Mapped: London's Best Independent Bookshops

Mapped: London's Best Independent Bookshops

There's nothing quite like curling up with a good book. But before you log on to a certain online retailer beginning with 'A' and ending in 'n', we thought we'd remind you that London is home to tons of brilliant independent bookshops.

Supporting local businesses, getting your hands on a beautiful new tome, and soaking up the enchanting aromas of new (and old) paper and polished wood? It's win-win. If only there was a map showing you where to find them all...

That's more like it. Pick a few that intrigue you and find out a bit more about them below. Then prove your bibliophile credentials by making it your mission to visit them all.

The best independent bookshops in Central London

Yep, London's even got a floating bookshop

Any Amount of Books

Prices range from £1 to the thousands of pounds at this second-hand bookshop, which stacks its titles from floor to ceiling. They also do leather binding for £15, if your favourite book is looking a little careworn. 56 Charing Cross Road, Westminster, WC2H 0QA

Arthur Probsthain

Arthur Probsthain has remained family-owned for over a century and specialises in fiction and non-fiction from Asia, Africa, and The Middle East. They’ve another branch at The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), focused solely on academic texts. 41 Great Russell St, Bloomsbury, WC1B 3PE

Bookmarks

This socialist bookshop is Britain’s largest, with politics, economics, trade unionism, culture, and fiction titles and even radical kids' books (because we’ve all read one of those think-pieces about Thomas The Tank Engine’s totalitarian leanings by now). After being ransacked in 2018 by far-right protesters it could especially use some love. 1 Bloomsbury St, Fitzrovia, WC1B 3QE

Gay’s the Word

The UK’s first ever — and sadly last surviving — lesbian and gay bookshop and historical safe space has been selling LGBT+ texts since 1979. Today, you’ll find a diverse range of tomes, from cutting edge queer theory, to award-winning literary works, to self-help books for coming out. 66 Marchmont Street, King's Cross, WC1N 1AB

Gosh! Comics

If graphic novels are your thing, pay a visit to Gosh! Comics. The staff are super-friendly and they’ve managed to pack an impressive range of big name, indie, and kids' titles into their little basement dwellings. 1 Berwick St, Soho, W1F 0DR

Gay's The Word manager Jim MacSweeny

Housmans Bookshop

This not-for-profit describes itself as London’s premier radical bookshop, and it’s a must visit for those with an interest in progressive politics. If you fancy really sticking it to the man, they’ve got a calendar chock-full of events from campaigners, authors and artists. 5 Caledonian Road, King's Cross, N1 9DY

Jarndyce Booksellers

Want to feel like you've really stepped back in time? Visit Jarndyce Booksellers. Built in the 1700s, it still boasts original period features, with charming 19th century-style decor. In the 1870s, the building became home to illustrator Randolph Caldecott, and the address appears in loads of his doodles. Fittingly the stock is largely 18th and 19th century English literature and history. 46 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, WC1B 3PA

Judd Books

This one is great for students looking to save a bit of cash. Judd Books have a large stock of used and bargain academic texts in the fields of literature, art, film, architecture, philosophy, politics and much, much more. We've plundered their London section on many occasion. 82 Marchmont Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 1AG

London Review Bookshop

If reading works up your appetite, you’ll be pleased to know that this Bloomsbury bookshop comes with a boutique tea room. They also stage signings, discussions, and performances every week. 14-16 Bury Place, Bloomsbury, WC1A 2JL

Persephone Books

This independent publisher reprints neglected mid-twentieth century works by women writers. Visit their Bloomsbury shop to browse the gorgeous grey jacketed texts in person and discover your new favourite author. 59 Lamb's Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 3NB

Persephone Books exclusively stocks books by women writers

Quinto Bookshop

If the big Foyles on Charing Cross Road is a bit too much for you, cross the street and head to Quinto instead. They sell second-hand paperbacks, as well as antiquarian, rare, and collectible titles. 72 Charing Cross Road, Westminster, WC2H 0BB

Skoob Books

The pleasingly named Skoob boasts London’s broadest selection of second-hand academic books, priced at least half what it would cost new. Students get an extra 10% off, so it’s perfect for those who don't want their reading list to totally drain their bank account. It's not all academic, though. You'll also find a humongous fiction section, as well as all the other regular non-fiction sections. 66 The Brunswick, off Marchmont Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 1AE

