Home to Judge Dredd and 2000 AD, the British capital of London might not necessarily strike most as a good source of geeky experiences to check out. After all, Japan and Hong Kong have pretty much set the standard when it comes to gawking at the latest geek ware. If you are making a trip to London, however, there are still unique experiences to check out, especially with the rise of Harry Potter and the like.
Not quite as densely packed as compared to other cities in Asia we’ve covered in the past, the geek shopping experience in London is pretty different yet still strangely familiar. There’s a good emphasis on the retail experience here and it welcomes folks from all walks of life. If you’re looking to get into the hobby, London is by far one of the best experiences where we do not encounter anything stereotypical about geek culture in general.
Focusing on one of the more touristy spots in London, this geek guide is much shorter compared to the ones we’ve covered in the past but it should give a good cross-section of what London’s mainstream geek scene has to offer. If you’re headed there for a holiday, Leicester Square is definitely one of the places you’ll be heading to as part of the itinerary and the basis for our guide.
1. LEGO Store Leicester Square
3 Swiss Ct, London W1D 6AP, UK
Our first stop is a short walk from the Leicester Square station and opened to much fanfare with an exclusive minifig and London Bus set available for purchase. Similar to the store in New York, this is a spacious store that shows off the best of LEGO across two stories.
The real highlight here is creating your own personal LEGO mosaic. At 99.99 pounds, this is your chance to pick up a monochrome portrait of yourself as a keepsake. Reservations for a slot are highly encouraged, though it might seem that mornings, in general, are a good time to visit due to the lack of a crowd when I was there. You’re also able to reserve a slot ahead of time and maximise your travel itinerary which we would highly recommend.
2. Gosh! Comics
1 Berwick St, Soho, London W1F 0DR, UK
Well lit with pretty displays, GOSH! Comics is a great retail experience for anyone who’s looking to browse and pick up an indie comic book title. There’s plenty to browse here so it might take a bit more time if this is your cup of tea.
Traditional comics from the likes of Marvel and DC are available as well, just head down to the floor below. Somehow this place totally feels like a comic book experience created by a fan who grew up, got a job, quit being a corporate slave, and wanted to own something close to his heart. The dream!
3. Orc’s Nest
6 Earlham St, London WC2H 9RY, UK
Cool name aside, the Orc’s Nest is possibly one of the best finds in London, plus it’s located right smack in the middle of everything.
Sporting an industrial aesthetic with its metal shelves, Orc’s Nest has pretty much all you’d need for the modern board gamer.
Prices aren’t exactly the best, but this is definitely a place to check out if you might be looking to pick up a tabletop game for a friend. The only thing missing here is a space for regular gaming. Though we’re guessing with its location, that wouldn’t be an efficient use of space.
4. Forbidden Planet
179 Shaftesbury Ave, London WC2H 8JR, UK
Yes, Forbidden Planet is that type of store everyone will tell you to visit if you’ve ever declared being a geek. If your Fandom exists in the mainstream, there’s going to be a shelf here for you.
Pretty sure this is how comic book and toy stores look like when all their rivals have fallen. It’s hard to deny that Forbidden Planet is a one-stop shop for all your geeky needs. Not quite the place for hidden gems, Forbidden Planet is the place for anything that’s trendy especially pertaining to mainstream media. Be it Rick and Morty, Stranger Things, or Deadpool (during my visit), this place perfectly captures the zeitgeist and trend of that quarter.
The basement level houses books of all kinds, leaning towards art and housing plenty of trade paperbacks as well. So hold on to those dollars, this is the place you’re likely to blow most of your holiday money on. However, do compare prices online, there might be better deals to be found and with free shipping to boot as well.
5. The Noble Collection
Ground Floor, 26-28 Neal St, London WC2H 9QQ, UK
Depending on where you live, London might be a destination more suited for well-heeled folks. However, that should not limit you from stepping into The Noble Collection and checking out what the upper tiers of geekdom might look like.
Focusing on a few specific properties, fans of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones, should make a beeline for this locale and check out their premium wares. No such thing as penny pincher or souvenirs here as everything available in this store needs to be carefully curated in your home. Pretty much every item in this store is a perfect ornament and would look right at home in any geek den, but you have to afford it first. The prices in this store aren’t exactly bank account breaking but they veer upwards in price compared to what you might have been familiar with at Forbidden Planet.
6. Orbital Comics
8 Great Newport St, London WC2H 7JA, UK
If you’re looking for your white whale of some sort of comic back issue, Orbital Comics might be the place to seek it out. Even better, it might even be signed!
From individual issues to graphic novels all sorted by publisher, Orbital Comics has it all covered. This locale truly shines with their wealth of back issues and the number of silver age comics lining about on the wall. To top it all off? Prices are surprisingly decent as well. Definitely, a stop for any collector and they have super helpful staff on hand as well!
Bonus: Dark Sphere
186 Hercules Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 7LD, UK
While not quite in the vicinity of Leicester Square, Dark Sphere is the place to be for anyone seeking one particular item in London – Warhammer.
Apparently, prices for Warhammer are lower here than anywhere in the world (we might be exaggerating) but it’s worth a trip down across the river to take a look at this amazing store.
Filled with plenty of tables, we reckon that Dark Sphere becomes a hive of activity over the weekend considering the dedication to Magic and Warhammer. There’s a good collection of board games as well at prices lower than what you might find at Orc’s Nest. While the price might be one thing, the travel and walking distance needed to get to this stop might be a turn off for most. However, for the sake of affordable plastic troops, the trek is well worth it.