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Best Bookstores in London

One of my favorite hobbies is reading, so when I was planning my first trip to London I knew I needed to set off in search of the best bookstores in London. But since it was a bit daunting to research London book shops I decided to bring to life the London Bookstore Tour from Cierra of londonblockbyblock. This gorgeous map doesn’t include specific directions, so I sat down with Google Maps and worked out a plan to visit twelve of the best bookstores in London. If you want to explore the best bookstores in London on your own, download my Google Map for easy exploring.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

John Sandoe Books

Founded in 1957, John Sandoe Books is in one of my favorite areas of London, Chelsea. Set just off Kings Road you can stop by to browse the books after a bit of shopping.

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Hatchards

Founded in 1797, Hatchards is London’s oldest bookshop. The bookshop is located on one of the most famous streets in the world, Piccadilly. Additionally, Hatchards holds not one, not two, but three royal warrants, which you can see displayed above the entrance.

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National Theatre Bookshop

Located on London’s South Bank, the National Theatre Bookshop offers an unrivaled selection of playtexts. There are also books and gifts related to the theatre.

Stanfords

Another one of my favorite areas of London is Covent Garden. Add in a bookshop filled with maps and travel inspiration and I’m in literary heaven. The bookshop might look like a typical shop when you enter, but when you descend the stairs into the basement you are greeted by maps upon maps upon maps.

Persephone Books

A quite unique bookshop that actually does more business online than in the store. Founded in the 1990’s, Persephone Books only publishes reprints of books, and each book sold has a gray cover.

Daunt Books

There are several Daunt locations throughout London with the Marylebone location being the original. The store originally opened in 1912 and claims to be the world’s first custom-built bookshop. And the design has paid off because you’ve likely seen images of Daunt Books on Instagram.

Blackwells

Blackwells began in a single room with the trade of rare and secondhand books. Now they have been trading books for more than a century and there are Blackwells located all over the UK. With an even greater selection available online for worldwide delivery, including thousands of rare books.

Word on the Water

Floating in the Regent’s Canal Towpath this is definitely one of the most unique bookshops I’ve ever visited. Step onboard this 1920’s Dutch barge near Granary Square in King’s Cross and explore the books of Word on the Water.

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Owl Bookshop

Although Owl Bookshop is now owned by Daunt Books, the store retained its original name. Owl Bookshop has a truly terrific children’s section and regular author talks. Walking into Owl Bookshop gives you all the warm feelings you want when you walk into a bookshop and encourages you to stay a while.

Primrose Hill Books

I highly recommend a visit to Primrose Hill when you’re visiting London for the stunning views of the London skyline. Then stop by the family owned and operated Primrose Hill Books located in a Victorian terrace. After visiting this lovely shop, be sure to also browse their online selection.

West End Lane Books

An independent bookshop which prides itself on making excellent literary recommendations. In their own words, “We’ve been selling books, recommending books and drooling over books since 1994,” and that is exactly the kind of literary haven I enjoy exploring. Add in the delightful children’s section and this has everything you want in an indie bookshop.

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Books for Cooks

Notting Hill’s famous cookbook shop not only sells cookbooks but tests out the recipes in the in-store cafe. There are countless titles stored in every available space in the store plus mouthwatering aromas tempting you to taste the food and then buy the cookbook.

Literary Connections

Here are a few of my favorite books about bookshops, one of my favorite settings for a book.

Nina is a literary matchmaker in Jenny Colgan’s Bookshop on the Corner and she sets out from London to build a new life.

Another Jenny Colgan suggestion, because you really can’t go wrong with one of her books, is Bookshop on the Shore.

Although it is set in Iowa, US and not in London, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is an excellent book about a bookshop.

If you’re planning to visit London during the holidays, here’s a look at my five favorite things to do in London at Christmas.

