The Best Independent Bookshops In London

Explore London's literary treasures

On a rainy day, there’s nothing better than whiling away the hours in a cosy bookshop. Luckily London is home to some of the most unconventional out there. And, thanks to the unruly beast that is TikTok (or, more specifically, #BookTok), it looks like they’re here to stay. The Guardian recently reported that, despite a ‘brutal year’ for the UK high street, independent bookshops have experienced a boom in renewed interest, with 1,072 of them dotted across the UK, up for the sixth consecutive year (and an increase from 867 in 2016). In London, start in Camden, Hackney or Richmond – the city’s official independent bookshop hotspots, according to Barratt London. Time to celebrate World Book Day 2023 in the best way: from a literary shop on water (yes, really) to the oldest in the capital, here are the best independent bookshops in London.

The Best Independent Bookshops in London

Daunt Books, Marylebone

With nine enchanting stores located across the UK, Daunt Books has established itself as a star on the independent bookstore scene. Specialising in travel literature, each store is as character-full and quaint as the other, but the original Edwardian branch in Marylebone is particularly striking – and popular on Instagram – featuring imposing oak galleries, skylights, and the store’s trademark emerald green throughout. Arranged by country rather than genre or alphabet, you’ll find something unexpected if you spend a morning perusing the branch’s beautiful portfolio of books, then stroll the pretty Marylebone Village streets, or head over to The Ivy Cafe Marylebone for a spot of tea whilst you dive into your new book. dauntbooks.co.uk


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BookBar, Highbury

Books and wine? Don’t mind if we do. With its own line of merchandise, ‘Shelf Medicate Prescriptions’, author events and a popular book club, BookBar is expanding the definition of bookshop into a whole experience that’s definitely worth the trip. Peruse the pretty shelves, or sit outside with a glass of wine when the sun shines, cracking the spine of your next favourite book. bookbaruk.com


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Gay’s the Word, Saint Pancras

Branded ‘London’s independent LGBT book specialist’, Gay’s the Word is a quirky Saint Pancras bookstore dedicated to providing Londoners and beyond with LGBT+ books and film. More than just your average bookshop, the one-of-a-kind retailer – established in the 70s – has also become a focal point for the LGBT+ community with frequent book readings, signings and weekly discussion groups. gaystheword.co.uk

V&A Bookshop, Knightsbridge

For those who look for their fashion fix within the pages of a book, the V&A is your go-to. Nestled within the museum lies an arts and style-centric bookstore where you’ll find a range of beautiful publications spanning textiles, design, crafts, theatre and more, plus retrospectives of the museum’s most memorable and leading exhibitions including Mary Quant and Tim Walker: Wonderful Things. vam.ac.uk

Backstory, Balham

In early 2022, Tom Rowley took to Twitter to declare he was done with journalism and ready to pursue his lifelong dream of opening an independent bookshop. Enter: Backstory. Brand new and super cute, this independent bookshop in Balham hosts events and talks and is home to a non-fiction book club. backstory.london


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Hatchards, Piccadilly

As independent bookshops in London go, Hatchards is undoubtedly deserving of a place on the must-visit list; it’s London’s oldest bookshop and a holder of three royal warrants. Established by publisher John Hatchard in 1797, the store still retains its unique charm and character today, with its regal deep green exterior, bygone windows and interior memorabilia. You’ll find a wide range of reading material here, from limited edition tales of Peter Rabbit to exclusively signed copies of Rihanna’s visual autobiography. hatchards.co.uk


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Word on the Water, Kings Cross

One of the quirkiest independent bookshops in London, Word on the Water sells an assortment of publications – both new and pre-loved, from classics to contemporary – from the cosy confines of its 100-year-old Dutch barge. As if it couldn’t get any more endearing, the eccentric store also hosts a range of creative literary events, from jazz and poetry readings to book launches and live music on the roof. Check opening times via facebook.com before visiting.


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The Alligator’s Mouth, Richmond

Tear the little ones away from technology and treat them to an afternoon at The Alligator’s Mouth. The delightful children’s bookstore – hailed by Jaqueline Wilson as ‘bright and colourful and friendly’ – is full to the brim with captivating storybooks (including treasured tales like The Tiger Who Came to Tea) and hosts regular author and illustrator visits. Previous guest appearances include author of the How to Train Your Dragon series Cressida Cowell, illustrator Chris Riddell and Jaqueline Wilson herself, to name but a few. thealligatorsmouth.co.uk

Featured image: Daunt Books, Marylebone