London is one of the most bookish cities in the world, there’s no shortage of things you can get up to if you’re a fan of quaint bookshops, book cafes, literary museums and theatre! And that’s only scratching the surface. Home to Dickens, Orwell, Wiliam Blake and countless other literary greats, the historical sites alone could fill a week. It’s safe to say that bookish London is our speciality so here are our best-loved literary places and bookish themed spaces in and around London, our favourite city and home. Get ready to be enchanted by this literary London four day itinerary plus bookish day trips.
Day One – Leicester Square, Covent Garden
Wandering the Leicester Square and Covent Garden area is an ideal way to get maximum bookish fun within a small area. There’s seriously so much to see here along with being one of the most vibrant spots in the city. You can mix and match which order you want to do these things in but I recommend starting in Covent Garden and ending at Leicester Square as there is plenty to get up to in the evening after.
Roam Covent Garden – Check out our Bookish Guide to Covent Garden for everything you can do here, (there’s a lot) ranging from independent bookshops to Alice in Wonderland and Moomin souvenirs, and even a library members club where you can get literary cocktails and drink amongst the books! It’s also a really pretty area so it’s perfect for colourful photos! Wander the market before heading to nearby Cecil Court. Consider lunch at Rules, the oldest restaurant in London where many notable authors have dined and tea or cocktails in gorgeous bookish surroundings at Teatulia.
Discover Cecil Court – One of the most charming things you can get up to in the Covent Garden area is Cecil Court, London’s tucked away book street! It’s full of specialist bookshops, bookish souvenirs, secondhand bookshops and the loveliest shop owners you’ll ever meet.
Wander Charing Cross Road – A visit to Charing Cross Road could keep you busy for hours, most famously for bookish folk is Foyles, the five-floor bookstore with impeccable taste in books. They also a cafe with hot food and delicious desserts and their carrot cake is to die for! They hold lots of author events and book talks to check their website for more details. While you’re on Charing Cross Road, pay a visit to The House of Spells for the largest selection of Harry Potter merchandise in London! From jewellery to clothes, figures and books it’s all here. It’s also a beautiful shop and worth having a look either way! Here’s our guide for more Harry Potter Souvenirs in London.
Head to Leicester Square – Visit the hidden Second Shelf Books, one of the cutest bookshops selling rare books written by women, if you’d like to know more you can read our article all about this lovely shop. You’re also in the theatre district so if you want to finish the night with a show then go ahead, you can even explore China Town and chow down on some delicious East Asian desserts!
Tip: There are also some wonderful Japanese restaurants in the area so if you’re as obsessed with ramen or katsu curry as we are then you’re in the right place.
Day Two – Marylebone, The British Library, and Regent’s Canal
From one of the world’s most famous libraries to a bookish barge, this a day that completely epitomises quirky bookish London. Start at Baker Street Station and pay a visit to the Sherlock Holmes Statue right outside.
Discover the Sherlock Holmes Museum – Visit 221b Baker Street and get lost in the first museum dedicated to Sherlock Holmes related stuff in the world. It’s full of fun items from the films and tv shows as well as antiquarian copies of the books.
Visit Daunt Books – Walk ten minutes to Marylebone High Street to find another one of the most photographed bookshops in London, Daunt Books with its grand staircase and gallery plus an amazing selection of books. Books are separated by country and you’ll find translated literature next to the travel guides. We love Daunt Books! Learn more about Daunt in our Independent Bookshops in London guide.
Tip: Stop off on pretty Marylebone Lane for a coffee!
Browse The British Library – Walk 30 minutes or take a 20- minute bus to The British Library! You probably already have this on your list as a bookish person in London but make sure you stop by, browse and grab a coffee at their cafe, The wealth of literature here is just…astounding. It’s the largest library in the world with collections from around the world. Seeing those first edition books and manuscripts in the flesh. Not just books, you’ll be able to see old newspapers, hear sound recordings, patents, prints and drawings, maps and manuscripts.
Take a Photo at Platform 9/34 – Since you’re so near to King Cross Station (an eight-minute walk), you’ll just have to go visit the famous spot where Harry enters the wizarding world for the first time! There’s also a little souvenir shop you can spend your money in. There’s a usually a massive line waiting to get a photo with the luggage so if you’re ok with that maybe grab a coffee to stand with, there are plenty of cafes and food places in the station.
Find Word on the Water – Books on a barge on Regent’s Canal! Just six minutes walk from Kings Cross Station, you have to go book shopping on this picturesque canal boat with second-hand books both in and outside, a lovely dog, and woodburning stove.