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A Christmas in London Bucket List

The holiday season in London is quite magical! The decor starts to go up in early-mid November and by the mid-end of November, Christmas is in full swing. As you’re planning your itinerary, here are my suggestions for your Christmas in London Bucket List. I’m not sure it’s possible to do all of this in one trip, unless you’re going for the whole Christmas season! So if you’re short on time, here are my top five things to do in London for Christmas.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

Christmas in London Bucket List: Christmas Markets

Southbank Centre Winter Market – Stroll along the Thames and enjoy this festive Winter Market. You can book dinner in an igloo, buy holiday gifts, and enjoy warm drinks. Be aware, that this does get rather crowded in the evenings.

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland – Winter Wonderland takes over Hyde Park and it has it all…beer garden, food stalls, mulled wines, rides, music and more. Be aware, that this does get rather crowded in the evenings.

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Borough Market – One of my favorite markets in London. And then they add a Christmas tree, so I’m all in! In all seriousness while this isn’t a traditional market with all the stalls brought in, it’s fun to visit an already great market decked out for the holidays.

Leicester Square – See a show (there are so many options) and then grab a mulled wine and stroll through the Christmas market.

Greenwich Christmas Market – Not a typical Christmas market in that this market is there year round, but they add lights and it’s more festive than the other eleven months of the year. And if you’re going to go ice skating at Queen Anne’s House (see below) this is a great stop for your day.

Winterville Clapham Common – This market didn’t take place in 2019, but be on the lookout to see if returns in 2020.

Christmas in London Bucket List: Ice Skating

Natural History Museum – This might be the most popular London at Christmas photo! I will add though, that for as popular as this photo is, the rink is not too crowded. And after you skate you can pop into the Museum to warm up!

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Somerset House – Enjoy the ice rink at Somerset House where you’ll also find a mini ice rink for the littlest skaters.

Queen House Ice Rink – Head south of the river for a skate at Queen’s House Ice Rink. Round out the day with a stop at the Prime Meridian and a stroll through Greenwich Market.

More Christmas Spirit

Kensington Palace – A gorgeous Christmas tree, a decorate palace, afternoon tea, it’s royal Christmas perfection. If you’re looking for more than the obligatory picture of the tree, capture this angle.

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Department Stores – Head to Harrod’s, Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges for all the holiday decor. The displays will wow you and leave you ready to upgrade your decorations at home.

Covent Garden – You can’t help getting into the Christmas spirit with a stroll through Covent Garden. Enjoy a cookie from Ben’s, take a picture with one of the Christmas trees or pop in and visit the London Transport Museum.

Christmas at Kew Gardens – Book your tickets early for this holiday spectacular, one of my holiday favorites in London.

Advent Services at Westminster Abbey – There is something so special about attending an Advent service where they’ve been holding services for centuries. Be sure to look up their schedule online and get their early enough to get a good seat.

Backyard Cinema– A delightful immersive cinema experience. While this is something you can do all year-round in London there is something quite special about the winter themes. You’re able to choose from a variety of holiday movies shown in either the Winter Night Garden or Christmas at Snow Kingdom.

Know Before You Go: A premium ticket doesn’t cost much more than a regular ticket, so it’s worth it.

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Charles Dickens Museum – The Museum is fully decorated for a Victorian Christmas so it is a must-visit at Christmas time.

Know Before You Go: It’s especially fun to visit the Charles Dickens Museum and then go see A Christmas Carol. I’d highly recommend seeing the Old Vic production of the show. However, you can also cozy up at home and watch the movie. I’d also recommend visiting the museum earlier in the day for smaller crowds.

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Churchill Arms – Officially the UK’s most festive pub, the outside is decorated with 75 Christmas trees and over 17,500 Christmas lights! This is the perfect stop after visiting Kensington Palace as it’s just a couple of streets over. I think it’s worth a walk down Kensington Palace Gardens to admire all of the Embassies decorated for Christmas.

Christmas Lights – There are so many delightful light displays to see in London during the holidays. The ones that are most notable are Carnaby Street, Regent Street, and Oxford Street. There are some great open top bus tours to see the lights.

Literary Connections

Charles Dickens, who lived in London, wrote A Christmas Carol so this is a fitting book to read during the holidays.

