Journalism student at Kingston University, writer, bookworm, tea addict.
Published September 5th 2012
A wonderland for bibliophiles
Hidden under Waterloo Bridge is a book-lover's paradise: the picturesque South Bank Book Market, a little-advertised outdoor book fair that invites passers-by to browse a wide variety of second-hand books, maps and prints.
Like most people, I stumbled upon the rows of book-filled trestle tables by accident. It seems the market is a well-kept secret – though located on the busy South Bank right in front of the British Film Institute, you will hardly find it mentioned in a guidebook.
Neatly arranged on the tables, you can find an astonishing array of genres ranging from out-of-print classics to modern romance novels. Most paperbacks are in great condition and on sale for less than £5.
The market also features old maps, illustrations and hardback editions that are more expensive, but you may come across an unexpected treasure on sale for a reasonable price.
The booksellers are friendly and don't hassle you while browsing, which contributes to the overall relaxing environment. It's easy to spend a lot more time there than you'd expect – after more than half an hour, I finally left, having spent £3 on a poetry collection and Casanova's autobiography.
Protected from wind and weather by Waterloo Bridge, the market is open daily until approximately 7pm. The best way to get there is walking from Waterloo Station along the river, which allows you to soak up the South Bank's atmosphere on the way there. Alternatively, the closest Underground stations on the North Bank are Embankment and Temple.
It is difficult to find a specific book as everything is arranged in a random order. However, you may end up buying a book you wouldn't have picked up otherwise – Casanova says hi – or simply enjoying the market's unbeatable charm, which makes it definitively worth a browse if you're passing.