Well, folks, summer has come and passed; autumn has fled the coop; and we’re now firmly in the grips of winter. You know what that means: it’s time for cosy nights and warming drinks. And nothing fits that mood quite like curling up with a good book, dram in hand. Or just sipping at cocktails next to a roaring fire, with books aplenty lining the walls. So we’ve rounded up the best of London’s library bars for a classy and cosy night on the town. Going out can now be classed as educational – you’re welcome…
1. Scarfes Bar, Holborn
Named after British caricaturist, Gerald Scarfe, this bar is filled with Scarfe’s collection of amusing paintings – making it an educational trip for art fans. Currently celebrating 10 years of operation, Scarfe’s selection of cocktails currently ranges across 10 guests’ favourites from years gone by, and 10 all-new creations that pair innovative flavours with modern technologies to celebrate the future of the bar. Oh, and there are some truly gorgeous books. Lots of them. To fill the shelves of what is assuredly one of London’s most iconic library bars, an antique dealer from Portobello Market hand-selected over 1,000 antique tomes. Be still my beating heart!
📍 The Rosewood London Hotel, 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN.
🚇 The nearest station is Holborn.
2. Library Bar at The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner
The outstanding mixology, “liquid museum” of spirits, and warm, vibrant atmosphere make The Library Bar at The Lanesborough a popular choice with Knightsbridge and Belgravia’s locals, as well as hotel guests. While bartenders often hesitate to tamper with classic cocktails, the team at this library bar have re-imagined some old favourites with fantastic results. They also have a house gin, The Lanesborough London Dry Gin, and an absolute plethora of spirits.
📍 Hyde Park Corner, SW1X 7TA.
🚇 The nearest station is Hyde Park Corner.
3. Library Bar at The Ned, Bank
This intimate library bar bills itself as a champagne and martini bar. Now that’s the kind of specialisation that we can get behind! Hidden behind a jacquard curtain, the venue boasts a menu of thirty different Champagnes, a martini trolley, signature and vintage cocktails, and a healthy selection of vermouth. Create your own Martini using your choice of spirit and garnishes, and get cosy on a velvet sofa – you’ll feel oh-so suave and completely understand how it made it onto this list of London’s best library bars.
📍 27 Poultry, EC2R 8AJ.
🚇 The nearest station is Bank.
4. Swans Bar at Maison Assouline, Piccadilly Circus
In the heart of Piccadilly and housed in the landmark building that was once a former bank, you’ll find this stunning library bookshop bar. But there’s no need to purchase a book to enjoy the environs. And when you visit, it would be rude not to have a drink or a spot of afternoon tea. After all, it’s considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful bookshops. Have a sip, have a browse, and maybe even learn more about the drink in your hand.
📍 196A Piccadilly, W1J 9EY.
🚇 The nearest station is Piccadilly Circus.
5. The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Once the reading room of the old Westminster Library, this Grade II-listed building is now home to contemporary Indian restaurant, The Cinnamon Club. The beautiful restaurant has, however, honoured its history and retained its literary spirit in the book-filled walls. All food is complemented with carefully sourced wines, and their gin trolley offers an exceptionally curated collection of gins. A cocktail menu in both bars promises an exploration of tastes with signature famous cocktails. Eat, drink, and admire the history of literacy!
📍 30-32 Great Smith Street, SW1P 3BU.
🚇 The nearest stations are St James’s Park or Westminster.
6. The Fable, Holborn
Inspired by the fantasy world of fairy tales and Aesop’s fables, The Fable (looking out onto Holborn Viaduct) offers tranquil calm in the heart of the city. From the leather-bound books to the vintage typewriter, every detail tells a story. Whether you’re just popping in for a drink or sitting down for an evening meal, you’ll quickly spot the venue’s enchanting quirks. This (pictured 👆) is, of course, the best seat in the house.
📍 52 Holborn Viaduct, EC1A 2FD.
🚇 The nearest stations are Farringdon or City Thameslink.
7. Electric House, Notting Hill
Now, look, you will need to be a member to get into the library at Electric House. But ask around and you’re sure to have a friend who has a cousin who knows someone whose brother’s wife can get you in. And given how gorgeous the space is, it’s well worth the effort. The venue, one of London’s most intimate library bars, also plays host to live music, complementing the library of not just books, but also vinyl records.
📍 191 Portobello Road, W11 2ED.
🚇 The nearest station is Ladbroke Grove
8. The Phene, Chelsea
This iconic Chelsea pub dates its heritage back to the 1800s, and the three-floor clubhouse-style venue hides a whole host of rooms. It’s equally welcoming throughout the year, with a sunny beer garden for the summer and warm cosy rooms for the cooler months. They also boast “the comfiest chairs in all of Chelsea.” A bold claim. Care to put it to the test? Grab one of the antique books from the shelves (carefully, now!) and settle in. A blue splash is a slight left turn compared to others on this list, but is a welcome one all the same, and makes it one of the library bars in London you need to be visiting.
📍9 Phene St, SW3 5NY.
🚇 The nearest station is Sloane Square
9. Library Bar at the Bush Theatre, Shepherd’s Bush
During the day, the Bush Theatre’s Library Bar is a relaxing workspace and coffee hub. But by night, it serves up craft beers, bespoke cocktails and great wines. Whenever you choose to visit, there are always plentyyyyy of playtexts in the library, if you’re after a bit of inspiration. To read, or not to read — that is the question!
📍 7 Uxbridge Road, Shepherd’s Bush, W12 8LJ.
🚇 The nearest station is Shepherd’s Bush Market.
10. The Library at The NoMad, Covent Garden
Hidden away from the hustle and bustle of Covent Garden is the NoMad hotel’s Library bar that offers guests respite from the crowds amongst books and tipples. The Library serves light fare during breakfast and lunch, small plates in the evening, and cocktails and wine into the night. With a carefully curated selection on its bookshelves that reflect the history of the building ( which was once a magistrate court and police station) and of the hotel, it’s a cosy and sumptuous retreat that guests are invited to treat as if it were their own living room.
📍28 Bow Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 7AW.
🚇 The nearest station is Covent Garden.
11. The Library Lounge, King’s Cross
Nestled within The Standard Londoners can find a charming hideaway full of books, greenery, and cosy seating. During the day, The Library Lounge is a hidden gem for those looking for somewhere else to ‘work from home’ or while away the hours, book in hand. But from 6pm onwards it’s ‘no laptops allowed’ as the lounge transitions into a cosy, seductive place for cocktails and small bites. The Library Lounge has its own menu of cocktails (with an emphasis on super-sippable highballs), so be sure to come for the books and stay for the drinks and snacks – or vice versa.
📍 Inside The Standard, 10 Argyle St, WC1H 8EG.
🚇 The nearest station is King’s Cross St. Pancras.
Also published on Medium.