Southbank Centre Book Market

Alright, this one isn’t a bookshop per se, but no list about London independent booksellers would be complete without a shoutout to the Southbank Centre Book Market. Hundreds of second-hand fiction and non-fiction books are tucked beneath Waterloo Bridge. And even though it's outdoors, the market is open every day, come rain or shine. Waterloo Bridge, South Bank, SE1 9PX

Stanfords

This travel bookshop dates back to the 1850s and is a destination in and of itself for globe-trotters and map mavens. From producing the world’s smallest ever maps for Queen Mary’s famous doll’s house, to its cameo in The Hound Of The Baskervilles, Stanfords has quite the illustrious past — and continues to lure visitors with its wide selection of travel writing, guides, and globes. 7 Mercer Walk from January 2019 (currently 12-14 Long Acre, Covent Garden, WC2E 9LP).

The Atlantis Bookshop

Claiming the title of London’s oldest occult independent bookshop, The Atlantis Bookshop was established in 1922 to serve those interested in matters esoteric. Today, it continues to host basement coven meetings as well as new and second-hand books and ‘magic ware’. 49A Museum Street, Bloomsbury, WC1A 1LY

Treadwell's Books in Fitzrovia

The Riverside Bookshop

Not sure what you’re after? The Riverside Bookshop in Hay’s Galleria has 10,000 titles for you to choose from. As its name suggests, it’s right on the bank of Thames, meaning that you won’t be short of evocative reading spots after purchasing your next book. 15, Hay's Galleria, Tooley Street, Southwark, SE1 2QN  

Treadwell’s Books

From paganism to wicca and from thelema to druidry, Treadwell’s is heaven for those into esotericism and spirituality. And if you fancy a sneak peek into your future, they also host tarot readings. 33 Store Street, Fitzrovia, WC1E 7BS  

Word On The Water

The only bookshop on our list that floats, you’ll find this 1920s Dutch barge near King’s Cross on Regent's Canal. Not only is it packed with literature old and new, it regularly hosts free open air jazz and spoken word nights for you to enjoy while the sun sets over the water. Regent's Canal Towpath, King's Cross, N1C 4LW

The best independent bookshops in Cecil Court

Cecil Court. Photo: taigatrommelchen via Londonist Flickr Pool

With its narrow pavement and old-timey shop signs, this Victorian thoroughfare is basically Diagon Alley (no, really — it’s widely believed to be the inspiration for the shopping district of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world). It’s also the only street we can think of that’s comprised almost entirely of bookshops, and that earns it a section of its own. It’s worth just going down there for a wander, but if you like to know what to expect, here’s what you can find:

Alice Through The Looking Glass: In case the name doesn’t give it away, this one is dedicated to all things Alice. Strictly speaking, it's more of a boutique than a bookshop, but, thanks to its collection of antiquarian Alice-adjacent titles, it earns a place on this list. 14 Cecil Court

Bryars and Bryars: Antiquarian books, maps, and prints are this shop's bread and butter. Their most expensive titles cost up to £30,000 — so no open containers, people. 7 Cecil Court

Goldsboro Books: If you're looking for something really special, Goldsboro Books — which claims to be UK's leading specialist in first edition — signed books is the place to go. 23/25 Cecil Court

Marchpane: This rare and illustrated children's book shop is an utter delight for little and big readers alike. Stop by for a peek at its vintage facade and magical Alice in Wonderland window display (it boasts around 200 copies of the Lewis Carroll classic at any given time). 16 Cecil Court

Peter Ellis: After a first edition? Come to Peter Ellis for fiction and academic texts. 18 Cecil Court

Pleasures of Past Times: Feeling nostalgic? This quirky pop culture book shop sells texts on everything from gonzo journalism to first world war posters. 11 Cecil Court

Stephen Poole Fine Books: Browse 20th century novels, poetry and plays, at Stephen Poole Fine Books. 10 Cecil Court

Tenderbooks: Come here for independent art books, launches, and readings. The shop also stages monthly exhibitions, often showcasing personal libraries. 6 Cecil Court

