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Discover the 5 best bookshops in London

28 October 2020

London has a range of beautiful shops across the city, but nothing quite compares to the variety of bookshops! To guide you, UCL student Isabelle Osborne is here with her five favourite places to buy the best reads.

Skoob Books - Discover the 5 best bookshops in London

As an English literature student, it comes as no surprise that bookshop hopping is something I love to do in London, not only because I need to source academic books but also because I adore reading and love browsing the shelves. 

This blog covers my five favourite book shops in close proximity to UCL and the surrounding central London area; including tips on how best to get there from campus, which shop to go to, and some of my favourite purchases.

1. Skoob Books

Situated in the Brunswick complex, Skoob Books offers top quality secondhand books in just about every field you can think of. 

They have sections on fiction, politics, linguistics, history, race, self-help and more. 

I found a book on the relationship between gender and language, which is one of my areas of linguistic interest. I also discovered a book by Bill Bryson on the English language and why it has become the most spoken language in the world; the total cost was £8! 

Another pro of this wonderful shop is that they are offering a student discount for the whole of October, which you should definitely take advantage of.

Getting there: Leave UCL and walk towards Gordon Square, before walking past Tavistock square. Continue down Tavistock Place before turning right onto Marchmont Street, and you will see the Brunswick on your left. Due to COVID-19, the shop has temporarily relocated from its usual store; it can now be found opposite the Starbucks in the main complex.

2. Judd Books

Located just a stone's throw away from Russell Square on Judd street, this little gem of a shop has a huge array of books on offer. 

The shop is full of second-hand and discounted new books in all subject areas, with bargain tables outside. 

If you’re looking for a specific selection of books in relation to your course, this is the one for you, as both floors house topics such as art, film, media, architecture and many more. There’s even a whole section dedicated just to witchcraft. 

The prices are amazing, and the shelves are so tall you need a stool to reach the top - you’ll be spoilt for choice!

Getting there: Leave UCL and walk towards Gordon Square, before walking past Tavistock square. Continue down Tavistock Place before turning left onto Marchmont Street, and you will find the shop on the right side of the road.

3. The Notting Hill Bookshop

The Notting Hill Bookshop inspired the 1999 romantic comedy film starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, Notting Hill, is situated minutes away from the vibrant Portobello Market. 

This bookshop is a must visit for any new Londoner, not only because it’s a quaint, intimate shop that sells a vast array of books, but also because of the colourful picturesque buildings that surround it. 

This shop is perfect if you're looking for something a little more special; they sell beautiful gift editions, cute pocket hardbacks, satin-bound classics and golden gilt leather-bounds. 

While I didn't purchase any books on my last visit, I did buy a gorgeous yellow notebook stamped with the Notting Hill crest, and two postcards with sketches of the shop that can be found on my wall at home. It’s also the best place for taking iconic photos for instagram!

Getting there: Take the Hammersmith & City line from Euston Square to Ladbroke Grove. Walk up Ladbroke Grove street and take a left onto Blenheim Crescent; the shop is a few minutes up the street on your right.

4. Daunt Books

Daunt Books is an independent publisher located in the heart of Marylebone, initially specialising in travel books before expanding its repertoire to house books of all genres. 

This is probably the most aesthetic bookshop on this list; its original Edwardian decor and oak shelves makes the browsing experience all the more enjoyable. 

It caters to all reading desires - whether you’re looking for a bestseller, old classic or just want to browse the shelves, this is the perfect place to do so. When I last visited, my friend bought a stunning edition of Daphne du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’.

Getting there: Take the 18, 30 or 205 bus from the nearest bus stop on Euston road and get off at Harley Street. Alternatively, you can walk from campus up Euston Road until you reach Harley Street. Turn left onto Marylebone High Street, and follow the road until you see the shop on the right side of the road. 

5. Foyles

Last but certainly not least, Foyles is the largest bookshop on this list. Situated on Charing Cross Road, the bookshop has five fully-stocked floors, and sells just about any book you can think of. 

I admire Foyles for its commitment to hot-off-the-press publishing, as I often see the newest releases on the shelves here before I hear about the hype on social media and from my friends. 

I recommend taking a visit if you’re looking for a place to grab a cake or hot beverage prior to or after shopping; the cafe sells fantastic hot chocolate, and is a great place to read your newest purchase or do some studying. They also offer 10% off for students all year round - can it get any better?

Getting there: Take the Northern line from Warren Street tube station (five minutes up Euston road from UCL), and get off at Tottenham Court Road station, before walking up Charing Cross Road until you see Foyles on your right.

Final tips for book shopping

  • Always bring your Student ID card: The majority of these stores, and others around London, offer student discounts and will ask for proof at the till. Don’t forget your card if you want to save a few extra pennies!
  • Take a separate bag for purchases: I always get caught out and end up carrying the books either under my arm or stuffing them in my already-full rucksack, and that isn't any way to treat a brand new book. Take a canvas bag or spare shopping bag so you don’t get arm ache carrying all your new books back home!

Happy bookshop hopping!

Image credit: Skoob Books by Bob Walker licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0