Tip: From here, you’re in a great location to spend the evening in Camden Town, a hub for alternative lifestyle and live music. Or go to one of the great nearby restaurants, Dishoom for the most glorious Indian cuisine with a stunning interior or The Temple of Seitan for epic vegan food. If you’re not after nightlife, the Everyman cinema is also nearby!
Day Three – Holborn & South Bank
Get ready for a day of culture and head towards south London, you’ve got everything from museums to theatre, food and bookstores here.
Visit the Charles Dickens Museum – Visit the house of the man himself, if you love Dickens then this museum is a must-do in London. There’s a store attached with books and trinkets related to Dickens and Dickensian London as well as a cafe. Inside, you’ll be able to explore the whole house and learn about Dickens and his life.
Tip: If you’re interested in learning more about Dickens, you can take this handy London Dickens Walking Tour.
Shop at Persephone Books & Gays the Word – Two of our favourite independent bookshops in London are super close to each other and near the two museums above, a perfect day in London for book lovers! Persephone Books is a charming store and possibly one of the most photographed storefronts in London with its quaint grey facade, they sell out of print female writers who didn’t get the attention the deserved as well as a range of bookish souvenirs and paper products. Gay’s the Word specialises in queer fiction and the range of literature there, you just wouldn’t believe. They’re really friendly and host loads of interesting events in the store.
Have a drink and a pub dinner at The George Inn – Not far from Shakespeares Globe, The George Inn has been frequented by such esteemed patrons as Charles Dickens and Shakespeare. It’s also a great way to make sure you get a London pub experience under your belt! Grab a drink and something to eat and know you’re sitting in a galleried national trust landmark.
See a play at the Globe – Can you really say you visited Bookish London without visiting Shakespeare’s Globe? There’s always something on and watching a play while looking up at the stars is really special. You can cheap yard tickets, if you’re okay to stand, making this one of the more budget-friendly theatre experiences in London! You can also visit the nearby Southbank Centre as they hold lots of evening book talks and creative evening events.
Day Four – Hampstead Heath
Ah, Hampstead! As Zadie Smith said, it’s: ’where Keats walked and Jarman fucked, where Orwell exercised his weakened lungs and Constable never failed to find something holy.’ Hampstead Village honestly doesn’t feel like the rest of London. Much like Richmond, there’s a sense of peace and tranquillity and you can easily get lost in the narrow streets and historical buildings.
Wander along the pretty eighteenth-century promenade Church Row for literary history and Flask Walk: a tiny cobbled street with restaurants, antiques, a secondhand bookshop, and florists.
There’s a wealth of literary history to explore in Hamstead. You can pay a visit to the romantic poet Keats’ house, go plaque hunting for the many famous writers who’ve lived there, like Daphne Du Maurier who lived there for two years (her father and grandfather are buried in the local church), George Orwell, and Aldous Huxley. Not to mention, plaques for history’s other greats like Anna and Sigmund Freud can be found.
Hampstead was even featured in novels like Dracula:
“Lucy lies in the tomb of her kin, a lordly death house in a lonely churchyard, away from teeming London, where the air is fresh, and the sun rises over Hampstead Hill, and where wild flowers grow of their own accord.”
Hampstead also has a number of bookshops, charity shops like the Oxfam Bookshop, vintage stores, handmade craft spots, cafes, and is a hub for antique shopping.
Plus if you want a beautiful walk and one of the best views over London, stroll up Hampstead Heath, 790 acres of park, fields, and woodland.
* To get there, take the northern line to Hampstead Station.
Tip: If you have time, pay a visit to Highgate Cemetry where you can visit graves of famous writers like George Eliot, Christina Rosetti, and Douglas Adams. It’s also beautifully romantic in a gothic sort of way. Check this guide for other dark and unusual things to do in London.
Day Five and Six – Take a Literary Day Trip
There are so many amazing literary day trips you can take from London, many of these places were featured in our Literary Cities Guide if you want to find out more, Here are some of our favourite literary day trips from London!
Harry Potter Studios – If you’re a Harry Potter fan then this is a no-brainer, the studios are so much fun and highly interactive. You can find out how to get there and buy tickets in our Harry Potter Guide to London. Or you can book this handy coach and studio ticket combo.
Downton Abbey – If you love Downton Abbey or just gorgeous stately homes, then head over to Highclere Castle where the series was filmed! It’s a couple of hours outside London and so worth it. Here’s an easy Downton Abbey Tour to get you there (plus you see Downton Village, Church, and Yew Tree Farm) since it’s quite difficult by public transport.