Tindley & Everett: You want 20th century literature? What about first editions? Tindley & Everett has plenty. 4 Cecil Court

Watkins Books: This esoteric bookshop dates back to 1894 and is known as a leading specialist in mind, body and spiritual literature. 19 & 21 Cecil Court

The best independent bookshops in North London

Leileith James-Dunkley at New Beacon Books

Big Green Bookshop

After a chain store closure left Wood Green with no dedicated bookshop, Tim West and Simon Key launched a campaign to open their own. And so, 10 years ago, the Big Green Bookshop was born. Nowadays, it plays host to all sorts of events, including signings, stand-up, and singalongs. 1 Brampton Park Road, Wood Green, N22 6BG

Black Gull Books

Nestled inside Camden Market, amid the graphic tee stalls and hippy head shops you’ll find a second-hand bookshop that’s just bursting with pre-loved tomes. As we discovered when we visited all the way back in 2009, it’s a bit of local institution, with owner Chris having worked as stall-holder since the market’s inception. 70-71 Camden Lock Place, Primrose Hill, NW1 8AF

Children's Bookshop

This family owned children’s bookshop has been a Muswell Hill stalwart since 1974. They host a regular storytime, allowing parents to browse while their budding bookworms are kept entertained. 29 Fortis Green Road, Muswell Hill, N10 3HP

Church Street Bookshop

You'll find this second-hand bookshop, nestled among Church Street's artisan bakeries and pretty pubs. It doesn't have its own website but it's a big hit with the locals. 142 Stoke Newington Church Street, Stoke Newington, N16 0JU

Highgate Bookshop

With its bright green painted exterior, Highgate Bookshop makes London's most village-y area feel even more quaint. Step inside the quiet and cosy establishment, which covers plenty of genres in its relatively small space. Worth browsing is the fascinating section of literature dedicated to Highgate's local history. 9 Highgate High Street, Highgate, N6 5JR

New Beacon Books

Having opened in 1966, the groundbreaking New Beacon Books was the UK’s first black publisher, specialist bookshop and international book distributor. It's a bookshop with a fighting spirit, its roots are in black activism, struggling for the rights of those who emigrated to London. Expect poetry, literature, nonfiction, history and children’s books from Africa, Caribbean, Asia, African America, Europe, South America and Britain. 76 Stroud Green Rd, Stroud Green, N4 3EN

Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green

Owl Bookshop

For an independent, the Owl Bookshop is rather roomy, with an impressive selection of classic and contemporary titles. They also boast some super comfy armchairs, should you feel the urge to rest your book-laden limbs. 207-209 Kentish Town Road, Kentish Town, NW5 2JU

Pickled Pepper Books

With its pleasingly plosive name and carefully curated range, there’s plenty to like about Crouch End kids’ bookshop Pickled Pepper Books. 10 Middle Lane, Crouch End, N8 8PL

Primrose Hill Books

Where better to browse the shelves than the hub for artsy intelligentsia that is Primrose Hill? This is another family-owned business, run by husband and wife duo Jessica and Marek. 134 Regent's Park Road, NW1 8XL

Queen's Park Books

For over 10,000 hand-curated titles of classic and contemporary works, head to NW6. If you ask nicely, they’ll even do their best to source rare and out of prints works. 87 Salusbury Road, Queen's Park, NW6 6NH

Stoke Newington Bookshop

Brain-scrambling signage aside, this bookshop has oodles of charm. As well as classic fiction and kiddie lit, they offer a range of gorgeous wooden toys. 159 Stoke Newington High St, Stoke Newington, N16 0NY

Walden Books

You really have to search to find this pretty little second-hand bookstore tucked away on a quiet Camden backstreet. They sell (and buy) second-hand and antiquarian titles and often pop up at Bloomsbury Book Fair. 38 Harmood Street, Camden, NW1 8DP

West End Lane Books

This family-owned West Hampstead offering prides itself on quality staff recommendations. So if you’re looking for your next beach read or cult hit, don’t be afraid to ask. 277 West End Lane, West Hampstead, NW6 1QS

