Where are the best pubs in London? Who doesn’t want the answer to this question. However, with over 3,500 pubs to choose from, it’s almost impossible for anyone to definitively answer that question.
We hope to save you time searching for pubs that are near to the London tourist attractions you’ll be visiting by sharing a few London pubs we enjoyed.
Almost any you walk into will offer you the cozy, warm English experience you’ve dreamed of. There are also plenty of unique pubs and those with a more modern flair as well.
Many of the pubs will have live music, beer gardens, and beautiful London views. Some will be older than the existence of your own white culture (in our case Australia) with fascinating history and stories to tell.
More captivating will be their names, which range from the Thirsty Camel to the Dog & Duck and every animal, Queen, and King in between. Many pubs will be owned by the same company, e.g. Fuller’s and Green King, but retain their own stories and personality. (It does mean you’ll find the same menu at some of them.)
As we were traveling with our kids, it was mostly just to enjoy a pub lunch and a drink.
If you are traveling with kids like us, it’s helpful to know that many London pubs won’t be family friendly after 5pm so always check!
Some of these we visited in the evening while the girls stayed in our nearby hotel exhausted and watching TV. (We have a teen so we can do this!)
Every now and then we’d mix it up with a high tea or a café or restaurant, but pubs were by far our favorite.
I LOVED that many of the pubs in London had gluten free beer options, or delicious cider. All of which were low in sugar and alcohol. It was great to enjoy a drink with lunch and not walk out buzzing like with what seems to be the standard 6.5+% beers in the USA now.
One thing to note is most London pubs tend to close at 11pm, with last call drinks at 10:30pm. Again, this is a good thing so you don’t get temped to have a LONG night with exploration planned for the next day!
We didn’t come close to checking off our list of best pubs in London to visit. We’ll grind down on that with each new visit to London, because we’ll definitely be back. Be sure to leave your favorites (and why) in the comments below.
I will never be so bold as to say these are the “best pubs in London” – who in their right drinking mind can determine that? But, they are a few of our favorites after a short period of time exploring London (and a couple thrown in that I loved visiting when I lived in London!).
Lamb & Flag, Covent Garden
What a delightful find this old pub tucked away down a cobblestone alley in Covent Garden was. How I had never heard of the Lamb & Flag when I lived in London I’ll never know.
It’s one of the most famous pubs in London and the oldest pub in Covent Garden with a history that spans two hundred and fifty years.
The very first mention of a pub on this site was in 1772, when it was known as The Coopers Arms until it became The Lamb & Flag in 1833, although the building is said to date back to 1623.
In the early 19th Century it was known as “The Bucket of Blood ” for the bare-knuckle prize fights held here. And , the Lamb and Flag was also a favorite pub of Charles Dickens.
As to be expected, inside is narrow with small rooms and ceilings made for 18th Century drinkers, and the floors creaky. I loved the little alleyway to the side of the pub – watch your head as you duck to exit out.
Patrons will crowd the front entrance on a warm day – leaving more room for you upstairs in the dining area.
The traditional English pub food was excellent and felt a little more upscale than you’d expect (with reasonable prices considering). We could not go past bangers and mash and pie and mash!
This is a great pub to visit when you are exploring the West End of London. That is the region of Covent Garden, Leicester Square, and Soho.
The Founder’s Arms, Southwark
The Founder’s Arms was one of our favorite pubs in London for the magnificent views of the River Thames, Millennium Bridge, St Paul’s, and the North Bank.
Fingers crossed you can snag a table outside, especially if the sun is out and you have a rare t-shirt weather day. (Luck was in our favor!)
They have floor to ceiling views from inside through their glass windows so you can’t go wrong even if you are stuck inside.
Pimm’s & Lemonade is the drink to match this London view. And this would be a great spot for a pub lunch as well. I was more than happy with my chips and mayo – a favorite London dish I ate almost daily. For the Americans, that’s chips as in fries.
