Stanfords in London: The World’s Biggest Map and Travel Bookshop


Stanfords in London, the iconic travel bookshop in Covent Garden, is the UK’s leading specialist retailer of maps. One Planet Journey’s Valentina Pucciano connected with Jude Brosnan, Marketing Manager at Stanfords, for her take on how the bookstore plays a significant role in today’s travel landscape, based on its 170 years of explorer DNA.


Books and maps are often a journey’s starting point, allowing us to explore our destination before we even get there. With eyes glued to the book’s pages or your head stuck in the folds of a map, preparation for an adventure lies at the heart of a memorable, meaningful journey. For curious travellers wishing to travel deeper, there is a place of wonder waiting for you in central London. Meet like-minded souls as you immerse yourself in the literary home of travel.

Established in 1853 in London, Stanfords is the specialist bookshop for maps, travel books and other travel related accessories. It is the UK’s leading retail supplier of Ordnance Survey mapping for professionals. It’s also an important landmark for explorers such as David Livingstone, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, and the pioneering English pilot Amy Johnson. Throughout the years, Stanfords encouraged exploration and innovation, becoming the publisher for the War Office. 

Nowadays, Stanfords remains a vital part of the travel ecosystem beckoning tourists, readers, and other curious visitors to explore the store and have the chance to meet authors through regular events. 

Store front of Stanfords travel bookshop in London.
Stanfords bookshop in Covent Garden, London. All images in the article credit to Stanfords


Jude Brosnan, Marketing Manager at Stanfords, happily shares a personal anecdote about her experience and how destiny led her to land the job:

No two days are the same at Stanfords. I might be looking at our map archive for an idea for a newsletter, choosing books on a certain country for press, meeting an author to sign books, helping someone find maps for an expedition, or preparing for our Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards. Whatever I do, I’m surrounded by maps and books. Pre-Stanfords I worked as a freelance journalist. Cycling from John O’Groats to Land’s End, I looked at the Stanfords website for maps (as I always did) and saw they had a job vacancy. As soon as I finished my trip, I had an interview and started working the following week.”

Black wall with the name Stanfords with hot air balloons hanging from the ceiling.
Hot air balloons on the ground floor at Stanfords, London


Stanfords Customers 

Given its illustrious history, with material for the Grand Tour as a backbone, Stanfords has never stopped looking at travel trends and connecting with its customers.

We are led by our customers, and now we are noticing a huge rise in people searching for books and maps on rail travel. Our number one Travel Guide this year is DK Europe by Train. Japan and Italy are our best-selling destinations and we see many buying travel writing and fiction about the area they are travelling to, so they can do some in situ reading. Also, once the pandemic hit, we noticed a surge in local maps and guides, as people could only journey within a few miles of their homes. This trend has continued and we are selling more Ordnance Survey maps, which also shows that customers are being a lot more eco-conscious and favouring local short trips, instead of long-haul flights,” Jude explains. 

Street map of East London as the floor.
East London Map


When walking into a store, by default you look around, noticing what kind of people share your interests. Stanfords prides itself on having had a long line of illustrious clients, as Jude tells us:

We’ve had many famous customers, including Florence Nightingale, Amy Johnson, Ernest Shackleton, to name a few. It’s so hard for us to pinpoint a typical Stanfords customer as we have a diverse clientele. Obviously they are adventurous, well read and well travelled. I think because of the large number of individuals who work remotely these days, it’s difficult to switch off. There are quite a few who want to completely disconnect and pack plenty of maps and guides, so they can have an adventure without being too online. Also, because of our central location, we get a lot of tourists; our London section is a big hit with them.” 


In the Heart of London 

London, a cosmopolitan city and one of the most visited in the world, welcomes local people and visitors to enjoy its neighbourhoods. Stanfords store is located in Covent Garden, a trendy and buzzing place in London. Jude confirms:

“It’s a must-see for anyone visiting London. The architecture is amazing, with a wonderful mixture of historic buildings alongside modern ones. Visit the Plaza, The Royal Opera House, go to the theatre, do some shopping down Long Acre and Neal Street. We are close to Trafalgar Square, so visit the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, then go for a walk in nearby St James’ Park and spot the pelicans.”