The best independent bookshops in East London

Brick Lane Bookshop. Photo: David McKelvey via the Londonist Flickr Pool

Artwords Bookshop

Head to Artwords for all your contemporary visual arts books and magazine needs. Find it in the heart of Hoxton, or head to Broadway Market for more relaxed vibes and beautiful wooden floorboards. 69 Rivington Court, Shoreditch EC2A 3AY/ 20-22 Broadway Market, Hackney, E8 4QJ

Brick Lane Bookshop

In 1974, the Tower Hamlets Art Project Bookshop became the borough’s first ever bookshop. 44 years and two site moves later, it now caters to tourists, locals, and hungover hipsters alike as the Brick Lane Bookshop. As well as an eclectic range of books, they host reading groups and writing workshops. 166 Brick Lane, E1 6RU

Camden Lock Books

Somewhat confusingly, Camden Lock Books is nowhere near the Regents Canal. Instead, you'll find it in Old Street station, making it super convenient if you’re after a last minute gift or rush hour entertainment. Old Street Station, 4 Saint Agnes Well, EC1Y 1BE

Caravansérail

Find both French language fiction and European texts translated into English at this chic book boutique. Caravansérail holds monthly exhibitions, held in partnership with Whitechapel Gallery. 2 Cheshire Street, Shoreditch, E2 6ED

Donlon Books

Located a mere stone’s throw from London Fields on Broadway Market, this bookshop’s uber-cool location is matched only by its selection of hip photography, counterculture and critical theory works. 75 Broadway Market, Hackney, E8 4PH

Freedom Press

Find London’s oldest anarchist bookshop nestled next to Whitechapel Gallery. In what is becoming a disturbingly common occurrence for anti-capitalist bookshops, it was attacked back in 2013 — by firebomb — but got back on its feet remarkably quickly, even selling off some of its charred wares as souvenirs. 84b Whitechapel High Street, E1 7QX

Jo's Bookshop

As well as your next great read, you can also purchase cards and crystals at this bookshop that comes with a side helping of woo. Jo’s Bookshop currently hosts a regular Mind Body Spirit evening where you can get a bit of spiritual guidance over tea. 135 Station Road, Chingford, E4 6AG

Libreria on Hanbury Street

Libreria

Libreria takes a radically different approach to categorising its titles — opting for themes like 'enchantment for the disenchanted' and 'mothers, madonnas, and whores' in lieu of more traditional sections like fiction and cookery. As well as risograph printing workshops in the basement, there's always a cracking cultural programme of events — though the intriguing, honeycomb-esque design of the shop is reason alone to pay it a visit. 65 Hanbury Street, Shoreditch, E1 5JP

Newham Bookshop

Over half the shelf space at Newham Bookshop is dedicated to children’s titles. Founded in 1978 as part of the then-fledgling Newham Parents’ Centre, the shop continues to get the borough’s kids reading, working with local schools and arranging for author readings. 745-747 Barking Road, Newham, E13 9ER

Pages of Hackney

This award-winning bookshop has a philosophy of inclusivity and providing a platform for marginalised voices. It also boasts a delightfully twee basement which is home to cracking selection of vintage vinyl. 70 Lower Clapton Road, Hackney, E5 0RN

Phlox Books

How do you make the book browsing experience even better? Just add wine. Or craft beer. Or Allpress coffee. Phlox Books in Leyton serves all three! As far as we know, Phlox Books has no connection to the Denobulan doctor in Star Trek Enterprise. 159 Francis Road, Leyton, E10 6NT

Telling Tales Shop

If you’re a sucker for pretty pictures, make a date with Telling Tales, a shop specialising in gorgeous illustrated books. While most are for kids, you’ll also find some adult titles if you’re up for a bit of digging. Northside Studios, 16-29 Andrews Road, Hackney, E8 4QF

The Broadway Bookshop
This small but perfectly formed Hackney offering is the perfect place to pop into after an hour or two spent sampling the culinary delights of Broadway Market. Bag yourself a brand new novel and then head to the nearby canal for a spot of reading and snacking. 6 Broadway Market, Hackney, E8 4QJ

