Colourful tomes, books with ‘that’ smell, snug armchairs and squat coffee tables. It’s the little things that make London’s bookshops so appealing. Here we look at the best bookshops in London to visit when staying in the sumptuous surroundings of The Montague on the Gardens.
Britain’s oldest surviving bookshop (having been founded by John Hatchard in 1797), Hatchards in Piccadilly is to bookshops what Ian McKellen is to the British acting scene – the grandfather of the industry. Holding three Royal Warrants, possessing approximately 100,000 books, and standing on a rather grand patch of Piccadilly (next to Fortnum & Mason), many customers visit simply to admire its displays of first and special editions.
Founded in 1903, when William and Gilbert Foyle failed their civil service exams and resold their textbooks, Foyles is still a family-owned company and remains one of its strongest players. This branch (on Charing Cross Road) is its flagship, holding over 200,000 titles (on four miles of shelf), a café, auditorium and a gallery within its walls. It’s also got a great atmosphere – in fact, the only people more passionate than the book-spine-scanning customers are the 80-or-so-staff that run the place!
Occupying a long, oak galleried room with an arched stained-glass window at the end, the Daunt store in Marylebone would win any bookstore beauty contest going. Always arranged by country (due to its foundation as a travel bookshop), no matter what the topic, the fact so many have the store’s bags slung over their shoulders is a sure sign of popularity.
Though the London Review Bookshop looks like it’s been there for centuries, it’s in fact only 14 years old. Already a heavyweight in the book world thanks to its hard-hitting reputation for hard-nosed analysis and steely prose, its 30,000 volumes are just a part of its attraction. And that’s because they’re almost trumped in their acclaim by the LRB’s events calendar, which entices some of the world’s biggest writers and thinkers.
A literary agency before it gained its bookshop, the unique qualities of Lutyens & Rubinstein don’t stop with its business acumen. If visitors notice an unusual stock beneath its dashing awning – especially an eclectic poetry section – that’s because every single one of its books has been selected upon outside recommendation. As well as flying book displays and pictures by Hugo Guinness adorning the walls, L&R has preserves scattered about the place (which are available to purchase), too. Making a visit to this bookshop, at the very least, adorably idiosyncratic.
If these bookshops in London have you dreaming of afternoons spent pouring over a novel, why not take a room in a Georgian townhouse like Montague on the Gardens – the perfect place to curl up with a good title.
Image Credits: Collection of Old Books © iStock/megalev. Foyles. Daunt. London Review of Books. Lutyens & Rubinstein.