A visit to a bookstore is a great way to spark conversation with your date and get to know them better.

Why? Because bookstores are divided by interest, giving you tons of ready-made material to chat about in a relaxed and cosy space.

For example:

  • Explore the travel section and compare notes on where you’ve been so far and what your dream destinations are (you could even plan your dream trip abroad)
  • Visit the children’s section and see if you can find your childhood favourites
  • Go through the politics or biography sections and discuss the people who’ve had an impact on your views

Or just go in and see what you find! Bookshops are perfect for spontaneous dates.

Picking A Spot

There are two types of bookstores: chains (like Waterstones) and independent stores. They both have their good and bad points, as far as dating goes.

Chains:

  • Often have their own café
  • Usually large, so you can spend plenty of time there
  • If you’re looking for a certain book or theme, they’ll probably have it

Indie bookstores, on the other hand:

  • Have lots of character, so they’re often more romantic
  • If it’s a new store to both of you, you have the shared experience of exploring it together

Keep in mind that although huge indie bookstores exist (like Instagram favourite Daunt Books in Marylebone, which you can see above), most are pretty small, so it’s a good idea to make sure it’s located close to other spots (like cafés) so that you’ll have somewhere to move onto afterwards.

Here are 7 beautiful locations in London for the best bookstore date.

1. Cecil Court

Cecil Court

Cecil Court is a beautiful Victorian side street in London lined with shops selling antique books, maps and esoteric literature.

Known as Bookseller’s Row, many of the shop fronts have kept their original Victorian signage, so there are plenty of photo opportunities as well as hidden treasures to be found in the twenty-plus shops along the street.

It was the temporary home of an eight year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart whilst he was touring Europe in 1764 and there are rumours that he composed his first symphony in Cecil Court.

It’s also been a favourite of the movie industry, with Cecil Hepworth and James Williamson (household names in early British cinema) setting up offices along the row.

Why not take a stroll down here before paying a visit to the National Gallery nearby?

2. Daunt Books

Instagram favourite Daunt Books is housed in a gorgeous Edwardian building that was originally home to antiquarian bookseller Francis Edwards in 1910.

As one of the first purpose-build bookstores, its three floors and beautiful dark wood panelling are the ideal space to get lost in whilst you browse.

Having taken over the space in 1990, Daunt Books has continued Edwards’ theme by having their huge selection organised according to country. Novels, history, biography and travel books are all categorised under their country of origin, so you can explore the world in literary form.

They also run a series of events and talks, so if you and your date are serious book-lovers, why not book one of them together?

Their tote bags are also a famous site on London’s streets. Perhaps a nice gift for your date?

3. Hatchards

London’s oldest book shop, Hatchards, was opened in 1797 and hosts regular book signings and literary events. Find signed and first editions as well as classic and modern literature within its walls.

Hatchards has three royal warrants and has been a favourite haunt of household names in literature, politics and art for more than two centuries – including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Oscar Wilde, Beatrix Potter, Aldous Huxley and JK Rowling, to name only a few.

If you and/or your date have a special admiration for a specific author from the past 200 years, you might be able to track down some rare finds here.

There’s now a new branch in St Pancras, so if you can’t make it to Piccadilly you can still enjoy their huge selection!

4. Jarndyce

If the name of antiquarian bookstore Jarndyce sounds familiar, it’s because it’s one of the family names in Bleak House – and it’s indeed a fitting name for a very Dickensian bookshop.

The building itself was build in the 1730s and its working fireplace, original floor, dark walls and old books piled high on tables will make you feel like you’ve stepped right into Victorian England.

Find its bottle green facade on Russell Street, a stone’s throw from the British Museum (perhaps head there afterwards, if you’ve not yet had your fill of books?).

5. Word On The Water

Word On The Water is a 1920s barge turned bookshop which is permanently moored on Regent’s Canal just off Granary Square and it might just be the cosiest nook in London to duck into when it rains.

With cosy seating, a fireplace and a couple of dogs roaming freely around, there’s no better space to sink into an armchair and enjoy a good book. The selection seems well thought-out and will give you and your date plenty of talking points.

On a sunny day, you can take a walk down Regent’s Canal which is full of whimsical little houseboats with adorable names. Afterwards, why not head to Coal Drops Yard, which is a short walk away?

6. John Sandoe Books

By Tuur Tissegham

This is the store that’s attracted praise from celebrities across the board, including Manolo Blahnik who called it ‘The best bookshop in the world’.

Its scarred dark wood floors and wall-to-wall shelf layout (packing books everywhere, even over doorframes and piled high on tables) gives it a gorgeous chaotic feel, as if you’re in a cave made of books (they have 30,000 titles, so you’ll never run out of reading material here).

At Christmas time, they produce specially commissioned short stories with beautiful jackets by Cuckoo Press. Perhaps an impromptu gift for your date during a Christmas shopping trip?

7. The Atlantis Bookshop

London’s first occult bookshop, The Atlantis Bookshop, is a famous location for esoteric literature, antique books on magic, faeries, tarot cards and more.

They often hire out props to movie sets and Gerald Gardner used to hold coven meetings in the basement.

Drop in and explore the collection for something a little different!

If it’s going well…

Gift Your Date A Book

Gifting your date a book is a great way to round off a good bookstore date and give you something to talk about later.

Ideally, the book you gift them should be a book of their choice, such as one they’ve always wanted to read, or one they’ve shown an interest in during your bookstore date.

It’s tempting to gift your date a book that means a lot to you, but if you go for this option, it’s best if you each gift each other a book. Reading a whole book takes time, and gifting them one of your favourites can make your date feel pressured to read it, unless you’re also doing the same for them.

Read Aloud Together

Couple reading together. By Sarah Sharp.
By Sarah Sharp

Reading aloud might not be anything you’ve done since you left school, but if you and your partner love reading, why not discover new favourites together by picking a book and reading it aloud to each other? You can alternate reading one chapter at a time.