If you ever have the pleasure of visiting or living in London, these are some of the places you must see and experience, outside of the usual tourist traps. I like to think of these as Gems in The Smoke!
The flagship store at 113–119 Charing Cross Road rests within London’s book mecca. Charing Cross Road is renowned for its specialist and second-hand bookshops.
In my humble opinion, Foyles is the Narnia of bookshops: enter and you may (happily) be lost forever!
Why Foyles is a haven for book lovers
Boasting the most extensive collection of titles of any bookshop in the UK, Foyles is a landmark that no bibliophile should miss.
- You are never pestered by sales staff while you browse.
- If you can find an unoccupied armchair or stool, you can read in peace, for as long as you please.
- If you can’t find anywhere to sit, simply plonk down on the carpet. No one will tell you to move plus, it’s ridiculously clean and comfortable.
- There’s a 98.7 % chance they will have the book you want. It’s a rarity that they don’t stock the book you’re after, but if necessary, they can order it for you.
- There’s a lovely Café on the first floor. You can’t take in unpurchased books, but if you want somewhere to lose yourself – it’s perfect.
- Jazz enthusiasts can browse through an extensive CD and DVD collection in Ray’s Jazz on the 3rd floor. You will also find a great selection of classical music and other genres.
- They have specialist departments for sheet music (3rd floor), and medical equipment (1st floor).
- Foreign languages are comprehensively catered for in the Grant & Cutler department (largest foreign-language bookseller in the UK) on the 1st floor.
- The kids section is too comfortable for words! You may fall asleep there reading to your little ones.
Despite always having customers, browsing from opening to closing time, Foyles is never over crowded. I have never found myself irritated by noise or loud conversations. Once inside, you immediately feel as if you’ve entered a big, friendly library: the noise of London mutes, you curl up against the shelves and lose yourself amidst the pages of your favourite writers.
And, did I mention I have never seen a messy display! Not even when they have a sale.
Foyles has managed to retain its magic; somehow surviving (and thriving) during a culturally destructive recession that defeated other booksellers like Borders (now a TK Maxx) and superstore Woolworths. Even Waterstones and Blackwell’s, who have managed to survive, can’t compete with Foyles for ambience and variety.
In fact, the company is doing so well that this year, the flagship store is moving into bigger premises next door (107 Charing Cross Road – the former Central St Martin’s building). Read more about the move here.
We’re all going to need a map and compass (possibly a pen torch) when they move into their new premises later this year. More floors, more space, more chances to procrastinate. You have been warned!