The best independent bookshops in South London

Rye Books in East Dulwich

Book Mongers

From its retro-feel website to 70s-esque signage, this second-hand bookshop feels like it belongs to a bygone age — in a good way. Don't forget to check out the touching mural that owner Patrick dedicated to his beloved former dog, Leo. 439 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, SW9 8LN

Chener Books

Owner John Kennedy opened Chener Books in 1978 — it's been a staple of East Dulwich's literary scene ever since. Though John sadly passed away in 2018, there are no plans to close the shop. 14 Lordship Lane, East Dulwich, SE22 8HN

Clapham Books

You'll find this beautiful dove grey bookshop in the shopping destination of Clapham Old Town. Don't miss picture book storytime on Wednesday mornings. 26 The Pavement, Clapham, SW4 0JA

Dulwich Books

This award-winning bookshop hosts plenty of author events and counts an adorable border terrier, Rowan, as part of the team. 6 Croxted Road, Dulwich, SE21 8SW

Greenwich Book Place and Gallery

The only shop in our list that trades out of an old Victorian boozer, Greenwich Book Place and Gallery, is nothing if not resilient. Back in 2011, owner David Herbert fought and won a battle to save his shop from demolition, and today it stands as a rare bastion of Greenwich’s bohemian past. 258 Creek Road, Greenwich, SE10 9SW

Halcyon Books

Whether you're after antiquarian find, vintage magazine, or simply your next beach read, the family-run Halcyon Books in Greenwich has got you covered. 1 Greenwich Street, SE10 8NW

Herne Hill Books

The little sister of Clapham Books is very active in the local community, even helping to save Herne Hill's flower lady. Check their Twitter page for the latest Herne Hill happenings. 89 Railton Road, Herne Hill, SE24 0LY

Tales on Moon Lane in Herne Hill. Photo: Tales on Moon Lane Facebook

Kirkdale Bookshop

Kirkdale Bookshop has been at the heart of the Sydenham community since 1966. Browse the diverse range of new and second-hand books before taking your find to their charming, Victoriana-style conservatory-cum-reading nook. 272 Kirkdale, SE26 4RS  

Maritime Books

Fittingly, you'll find London’s only specialist naval bookshop a stone's throw from the National Maritime Museum. Expect everything from maritime art to accounts of great expeditions. 66 Royal Hill, SE10 8RT  

Review Bookshop

You'll find this pint-sized offering on the corner of Bellenden Road in Peckham. Not sure what to pick? The staff are always happy to share their recommendations. 131 Bellenden Road, SE15 4QY

Rye Books

Book browsing can be thirsty work. Luckily, Rye Books' cafe will keep you fuelled on coffee and artisan pastries. This much-loved local bookshop also boasts a rather charming set of wheels, in the form of a van that transforms into a market stall. 47 New Cross Road, East Dulwich, SE22 9ET

Small Print Books

This young, family-owned bookshop boasts a cheerful mix of colourful picture books for little readers — all chosen on the philosophy that you shouldn't give your kids something you wouldn't be excited to read yourself. 37 David's Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3EP

Tales on Moon Lane

This children's bookshop boasts a beautiful duck egg blue, vintage carousel-themed exterior, but it's more than just a pretty face. As well as a diverse range of books for young readers, it hosts regular storytelling, phonics sessions, and half term festivals. 25 Half Moon Lane, Herne Hill, SE24 9JU

The Bookshop on the Heath

There's been a bookshop at 74 Tranquil Vale since 1949 — but their stock dates back much further than that, including antiquarian works from as early as 1660. Almost everything you'll find here is second-hand, with exceptions being made for local authors. 74 Tranquil Vale, Blackheath, SE3 0BW

The best independent bookshops in West London

John Sandoe Books in Chelsea

Al Saqi Bookshop

Consider Al Saqi Bookshop your go-to for English language books on all topics relating to the Middle East, as well as an ample range of texts in Arabic. Its Grade II listed shopfront is very impressive, too. 326 Westbourne Grove, W2 5RH

Barnes Bookshop

Boasting a name straight out of a spy/romance novel, Venetia Vyvyan has over 30 years’ experience as a bookseller, so you’ll be in good hands when you pay a visit to her Barnes bookshop. 60 Church Road, Barnes, SW13 0DQ

