10 of the best London second hand bookshops
Academic books and dusty paperbacks, antique textbooks and leather-bound tomes: here’s our pick of the best London second hand bookshops
Even in the unlikely event that you leave empty-handed, second hand bookshops merit endless exploration: they're peaceful refuges from the outside world, and ever-changing treasure troves that can contain the most unlikely books.
Luckily, London is full of them, Charing Cross Road and Cecil Court in particular. But other gems are hard to find – so we’ve put together a handy guide to some of the best kept secrets among London's second hand bookshops.
66 The Brunswick, off Marchmont St, London WC1N 1AE
Opening hours: 10:30am – 8pm Monday to Saturday and Bank Holidays; 10:30am – 6pm Sundays
Ok, we know we said secret. But we could hardly not include one of the biggest second hand bookshops in London.
Situated centrally in the Brunswick shopping centre, with its own piano and a resident skeleton named Pelvis, it houses around 55 000 titles (with over a million more stored in a warehouse in Oxfordshire) covering just about any subject you care to name.
It also has a partnership with Edgar's Bar in Broadway Market (see Broadway Bookshop below), where amid the brunch plates and martinis you can find another 2000 books.
Black Gull Books
70-71 Camden Lock Place, London NW1 8AF
Opening hours: 10am – 6pm Monday to Friday
121 High Road, London N2 8AG
Opening hours: 9:30am – 6pm Monday to Saturday; 11am – 6pm Sunday
Nestled under the canopies of Camden Lock Place, the tiny Camden branch of Black Gull Books provides a quiet refuge from the noise of Camden High Street.
Mainly a spot for second hand paperbacks, their eclectic stock spills out of the shop on outdoor stands, and towers above browsers' heads on the highest shelves. There's a branch in East Finchley too, and both shops also sell art and collectibles.
6 Broadway Market, Hackney, London E8 4QJ
Opening hours: 10am – 6pm Monday to Saturday, 11am – 5pm Sunday
Not a specialist second hand bookshop, but a wonderful Hackney independent with an excellent second hand section. With a loyal local customer base and staff who know everything about their stock, it's worth a visit whatever kind of book you're looking for. It's also just up the road from the Edgar's Bar outpost of Skoob Books.
Wood Street Non-Fiction
118 Wood Street, London E17 3HX
Opening hours: 10:30am – 5:30pm Tuesday to Saturday; 11:30am – 3pm Sunday
This new kid on the block in Walthamstow is a specialist second hand non-fiction bookshop, from literature and film to arts and crafts to military history to gardening. If you've ever wanted to learn about it, it's probably here.
1 Greenwich South Street, London SE10 8NW
Opening hours: 10am – 6pm daily
266 Lee High Road, London SE13 5PL
Opening hours: 10am – 6pm Monday to Saturday
With branches in Greenwich and Lee, this growing bookseller stocks a range of new, second hand and antiquarian books – as well as music, magazines and pretty much any memorabilia you could care to name. The Lee shop also serves coffee and an impressive range of tea.
37 Hartfield Road, Wimbledon, SW19 3SG
Opening hours: 9:30am – 7pm Monday to Wednesday, 9:30am – 8pm Thursday to Friday, 8:30am – 7pm Saturday, 11am – 5pm Sunday
Don't be misled by the tiny, peeling facade; this stalwart of Wimbledon village goes back – and up – for miles. Don't move too quickly either, or you'll knock over at least one of the teetering book towers ranged between the shelves.
Their ever-changing stock encompasses every class of book, from priceless antiquarian tomes of Dickens to 10p Pratchett paperbacks, and subjects as wide-ranging as Japanese poetry, Victorian knitting patterns and global political history.
183 Chiswick High Rd, Chiswick, London W4 2DR
Opening hours: 10:30am – 5.30pm Monday to Saturday, 11am to 5pm most Sundays
It's the oldest shop on Chiswick High Road... and it's a bookshop. Just look how pretty it is. In case that wasn't reason enough in itself for a visit, its stock of out-of-print and rare books ranges from a who's who of British jazz to poetry to an encyclopaedia of Scandinavian interior design. An 18th-century gem.
83 Bell Street, Marylebone, London NW1 6TB
Opening hours: 10:30am – 6pm Monday to Saturday
Snuggled into a Marylebone side street is a second hand bookshop for those seeking something more specialist. Alongside the usual range of hard-to-find paperbacks and fourth-hand Loeb Classical Library texts (yes, that is a Christmas tree made from them in the window), the Archive Bookstore is also home to what it affectionately terms the 'music dungeon': a basement filled to bursting with second hand sheet music. Be prepared to spend hours here.
Word on the Water
Granary Square, Regent's Canal, King's Cross, London N1C 4AA
Opening hours: 12pm – 7pm daily
A second hand bookshop... on a barge. Featuring armchairs, a wood-burning stove, regular live music, a friendly dog, and poetry slams. If you don't instantly want to visit a floating bookshop, we're not sure how you've got this far down this article.
South Bank book market
Waterloo Bridge, South Bank, London SE1 8XT
Opening hours: 10am – 7pm daily
Nestled under Waterloo Bridge is one of the only permanent outdoor second hand book markets in the south of England. Stop by en route to the National Theatre or Southbank Centre, and browse through tables and tables of second hand paperbacks and antiquarian treasures. A riverside book market in the heart of London? There can't be many things better than that.