London’s rich melting pot of cultures, inhabited by nearly 9 million residents, has created one of the most musically diverse cities on the planet. The capital city’s entrenchment in music history — from the new to the old to the rock to the reggae — has spawned, across the decades, one of the world’s digging epicenters.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen a renaissance in record shop culture, with originators now complemented by a host of newcomers, who only serves to enrich the scene. With a real cross-section of specialisms and genres laced across London, this guide to the best record stores slices through overwhelming opportunity, identifying unique characteristics for each and every individual digger.
Broken down geographically while tipping the hat to suburban record pushers, we want to champion all who make London’s vinyl scene so special.
Berwick Street’s originator in the mid-1980s and one of those who kick-started Soho’s record shop golden years continues to represent to this day. Today’s second-hand specialists, Reckless stock a total mix of genres, from jazz (in all its forms) to a huge chunk of soul and disco right through to pop and psych, with rarer pieces on walls and in cabinets. Knowledgeable and approachable staff coupled with a high turnover of great records keep this legendary spot amongst London’s finest.
London’s flagship for dance music since the early 2000s continues to fly the flag to this day. The back wall of new-ins and frontline of listening posts draws on New York City hallmarks, alongside a comprehensive dance music cross-section in the crates. Off-the-chain parties, especially on Record Store Day, are hosted in the basement. Its affiliation with The Vinyl Factory — their arts projects, record pressing, and culture platform — keeps Phonica firmly in the heart of Soho and London’s musical community.
Having represented on Berewick Street since the late 1980s, morphing, adapting, and evolving throughout shifting demands, and decades, the utmost props must be shown to this Soho stalwart. Now residing at number 75, the Sister Ray team strikes a lovely balance of formats and genres, old and new across the two floors. The upstairs focuses on CDs and records can be found in the basement. There’s a fantastic selection online, too!
Sounds of the Universe
From its early beginnings of Stuart Baker’s market stall in Camden, SOTU and its Soul Jazz Records counterpart have grown into an international forerunner and are still situated in Soho’s iconic corner of Broadwick Street. Eclectically minded, critically acclaimed, and specializing in all things global, its compact top floor holds all new releases, while downstairs plays home to second-hand records and publications. No matter your musical preference, there will be something in this wonderful record emporium that will fit.
Alan’s is the jewel in East Finchley’s crown and home to one of London’s last standing proper record shops. Thousands of records are stacked into each and every nook with an organizational method behind the madness! From Punk to Electronica via Blues, Alan’s boasts an impressive selection of records for all types of diggers. Be sure to set aside some time for your visit because there are listening posts a-plenty and a welcome atmosphere.
All Ages Records
Camden’s Punk Rock specialists since 2003, All Ages thrive in an area synonymous with music and back unsigned and DIY releases. With apparel, gig tickets, fanzines, this is as much a community hub as it is a record store.
For the purists, we accept this is not strictly a “record store” but it is still an essential mention for its continued perseverance into analog sound, from Icon Audio valve amps to Revox reel-to-reels through a range of sound system options — all at honest prices combined with great service from the team. Records can be found scattered in chunks throughout the shop, from bues to bollywood, all of which can be sampled on their fantastic listening posts. They make a fantastic cup of tea, too.
Flashback (Islington and Crouch End)
Second-hand specialists since 1997 and 2006, respectively, Flashback’s empire now boasts three stores in town and no signs of slowing down. The original Islington branch is split across two floors with CDs and books dominating the ground floor and 100% wax action to be found in the basement. Crouch End, on the other hand, is a refined one-floor version, offering a concise range of records and CDs across all genres (and all stock can be found via their online Discogs shop). Discogs took a deep dive into all things Flashback in 2014.