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Interested in visiting other European destinations? Here’s a look at my recommendations of what to do, see, eat, and read on your next European adventure.

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Christmas in London: My Five Favorites

It’s no secret that my favorite time of year is November and December. Because I love Christmas! There is just something so magical about this time of year that puts a perpetual smile on my face. So when a $400 flight deal popped up from LA to Heathrow, I couldn’t pass up the deal. Because in the words of Jenny Colgan in Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe, “Christmas in London. Best in the world.” Here are is a look at my favorite things to do for Christmas in London.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

Christmas at Kew Gardens

As London is so far north, it is dark by 4:30p during December. This means there are quite a few hours for viewing Christmas lights. And Christmas at Kew is simply magical as the after dark trail lights up Kew Gardens. With Christmas music playing and mulled wine stops along the path, this is a must-visit during the holidays. There a variety of different light displays, food options (you can even toast marshmallows) and photo opportunities.

Know Before You Go: Tickets need to be purchased online ahead of time and sell out, so book your tickets early. I would recommend booking early in the evening if possible. I went at 5p, when the Gardens open, and when I left two hours later, the crowds were significantly larger. The Victoria Gate is easily reached via the District Line from the Kew Gardens station. As you’ll be strolling through the Botanical Gardens in the evening I’d also recommend throwing a set of these hand warmers in your pockets.

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A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic

A Christmas Carol was written by Charles Dickens in London in 1843, so it only seems fitting to see A Christmas Carol while in London. And this production did not disappoint. The music was incredible, including a beautiful rendition of See Amid the Winter Snow. There was just the right touch of interaction with the audience and Christmas magic. If I lived in London, this would be an annual tradition!

Know Before You Go: The seating was not in a traditional arrangement due to the layout of the stage so just be aware when purchasing tickets. Before the show you can get a free mince pie from the production, which was quite tasty! If you have time earlier in the day, I’d recommend a visit to the Charles Dickens Museum to help set the stage for A Christmas Carol.

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Advent Liturgy at Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey, as it exists today, was built in the 13th century and is a World Heritage Site. So while any trip to London should include a stop at Westminster Abbey, I believe your visit is made even better by attending a service. The candlelight Advent Liturgy was one of the most peaceful moments of my trip and during the hustle and bustle of the holidays I recommend taking a minute to stop and slow down.

Know Before You Go: You can begin queuing up around 2p and I do recommend arriving early in order to get a good seat. They opened the doors and began seating people at least a full hour before the service began so you won’t be waiting outside too long.

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Covent Garden

This is one of my favorite areas of London and Christmas takes it to a whole other level. It truly feels magical to wander around Covent Garden while it’s decorated for the holidays. Multiple Christmas trees, street performers, the London Transport Museum (one of my fave underrated London museums), and loads of yummy treats. Be ready for a number of photo spots and soak in all of the Christmas magic.

Know Before You Go: There’s no way to eat all the different treats you’ll encounter in Covent Garden, so just choose one or two! And if you arrive at Covent Garden via tube, before you opt to take the stairs out of the station, know that there are 193.

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Holiday Doors of London

London residents and store owners alike know how to dress a door for Christmas! The displays are visually stunning and I imagine if you came back year after year, they would only get better. I saw so much fresh greenery and fun twists on the traditional reds and greens of Christmas decor. Truly, you could spend hours strolling through the streets of London (I average 10 miles a day) admiring the decor.

Know Before You Go: If you take a picture of every beautifully decorated door and window display in London you’ll be stopping for every other door. So if you want pictures of all the doors just know you’ll be stopping quite frequently. Otherwise just snap photos of the really outstanding doors.

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Literary Connections

As Jenny Colgan says in Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe, “London is not the place to be if you want to escape Christmas. It does the most wonderful Christmas in the world, and I want to be a part of it.”

