A Guide to London's Best Pubs
Top Places For Pints In Traditional English Pubs
Visitors to London must simply stop by a pub – or two – in the English tradition.
Anyone with a sense of history, even if it's a most casual passing interest of what it was like to go out in past centuries, must visit a London pub.
They are dark, smoky and consist largely of a blue-collar crowd (at least later at night). After work, many are filled with well-dressed analysts, stock brokers, bankers or business executives winding down after another day of trying to improve the world's financial status.
History holds a corner bar stool at these places. Battles have been planned, plays penned and legendary heroes and crooks have pounded pints at many a London pub over the centuries.
Pubs can be found on every street corner and the tourist-heavy areas of Covent Garden, Piccadilly and Soho are covered with them. Some of the oldest are adjacent to Tower Bridge. Mayfair, an upscale address full of the city's best shopping spots, also has many traditional haunts. PubClub has our "pub picks" by the different areas in which they are located.
Fun in a pub; that's what it's all about in London.
Many of the pubs have the word "The" or "Ye Olde" in the name, making them sound proper and official. And the really good news is that many pubs have upgraded their food, providing little incentive to leave until they run you out, but at least it's not at 11 p.m., anymore.
A fairly recent law allows for establishments to serve for 24 hours, but unlike all-hours Las Vegas, most places will simply extend business hours by an hour or more. So the 11 o'clock bell, followed by the phrase, "time please gentlemen," is ringing later in London.
Useful London Pub Tips:
– The beer in England is stronger than beer in America.
– The measure for hard alcohol is only 25ml, which is of the size of a shot in America.
– The bar staff does not expect a tip.
– Night buses run all night, so if you need to get home late that is a great option.
The classic Salisbury Pub is rich and elegant.
One of London's best pubs – off all the tourist maps and guide books – is right in the heart of the tourist area. Waxy O'Connors (on a side street around the corner from the main area) is flat-out cool. It has a small area in the front, but keep walking. You'll be rewarded with a gigantic room that looks like a Medieval castle, complete with a balcony overlooking the main area. It's a popular place, especially on Sundays, so arrive before 8.
The Shakespeare's Head in Soho is a traditional pub with a true English feel.
The Salisbury Pub in Covent Garden is a classy pub with a very rich and elegant interior. The Lamb & Flag is very old and famous, located at the end of a strange dead-end street. It has two floors and is very popular, especially as a meeting place prior to a more intoxicating evening.
The French House is regarded as one of London's friendliest pubs. During World War II, it was the London rendezvous of the French Free Forces. Gen. Charles de Gaulle wrote his historic declaration of defiance of the Nazis in the room above the bar. Try the French wine here as well as the beer.
The beer at The Spice of Life is stronger than most, and it packs in the crowds. Prince of Wales has a large map of historic pubs and their locations on the wall. The Sherlock Homes (in nearby Trafalgar Square) housed Mr. Holmes' study on the second floor. The Opera Tavern is the perfect place for a pint for those on their way to a London play. It has a Victorian interior with a theater theme. The Glassblower has real gas lamps and sawdust on the floor, but the crowd is a bit touristy for some locals.
Pillars of Hercules is a serious drinking pub, making it a very popular destination. It has a wide variety of bottled beer, which is interesting because most pubbers prefer draught.
Long-time London vets feel some of the best places to soak up the suds in the city is the old fish-and-chips places. One such place is Rock 'n Soul in Covent Garden. Not only does it have what some consider the best fish and chips in London, it has a basic pub atmosphere and has been here since 1871.
The Slug and Lettuce is technically an Irish pub. It has one room that's like a cafe and another with black-and-white photos from the turn of the last century. It's a popular place to chill before hitting some of the more crazy spots of the city.
The World's End is one of London's most famous pubs serving a wide variety of ales. Stargazey is not your typical English pub, but it is lively, loud and packed on Mondays.
Another fun pub in Fulham is The Fine Line.
Ye Grapes is a classic English pub. It has ship models, mounted animal heads and a friendly staff. The Red Lion and Coach and Horses are very popular among locals (the name of the latter alone is worth a visit).
The King's Arms is a good pub lunch stop.
South Bank and London Bridge
This is an area that few tourists ever visit. It is a bit seedy but very London. The pubs are mostly the old local style not as influenced by crowds of tourists. The George is a very local hangout. Wheatsheat, right under the bridge on Stoney St, is old and seedy (which makes it really worth seeing). Ditto for Market Porter next door.
The Old Bell is a 330-year-old pub on Fleet Street frequented by the after-work suit crowd.
