Top Five London Bookshop Cafes

Books and cafes.  Two things I love.  Cafe in a bookshop even better.  Here are my favourite top five London bookshop cafes, plus some honourable mentions.

London’s Best Bookshop Cafes

Cafe’s to work in, cafes to read in and cafes to meet with friends. London’s bookshop cafes offer all these things.

London Review Bookshop Cake Shop

They had me at Cake Shop. Lunches are available but it is the cakes that lure me every time at the London Review Bookshop. It is is one of my absolute favourite London cafes full stop. Terry Glover presides over the cafe, where I have eaten many lunches and cakes and enjoyed every single one.  On the bookside the shelves are expertly curated with an appealing mix of the current and gems from the back catalogue.  This is my go to place for coffee when visiting the British Museum just over the road from Bury Place.

Cafe at Foyles

Bookish chat and the sound of keyboards being tapped are the soundtrack at the huge cafe at Foyles.  This is the bookshop cafe that you need to visit if you are in search of a place to work.  Every other table seems to be occupied by someone diligently tapping away at their laptop.  Look carefully and you may see me, tapping away.  There are polite notices on the table asking you to limit your stay to two hours and there are no plug sockets.  Food and drink wise the selection is good and if you fancy a glass of wine or a beer instead of coffee then the cafe is licensed.

  • Cafe at Foyles
  • 107 Charing Cross Road WC2H 0DT
  • Open daily: until 8pm (6pm on Sunday)

Swans Bar at Maison Assouline

coffee cup with gold spoon with a leaf at Maison Assouline Piccadilly
Possible the most beautiful coffee spoon ever at Maison Assouline

Maison Assouline is a temple to the coffee table book.  It is housed in a perfect cube of room on Piccadilly designed by Lutyens and is devoted to selling the luxury books produced by Assouline.  I concede that I have never actually bought a book in Maison Assouline as the luxury books come with luxury price tags.  It is also home to Swans Bar which will serve coffee accessorised with the most beautiful spoon I have ever seen, in the evening they serve cocktails.  Cocktails and books … perfection.

Waterstones Piccadilly

Waterstones Piccadilly is Europe’s biggest bookshop, it also has three cafes and a cocktail bar.  Downstairs in the basement is Emberton’s Cafe open until 7pm every evening it has comfy chairs and tables.  Perfect both for curling up with a good book or tapping away on a laptop.  I like the cakes here but find the lunch offering a bit dull. On the ground floor mezzanine  you will find the Jermyn Street Gallery Café, this is my least favourite of the Waterstones watering holes, just a bit noisy and not very bookish.  Up on the top floor there is the 5th View Bar & Restaurant.  As the name implies you get great rooftop views looking down to Westminster, this is the place to come for lunch with a friend or cocktails.  Happy hour runs from 5pm -8pm when the cocktails are 2 for 1, Mr CW and I have spent many happy hours on Waterstones 5th floor.

Books for Cooks Test Kitchen

If there was a prize for the best smelling book shop in London it would go to Books for Cooks. Tucked away at the back is a test kitchen where recipes from the books that crowd the shelves are tested. It is the perfect spot for a bookish lunch. Unsurprisingly Books for Cooks specialises in books about food. Don’t try visiting on a Sunday or Monday as the shop is shut.  Books for Cooks opens at midday but queues start before that for a table for their reasonably priced no choice menu that changes daily.  They keep on serving until all the food has gone.

One extra super cute bookshop boat with no cafe

So if it has no cafe why am I mentioning it here? Just because …

Word on the Water

Word on the Water book barge
Word on the Water Bookbarge

OK so this is a gratuitous mention of one of my favourite bookshops in the whole wide world.  Word on the Water is a bookshop on a boat and it moves.  There is no cafe.  BUT it does cry out for a picnic after a browse, comparing your bookish finds with your companions.  So sort of, a do it yourself bookshop cafe.  

If you like a cultural cafe check out my guide to London’s Church Cafes and (my specialist subject) London Museum Cafes. For bookish inspiration check out my Best Books for 2020 and 2020 Summer Reading or if you seeking inspiration for holiday reading how about Books to Read in the ….. Netherlands, Germany, California or simply books to inspire wanderlust.

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39 Comments

  1. April 24, 2017 / 4:31 pm

    Ohh! They look like fantastic book shops. I do love our Waterstones.
    #MMBC

  2. April 24, 2017 / 7:19 pm

    I’d love to live close to any of those stores. There are a couple of warehouse bargain book stores close to me which I occasionally peruse, Nothing like your glamorous choices.

    • April 24, 2017 / 7:21 pm

      I love a bargain book warehouse too

  3. April 27, 2017 / 9:16 am

    How cute! Love the book barge! And that massive map carpet is fun! Love bookshops and libraries! #FarawayFiles

    • April 27, 2017 / 3:33 pm

      Hard to resist a book, but a book with a map impossible to refuse

    • April 27, 2017 / 3:34 pm

      Now I need time to read the pile of unread books, maybe a long train journey is called for

  4. April 27, 2017 / 9:46 am

    I’ve only been to Waterstones:) #farawayfiles

  5. April 27, 2017 / 1:32 pm

    I think I’m in love with Word on the Water – how cool is that! Now THAT is a unique book store! I would definitely see spending much time (and money) in Daunt Books as well. Great list! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles – Erin

    • April 27, 2017 / 3:36 pm

      My spending on books did fall when I no longer lived round the corner from Daunt!

