Independent Shops in Bloomsbury: A Walking Tour
Originally published on 30ish.me
Ok, it’s the weekend. You’ve got a few hours to kill, you’re not really sure of what to do, where to go – and for once it isn’t raining. If you don’t want to be cooped up inside, and can’t quite face Oxford Street on a Saturday, then Bloomsbury is the place to go! Follow this little walking tour from Tottenham Court Road to Russell Square to sample some of the finest independent shops in Bloomsbury, not to mention cafes and parks…
Step out of Tottenham Court Road tube (Central and Northern lines) at exit 3 and walk up Tottenham Court Road, and take the first right (Great Russell Street). Head along this, past the YMCA until you see L. Cornellisen & Son on the left-hand side. Have a browse in this incredible artist supply shop – it’s full of paints, brushes and all sorts, you can just step in and reminisce about all those art lessons you had at school – or dream about your future as the next da Vinci. You never know, you might be inspired…
Further along the road, there’s the British Museum, where you could pop in to catch the Shakespeare exhibition, or if you like your pottery a little more up-to-date, there’s a lovely gallery on the corner called the Contemporary Ceramics Centre where you can have a more leisurely browse.
Take a left onto Montague Street towards Russell Square, one of London’s most beautiful and concise central parks, home to last week’s Bloomsbury Festival and often a centre of dog-walkers, strollers and passers-by. The Cafe in the Gardens is home to one of the best cappuccinos I’ve ever had, and if you can bear the cold, it’s great to gather your thoughts here and people-watch from their outside seating area. They also serve lots of great Italian breads and pastries, so you can indulge (it’s the weekend, after all…)
Respite over, head out of Russell Square onto Guildford Street for a literary de-tour (check the map for this next bit!) – you’re looking for Lamb’s Conduit Street. A street not only home to The Lamb – a country pub in the centre of London! – and numerous galleries, here there are two particularly brilliant independent bookshops that are ideal for Saturday browsing. Towards the end of the street is The Lamb Bookshop, which offers both new and discounted titles if you’re looking for a bargain. It’s run by a lovely couple who can help you find what you need, and there are also some great gift ideas in this shop if you’re looking for a present.
The pièce de la résistance, however, remains with the gorgeous Persephone Books, which is about halfway up on the right. This is an independent bookseller and printer that aims to print forgotten fiction written by women in the 20th century – and it has some veritable gems. It’s a very friendly store – at the Festival last weekend they were serving free tea and cake, which gives you an idea of what they’re like! You can have a browse or pick up some really rare and special books here for a very reasonable price, think Frances Hogson Burnett and Virginia Woolf…
And whenever you want to sidle home, Russell Square tube (Piccadilly line) is just around the corner – left down Guildford Street past the beautiful Coram Fields, and then right along the Western side of the Square. What better way to spend a morning?!