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Fräulein Maria’s Sound of Music Bike Tour

When I’m planning a trip I always ask friends and family for recommendations. So when I was planning my time in Salzburg, Austria I asked around with friends who had previously visited. A friend told me Fräulein Maria’s Sound of Music Bike Tour was a must-do, so I immediately booked a tour!

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

The Sound of Music Bike Tour

My friend was correct, this tour is a must-do! From the behind-the-scenes info shared, to the stunning Austrian countryside, to the entertaining and knowledgeable guides, I can not recommend this tour enough. As you bike along listening to the Sound of Music soundtrack, you can almost picture the Von Trapp children hanging from the trees and laughing. Here is some of the fun insider information I learned about the movie during tour and when you take the tour, you can learn more.

•For filming they used the back of one house (the first photo in this post) and the front of another house (see photo below) to make up the Von Trapp family house.

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•If the family had truly left via the route they took at the end of the movie, they would have ended up right at Eagle’s Nest, a high-level Nazi building.

•They added a doorbell to the convent so the kids could ring the bell when they were looking for Maria. The convent kept the doorbell after filming, until too many tourists visited and used the doorbell. Then they took it down to regain some peace and quiet.

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Know Before You Go

•Although you reserve your spot for the tour ahead of time (via the website) you don’t actually pay until after you’ve completed the tour. You should also note that cash is the preferred payment method.

•The tour lasts around 3.5 hours and you’ll bike about 8 miles over the course of the tour.

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•You’ll cover more ground than a walking tour (because bikes travel faster!), and although you can’t cover as much ground as a bus tour, you are able to go to places that are more difficult to reach via bus.

•You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to join the tour. My tour had an 8-year-old and a 68-year-old, so the tour really is for everyone.

•Tours run from April to October and for a couple of months in the summer they run twice a day. But it can rain a lot in the summer so be ready for the rain.

Literary Connections

While neither of these books are fiction, both are related to The Sound of Music so they are great reads before or after the bike tour. Julie Andrew’s Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years covers her time filming Sound of Music. The Story of the Trapp Family Singers tells the story of the family who inspired the movie.

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Interested in visiting other European destinations? Here’s a look at my recommendations of what to do, see, eat, and read on your next European adventure.

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Visiting Ravensbrück Concentration Camp

My favorite kind of books are ones where the setting matters. When I get lost in the pages of those books, I am transported to another place and time. Books like these have allowed me to travel the world and I hope to visit as many of these settings as possible in person. Because once you’ve explored the setting, the book comes alive in a new way. After reading Lilac Girls, I knew I needed to visit Ravensbrück Concentration Camp to help me more deeply understand the book.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

Visiting Ravensbrück

Admittedly, it took me quite a while to process what it was like visiting Ravensbrück. Fortunately my visit was the only item on my itinerary for the day. I’m not sure I could have mustered up the energy for another tourist attraction after the visit. You can read countless books about World War II and learn all about it in school, but there is something about visiting the scene where these horrors took place, that takes your understanding of the Holocaust to a whole other level.

Ravensbrück was a concentration camp in northern Germany exclusively for women. The story of Ravensbrück is often overshadowed by the stories of more well-known concentration camps, but the atrocities that took place there during WWII were absolutely horrific. There was medical testing performed on the inmates and an estimated 50,000 women died at Ravensbrück.

Today, many of the original buildings are no longer standing in their original form. However, you are still able to see the German accommodations, some of the remaining inmate facilities and the gas chamber.

Situated on Lake Schwedt, I was struck by the tranquility of the lake in contrast to the horrors of the camp. I was also struck at how different the German accommodations were compared to the facilities of the inmates. As I walked through the camp thinking about the lives cut short by these horrors I was reminded of how important it is that we live our lives as full as we can in memory of those who aren’t able to do the same. It is so difficult to articulate the feelings associated with the horrific events of the Holocaust. So I wanted to share a few pictures in lieu of the words I could only attempt to articulate well.