John Doran, co-founder of The Quietus: “For the last two decades, my favorite record shop in London has remained Flashback on Essex Road. It used to be situated, handily enough, a short stumble away from my favorite pub, The Mucky Pup where I ran a vinyl-only social, The Olde Peculiar, every Sunday for donkey’s years. Funnily enough, most of the staff from Flashback used to drink and DJ in there as well. The drinking stopped abruptly for me nine years ago (and even The Mucky Pup is no more) but the other crippling addiction – to vinyl records – continues unabated. It’s as much a social thing as anything else these days, I have friends who work there and it’s good to be able to have a relaxed conversation (about Queen live albums, the likelihood of a comprehensive series of good quality Coil reissues, and what constitutes the right amount of records by The Fall to own) without ever having to feel like you’ve somehow taken a wrong turning in life. I’m not a vinyl obsessive to the exclusion of other formats – I own as many CDs as records and probably somewhere in the region of six times the amount again of digital music – but there is something unique, to me at least, about tracking down that doom metal LP, cosmic disco 12-inch or Gary Numan picture disc 7-inch that you’ve been after for all those years. I’ve bought records from some really interesting places – a gramophone and oud repair shop in Cairo, the world’s largest record fair in Utrecht, and a shipping container in Baton Rouge just after Hurricane Katrina – but Flashback is where I’m most comfortable.”
Honest Jon’s (Kings Cross)
Honest Jon’s is sister to one of West London’s originators that opened its doors in 2017 as part of the Coal Drops Yard rejuvenation and a historic corner of London that once played home to the capital’s warehouse clubland. A concise slice of all things Honest Jon’s lies here, from label releases to originals and represses across the musical spectrum all on the doorstep of those passing through Kings Cross or attending an ILM event.
The Little Record Shop
North London’s appropriately named residential gem with treasure in abundance, David’s “Little Record Shop” has had its doors open since 2014 and focuses on jazz, reggae, rock, and anything unusual! With no online store and a fantastic second-hand selection, a visit here is a must. Please be aware to check their Instagram page before you make the trip due to varied opening hours.
Out on the Floor Records
For over 30 years, this Camden institution has celebrated rock in all its forms as well as reggae, being the home of Tuff Scout Records. Selling only in-store, this shop is a must-visit for rock and reggae lovers alike.
Sounds That Swing
A rockabilly and blues epicenter, Sounds That Swing has been a firm fixture in Camden since 1995 and delivers a fantastic array of records and memorabilia through a huge amount of genres that go hand in hand, from surf to doo-wop and country to blues.
Since its conception in 1997, Lion Vibes has evolved into one of London’s leading reggae specialists situated in the heart of Brixton Village. From original Jamaican presses to current releases, the knowledgeable team sets a high standard that’s tough to beat anywhere in town. New releases from the label and second-hand gems can be found online, but a trip to the shop is highly recommended.
“Exactly what it says on the tin,” Peckham Soul celebrates all things soulful in SE15, from northern to southern, old to modern. A cross-section of both infamous LP represses and original 45s can be found in the racks with a hefty selection available online via their Discogs store.
Champion of the South London record scene, the wonderful Pure Vinyl has created a friendly and approachable environment for all types of diggers. while specializing in all things soul-drenched jazz, jams and open deck sessions are regularly held in-store and a nice chunk of stock is available online.
Following its birth in 1988 in an Oxford market, Rat Records opened its Camberwell doors in 1999 and has continued to serve an eclectic balance of fantastic second-hand records ever since. Psych, jazz, classical, electronica — Rat’s broad arsenal caters to all types of diggers and collectors. It’s next to some great food spots (notably Silk Road) on Peckham Road to tie in with the visit!
Situated in the basement of Peckham’s infamous Bussey Building, Rye Wax has been serving heat by day since 2014. At night, the venue transforms into an event space, hosting live gigs and club nights. Record-wise, Rye Wax shines the light on the underground, specializing in all ranges of dance music and obscurities while championing local labels throughout.
One of London’s longest-serving reggae shops, Supertone evolved from a sound system in the ’60s into the shop in the ’80s. Founder Wally Bryan oversees operations to this day, delivering an assortment of LPs, CDs, and cassettes across the reggae spectrum, including lovers rock, revival, dancehall, and all of its sub-genres. Discogs took a deep dive into Supertone in 2018.
Another one of East London’s most recent additions, Atlantis offers all styles and genres, from Iranian cassettes to military 78s. With nothing going up online, this spot is certainly worth a visit if you’re in the area.
The BBE Store
Doors opened in 2016 as a celebration of 20 years in the game and The BBE Store continues to provide London Fields with the good stuff. Second-hand and new releases abound, and the label plays home to heavyweight artists across the globe. In-stores are a regular feature and the space also plays home to the label’s headquarters, food pop-ups, and a well-stocked bar.
Eclectically balanced global sounds can be found at this East London vendor. Located just off Dalston’s Gillett Square, Eldica stocks a vast array of books, amps, record players, and miscellaneous memorabilia alongside its records with some choice cuts also available via their online shop linked above.
