If there’s one thing London knows how to do better than anyone else, it’s the pub. We have had the pub game on lock down for centuries and many of the best pubs in London are those that have been around the longest, seeped in history, character and decades of spilt beer. Wherever you are in our great city you can be sure that you won’t be far from an amazing pub in which to drown your sorrows, celebrate, or just enjoy a quick time out with a pint and the paper.
While often the best pub in London is the one closest to you, there are certain pubs that are special enough to seek out and it’s these that we’ve collected together in the map below. From a pint of Guinness next to an open fireplace in the depths of winter to an ice cold craft beer in one of the city’s great pub gardens, these are without doubt the best pubs in London.
The Auld Shillelagh, Stoke Newington Church Street, London, UK
We once heard a rumour that a young lady approached the bar and asked the barmaid, ‘‘Do you have prosecco?’. The barmaid nodded and poured Guinness into a champagne flute. Yes, this is an Irish bar through and through. You’ll find characters from all walks with stories, there’s live traditional Irish music, and lots of loud, loud, enjoyable singing. Oh, they like football here too, so it’s not one for quiet pint.
Off the main Shoreditch drag, the Well & Bucket is a gem of pub. It’s been restored to its former glory with gorgeous tiled walls and a copper topped bar taking pride of place in the middle. They’ve got a solid range of craft beer on tap and even more in the fridge, and they serve up a great oysters and seafood menu too.
There should be more pubs like Skehans in London. In fact, ALL pubs should just be exactly like Skehans. Located on a quiet residential street in Nunhead, Skehans has got it all: pool table, darts, sports on the telly, and a great beer garden out back. The drinks list is a good mash up of your standard beers like Heineken and Fosters together with Beavertown and Hop House 13 lager. They also do a banging little menu of Thai food, probably some of the best we’ve had in London. Add to that regular live music, a jukebox and general good vibes and you’ve got one of the most fun pubs in London.
It wasn’t long ago that this pub was rough as a badgers arse, so to speak. Mainly down to being the closest pub to York Hall, where many a boxing fight goes down. HOWEVER it’s still one of our faves because it has an edge. It’s old school, a proper pub. It smells like a pub, feels a like a pub and serves cold beer and banging toasties. And upstairs you’ll not just find the toilets but a barber shop, how about that.
Whoar this is a big pub. HUGE. Just off the roundabout in Clapton, this is a great watering hole with excellent beers, including local brews and guest ales and it also knocks out decent food. You’ll find people drinking both out the front and the back…do check out the beer garden. You can have a bit of a dance with DJs on weekends too. Banging pub.
178 Stoke Newington High Street, London N16 7JL, UK
Despite some epic lampshades, it’s very dark in this Stokey pub, which can be good and bad, depending on how hungover you are, but they’ve got outside street seating too and the music is always good. They do Thai food too, which ain’t bad either. Except you can’t pay by card for your food, or order it from the bar…you’ll soon pick up how it works, just go ask someone.
The Axe is what we like to call a new breed of pub. It’s all about the beer, but with a quirky, forward thinking mentality that will make beer lovers weep with joy. Expect mind bending and unpronounceable guest beers that are so rare, so limited, you’ll feel so lucky that you’ll spend a tenner on a lottery ticket. They do support local brews too so check the boards and ask questions, take a seat and enjoy the education. Sharing beers are a bit spenny though, just saying.
Tucked away on a residential Islington Street, the Earl of Essex is well worth seeking out if you’re serious about your beer. They have a changing selection of around 20 craft beers up on their hymn board and they’ve got their own brewery on-site too. And every dish on their menu comes with a beer recommendation. Obvs you can get other drinks here but why would you want to?
The Albion is another North London pub with an excellent beer garden. This one has got to be one of the prettiest though thanks to all the fruit trees and hanging wisteria. Thankfully the inside of the Georgian pub is just as good too with log fires for when it’s cold, a solid gastropub menu for when you’re hungry and a well stocked bar for, well you know.
Once the playground for all sorts of night dwellers like Amy Winehouse, Noel Fielding and Alexa Chung this Camden pub still offers up a night out to remember…all those impromptu and secret gigs mean you don’t know what you might stumble upon. There’s a tiny outside area you’ll struggle to manoeuvre around but the real gem is the upstairs terrace. The staff look younger than your newborn cousin and couldn’t give a shit what band you are in. Just don’t cause trouble and have a bloody good time.