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Visiting Ravensbrück: How to Get There

I recommend staying in Berlin if you are planning on visiting Ravensbrück, as there are not really accommodations in Ravensbrück. I boarded the RE5 train from Berlin Gesundbrunnen, heading north towards Stralsund. The route sign might also mention Löwenberg, Fürstenberg, and/or Neustrelitz. You’ll then disembark at Fürstenberg (Havel) on Track 2. On the return trip you’ll board the train on Track 3 for Berlin.

Right next to the train station is a little cafe serving light fare if you’re looking for a snack. The cafe also rents bikes which you can use to get to the Memorial. I walked from the train station to Ravensbrück, but a bike would be much quicker! I found it helpful to download a Google map of the area to my phone before my trip as there were limited signs marking the way. Then I simply followed the roads from the train station to the Memorial.

Literary Connections

Whether you’ve already visited Ravensbrück, are planning a trip, or just want to learn more about this particular concentration camp, I highly recommend Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. This is one of my top five favorite historical fictions book and the author is absolutely lovely.

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Interested in visiting other European destinations? Here’s a look at my recommendations of what to do, see, eat, and read on your next European adventure.

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Visiting Schilthorn in the Bernese Alps

I’m not sure a trip to Switzerland would be complete without a visit to the Alps. I grew up less than two hours away from the mountains and I have vacationed several times in the Rocky Mountains, but those mountains have nothing on the Alps! I’m not sure if there are enough adjectives to describe the beauty of the Alps. If you ever have the opportunity to take a trip to Switzerland, I’d highly recommend visiting Schilthorn.

As with most of my posts, some links may be affiliate links. This means at no additional cost to you, I may make a small commission on anything you buy through the links.

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Visiting Schilthorn: What to Expect

Weather

I visited Schilthorn in the summer, and I was not prepared for the change in weather from the base of the mountain to the top. When we boarded the cable cars at the base of the mountain temps were in the mid 70’s F. By the time we disembarked at the summit, temperatures were in the mid 30’s F. I would highly recommend taking a jacket with you.

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Photographs

Be patient, very patient. There are a lot of people at the top of the mountain, so if you want pictures sans other tourists, be prepared to have some patience. You will also need patience for the cloud/fog that rolls in fierce and fast. These clouds/fog will also roll out just as fierce and fast, so be willing to wait for the sky to clear for your photo opportunity.

Bond, James Bond

This mountain peak also served as a James Bond filming location. In this scene from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, you can see sweeping views of the summit. While visiting Schilthorn you can explore the small James Bond museum complete with a couple of interactive exhibits.

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Gorgeous Views

Words do not do the views from Schilthorn justice, so enjoy the photos in this post. And plan a trip to visit.

Visiting Schilthorn: How to Get There

Visiting Schilthorn gives you the opportunity to use a number of different modes of transportation. The Schilthorn summit can only be reached by cable car, which departs from the town of Mürren.

•Regardless of where you begin your journey in Switzerland, you’ll want to first make your way to Interlaken. The rail journey will quite certainly provide beautiful views and you’ll want to take a window seat to take in the scenery.

•From there, you’ll change trains and head to Lauterbrunnen. In Lauterbrunnen you can board the bus to ‘Stechelberg Schilthornbahn.’ My recommendation on the bus, as it can be quite crowded in the summer, is to head for the rear of the bus and board there. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious you can hike all, or part, of the bus journey.

•In Stechelberg you’ll board the first of four cable cars and begin your ascent to Schilthorn. In just 30 minutes you can ascend the 2108 meters (or 6916.01 feet) and be treated to stunning views along the way. You also have the option of hiking these segments, although some require serious preparations. On my next visit I plan to hike the second segment. When you switch from one cable car to another you can also get off and explore at that particular station, just be mindful of the cable car timetable.

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Literary Connections

While not specifically set on Schilthorn, Beneath a Scarlet Sky takes readers on a journey through the Alps. Visiting Schiltorn gives you an idea of how perilous the journey was during WWII.

You can also read On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and picture Schilthorn while you read.

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Interested in visiting other European destinations? Here’s a look at my recommendations of what to do, see, eat, and read on your next European adventure.

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