If you're an avid reader or book lover traveling to London, your visit will not be complete until you've visited Charing Cross Road in the West End. There are many small independent shops located here and along the adjacent side streets, and there are three large stores that could easily fill an entire day's worth of browsing and buying.Foyle's is the city's second largest bookshop, founded in 1903 and located at 113-119 Charing Cross Road since 1906. Its five floors are divided into over fifty different specialty departments including a wonderful children's section (which was recently shortlisted for the 2006 Walker Books Children's Independent of the Year award). While you can find DVDs and CDs here as well, Foyle's is best known for their wide range of books on every topic. Their staff are extremely knowledgeable and willing to help.
One of the more recent additions to Foyle's (and now a highlight) is Ray's Jazz, a specialty music shop and café located within the massive store. Ray's Jazz also features free concert events.While the Borders chain is well known here in America, there is a large branch located at 122 Charing Cross Road. Open seven days a week, it houses all the items you'd expect from Borders: all manner of books, audio books and magazines, DVDs and CDs, gifts and games, and a coffee shop. The only thing giving away this store's location is the accents of the employees and shoppers; otherwise, you could be in any major US city.
Of course, there are still many books to be found that are not published or easily obtained here at home, and that's what you can spend hours searching for during your visit here.Blackwell, at 100 Charing Cross Road, refers to itself as "the knowledge retailer." While having less charm and history than Foyle's, and without the same comfortable feeling as Borders, Blackwell is still a large and welcoming store which earned the Chain Bookseller of the Year Award back in 1999.
They have large textbook sections for medical and computer students, but there are still many books ? including a strong section of London photo, history and travel books ? for the average reader.Book signing events occur regularly at all of these establishments, so be sure to check the schedules when you arrive. Finally, as you leave the area, stop by 84 Charing Cross Road. The address, made famous by writer Helene Hanff in her book (subsequently made into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft), is sadly no longer the home of booksellers Marks and Co., but a plaque hangs to commemorate the site. "84 Charing Cross Road" is the story of an outspoken New York writer and a low-key London bookseller who carry on a 20-year correspondence.
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By: Constance Parker-Street