Find out more books like Downton Abbey in our list of Books for Downton Abbey Lovers! Or if you’re a big fan of period homes then you can hop over to Blenheim Palace in Oxford which is another beautiful day out! Here’s our Guide to Blenheim Palace.
Stratford-upon-Avon – Birthplace of arguably the world’s greatest poet and playwright, William Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon is a delightfully maintained tutor town full of historic pubs and shops. It’s so wonderfully fitting that the town where Shakespeare was born is one that has remained looking so Shakespearean at its heart. It’s also the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), so when you visit Stratford make sure to check what’s on and go see a play. Get tickets to Shakespeare’s family home and birthplace.
Bath – Hopping on the train to Bath from London is so easy and you can learn all about Jane Austen and go book shopping! Jane Austen lived in Bath for a while so you can see her house, visit the Jane Austen Museum and find all those places mentioned in the novels. We listed all the great Independent Bookshops in Bath to help you on your way. We also highly recommend Bath for lovely cafes and excellent vintage shopping!
Oxford – Home of the world’s most famous and beloved university, Oxford is a historic town of gorgeous stone buildings and welcoming locals. Oxford also has ties to so many of our most treasured writers, most famously Philip Pullman and J.R.R. Tolkein. Exploring the university buildings and going book shopping for a day in Oxford is truly one of life’s great pleasures.
Tip: Short on time? See Oxford, Stratford, and the Cotswolds from London with this handy tour.
Bookish Places to Stay in London
The Georgian House Hotel’s Wizarding Chambers – We loved staying here, it’s set up like Harry Potter’s room in the films and even if you’re not a fan the aesthetic is just amazing. They also offer a wizarding breakfast, wizarding cocktails, and afternoon tea. They even got a private cinema inside where, of course, you can watch Harry Potter amongst other things! It’s also one of the more reasonably priced boutique hotels in London. Book Here.
Hazlitt’s – A boutique hotel in the heart of Soho, Hazlitt’s provokes the kind of atmosphere, and provides the kind of service and experience, that the gentry of the 17th and 18th centuries would have enjoyed in London. Staying here is like acting a major role in a period drama, with all the gallant luxury you could want. Book Here.
The Bloomsbury Hotel – A gorgeous and luxury Westminster hotel in the middle of London, which is just a short walk from Covent Garden (therefore exactly where you want to be for your literary itinerary), The Bloomsbury Hotel is a neo-Georgian delicacy of intensely beautiful architecture, and it is just steps away from all of the city’s best theatres and bookshops.
London for Literary Foodies
If you want your refreshments to be bookish themes too, you’ll have no problem in London, here are some of the best places to get coffee and afternoon tea.
5 London Literary Afternoon Teas:
If you have time to squeeze in one of these gorgeous literary afternoon teas then I wouldn’t hesitate! The hardest part is choosing which one.
Five London Book Cafes:
Many of the bookshops in London will also a cafe but if you want a specifically bookish cafe to rest at, look no further.
Phlox Books – Books, booze, coffee, and literary events, what more do you need?
Tea House Theatre – A romantic little place with amazing cakes, a fireplace, books and tables on a stage. A real hidden gem.
Halcyon Books – A wide selection of used and new books plus coffee to drink while you browse.
The London Review Cake Shop – The London Review of Books’s very own tea, coffee and cake shop. As you might realise from the title, the cakes are really special here.
Books for Cooks – an adorable bookshop and cafe that focuses on cookbooks in Notting Hill, it’s a foodie heaven! But it’s also gorgeous inside so well worth a visit even if you don’t fancy buying a cookbook!
Five London Literary Pubs:
Marquis of Granby – A historic pub with a great selection of food. It was a favourite of poets Dylan Thomas and T.S Eliot.
The Lamb – Found in Bloomsbury, one of the literary hotspots of London thanks to the infamous Bloomsbury Set who frequented the pub along with Dickens and Virginia Woolf.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – One of the most famous pubs in the city with previous guests such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens (yes, he frequented a lot of London pubs). This quirky pub in a listed building has hosted so many famous writers it’d be impossible to list them all. Plus there’s an open fire which is always great.
The Grapes – This pub ( owned by Sir Ian McKellen!) features in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock books which is pretty amazing. Read Ian McKellen’s history of the pub.
Mr Fogg’s Tavern – A Covent Garden tavern with Mr Fogg’s Gin Bar next door named after the character in the Jules Verne novel Around the World in 80 Days. The interior is themed, the drinks are great, and there’s food!
For More Bookish London: you can also check out this fun literary tube map which replaces favourite stations with famous novels based on the area they are set in. Or if you’re travelling around the UK, discover these strange and unique places to stay.