Comics, esoterica, antiques: a guide to independent bookshops in London – Road.Travel

Comics, esoterica, antiques: a guide to independent bookshops in London

Road Trip Route. Buy a rare book into your collection., Browse new books., See the oldest bookshop in London..

From the oldest bookseller in England to a small literary shop on a river barge, ZIMA Guide has rounded up the most interesting bookshops in the British capital that won't leave anyone indifferent.

History and Culture. From: London

ZIMA Guide.

Travel Itinerary and Road Trip Route

Day 1: A bookish stroll through London

We suggest getting to know London through its bookstores, which hold many secrets and mysteries.

Daunt Books

Undoubtedly, Daunt Books is one of the most famous and popular bookshops in the city. There are several stores of this chain in London, but the best of them (and the most beautiful) is located on Marylebone High Street. You've probably already seen the place in pictures on Instagram: high glass ceiling, imposing oak shelving, staircase, emerald green upholstery and amazing books on the shelves. The best part is that all the books at Daunts Books are not arranged by author or genre, but by geography. But that doesn't mean that it sells only travel guides - the store offers a wide range of titles, from fiction to culinary literature.

Maggs Bros. Ltd. Rare Books and Manuscripts

A place that will thrill every bookseller is Maggs Bros Rare Books, an antique book and manuscript shop founded in 1853. Its building, which dates back to the 18th century, still features Gregorian fireplaces, wood-finished storerooms and a cast-iron kitchen. Over the decades, the shop has collaborated with some of the most renowned collectors and libraries. And its sales list includes two Gutenberg Bibles. It is there where you can find original works by Charles Dickens or John Stuart Mill. However, the store is now open by appointment only. Therefore, if you decide to come, be sure to let the staff know in advance.

London - Hatchards - Piccadilly

London's oldest bookshop opened its doors to visitors back in 1797. Just imagine: one of its first customers was Queen Charlotte, wife of George III. Today, the store is still located at the same address - in a historic building on Piccadilly Street - and bears the name of its founder, John Hatchard. It has three royal warrants at once and, several hundred years later, retains the unique charm of the Victorian era. The shop spans six floors - each with several small communicating rooms. Here you'll find a mix of limited editions, exclusively signed copies of books and bestsellers. There are also many specialised departments: historical, scientific, religious and gardening books, biographies, children's books, sports, business and art books.

Gosh! Comics

Usually the store attracts the attention of passers-by thanks to the brightly colored windows and the Batman sign above the entrance. Unsurprisingly, it's a popular destination for comics fans, conveniently divided into an eastern zone where you can find Japanese manga and a western zone. It also sells experimental and little-known works from smaller publishers that are published in single copies. And there are also scientific publications about comics (in case anyone is interested in the theory of this phenomenon).

Watkins Books

The place where all the occultists of the city gather is the Watkins Books store. It opened in 1897, but in 1901 it was moved to Cecil Court, where it still is. In the shop you can find esoteric books for all tastes.


Another bookstore that definitely deserves attention is Stanfords, founded in 1853 by Edward Stanford. It is the largest (and oldest) store of maps and travel books. At various times the store's customers have included Amy Johnson, Ernest Henry Shackleton, Florence Nightingale, Ranulph Fiennes, Bill Bryson, Michael Palin and even Sherlock Holmes. It was their maps that were used by the British Army and government during the war. And also the explorers Livingstone and Scott before their expeditions. Last year, after 118 years at its Long Acre address, the Stanfords flagship store moved to Covent Garden (look out for the address when you go shopping). Unlike the Daunt bookshop, it sells fewer books about life in different countries and significantly more maps and travel guides. But therein lies the beauty of the place - the thirst for new discoveries and incredible adventures that appears every time the visitor's gaze falls on a giant wall display of our unexplored world.

The Atlantis Bookshop

The independent bookshop Atlantis was founded in 1922 by "wizards for wizards", according to its official website. It specialises in magic and esoteric literature, for which it is often referred to as London's oldest occult shop. The place is now owned by Bali and Geraldine Beskin - mother and daughter. They are proud of the huge legacy that famous "wizards" such as Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune, William Butler Yeats, Israel Regardie and many others have left behind. Their store offers new books as well as used books, as well as extremely rare and antique copies. In addition, special paraphernalia for all sorts of magical rites are sold there: candles, incense, obsidian, mirrors and silver jewelry. By the way, the shop often holds thematic meetings with readers and even fortune-telling on Tarot cards.


The antiquarian bookseller is located on Great Russell Street directly opposite the British Museum. The shop was built in the 1730s and was refurbished in the 1850s by the Duke of Bedford - both the old fireplace and the original wooden floor have survived. It was also once the home of Randolph Caldecott, the celebrated 19th-century illustrator. It was in his honor in 1938 in the United States was established a gold medal, which is awarded annually to illustrators of the best American books for children. But Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers appeared on this site in 1969. In 50 years it has published more than 200 catalogues of English literature and history of the 17th and 19th centuries. In the shop you can find an antique collection of Dickens' works, cheques signed with the great writer's pen, first editions of his works and much more.

Gay's The Word

This unusual bookshop in the Bloomsbury area is one of only two dedicated LGBT bookshops in the UK and the only one in England. It opened in the late 1970s, when LGBT literature was not yet available everywhere, and has become an unspoken centre for the community. Today it still hosts regular meetings with writers, literary readings and discussion clubs. In 2006, a documentary was made about Gay's the Word bookshop and screened at the London LGBT Film Festival. And in 2017, a blue plaque was placed above the store in honour of Mark Ashton, an LGBT rights activist.

Word On The Water - The London Bookbarge

Word on the Water is one of the most unusual bookshops around the world. The floating second-hand bookshop on a 1920s Dutch barge was established in 2011. It is currently moored on the Regent's Canal in King's Cross. The shop sells both new and used books, among which you'll find classic and contemporary literature, bestsellers, as well as children's books and art and photography albums. The prices are not much lower than the original ones, so people come here not so much for the bargains but rather for the new experiences. At the back of the shop is a room that contains a real charcoal stove, a huge sofa with shabby cushions, and numerous piles of books. There's also a Victorian-era cash register that dispenses free sweets. The boat also hosts poetry and music evenings, with the audience seated on the grass directly in front of the makeshift stage.