Since 2014, Flashback has been delivering its signature blend of fantastic records to the East End via its fantastic double-floor space opposite the northern end of Brick Lane. Up top, you have jazz, rock, and pop, LPs, CDs, 7-inches, and new presses; downstairs you have a host of well-priced soul, disco, hip-hop, and more. We strongly recommend a pit stop at Beigel Bake (the white one!) down the road for pre- or post-dig food!
One of East London’s most recent additions, Hidden Sounds goes by its name, tucked above one of Ridley Road’s finest, TFC. This gem collaborates with a fantastic cafe space, offering tranquility to the market madness below. When it comes to selections, the spot is well versed in obscurities, not defining itself by genre but delivering a balanced selection of great records.
One of East London’s more recent additions, Kev’s Jelly Records holds its place on Chatsworth Road, concealed neatly below a vintage furniture shop. Predominantly selling second hand records Jelly also stock a carefully curated selection of new releases, from the Electronica to the Soul via Library and Obscurities, check his Discogs store above for a taste of what to expect. This East London basement treasure is certainly worth a visit, with a top tip to refuel at People’s Choice Caribbean up the road with some of Hackney’s best Jerk Chicken.
Now situated in its beautiful new home on Well Street, Kristina specializes in the underground and all of dance music’s sub-genres and carried a solid rep through town over the last decade. Avant-garde, synth, minimal, electronica, house — all live here alongside new releases from independent labels in a similar vein. Everything is powered by a La Marzocco and some fantastic wines and beers to keep you fully charged throughout your visit.
The space is super organized with new-ins on the back wall and second-hand records in the crates, spanning great music and obscurities with warm staff to point you in the right direction. Love Vinyl also hosts launches and in-stores with the likes of Spinna, Gilles Peterson, Jovonn, and Andrew Weatherall.
Rough Trade East
East London’s edition of the famous chain opened its doors in 2007 and has served the Truman Brewery with a brilliant balance of music, books, and gigs since. The building itself is a spectacular double-lofted warehouse with racks on racks of new releases and represses. A stage is situated at the back and, by night, the shop plays host to release parties. Although volume is heavy, the curation is careful and you can expect to get into a broad range of genres. If you want to push your comfort zone and dig deep, this is the spot.
Stranger Than Paradise
Recently opened in the beautiful Mare Street Market, which plays home to a number of bars, food spots, and florists, STP fits in perfectly, stocking a vast array of new wax to keep you guessing. Exotica, soul, afrobeat, electronic, and more are all arranged beautifully in the racks and warm, approachable staff can put you onto something new.
Since their recent relocation to Hackney, Tome Records have grown from strength to strength. The store itself is simplistic and to-the-point with stacks of great records in the wooden crates that line each wall. From reggae to electronica, OST offers a real balance of genres throughout. A large chunk of their stock can also be dig digitally via their Discogs page linked above.
One East London’s latest arrivals, Vinyl Delivery Service (VDS), has recently touched down on the southern end of Columbia Road from Tokyo in collaboration with Idle Moments. Specialists in Japanese imports, from holy grails to obscurities but yet accessible to all budgets, this is a truly unique angle on the London digging scene. Idle Moments brings Hi Fi & Low Intervention wine into the mix, giving crate diggers a little slice of Tokyo in E2.
World of Echo
Famed for its flower markets, Columbia Road has, for the last few years, also played host to this wonderful little record shop named after Auther Russell’s seminal LP. Both new and used wax can be found in-store. World of Echo focuses on electronic, jazz, art-rock, and DIY while also championing London labels and artists. Combine this spot with the ritual Sunday flower haul.
Yo Yo Records
Yo Yo is one of the latest additions to the London circuit, taking over the former Cosmos site on Hackney Road. The store specializes in U.S. originals and vintage pressings. Soul, jazz, gospel, psych, fusion, and Latin records can all be found here, neatly arranged among listening posts so you can explore for hours.
North London’s reggae go-to, Zen has been dealing a selection of reggae and soul for many moons. Its understated feel is made up not only by fantastic records but by founder and manager Robert’s charisma, who’s quick to put you onto his choice cuts and tales! The selection in store is refined but well-positioned, with pockets of disco and dance throughout. If you’re in need of a refuel, Pueblito Paisa Cafe across the road is one of London’s finest Columbian eateries.