Arched glass and concrete facade of Opera House
Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London


What Stanfords has in Store for you 

Visiting a travel book store you’ve never been to before creates a sense of wonder, a typical sensation for many travellers. To understand what Stanfords can offer, Jude is here to answer:

Maps, maps, and maps. We are the UK’s leading specialist retailer of maps, travel books, and other related accessories. Established in 1853, we have a rich history and sell many replicas of our original maps from when we published our own. We offer custom made maps via our Print on Demand service where customers can see the maps printed while waiting. Our shelves, organised by country, make it easy to find a map, guide, or book. There is also a maritime department, a children’s section, and an impressive wall of globes. We host events where the audience can listen to their favourite authors talk about new books. Our café provides an opportunity for customers to sit and enjoy some caffeine with their cartography.”

Display of globes in different sizes and with light fixture inside.
Globes at Stanfords, London


Meeting Travel Authors 

Stanfords is on a constant mission to inspire its customers, and the partnership with authors seems to be a successful initiative. Jude elaborates:

We’ve been mapping travels and assisting adventures for 170 years. As an independent bookshop, we work closely with authors. Some approach us quite early in the planning of their books so we can help them with their routes. This communication helps when the books come out and our booksellers can recommend them to customers. The same authors often do events and signings at Stanfords. This close relationship between authors, booksellers, and customers is a kind of service you don’t get from big online retailers and it is something we take great pride in. Many authors thank Stanfords in their acknowledgements pages. In terms of best-selling products, it varies week by week, but we have a Map of the Month, a Book of the Month and a Children’s Book of the Month, and they always sell well.”

Woman looking at map by bookshelves filled with travel literature.
Getting pleasantly lost between shelves at Stanfords, London


The World of Travel Writing 

Without travel writing, we would not read about adventures around the world, or get inspired to find unbeaten paths. Stanfords recognises the importance of storytelling, hosting travel writing events. Jude is proud to tell us how the company contributes to support travel writers:

We regularly have events in store in the form of book launches and author talks. We also host the Stanfords Travel Writers Festival at Destinations: Holiday & Travel Shows in London and Manchester. Our lineups have included lots of famous travel writers and many of these talks are available on our podcast and YouTube channels.

Our main event of the year is the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards. This year we partnered with Viking Cruises and had awards for Fiction with a Sense of Place, Travel Book of the Year, Children’s Travel Book of the Year, the Bradt Guides New Travel Writer of the Year and the Edward Stanford Award for Outstanding Contribution to Travel Writing. Past recipients include Bill Bryson, Michael Palin, Jan Morris, Dervla Murphy and Paul Theroux.”

Man holding a globe in front of a poster for a travel award
Michael Palin at an event at Stanfords, London


The Home of Deep Travel

Any well travelled person can agree with the meaning of deep travel, the art of creating a meaningful connection between the place visited and the explorer. Stanfords has its own recipe to help deliver that bond, as Jude puts into words: 

We believe travelling begins long before you depart. The planning and preparing are all part of the adventure. Get maps of your destination and really explore them. Something interesting in the topography might jump out at you on a personal level that isn’t in the guide books. Read travel writing and or fiction about/set in the place you are going and plan a trip that suits you. Start planning your next journey before you get home to combat holiday blues.” 

A large selection of maps at a bookstore
Select maps available at Stanfords


For many globetrotters, travelling is a driving force and an inspiring way to live. I’m always fascinated by other people’s stories and the reason behind their passion. Jude also reveals what travelling means to her:

I mostly go on cycling adventures, so to me it is very much about the journey and less about the end destination. Further, I’m unapologetically going to list all the clichés: travelling is an activity to look forward to, a chance to disconnect, have a change of scenery, and try new things. I like to return home having learnt something and then I get excited about the next trip.”

Whether it is a brief excursion, a long-awaited adventure, or a one-day trip outside the city hustle, travelling helps restore our relationship with beauty and nature. Travel writers, documentaries, and guides inspire and suggest ways to explore the world that we did not take into consideration before. Embarking on a journey along with a map or book boosts the connection between traveller and place, leading to hidden gems. Sometimes the most exciting trips start from glancing at a map and letting your instinct lead the way. 


Have you been to Stanfords? What’s your favourite purchase? Let us know in the comment section! Subscribe to our newsletter and benefit from travel guides, sustainable tourism and luxury travel tips, insightful interviews, and inspirational places to visit. One Planet Journey – The World’s First Deep Travel Magazine.


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