A guaranteed minimum of 18 ales and ciders are on tap here. GAU-RAN-TEED pal. Not only that, this very old school boozer also does a very good line in sausage rolls and pork pies too. You can’t book, reserve a table, a seat or an area though. You can’t pay by card either. And they don’t have a phone, just beer, cider and a fridge full of meat. How do you like them apples?
After you’ve scaled the rather steep hill and are back on level ground with a puff and a pant your mood will be lifted with the sight of The Flask. It’s a fine looking establishment that’s also a local to a certain Mr Gallagher (the angry one anyway), with a huge beer garden with booths and tables, a cracking roast, local and guest ales. What’s not to like…oh the hill, yes well.
Arguably the biggest attraction to The Faltering Fullback, just up from Finsbury Park tube, is the multi-level beer garden…staircase, beer garden staircase….it’s like a bloody maze. Admittedly weather depending, the garden offers secluded pockets of seating where you can chat into the early hours. The pub itself is a traditional one, except it does Thai food, which isn’t traditional at all, but you’ll find all your usual friends behind the bar. Great pub.
It doesn’t look like much from the outside but that’s all part of the charm of this boozer. There’s a big horseshoe bar and some trippy paintings on the walls – what’s that banana one all about? It’s a fave with Hackney locals, especially on the weekends, thanks to the decent pub grub menu and the atmosphere is always on point too.
Hidden away in the heart of Islington you’ll find The Alma. After being saved by the community back in 2013, this pub is here to stay. It’s plastered with movie posters and film paraphernalia, so there’s a lot for cinema buffs to love here, but they also do a cracking roast, the beer selection is ace and they’ve even got a resident pooch Buster.
Bang on the corner of Broadway Market, the Cat & Mutton gets busy quick but with plenty of beers on tap plus wines and cocktails as well as great pub grub, it’s not hard to see why. They keep you entertained too with a weekly pub quiz and DJs on the weekend. If you can’t find a space by the copper bar, head upstairs to the spacious Other Bar.
The Pineapple is so beloved by Kentish Town locals that when the place was threatened with redevelopment, a community campaign not only got it saved but listed by English Heritage. The Grade-II listed bar is home to a changing selection of ales, the kitchen dishes up Thai food and it’s also got a gorge conservatory that’s perfect if you’re hosting a little party.
Formerly the Pride of Tottenham, a pub you’d avoid unless you wanted things to get a bit tasty on matchdays, The Bluecoats is now somewhere you’d actually want to go for pint. The team behind Night Tales is responsible for the new look, including 20 lines of craft, keg and cask beer and Lucky Chip burgers in the kitchen.
34-35 Great Sutton St, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 0DX, UK
This light and airy pub has a decent amount of tables and TV’s scattered around (great for watching the footy), with a strong range of craft beer behind the bar. What sets it apart from other watering holes in the area is the intimate venue downstairs, which regularly hosts comedy and live music, and the sound is bloody good down there too.
They’ve got a great little beer garden at the back of lovingly restored The Adam & Eve (plus a covered area for when the rain inevitably comes) but there’s a lot to love inside too…pool tables, sport on the telly, Rockadollar in the kitchen, great sausage rolls at the bar and it’s always buzzing on the weekend.
15 Grosvenor Rise East, Walthamstow, London E17 9LB, UK
With great wine, local ales and even proper coffee as well as a monthly changing gastropub menu, The Castle ticks all the boxes. You’re guaranteed a warm welcome and you can bring the whole fam along too because this place is dog-friendly and baby-friendly.
Thanks to a big refurb, The Griffin has polished up its rough edges whilst still retaining that traditional pub feel (it helps that it’s quite small and quite dark). They can mix you up a G&T or a spritz but this is a beer pub, with a strong selection of brews on tap and even more in the fridge, including some pretty potent bottles.
This brick-lined pub, which dates back to the 1850s, may be on the small side but they’ve packed in an enormous selection of Irish whiskeys and poitin behind the bar as well as a contemporary cocktail menu, punch sharing bowls and local brews on tap. Dark and atmospheric, it’s everything you want a pub to be.
Owned by Ronnie and Reggie Kray back in the day, The Carpenters Arms used to be one of the most notorious pubs in town. Now apart from a discreetly placed print of the long-departed twins, you would never have known of its history. It has an impressive range of over fifty different ales from all over the world and a small menu of classic British grub.