One of our capital’s true originators, Honest Jon’s has held its post at the top of Portobello since the mid-1970s and continues to serve the area with its signature blend of reggae, jazz, and world music to this day. Alongside their own famous record label, the shop advocates independent labels throughout their operation, looking forward as much as looking back. A true London institution, Honest Jon’s represents the raw diversity of this city while sitting very much at the top of the pile.
Ben Beaumont-Thomas, music editor at The Guardian: “Aged 15, I was vaguely aware that jazz was good, but the sheer breadth was intimidating – and our family’s [sic] modem restricted the amount of Napster research I could do. Step up Honest Jon‘s, who recommended me Sonny Rollins‘ Saxophone Colossus and set me on the path. Since then, it’s been twice-yearly pilgrimages for a three-figure sum dropped on their impeccably curated mix of Black-Atlantic styles – from hip-hop to gospel, post-bop to Afrobeat, dub to funk – as well as the cream of underground dance. Their label, meanwhile, is so good and reasonably priced that you can buy blind in total confidence. And from Sam Dees to Dillinger, the number of records I’ve bought purely because they’ve been playing on the shop stereo is an embarrassing testament to my impressionability – and to Honest Jon’s magnificently cosmopolitan atmosphere.”
Music and Video Exchange
Founded in the early ’70s, this is one of the last remaining relics of a second-hand empire that commanded London for decades. Music and Video Exchange is personally a big reason why I fell in love with record collecting. You’ll dig through such a broad range of records, from samba to classical, along with memorabilia and a hefty selection of CDs, all of which are well priced. There are no listening posts in this branch but some fantastic records to be explored across both floors. If you’re west, pay this veteran store a visit.
George “Peckings” Price was one of the first to pioneer the reggae sound in London, opening his store doors in 1973 and founding a now-family-run institution that still stands to this day. Peckings’ record label champions emerging acts while drawing for OG artists, synonymous with George’s early years entrenched in sound system culture. If reggae is you, make the pilgrimage out west to visit George’s son, Chris, at the capital’s reggae Mecca.
People’s Sound Records
Founded in the 1980s by Windrush generation’s Daddy Vego, People’s Sound has held firm on All Saints Road through decades of evolution, delivering not only reggae but all its offshoots to Notting Hill. The interior is a timewarp but the store is serious in terms of its selection of 7-inches across calypso, rocksteady, dub, blues, and beyond, Nestled in the heart of Carnival is perfectly fitting.
Rough Trade West
London’s original location of the franchise founded during the mid-1970s, Rough Trade has been a key player in the United Kingdom and global music industry since. Compared to its East London sibling, the shop is condensed but offers a wide range of books, music, and memorabilia across rock, soul, electronic, and blues.
Soul Brother is held in the highest of esteem throughout London’s digging community since its doors opened in the mid-1990s. While evolving to encompass its record label, which brilliantly illustrates everything Soul Brother is about, the brick-and-mortar store has remained constant, serving London with the good stuff.
The Book and Record Bar
Paul Bridgewater, editor-in-chief of The Line of Best Fit: “The Book and Record Bar opened in 2013 in an old corner pub a few steps from West Norwood station. It’s by far my favorite place in the whole city for just great old records. I’ve spent hours at a time in there in the past few years and always pick up records I’m gonna listen to again and again rather than file away. The stock selection is immense too – voluminous and quality. The owner, Michael, is a contributor to the Rare Records Price Guide, and he’s collected over 10,000 records over the years. I take bands from overseas there a lot when they’re looking to pick up some records while they’re in town. It’s like watching kids in a sweetshop. They also have an equally impressive collection of books for sale and the curation there is just as impeccable.”
Having flown the flag across various sites in the South West since the early ’70s, Banquet continues to deliver a fantastic selection in new CD and LP releases, as well as represses. There is a real diverse selection of genres throughout the racks, illustrated perfectly by their in-store programming, from Nile Rogers to UNKLE to Craig David to Blink-182. Expect the unexpected.
Situated in one of London’s most quintessential corners, Casbah’s wonderful surroundings of Greenwich are a must-visit in themselves. Graham has migrated from stool runner to shop owner through the decades, specializing in the classics of rock, soul, prog, and jazz.
Since the early 1990s, Gary Dennis’ Crazy Beat has been a firm fixture on diggers’ radars, consistently purveying the finest in dancefloor-centric records from early. We took a closer look at the shop here — be sure to pay him a visit if you are ever that way. King of the East.
