I love books. For as long as I can remember, I’ve preferred the company of a good book to that of almost anything else in the world. I can spend an entire weekend lost in a book, in a bookstore, or in a great place to read. And lucky for me, London has an abundance of all of these. If you love books as much as I do, read on for A Lady in London’s guide to the best places for books in London.
Best Bookstores in London
London has no shortage of famous bookstores, and there are a few that are must-visits for literature lovers.
My favorite for aesthetics is Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street. Its skinny balconies overlooking two floors of books are not only inspirational, but also deliciously Instagrammable.
Also worth a mention is Foyles, one of London’s oldest and largest bookstores. With floor after floor of books on every subject imaginable, Foyles not only has something for everyone, but also a great ambiance and welcoming environment.
Another of the best places for books in London is Cecil Court. Located right in the heart of the city by Leicester Square, the little pedestrianized alley is lined on both sides by antiquarian bookstores selling hard-to-find first editions and all things rare books. It’s a great place to pick up something special or a gift for a book-loving friend.
Best Libraries in London
With the rise of paperbacks and eBooks, the role of libraries has declined in most people’s everyday lives. But I have great childhood memories of my local library, from being captivated by public book readings to feeling grown-up when I got my very first library card. Even now, there are some libraries in London that hold that same magic, whether for their collections or their amazingly cozy corners.
Perhaps the most famous of these is the British Library. Sleek and modern, the library is of interest both architecturally and for the depth of its shelves. But it also has great exhibitions, including a recent one on the Magna Carta in honor of this year’s 800th anniversary.
Across the street, the Wellcome Collection’s library is less known but more exciting from a reading perspective. And unlike the British Library, which practically requires a pound of flesh and a firstborn for entry beyond the exhibitions, the Wellcome Collection is easier to access and has a lovely reading room that I could lose myself in for days.
Best Places to Read in London
Speaking of reading rooms, when I’m seeking a good place to read a book in London, there’s no shortage of choice. In addition to the Wellcome Collection, I love reading in the parks. The Flower Walk walk in Hyde Park has great benches along the flowerbeds, as do the spectacular gardens in Holland Park.
When it’s too cold to read in the parks, I head indoors to London’s many great cafes to warm up with a hot cup of tea and a good dose of prose. My favorite cafe for reading in London is Candella Tea Room on Kensington Church Street, a pretty little cafe with colorful porcelain teapots and the feel of a comfy living room.
Best Literary Spots in London
Most avid readers are also avid writers, and I’m no exception. When I’m seeking inspiration, I find it in London’s famous literary spots. The best known of these is Bloomsbury, home of the 20th century group of the same name. Also in the neighborhood are the Charles Dickens Museum and many famous names in the city’s publishing industry.
Another great place for literary inspiration in London is Hampstead. The artsy north London neighborhood has been home to everyone from George Orwell to Robert Louis Stevenson, and poet John Keats is said to have written his famous poem “Ode to a Nightingale” in the house that is now a museum dedicated to his life. Even without the literary history, Hampstead’s village feel and sweet surroundings are enough to cure the worst case of writer’s block. Not that I have to worry about that. I think I’ll stop now and let you get on with your books…
How about you? What do you consider the best places for books in London?