Located down by the river in Limehouse, The Grapes has history. There’s been a pub on this site since 1583, Charles Dickens was a fan – there’s even a complete set of Dickens in the back parlour for anyone who wants to catch up on their reading – and now the pub is co-owned by Sir Ian McKellen. They’ve got a separate dining area upstairs but we say find a spot in the bar with a pint of ale and a plate of fish & chips.
THE PALM TREE
127 Grove Rd, London E3 5BH
Giving the good ol’ Queen Vic a run for her East End money is the long-standing Palm Tree. You either love or hate this old-school boozer – there’s nothing modern here, don’t expect food beyond a bag of nuts and you can definitely get better pints elsewhere. What you do get is a cracking atmosphere, live jazz every weekend from proper old crooners and the landlord is a real character.
The Shakespeare is a local’s local where everyone knows everyone. Hidden in the middle of a residential street you’ll find beer by the bucket load, wine by the barrel load and a jukebox – yes a flipping real one – that will rock your socks off. There’s a beer garden, tables out the front and you can even bring in your pizzas from next door and eat them in the pub.
You won’t be short of entertainment in this Irish pub right by Tufnell Park tube. They’ve got pool and darts, regular karaoke and live music (and gigs in the neighbouring Boston Music Rooms and The Dome) and sport on the telly. If you just want a drink though, they can do that too with a decent pint of Guinness.
Music, booze and food…that’s how The Monarch advertises itself and that’s exactly what they do. As well as live music in the week, they also host club nights on Fridays and Saturdays; they’ve got a solid beer selection and a good little gin range; and they serve up burgers, hotdogs and loaded fries. You want a pint, a burger and some bangin’ tunes, you come here.
The French House is our favourite place in Soho, if not London for meeting new, random, weird and wonderful people. It’s a Soho institution with an incredible history, having opened in 1891. Inside the interiors are typical of an old school pub with lots of wood and dark brown – it doesn’t look like the interiors have been touched since the 70s and don’t even think about asking for a cocktail! This place serves draft in half pints, classic spirits and mixers and some dodgy wine. If the weather allows, grab a drink at the bar, stand outside and be entertained by the Soho crowds.
You’ll have to fight for space (or just get very lucky) at this Farringdon pub because it is on the small side. It’s a beauty though, with rooms dating back to the 18th century, so it’s worth squeezing in, and it’s the only place to get beers from St Peter’s Brewery in Suffolk. Despite the interiors, the Jerusalem Tavern has only been a pub since 1990 but they’ve nailed that old pub charm.
YE OLDE CHESHIRE CHEESE
145 Fleet St, London EC4A 2BU, UK
You wouldn’t want to miss having pint at one of the tables Charles Dickens sat centuries ago, would you? Rebuilt after the great fire in 1666, the pub is one of the oldest in London. With low lighting, wooden walls and a labyrinth of rooms and corridors, one step inside really does feel like you’ve turned the clock right back. It’s defo one for the tourists but every Londoner should drink in here at least once in their lives.
The best thing about Bradley’s is the original vinyl jukebox. The most annoying this about the jukebox is that it takes the old pound coins, so you’ll inevitably leave with a loads of gold you can’t use. However, this is a blinder of a pub. It’s tiny and hidden away just of Oxford Street where you’ll meet all sorts of people with enchanting tales of times of old. And it’s open late, obviously.
19 Carlisle St, Soho, London W1D 3BY, UK
Famous for their exceptionally well poured and tasty Guinness, the Toucan is definitely the place to come for the black stuff. Some say that there is a tunnel under the Toucan that transports Guinness underground right from Dublin itself. Others say that is simply not the case. An Irish bar through and through, the place is small, often rammed and bloody good fun.
39 Broadwick St, Soho, London W1F 9QJ, UK
The man that showed the world that cholera was carried and spread via water, Dr John Snow wasn’t just a fan of pubs, but science. Outside the John Snow is a replica of the water pump that was actually the source of a huge cholera epidemic in Soho way back when. The pub itself is a beaut, a traditional beast with dark wood panelling and a big focus on ales. The saloon bar also has a partition in the middle under which you must duck, unless you’re vertically challenged, to pass from one side to the other. The upstairs is huge and more lounge than bar. Downstairs is where it’s at though.
