Peter Harrington Chelsea ©Peter Harrington

London’s oldest bookshops

In defiance of our obsessive screen scrolling, bookshops have become cultural oases; sanctuaries that can expand the mind and let the imagination run wild – often with a good cup of coffee to hand.

This is certainly the case at Stanfords, which continues to satisfy wanderlust more than 165 years after it was founded. Its new premises in Covent Garden’s Mercer Street sees coffee and pastries served alongside atlases, globes, maps, guidebooks and travel literature. And, with a reputation as the world’s largest map retailer, having attracted custom from explorers such as Ranulph Fiennes, it has an on-demand print service that makes customised maps at the touch of a button.

Hatchards St Pancras International © Hatchards

Meanwhile, if you’re about to hop on a train and are keen to get lost in a good yarn, make a pitstop at the new Hatchards store at St Pancras International station. Its flagship on Piccadilly lays claim to being London’s oldest bookshop and, as you might expect from a Royal Warrant Holder, it’s a bookworm’s dream. Want a copy of any British book in print? How about a rare first edition or an out-of-print title? No problem. This month you can meet Philip Pullman and discuss The Secret Commonwealth (10 Oct).

Word on the Water is arguably London’s quirkiest bookshop. Owners Jonathan Privett and Paddy Screech host afternoons of jazz, poetry slams and readings on a Dutch barge moored on the canal in King’s Cross. A range of second-hand and new books can be found here, while authors have been known to sneak signed copies onto the shelves.

Word on the Water © Word on the Water

Finally, stop by Persephone Books for its beautifully bound ‘lost’ works by 20th-century female writers, as well as Peter Harrington, whose bookshops in Chelsea and Mayfair specialise in rare works – including real gems such as signed first editions from the Harry Potter series. |


Why not also visit Foyles Bookstore – another of London’s oldest bookshops

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