In 1897 John Hatchard opened a bookshop on Piccadilly. Four years later he moved his business a little further down the street, and there it has stayed ever since. Although it is now part of the Waterstones family (meaning you can earn and spend Waterstones points there – if they still do such things), it has retained its character and charm and is well worth a visit any time. But make a date to go next Thursday evening, for a real treat.
The last Thursday of November is Hatchards’ Christmas Customer evening, and for me it marks the beginning of the festive season every year. Start in the basement, where you’ll be given a glass of wine and a mince pie – always my first of the year (the pie, that is, not the wine…), then retrace your steps to see who is signing books at the foot of the fabulous staircase. Around almost every corner on all of the shop’s five floors you’ll find authors signing copies of their latest tomes for you to purchase and get that Christmas gift list off to a flying start.
Authors this year include: Jeffrey Archer, Gyles Brandreth, Anne de Courcy, Dan Cruickshank, Simon Heffer, Tom Holland, Ben Okri, Peter Snow, A.N. Wilson and Robert Winston – and many, many more. (Check out the full list.)
It tends to be rather crowded on the ground floor and in the basement, but head upstairs and you’ll soon find yourself browsing in peace.
When you’ve bought all the books you can carry, why not pop next door to Fortnum and Mason for some more Christmas browsing? A couple of years ago I nipped in there for the loo only to discover that they too had a Christmassy shopping event, and I got to try all kinds of samples (including a very nice cocktail) and see various displays and demonstrations. I can’t see any evidence online that the same will be happening this year, but it’s always a wonderful place to visit, and their Christmas windows are often very creative.
If all that doesn’t get you into the Christmas spirit, I don’t know what will.
Where: Hatchards, 187 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9LE
When: Thursday 28 November (or the last Thursday of November each year)
6pm-9pm (Fortnum’s is open till 10, so no need to rush to get there!)
How much: Free entry – book purchases at your discretion!