Tucked away in Welling but certainly worth the commute, Crusin has been open for a while, stocking a cold selection of records, CDs, beyond, including pop, soul, reggae, and R&B.
Croydon mainstay and UK dance floor specialists DnR has been supplying South East London with a ridiculous selection of UK garage and a focus on house, dubstep, and beyond since the early 2000s. This flagbearer of a distinctly British sound also has a wealth of stock available on its Discogs page above, so check it out wherever you are in the world.
The LP Cafe
Alexandra Furssedonn Howard: “Although not technically in London (despite what people from Watford try and say about their hometown), The LP Cafe is worth the trip on the Overground. Since its inception … it’s given a whole new lease of life to the young creatives of the town; it’s a meeting place for bands, artists, and the birthplace of so many collaborations. A coffee shop with a wide range of vinyl records, you’ll be able to spend a while looking through crates full of African disco to Norwegian black metal. There’s plenty of mainstream offerings, too, along with soundtracks and more obscure vintage finds.”
The Record Deck
Jamie Atkins or Record Collector Magazine: “London can be a stressful, pretty bloody, grimy place to live. Just check how much unspecified dark gunk appears up your nose after a commute across town, much of which tends to be spent uncomfortably close to a stranger’s armpit. I know, glamorous right? So what could be more attractive than a record shop situated along an idyllic canal walk, when you’re relaxed enough to actually enjoy rifling through the (beautifully curated) vinyl on offer? The Record Deck is a floating music shop that pops up, usually along the River Lea or Regent’s Canal, to offer Londoners enjoying a weekend stroll the chance to add some music to their day, as someone once said. Necessity dictates that the stock is all about quality rather than quantity – but there’s always been something that catches my eye. And it’s run by a fella who is clearly a real music fan – he knows his stuff inside out, and prices are reasonable. It’s certainly barged its way into my affections. All aboard!”
Music and Video Exchange
Chris Royle of DJ Mag and Diffrent Music: “Music and Video Exchange in Greenwich is the only spot I always make a visit to when passing by. I’ve found so many records from my Discogs Wantlist in there at decent prices. They even have a bargain-basement, which never disappoints.”
With a personal 25-year trading history, Palace Vinyl continues to grow, having opened up the brick-and-mortar shop recently and now tocking over 40,000 records! Specializing in electronica and dance music throughout the years as well as new releases, Palace Vinyl offers a large chunk available online, but we firmly advise any dance music lover to make a trip down here.
Record Detective Agency
With a method behind the madness, Record Detective has been cramming its suburban wonderland full of wax for decades– it’s one of North London’s real, under-the-radar time warps. It boasts second-hand records only and has zero online sales, so a visit to this unassuming London doorway is the only way to get a sense of what this detective is all about.
An infamous spot in southeast suburbia, Rollin Records is one of London’s gems since the early 2000s, stocking a real variety of genres. Rollin Records was championed by Mr. Thing in the list of his top record shops, you don’t get a better co-sign. It’s all second-hand and it’s all in-store only, so pay a visit.
Another outpost in Watford but certainly worth the visit if you’re up that way, Second Scene has a vast array of second-hand records to dig through, from jazz to classical to folk to ska. The prices are fair and the crates are deep, with a huge chunk listed on their Discogs store.
Shaks’ Stax of Wax
This Kingston Upon Thames record pusher is relatively new to the scene but stocks a vast array of wax in-store and some select pieces on their Discogs store. Over 40,000 second-hand records can be found in-store, so we would back a little road trip.
Sounds of the Suburbs
With a focus on punk, mod, ska, and indie, Sounds of the Suburbs stocks a vast array of DVDs, memorabilia, and CDs alongside its LPs and 45. It’s certainly worth the pilgrimage if this is you!
Curating original sounds since 1983, Paul Green has been delivering fantastic records to his corner of London. The lion’s share of stock consists of first presses from the early 1950s to the late ’60s, from LPs to 45s, and scaling up to the ’90s.
Beckenham’s treasure trove for over 20 years crams in a vast amount of records from all walks of life to every corner of the shops one of South East London’s real gems. Well-organized and well-priced, there is truly something here for all diggers. We advise you to allow yourself some time when it comes to your visit.
Feature photo by Sander Crombach.