London. You’d might as well call it Bookville. There are thousands of bookstores here, and dozens of them are located on or around Charing Cross Road. When the Borders chain burst on the scene a few years back it was a wake-up call for the British Waterstone’s chain. Books are big business, and that has been reflected in a welcome number of new bookstores. Foyles, with its enormous range, is the market leader.
GENERAL INTEREST BOOKS
History buffs, computer nerds, and thespians make regular pilgrimages to Blackwell’s. Spacious and well organized, the retailer also stocks foreign-language books as well as academic texts. 100 Charing Cross Road, Soho.
A quirky, labyrinthine, family-run business, Foyles has undergone a massive modernization program. You’ll find popular titles here in addition to new and unusual ones. Although it’s had a makeover, Foyles retains certain musty, Victorian charms, right down to the sometimes strange shelving organization. 113–119 Charing Cross Road, Soho.
Recommended Fodor’s Video
Hatchards remains a bibliophile’s dream. You can revel in its old-fashion charm while perusing the well-stocked shelves lining the winding stairs. The place has been in business for more than 200 years. Interesting book signings. 187 Piccadilly, St. James.
Browsing for books is a hedonistic leisure activity at Waterstone’s, the monster-size, six-story store by Piccadilly Circus. A sweeping staircase takes you up to the fifth-floor Studio Lounge, where until 10 p.m. you can sip a gin-and-tonic while browsing through stacks of books. There’s a gift shop, art gallery, coffee and juice bars, and the chairs are quite comfortable. 203–206 Piccadilly, St. James.
For books on tape, Talking Bookshop has a large selection of fiction, autobiography, and famous memoirs in a selection to suit both adults and children. It’s just behind Oxford Street. 11 Wigmore Street, Maryleborne.
Books for Children
In addition to kiddie books, the Children’s Book Centre carries cards and a mass of multimedia products. When you’re done with the books, head to the basement, where the toys are kept. 237 High St., Kensington.
The Cinema Bookshop has every angle of the industry covered. A comprehensive selection of old and new books can be found here, covering everything from the industry’s earliest efforts to its latest trends. 13 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury.
Wanna learn how to make Bulgarian rice, a Cornish pasty, or the perfect vindaloo? Books for Cooks is the place to go. The store has cookbooks from around the globe as well as a complete line up of celebrity chef editions. Occasional cooking demonstrations offer tempting samples. 4 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill.
Gay and Lesbian
In the heart of London’s gay community is Gay’s the Word, a hot spot for literary and leisure interests, with a good selection of new and old books, magazines, and videos. 66 Marchmont Street, Bloomsbury.
English readers love mysteries and crime stories, and Murder One has them in abundance. This establishment is a must for fans of traditional Agatha Christie novels and sci-fi stories. It has everything from crimes of passion to fiendish horror. 71–73 Charing Cross Road, Soho.
Patience is rewarded with real finds at Fisher & Sperr, which has fine secondhand books as well as new titles. The bay shop front displays prints of old London views, and inside is a section devoted to the history of the capital. 46 High Street, Highgate.
Stanfords, spread over several floors, specializes in travel books and maps. If you’ve been looking for multi-language travel books, this is the best place to go. 12 Long Acre, Covent Garden.
Expect the world at The Travel Bookshop, which is great for globetrotters and armchair travelers alike. Fans of Hugh Grant will recognize this cozy space from the actor’s movie, Notting Hill. 13 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill.
When the shop couldn’t pay the rent, the management of Foyles gave it room on the third floor of their building. Silver Moon stocks the largest choice of literature—from politics to romance—for women, by women. 113–119 Charing Cross Road, Soho.