but Brick Lane Books (166 Brick Lane, E1 6RU) is a hidden gem! Room came from there, at used-book price, even though it was brand new. For bookworms, it’s heaven on earth; with those prices, you can buy twice as many books. In this case, that’s one present and one for yourself.
Happy Book Shopping!