Belgravia Books

This teeny bookshop is perfect for the bibliophile on the go. Within spitting distance of Victoria station, it’s a real life-saver if you've got a long train or coach journey ahead of you. 59 Ebury Street, Victoria, SW1W 0NZ

Foster Books

This charming emerald green offering holds the title for the oldest shop on Chiswick High Road — the 18th century bow window is gorgeous. But it’s not just a pretty face — head here for rare, hard to find, and out-of-print titles. 183 Chiswick High Road, Chiswick, W4 2DR

Heywood Hill

Novelist Nancy Mitford worked in this classy Mayfair bookshop for a spell during the second world war, apparently helping establish its reputation as literary hub during the 1940s — and it’s got the blue plaque to prove it. If that's not prestigious enough for you, know that it’s owned by an actual Duke. 10 Curzon Street, Mayfair, W1J 5HH

Heywood Hill Bookshop in Mayfair

Hurlingham Books

Owner Ray Cole has been the first to open the doors to Hurlingham Books every morning since 1968, and his enduring passion for books in palpable throughout the shop. It even counts Belle de Jour as a fan. 91 Fulham High Street, Fulham, SW6 3JS

John Sandoe Books

You’ll find over 30,000 titles inside John Sandoe Books’ 18th century premises. Pop in during the run up to Christmas to get your hands on one of their specially commissioned short stories, often written by staff members and published in pretty jackets by Cuckoo Press. 10 Blacklands Terrace, Chelsea, SW3 2SR  

Kew Bookshop

This boutique bookshop is right at home in the leafy enclave of Kew Village. As well as books, you can pick up stationery, gift wrapping and even tote bags for taking home your booty. 1-2 Station Approach, Kew, TW9 3QB

Koenig Books

You’ll find the European branch of German booksellers Walther Koenig Books tucked away in the Serpentine Gallery. Accordingly, its stock largely comprises of modern and contemporary art, photography and architecture. Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens, W2 3XA

Lloyds of Kew

We know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but we've got to admit that Lloyds of Kew boasts some very pretty rare, vintage, and antiquarian works. In keeping with its proximity to the Royal Botanic Gardens, much of its stock is dedicated to horticulture and botanical art. 9 Mortlake Road, Richmond, TW9 3DT

Lutyens & Rubinstein

A relative newcomer to the west London indie bookshop scene, Lutyens & Rubinstein was founded by a pair of literary agents back in 2009. What makes it special is that every single title stocked is there because of a recommendation, put together by canvassing hundreds of book lovers. 21 Kensington Park Road, W11 2EU

The 'book tree' at Lloyds of Kew

Nomad Books

This Fulham offering benefits from comfy sofas and an expansive kids’ section. Children’s storytime takes place every Thursday. Nomad Books, 781 Fulham Road, SW6 5HA

Samuel French Bookshop

Thespians and theatre lovers, this one’s for you. Having been in business for nearly 200 years, in 2018 Samuel French found a new home at the Royal Court Theatre. Head there for a huge range of plays and academic texts. Playwrights regularly pop in for free Q&A sessions, so keep an eye on the events calendar. Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS

The Notting Hill Bookshop

Perhaps the most famous bookshop on our list, The Notting Hill Bookshop was catapulted to stardom when its interior was copied for Richard Curtis’ 1999 romcom film Notting Hill. So don’t be surprised if you get waylaid by snap happy tourists while you’re there. 13 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, W11 2EE

The Open Book

This TARDIS-like Richmond offering has an extensive range despite its deceptively small proportions. Plus, if you’re part of a book group, you can nab a discount. 10 King Street, Richmond, TW9 1ND  

The Pitshanger Bookshop

This friendly bookshop is very much a staple of the local Ealing community, with art and crafts inspired by the area and books by local historians available for purchase. 141 Pitshanger Lane, Ealing, W5 1RH

The Sheen Bookshop

The Kew Bookshop’s smaller sibling hosts regular readings, Q&As, and book launches. 375 Upper Richmond Road, East Sheen, SW14 7NX  

Did we get all your favourites? Let us know if we've missed any in the comments.

Last Updated 28 November 2018