The Founder’s Arms is near many London attractions including St Paul’s, Tate Modern gallery, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and Borough Markets.
Anchor – Bankside, Southwark
The Anchor Bankside was a favorite London pub of ours for its history and riverside location. Its large beer garden on the banks of the River Thames in Southwark with its own tiki bar was fun.
The Anchor’s history dates back to the 1600s, but the current pub was built in the 1800s! It is said to have been frequented by none other than Shakespeare! It’s also on the site of a Roman grave and plague pit.
On a sunny day, it will be hard to find a place in the beer garden or rooftop, BUT, you can easily just stand on the cobblestone walkway in front. It’s the London way.
The Anchor is surrounded by many London attractions and is near Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, London Bridge, and Borough Markets, and the Clink Museum.
Waxy O’ Connors, West End
Always a favorite from my days living in London was Waxy O’Connor’s, an Irish pub located on the edge of Soho / Leicester Square. As it’s not really child friendly, we didn’t visit on this trip to London, but I recommend you do!
The reason I most love this London pub is the gigantic tree growing in the middle of it. We have a similar pub in Raleigh, but the tree is nowhere near as impressive.
Sitting amongst tree branches and tree trunks carved into a seating area feels like you’ve been transported into magical Pixie Land. And if you get bored of that, you explore the labyrinth of four unique bars covering six levels all linked together by a maze of staircases and passages.
This is a party place for sure – especially on St Patrick’s Day, for live sporting games, and live music. Come early as this place gets packed.
An iconic London pub not to miss – especially for a good time!
The Crown & Anchor, Covent Garden
We enjoyed this small pub in Covent Garden spread out over two floors. We met up with a friend here for dinner – gluten free fish and chips with delicious mushy peas and great sausage rolls for the kids!
The staff here are very friendly. The downstairs can get crowded quickly, and with our kids we enjoyed the more comfort and space of the lounge upstairs – although you will probably have to go downstairs to order.
They are located in the Seven Dials area of Covent Garden right near the food market, and many shopping streets (great for your teen! Covent Garden was on our London for teens list).
It’s also very close to several West End theatres so its great for pre or post-theatre meals and drinks.
Tattershall Castle on the River Thames
A favorite sunny day out when I lived in London was a couple of pints on the Queen Mary floating on the River Thames at the embankment. She is no longer there!
But, you have options for a similar experience at Tattershall Castle. Sit on the deck under that tilted red and blue chimney with a drink and views of the London Eye. Before being a raucous London Pub, she was a floating art gallery and passenger ferry on the Humber Estuary in the 1970s.
This is a unique London pub experience. They also have food, specializing in fish and chips – and a kid’s menu!
Edinboro Castle Pub, Camden
One of our favorite pubs in London (we went here twice) was the beer garden of the Edinboro Castle Pub near Camden.
Located a few streets back from the main Camden Town and less grungy than many of the other pubs in the region, the Edinboro is a wonderful place to rest your feet, soak up neighborhood vibes with a delicious pub lunch and local brew.
The beer garden is decked out with small red heated drinking booths and lights strung up between the shady trees. Inside is just as nice if you prefer that.
On Sundays, they have their Sunday roast, which, except for the Yorkshire Pudding, is gluten free, including the gravy!
They had a delicious gluten free beer on tap here too. If you visit on any other day of the week, it’s still worth coming to the Edinboro for lunch, or even just a pint.
Hawley Arms, Camden
Known as Amy Winehouse’s pub because she frequented it often, but would also jump behind the bar to pull pints for drinkers. (see the poster if her in the top left window in the photograph above!)
The Hawley Arms has the Camden feel of old – punk, grunge, and full of fun. It’s an eclectic mix of people and deep conversations in quiet corners and raucous laughter on the floor.