Along the River Thames
One could do well just to crawl from one pub to another along the Thames. A good place to begin this historic pub crawl is in the area of Greenwich. That's where east literally meets west, providing the origin for the term "Greenwich Mean Time."
The Trafalgar Tavern in Park Row has a nautical theme, The Yacht has part of the Thames running under its terrace and is a popular dining spot. The Gun is now full of yuppies instead of dock workers; legend has it that Admiral Nelson kept a room upstairs.
Farther along, Waterman's Arms presents live music and hall-style shows. Perhaps the smallest pub is The Grapes. Charles Dickens wrote about it in "Our Mutual Friend" and it it features a surprisingly tasty menu. The Mayflower is a historic, 17th century pub. It's called the Mayflower because, supposedly, one can see the spot from where the ship of the same name departed for its epic journey to America. It's near The Angel, one of Captain Cook's hangouts in his day.
The Anchor Tavern is a long-time favorite due to its location close to Shakespeare's Globe Theater. The Dicken's Inn has traditional wooded decor as well as a beer garden.
More Pubs & Tube Stops
The Stanhope Arms shows American football games in the fall.
STANHOPE ARMS: Tube Stop: Glouster Road on the Piccadilly Line Average Pint Price: £2.50 A raditional sports pub located in South Kensington. The bar features 12 beers on tap, ranging from ciders to dark ales. With a big-screen TV hanging from the ceiling it is a prime location if there is a game from home for Americans vissiting on those important fall football weekends.. When there are no big American games on the pub typically plays soccer games from around the world. There is a great old English feel to the pub though it tends to yield a mostly American crowd.This is the pub for you ifÉyou want to see an American sports game or you want to socialize with Americans.
In the wake of Finnigan's Pub is the ballad of Tom Finnigan.
FINNIGANÕS WAKE Tube Stop: Glouster Road on the Piccadilly Line Average Pint Price: £2.20 FinniganÕs Wake is an Irish pub with a story behind its name. There is an old Irish ballad of the same name that tells the story of Tom Finnigan. He was a builder who fell off his ladder and died, however at his wake one of his mates accidentally knocked a gallon of whiskey onto his coffin and he miraculously rose from the dead. Believe it or not, it is still a great story! Depending on the night, this pub can range from a great place to have a quiet pint with your mates, to a rocking bar. The bar staff is friendly. The pub is decked out in classic Irish décor and you will quickly be reminded of the long history of UK by the creaky floor. If you are looking for a quiet place, check this pub out on a Sunday or Monday night. If you want something more upbeat check it out Tuesday through Saturday. This is the pub for you ifÉyou are looking for a traditional Irish pub.
The Black Widow is the favorite pub of London-based students and backpackers.
BLACK WIDOW: Tube Stop: Glouster Road on Piccadilly Line Average Drink Price: £3.00 The Black Widow is a must do for young travellers. It's the home pub of our American college student in London. It is a unique pub that explores the dark side and takes on a hip reputation. When first walking into the pub it is easy to get caught up in the gothic décor. The ambiance is dark and uses deep purple and crimson hues.
he bar taps are a tangled mess of metal and beakers and test tubes line the walls, in a funky, art deco kind of way. The restrooms (called toilets in England) are located downstairs, through an uneven walkway. When you finally get to them recorded, haunting sounds greet you, which can be quite unnerving after a few pints. There are plenty of different social settings to enjoy here. There are independent rooms, if you are looking to have a private party, or bar tables, if you want to mingle.
The pub is huge so to meet new people sit toward the front door or to enjoy the company of your old mates, grab a table near the rear. One of the main perks of this pub is their drink selection. Most pubs do not serve mixed drinks. However, the Black Widow has seven different pint-sized drinks, each named after the seven deadly sins of wrath, pride, lust, gluttony, envy, sloth, and greed. Each cocktail costs £3.25. If you are planning on sampling these delicious concoctions ask for a ÒPassport to PurgatoryÓ which entitles you to a free pitcher of drinks or a free t-shirt if you try them all (and it does not necessarily have to be in the same night.)
The Black Widow also sells test tube shots for £1 (but know that the test tube only equates to 1/3 of a shot in actuality.) Also, if you plan on visiting the pub more than one time, pick up a R.I.P. card. It is free and entitles you to 10% off of all your drink purchases and a free mini bottle of champagne on your birthday. About once a week they also have theme nights with funny bar games that allow patrons to participate and win free drinks. It is an overall fun place to chill.
This is the pub for you ifÉyou want to meet new people, you want to have a mixed drink, you are looking to mingle with an under 30 crowd, or if you have a passion for the darker side.