Bookish British Vacation: Book Stores & Historic Library

My recent trip to Britain had a decidedly bookish flair.

We visited some sights made famous by C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, as well as some places with Harry Potter connections.

But, we also visited many book stores. Some were historic book stores that sell new books. Some were modern book stores connected with big companies. Some were small stores that sold used (and often rare and collectible) books.

Photos by Bruce and Deb Watley

In Oxford, we visited Blackwell’s Book Shop. Our family joke is that it is like the Tardis–bigger on the inside. This historic store has it all–new books, old books, and lots of academic books.

In London, we walked down Charing Cross Road and found a concentration of book stores, including Foyles, Henry Pordes Books, Any Amount of Books, and Francis Edwards Antiquarian Booksellers (now Quinto and Francis Edwards).

Hatchards on Piccadilly was on my must-see list. It opened in 1797 and is the oldest book store in London.

We also toured the Bodleian Library in Oxford. It’s earliest origins in that location reach back to the 15th Century. During the Reformation, however, many of its books were removed and some destroyed. Thomas Bodley is credited with saving and re-invorgating the library in 1598 (with it opening in 1602). Although the many universities in Oxford have a library, the Bodleian Library is the library for the whole Oxford system. It now includes multiple separate libraries and buildings.

We were allowed to take photos in some of the gathering rooms at the Bodleian Library, but not in the collections rooms.

Do you take bookish vacations? To where? What are your favorite book stores and libraries?







  1. painterwrite

    My husband works in a library, so wherever we travel to we have to visit the main library to take a peek inside and to take his picture in front of the building. The British Library has to be my favorite of our stops and London is such a great place for book lovers…last time I went I think I hit three Waterstones in one day (and bought a book at each).

    • Deb Watley

      Library tourism should be a thing! I haven’t been to the British Library, yet–next trip I hope! What are some of your husband’s other favorites? Yes, London is wonderful for book lovers. Besides regular book stores, many of the museums and other touristy places have wonderful gift and book shops, and then there are all the antique stores and outdoor markets that sell books. I didn’t have a photo so I didn’t include it in my post, but I also bought a classic children’s book at a vendor at the Portobello Market.

      • painterwrite

        I know, last time we went I end up bringing back 11 books! We recently enjoyed a little library in Orvieto, Italy, that had a nice magazine reading area we took advantage of. Definitely go to the British Library and take a peek at all the old documents. It’s exciting to see some of Elizabeth I’s letters and her big swoopy signature.

  2. Marcia Strykowski

    Wonderful locations! I visited Oxford a few years back and so enjoyed following in the footsteps of great authors. You must have visited the Eagle and Child, too. I’m rushing at the moment, but plan to revisit this post, thanks!

    • Deb Watley

      I did! I had lunch at the Eagle and Child! I’m looking forward to returning to Oxford! I feel like I just scratched the surface of its literary heritage! Do you have a favorite Oxford author? What should I visit for my next trip?

      • Marcia Strykowski

        I’d have to say Tolkien; Lewis Carroll, too. I’d love to return some day as I’m sure I missed a lot. During the same trip to England, I also really enjoyed Hampstead Heath. Oh, and Kensington Park where there’s a wonderful Peter Pan statue and gorgeous flower gardens. Your book shop pictures make me miss London!

        • Deb Watley

          I haven’t been to either Hampstead Heath or Kensington Park! In fact, I just looked up info about Hampstead Heath because I was unfamiliar with it. I see it’s the home of British Cross Country. The runners in my family might like to run there. The photos of the view from Hampstead Heath are beautiful. I can see why Britain protects that view! I just ordered a book titled 84, Charing Cross Road. Have you read it? It’s been on my to-read list for a while. From what I’ve read about it, it’s loved by readers who like history, author characters, bookstores, and London.

  3. Marcia Strykowski

    That book has been on my to-read list forever, as well (along with a million other books). I did see the movie years ago. I’m surprised to learn about cross country runners in Hampstead Heath. They must get quite a workout on the hills, but the pretty scenery is worth the effort. Several literary greats lived there at various times, such as Keats and D. H. Lawrence.

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