My roommates and I had two lists for our plan of visiting at least one book shop every day for a week. One for the normal sights you’d expect tourists to visit in London - Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, all of the museums. The second list was bookshops. Sightseeing is great and all, but our book-loving minds forced the three of us to seek out the best bookstores we could find, unconsciously looking for that one perfect shop every bookworm secretly dreams about (spoiler: I think I found it).
Photo: Alexandra Kirr on Unsplash
Day 1: Waterstones
With two very jet-lagged friends, I decided to start with small and familiar. Waterstones is a chain bookstore that appears almost as frequently as coffee shops. It didn’t necessarily have that bookstore feel, especially with the school supplies section in the front, but it does the trick if you’re just looking to pop in quickly, grab a book, and go.
Day 2: Foyles
My roommate, claiming Foyles as the first favorite, says the sheer size of this bookstore gives it one of the top spots on the list. Also a chain bookstore, Foyles is Waterstones on steroids - five floors, easy to navigate, overwhelmingly packed with books (including the most elaborately decorated classic book covers I’ve ever seen), and a cafe, which almost feels like a secret reward for navigating through its five stories.
Day 3: Lutyens & Rubinstein
Lutyens & Rubins takes my number one spot because of our accidental discovery of it on the way to another destination. Covered by a striped awning which almost yanks you into its doors, you immediately face a long room covered in books from first editions to recent releases. I’m talking stacks leaning against shelves, which in turn have books wedged in as tightly as possible to fit all of them, reaching all the way up the lofted ceiling. And then the iron spiral staircase brings you down to a little reading room, equipped with reading chairs surroundings a table packed with the bookstore clerks favorites. They even sell tea for a pound and make it right in front of you. I stumbled upon another accidental discovery; the bookshelves are doors to other rooms. It ticked every box for me - small and quirky, with walls of books, tea and coffee, and that distinct, independent bookstore feel.
Day 4: The Notting Hill Bookshop
As the inspiration for the Julia Roberts movie Notting Hill, I mean, we had to go here. And for nostalgic movie purposes, it is my other roommates favorite. It is definitely worth going to, especially if you’re a fan of the movie and want some lovely magnets with Notting Hill quotes. They had a decent selection of books and very nice workers, but it is a small shop attracting a lot of attention, which definitely takes away from the hidden bookstore feeling. But hey, if Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant could fall in love there, it can’t be too bad, right?
Day 5: Oxfam
This was the only bookstore I bought a book from the entire week (the sheer willpower to restrain myself in the rest of the stores continues to blow my mind, even now). Aside from being a fantastic second-hand bookshop with some amazing finds, Oxfam is just a lovely nonprofit that cares about helping people. It’s fantastic if you’re on a budget, and you can trust that you’re giving to a good cause. Also, I bought a 15-pound book for a pound (only $1.50 after conversion) – try to beat that.
Day 6: Daunt Books
Daunt has the best floor plan by far, which sounds kind of ridiculous, but I have to applaud them. There was so much space to roam around, and each section of books was set back in a shallow alcove. It makes you feel like you just need to grab a book, sit down in one of the nooks, and read as much as you can before the workers get suspicious that you’re just trying to read the entire thing without paying for it. And there’s an equally large and inviting downstairs where you can bring said book to if you need to ease suspicion of your reading endeavors.
Day 7: Hatchards
Hatchards somehow managed to make us feel as if we weren’t in the busiest train station in London, which in itself is impressive. While there wasn’t a large selection of books, they had plenty of new releases, some of which I haven’t even seen in any other book stores yet, alongside several cover versions of the Harry Potter series, which was convenient considering Platform 9 ¾ was a three-minute walk away.
Every bookshop is marvelous. As long as books line the shelves and there’s a coffee shop within walking distance, you’ve got the potential for a perfect bookshop. However, I think I came as close as I can get to my perfect bookshop on Day 3, and I will be visiting again as soon as possible. A bookshop a day may be a ridiculous notion, but if you’re a bookworm, there’s no better way to explore a new city.
Meghan Klemm is 20 years old and majors in English and Psychology at Stonehill College, where there is no hill of stones on campus - at least none that she knows of. Her favorite movie is a tie between Dead Poet’s Society or The Grand Budapest Hoteland she cannot start her day until she’s downed an alarmingly large cup of coffee. She steps up for catchy music, interesting books, and a positive outlook on life, even when she doesn’t have time to drink her morning coffee.