It’s prone to singing and dancing breakouts by staff and clientele. There is an upstairs addition to the pub that now hosts live music events, and many famous people can be seen here. Some of which include Liam Gallagher, Kate Moss, and Pete Doherty.
Dublin Castle, Camden
Dublin Castle is a legendary London pub for its live music scene that has spanned decades. It has been ran by the same family for over 28 years and features 4 live bands every night as well as a great selection of beers, ciders and wines.
It may feel a little grungy when you walk in with its dim lighting and posters plastered over the red walls, but that’s exactly whey people like it. There is no stuffy pretense needed here. It’s simply a place to turn up with your mates for a good time listening to good music!
The Dublin Castle helped start the careers of Blur, Coldplay, The Killers, Arctic Monkeys and Muse! It was also frequented by Amy Winehouse.
The Plough Pub, Bloomsbury
This is a pleasant watering hole in the heart of Bloomsbury in London, and a short walk from the British Museum. The pub has been been around since late Victorian times, and was once known as the ‘Baby’s Bottom’, possibly for its once pink color.
It was frequented by artists and writers before the war. Bloomsbury was an area where many famous people lived and roamed including Virginia Woolf, Charles Darwin, and Charles Dickens.
Our good friends from Raleigh, Curt and Jenny, recommended The Plough Pub to us as their favorite pub in London. Curt’s dad’s ashes sit in this pub, so we popped in to say G’day and have a drink with him.
There is first floor lounge room with extra seating, but it was closed when we visited. It’s a clean and traditional looking London pub and is quite small. Service was very friendly!
Camden Head Pub, The Angel
If you’re exploring the Angel Islington region of North London, you may want to stop in at the Camden Head Pub for lunch and a pint. We found our way here after visiting Platform 9 and 3/4 at Kings Cross Station and exploring a few Harry Potter film locations in the area.
There is a very cute pedestrian street called Islington’s Camden Passage which is famous for its antique markets and independent shops. Tucked away here is the Camden Head Pub with a large terrace overlooking the Passage.
The Camden Head was first established in 1849 as a tavern on Islington Green and rebuilt in 1899.
This pub is what is known as a classic gin palace – the ancestor to pubs. Inside you’ll find an interior that suits this elaborate Victorian style with wood paneling, chandeliers, engraved window panes for a touch of glamour.
We had a great pub lunch here. I loved its homely atmosphere.
The Gypsy Moth, Greenwich
In keeping with the maritime feel of Greenwich in Southeast London is the quirky Gypsy Moth, named after the small boat in which Sir Francis Chichester sailed single-handedly around the world.
With its dark blue interior, wooden floors, grand bar, wooden wall lining, and nautical artwork you’ll feel like you’re about to set sail beside the famous Cutty Sark you can see from outside the window or from the beer garden out back.
We only stopped in here for a drink, but you’ll also find a menu with traditional pub favorites.
The nearby Cutty Sark pub is a Greenwich institution. It’s more than 200 years old and has a great riverside terrace and views across the Thames.
Near here in Greenwich is the Cutty Sark Museum, Royal Naval Museum, Queen’s House, and Royal Observatory – all fantastic things to do in London!
Hereford Arms, South Kensington
The Hereford Arms was merely steps away from our hotel, the Millennium Gloucester in South Kensington.
This Vicotirian pub had quite a refined, cozy charm about it with its rustic wooden interior, quirky mismatch of furniture and wall hangings, and white exterior with flower boxes on the windows.
It is rumored to be the drinking haunt of Jack the Ripper, but since no one knows who that was, that story can’t be confirmed. We came just for a drink but the menu looked quite impressive with its traditional pub food mixed in with more exotic and modern sounding meals like lamb neck filets, roasted butternut squash, and asparagus cheese tarts
Ideally located for exploring Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Victoria & Albert Museum, and Knightsbridge.
The Stanhope Arms, South Kensington
Another pub in South Kensington located across the road from our hotel.