  6. jphowze
    April 27, 2017 / 2:30 pm

    You mean they have books and not just cocktails at Maison Assouline? 😉 Seriously, a great list. I could spend hours browsing at any of these places. #FarawayFiles

    • April 27, 2017 / 3:37 pm

      Books AND cocktails, what could be finer?

  7. Clare Thomson
    April 27, 2017 / 2:36 pm

    I can happily spend hours in a bookshop. I really like Hatchard’s on Piccadilly and that Waterstone’s is my favourite too. I love Daunts and I must search out Word on the Water. Great post for #FarawayFiles

    • April 27, 2017 / 3:38 pm

      Finding Words on the Water involves a stroll along the canal, so win win!

  8. April 27, 2017 / 7:09 pm

    Ooh Words on the Water sounds right up my alley… or canal! Love to check it out. I also like the Foyles near Tottenham Court Road – free wifi in cafe! #farawayfiles

  9. Wherejogoes
    April 27, 2017 / 7:34 pm

    I love Stanfords – there is something about maps that spark the imagination. We went this Easter to Livraria Lello in Porto which is a bookshop treat. No matter how kindles take over the world there is something about turning a page, stepping into a bookshop that can’t be beaten. #FarawayFiles

    • April 27, 2017 / 7:38 pm

      Quite agree, although not having to devote half my holiday luggage to books is an upside of the kindle

      • Wherejogoes
        April 27, 2017 / 7:43 pm

        Yes goodness I remember taking 14 books on holiday! One for each day! The kindle definitely lightens the load I’d hate to run out of reading material!

          • Wherejogoes
            April 27, 2017 / 7:44 pm

            You are a kindred spirit Catherine – we should go on holiday with a pile of books and not speak to eachother all day!

          • April 27, 2017 / 7:52 pm

            Sounds like heaven, are we allowed wine with dinner?

          • Wherejogoes
            April 27, 2017 / 8:02 pm

            Oh yes it’s obligatory!

  10. April 29, 2017 / 4:10 pm

    This is awesome! I love the idea of Daunt Books and am definitely saving this for my next London visit! #farawayfiles

    • April 29, 2017 / 8:06 pm

      Daunt is fabulous and Marylebone High Street has lots of other interesting shops too!

  11. May 4, 2017 / 8:39 pm

    Daunts is definitly one of me favourites too. I keep meaning to visit Word on the Water and I love Stanfords. Have you visited Skoob Books in the Brunswick Centre, Bloomsbury? If not I recommend it, if you love second hand book shops you will adore this, its overflowing

    • May 4, 2017 / 8:44 pm

      Not been to Skoob but will the next time I’m in that neck of the woods, also want to visit Persephone Books on Lambs Conduit Street which is close

  12. May 8, 2017 / 12:23 am

    Those are some handsome bookshops. Not been to Daunts before, so I will have to keep my eye out next time I’m down in the capital. I love our Waterstones, even if it’s tricky to navigate with the buggy, and my 4yo loves it too, a love I hope to get burning in years to come.

    • May 8, 2017 / 7:44 am

      Buggy navigation is a nightmare, good luck with passing on your love of books

  13. July 4, 2017 / 1:34 pm

    I love browsing book stores too! If you are ever in the Netherlands, there is a great book store in an old church down in Maastricht. #citytripping

    • July 4, 2017 / 1:47 pm

      We are heading to the Netherlands this summer, will put it on the list!

  14. July 4, 2017 / 5:01 pm

    I love ALL of these. Just recently discovered Maison Assouline but all of them really allow you to discover books and browse. You just can’t get that online! #citytripping

  15. Ruth
    July 4, 2017 / 5:46 pm

    I love libraries too! It is so sad that here in the United States libraries and book shops are not that popular (at least, that is my feeling, more and more close each year). In Europe, my mind spins every time I see the huge selection of books and related merchandise. I do not want to leave those places.

  16. July 6, 2017 / 9:29 am

    I’ve always had a soft spot for Hatchards, simply because of ts age. Daunt Books looks great, but a map/ travel bookshop would be interesting too – never come across that one, somehow.

  17. July 7, 2017 / 2:32 pm

    I love Daunt Books and Stanfords! Daunt Books is one I go to often – Chelsea or Holland Park – since I love that they sort books by country – I’ve found so many great novels that way. Word on the Water sounds fab too, I’ll keep an eye out for the barge next time I’m in that area.

  18. December 9, 2017 / 1:21 pm

    I’ve just discovered your lovely blog. And isn’t Daunts fab? I used to go there with my dad as he and I are those types who keep buying books to add to the stack we’ve yet to read! And the big Waterstones is a treat too. The hours I’ve spent in there.

    Sadly so many independent book stores are closing, but one of my favourites is Watkins in Cecil Court off Charing Cross Road. It’s a New Age/esoteric store so it may not be everyone’s thing, but it’s a great place. I also love the European Bookshop in Soho.

    Meanwhile, have you ever tried Toppings in Ely? That’s my dad’s new nearest book heaven.

    • December 9, 2017 / 9:05 pm

      Thank you! I’ve not been to Ely for many years, time to revisit and check out Toppings!

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