170 Uxbridge Rd, Shepherd's Bush, London W12 8AA, UK
The proximity to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire means this pub is always pretty busy pre-gig. If you’re not heading to a show (and once those who are have cleared out) you’ve got a load of seating to choose from, or you could perch at the island bar. It’s run by Young’s so you’ve always got a reliable selection of brews to choose from too, although they make a real effort to stock some interesting craft numbers.
When the market gets a bit too much and you want to sit in the sun in Notting Hill on a weekend, this is the place. It’s round the corner from Ladbroke Grove underground and the outdoor space is right on the street across two sides of the pub which makes for great people watching. Usual suspects at the bar and a few craft ales. Grab a beer and take a seat. It’s that easy.
Also known as the Sloaney Pony thanks to its popularity amongst rahs, the White Horse actually has a lot going on to tempt non-locals down to SW6. Their range of beers, both on draught and in bottles, is strong and they host regular beer festivals too. It’s nice and spacious inside with plenty of sofas to lounge on, but if the weather’s good, you’ll want a spot in the beer garden out front.
Tucked back on a little square, this boozer is a great one to have up your sleeve, especially if you’re looking for a pre-gig pint rather than a pre-gig scrum at the bar. They extended upstairs to give more space for diners and added a fire pit to the beer garden, so you can hang out back there all year round. It’s a Young’s too so you can be sure of a decent pint.
The Fat Walrus is a fave amongst South Londoners with the FOH team completely re-building the interiors when they took over in 2016, adding the beer garden – and it’s a complete sun trap. YES! With 12 draught options, 3 hand pulls and 15 bottles there’s lots of choice and before you leave make sure you have a burger, or you’ll regret it.
The Duke of Edinburgh has one of the biggest beer gardens in South London and it comes with a huge outdoor bar and BBQ pit. With lots of ales and cask beer on rotation, this one is a good spot for beer geeks. It’s super chilled and great place to spend a sunny afternoon.
We challenge you to find a leafier beer garden in London than The Rye in Peckham. Yes, this one is an ACTUAL garden with real life grass and trees, and it’s absolutely huge. With enough picnic tables to seat half of Peckham, table tennis and a BBQ area, there is no better place to spend a sunny afternoon. Luckily they’ve also got a fully stocked bar and gastropub menu to keep you going inside if the weather isn’t co-operating.
Instead of standing by and letting the place close back in 2012, the local community raised £1 million to keep The Ivy House open, turning it into London’s first co-operatively owned pub. They’ve got a changing selection of keg, bottle and cask beer, vino from Liberty Wines, and Old Spike coffee at the bar; traditional pub grub coming out of the kitchen; and everything from open mic nights and pub quizzes to knitting circles and yoga throughout the week.
They know their beer down at EDT – there are ten hand pumps serving real ale with more local brews on the bar and in the fridges, earning them a spot in the Camra Good Beer Guide 2018. If you’re after a spot of food, you’ll be well looked after in that department too and the spacious interior, with vintage and upcycled furniture, boasts two open fires, so you can get real cosy.
65 Camberwell Church St, Camberwell, London SE5 8TR, UK
If you want a top Sunday roast make a beeline for The Camberwell Arms. It comes very highly rated (number one by the Guardian in 2017 in fact) and the rest of the food coming out of the kitchen is also top notch, with as much made in-house as possible. The Camberwell Arms is still a pub though, and in fact there are two bars inside. Downstairs is the place for a pint and a snack, whilst the upstairs keeps it going until late.
It’s traditional all the way at this Waterloo boozer; it’s on a proper old street, it’s split into public and saloon bars and it’s got nine real ale pumps on the bar. There is a bit of a twist when it comes to the food in that it’s Thai rather than classic pub grub but it’s both great and reasonably priced. The only problem is a lot of people seem to like the Kings Arms, so it can get busy but we’ll just call that atmosphere.
The Harp, Chandos Place, London, UK
The Harp is a favourite of ale drinkers and was even named pub of the year by CAMRA (campaign for real ale) in 2011. It’s slap bang in the middle of London making it an ideal meeting point, although it is quite tight on space inside. The walls are covered with old oil paintings and the bar plastered with old beer mats from around the world which we love. Yes you will be sharing the pub with fusty old ale nerds but it’s a great spot regardless – especially if you are an old ale nerd yourself.