I loved experiencing the more neighborhood vibe of these pubs, and the Stanhope had quite an upbeat atmosphere with a good mix of ages and people.
As it’s right across from Gloucester Road tube station, the Stanhope Arms will see an interesting mix of people revolving through each day from business people and tourists during the day to more local and students in the evening.
The Stanhope pub was built in 1835, and has been visited by many famous people such as football icons Dennis Wise, Frank Lampard and the American actress, Eliza Dushku.
The Lamb Tavern, Leadenhall Markets
As soon as we walked past and I saw the “blokey” vibe of the after-work drinkers spilling outside on the cobblestoned lanes of the market, I knew we were in the Liverpool St area of London!
This is Bankerville and I used to serve similar clientele in a pub I worked in around the corner near Liverpool St Station.
While we did not visit the Lamb Tavern in Leadenhall Markets, we did pop in for a quick loo break and I loved the stunning old and small interior and the Rickety metal spiral staircase leading upstairs.
The Lamb Tavern has been operating as a bar since 1790. The menu is inspired from Leadenhall markets’ heritage of meat, poultry and game and their Sunday roast is popular. Their first floor restaurant overlooks the market.
I wanted to recommend this pub as I liked the look of it and wished we’d stayed for a drink, but mostly because of its location in the stunning Leadenhall Markets in Central London.
These beautiful covered markets were originally established in 1321 as a market for butchers and fishmongers (However history says it was the center of Roman London as a bazaar area in the 1st Century!)
Much of the ornately decorated interior and cobbled laneways that you see preserved today is from a redesign in 1881.
It’s now a shopping precinct with trendy bars, cute cafes, boutique stores and a couple of taverns. One of the reasons tourists come here is that it was used as the exterior for Diagon Alley in the first couple of Harry Potter films.
Slug and Lettuce, Richmond
Another of the great London pubs I’d frequently visit when I lived in London was the Slug and Lettuce on the banks of the River Thames in Richmond.
While it’s an area a first time traveler to London may not visit, if you are a returning visitor, or a traveler with a lot more time and desire to explore London’s neighborhood – and a quieter, local vibe, this will be a fantastic day trip in London.
This is a standout London pub simply for its riverside location and views. Thankfully, it’s all together a great pub experience as well for everyone in your traveling party.
The Slug and Lettuce is a fun English pub chain, usually attracting a younger crowd (especially at night), and are decorated with a Bridgerton floral color pop vibe. You’ll often find great deals on food and drink too.
They have really inexpensive kids meals, who are welcome until 8pm.
And if you want to add a touch of English class to this London pub experience, the Slug & Lettuce has a high tea for you at a reasonable price.
You can combine lunch here with a visit to the nearby Kew Gardens, the Tudor Palace of Hampton Court, or the stunning Richmond Park. And I highly recommend taking a walk along the river while here.
More London Pubs
There are so many other pubs we didn’t get to visit but are on our list thanks to recommendations from others (Don’t’ forget yours in the comments):
- The Churchill Arms in Kensington This regular haunt of Winston’s is known to be one of the prettiest pubs in London with its flower-clad façade.
- Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street, rebuilt after the great Fire of London and frequented by Charles Dickens.
- Built in 1550, the Mayflower is the oldest pub on the Thames. Americans will love knowing that this London pub is close to where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail in 1620 for the (now) USA.
- Ye Olde Mitre, Holborn, established 1546 and built by Bishop Goodrich.
- The Dove in Hammersmith was once in the Guinness Bork of Records for having the smallest bar in the UK. Its’ rumored King Charles II visited here with his mistress.
- The Viaduct Tavern, near St Paul’s Cathedral is rumored to be built on the site of a former prison. This gin palace still has five cells visible in the basement.
- The Oldest pub in London is said to be The Prospect of Whitby. Established in 1520 and known to attract smugglers, thieves, and pirates, which gave it the nickname “the Devil’s Tavern.