Cultural Wednesday’s Top Five London Bookshops

Books, I love books.  How to narrow down to just top five London bookshops? Walking past a bookshop is a wrench, if I do then it means that I must be in a tearing hurry.  Whilst I can find joy in almost anywhere that sells books, I do have favourites.  Here are my top five London bookshops … well there are six but one of them is really my favourite bookish cocktail bar.

Daunt Books

Top Five London Bookshops

Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street used to be my local bookshop.  Every week I would prowl its shelves seeking my next companion.  Daunt is a stunningly beautiful shop, built round a central atrium with a large window at one end.  In the very beginning Daunt was a travel bookshop but sold so much more than guidebooks, this is the place to come to get buy the literature, the cook books, the history books about your chosen destination.  Now Daunt stocks a beautifully curated selection of books on a wide range of topics.  My favourite book that I have ever bought at Daunt? The File on H by Ismail Kadare bought when I was toying with visiting Albania. 

Word on the Water

Word on the Water book barge

Word on the Water is a bookshop with a no fixed address.  She is on a 100 year old Dutch barge and chugs up and down the Regents Canal.  You can check where to find her on her Facebook page. Word on the Water stocks an eclectic selection of secondhand and new books.  and can be visited at which ever part of the tow path she moors up. I found her just by Granary Square behind Kings Cross Station.  Browsing through secondhand books is a joy.  Sometimes you see old friends and remember the happy times you spent together, other times you look at the old covers and typefaces and realise that fashion even reaches into the world of books.  Best of all is when you see a title that you have wanted to read for ages, I found THE DIARY OF A NOBODY by George and Weedon Grosssmith.

Books for Cooks

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. You can find books for cooks in Blenheim Cresent in Notting Hill.



Stanfords in London’s Covent Garden is another travel book shop but unlike Daunt it specialises in maps.  Once I have decided on a holiday destination, Standfords is my first stop to purchase a proper folding map, even the floors have maps on them.  Nowadays Stanfords sells guidebooks and all manner of travel related books.  If you love maps and books then head for Stanfords.

London Review Bookshop

My perfect kind of a shop sells books and cake.  The best book and cake shop that I know is the London Review Bookshop.  The bookshelves are well stocked on a wide range of subjects.  Terry Glover presides over the cake shop, tarts and things are available for lunch but the cake is thing to come for.  I confess that I find the cafes at British Museum to be unappealing but no matter when the London Review Bookshop is just a skip away in Bury Place.

Maison Assouline

top five London bookshops

Maison Assouline is a temple to the coffee table book.  It is housed in a perfect cube of room on Piccadilly 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.

These are my top five London independent bookshops, which are yours?

If you are seeking booking 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.



  1. April 24, 2017 / 4:31 pm

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

  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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