The Champion, London, UK
Fitzrovia’s The Champion is a fantastic option for when you need a quick escape from the crowds of Oxford Street. It’s got the classic Victorian pub interior that we know and love plus Samuel Smith’s excellent selection of cheap beers and ales. It doesn’t usually get too busy either so it’s always a good option for when you just want a quiet pint – event if that does end up turning into six.
LAMB & FLAG
Lamb & Flag, Rose Street, London, UK
Another rare gem in Covent Garden, the Lamb and Flag is on a site that’s had a pub in one form or another since 1772. We love the tiny alley that runs down one side of the rickety old building, which is also charmingly rickety inside with its classic Victorian design. The pub is owned by Fuller’s now so their ales and beers feature prominently and there’s also a fairly standard menu of pub grub too.
THE CROSS KEYS
The Cross Keys, Endell Street, London, UK
Tourist-focused Covent Garden isn’t known for having that many great pubs but the Cross Keys on Endell Street is a gem. If you haven’t been in before you’ll definitely have noticed its facade which is absolutely covered in plants and shrubbery. The ‘busy’ visual theme is continued inside with a dark interior that’s absolutely covered in bric a brac, with everything from oil paintings to old instruments and brass kettles adorning the walls.
THE OLD COFFEE HOUSE
96 Shaftesbury Ave London W1D 5ED Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 5ED, UK
On the slightly grimier end of the ‘classic Soho pub’ scale, the rough around the edges vibe of the place is of course all part of the charm. Full of old knick knacks hanging from the ceiling and vintage war posters on the walls, this pub is firmly and resolutely stuck in the past – it doesn’t even have a website, a refreshing two fingers to modernity. In amongst all this though is a bit of a surprise: as well as your Fosters and your Guiness they have a huge range of craft beers from Leyton’s own Bodie’s Brewery (who actually own the place now), so you can enjoy the old school atmosphere with decidedly new-school beer.
Princess Louise, High Holborn, London, UK
If you had a friend over from America that wanted to see what a real traditional London pub was like, you may well take them to the Princess Louise in Holborn. It’s an absolute Victorian classic, with wood panels, tiled floors, and a series of booths separated by wooden dividers around an island bar. The whole place, including the men’s urinals, is Grade II listed, so it really is like stepping back in time in here. It’s own by Samuel Smith now so you’ve only got their drinks to choose from but given their famous cheap prices there shouldn’t be too many complaints here.
20-24 Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 7EU, UK
The Lyric is a lovely little Victorian pub at the Piccadilly end of Soho. Not far from the theatres of Shaftesbury Avenue, it draws a good crowd of Londoners and in the summer you can even squeeze yourself into the tiny outside area at the top of Ham Yard to watch the world of Soho go by. Inside it’s all classic wood panels, open fires, Victorian prints on the walls and a menu of ales, beers and pub grub.
COACH AND HORSES
The Coach & Horses, Greek Street, London, UK
The Coach and Horses is the second best pub in Soho (after the French House obvs) and sometimes we even prefer it, when we fancy an actual pint for example. The interiors clearly haven’t been touched for a good 40 years and it’s all the better for it with creaky old furniture, frayed carpets and a solid wooden bar. It’s a classic boozer the likes of which you don’t find in central London too much any more – it even has piano singalongs on Wednesdays and Saturdays which are a lot of fun. They also have very comprehensive vegetarian and vegan menus. Here’s hoping The Coach and Horses never changes, as it’s pretty perfect just the way it is.
THE PRINCE BONAPARTE
Prince Bonaparte, Chepstow Road, London, UK
Well away from the crowds of Portobello, The Prince Bonaparte is a favourite hangout of well-heeled locals. You will likely see lots of people wearing sunglasses inside at any time of year and perhaps even the odd famous face. It’s not hard to see why it attracts such a crowd however, this place is bloody gorgeous with 1920s art deco interiors and a kitchen that has a Japanese robata grill – seriously where else in London would you find a pub with ar robata grill?!
The Cow Pub & Dining Rooms, Westbourne Park Road, London, UK
Given the plush Notting Hill neighbourhood it’s located in, The Cow is pleasingly ramshackle once you’re inside. Supposedly the name comes from a previous landlady who was a bit of a cow, though now most of the cows are just pictures on the wall. They do a cracking pint of Guinness as well as oysters and some pretty posh seafood – this is still Notting Hill after all.