Best pubs in London
Our top picks for pints, pies and gastronomy
For a true taste of London life, step into a pub. All human life is here, from the after-work crowd to the Sunday lunchers, crossword-toting octogenarians to Friday night revellers.
Most of the capital's watering holes have been around for at least a century or two, with many traditional London pubs boasting original architectural details.
And, if you can find one that doesn't claim to have pulled a pint for Dickens in his day, you'll be doing better than us.
Whether you’re in the mood for craft ales or fine cuisine, a sunny courtyard or a cosy cellar, there’s a London pub for you. To get you started, here's our pick of the best London pubs.
More in the mood for a restaurant? Find out where to eat in London.
Best gastropubs in London
Whether you're after Michelin-starred dining, European flavours or rich, indulgent desserts, our pick of the best food pubs won't disappoint.
Wherever you're staying in London, you'll be able to reach one of these gems, and be tucking into some of the best pub food in London before your tummy's even had time to rumble.
The Harwood Arms
Walham Grove, SW6 1QP
With its rough-hewn tables and great arched windows, this Fulham pub puts a rustic spin on the classic pub experience.
The kitchen rustles up simple but refined fare, which makes the most of British game and produce.
Order venison pâté, Cornish monkfish or mandarin trifle, among other delights. It’s best to book ahead: this is the only pub in London with a Michelin star.
The French House
49 Dean Street, W1D 5BG
This bleu-blanc-rouge pub is a Soho institution. Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and Charles de Gaulle were regulars, perhaps drawn to its bohemian charm, pastis selection and half-pints of beer.
Upstairs, the dinky dining room has an ever-changing menu, but favourites include confit garlic, pig’s-head terrine and indulgent Paris-Brest with hot chocolate sauce.
But the real joy in this tech-free haven is in the eclectic crowd. Pull up a stool, order a glass of wine and see where conversation takes you.
Anchor & Hope
36 The Cut, SE1 8LP
A stroll along the South Bank is an essential part of any London weekend, but dodge the riverside restaurants and duck inland for lunch or dinner at this top-notch pub.
The Cut is awash with tasty restaurants, cosy pubs and buzzing bars, but the Anchor & Hope combines all three and is undoubtedly one of the best pubs for food in London.
On the menu you'll find everything from three cheese and hazelnut soufflé to wild venison Provençal, but be sure to save room for pud. From classics like apple crumble to a zingy negroni sorbet, there's a sweet treat for every taste.
40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP
If you're exploring the City, make a dinnertime detour to Spitalfields to check out this multi-storey marvel.
The ground floor pub is a friendly spot to grab a pint, while the rooftop garden is an oasis among the skyscrapers.
The bistro in between is the real star here though. From fritto misto and delica squash spätzle to coq au vin and a cheeseboard from Mons, the menu has a distinctly European flavour. Delicious it is, too.
Historic pubs in London
Right across London, you'll find historic pubs at every turn. Many date back to the 1600s, and have all the beautiful original features you'd expect, from timber beams and wonky doors to spookily creaking stairs.
To help you indulge in a drink with generous side dish of history, we've picked out the best old pubs in London.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
145 Fleet Street, EC4A 2BP
Hidden away down a narrow alleyway off bustling Fleet Street, this ancient tavern oozes atmosphere and charm.
At ground level, the cosy snug bar welcomes thirsty travellers, but it's the cellar you'll want to see.
Amid low ceilings and whitewashed walls, tables are tucked in all manner of nooks and crannies. Perfect for conspiratorial conversations – or just plotting your next sightseeing stop.
117 Rotherhithe Street, SE16 4NF
End a leisurely walk along the Thames at this historic pub, which overlooks the original mooring point of the pilgrims’ ship.
It may have bags of character, but that’s not its only selling point. Whether you’re in for a pie and a pint or the gigantic fish and chips, the pub grub here’s always fresh and seasonal.
On a warm day, head outside to the boarded terrace to enjoy the view across the Thames as the river sloshes beneath your feet.
94 Lamb's Conduit Street, WC1N 3LZ
A short walk from the British Museum, this handsome Victorian pub is a stickler for tradition.
Green leather banquettes line the walls, and snob screens – once used to shield customers from staff – still circle the horseshoe bar.
The menu’s traditional with a few tasty twists: think scotch egg with beer mustard, battered cod with triple-cooked chips and grilled lemon, and sticky toffee pudding served with honeycomb ice cream.
18 Wilton Row, SW1X 7NR
Tucked away on a cobbled street near Hyde Park, this compact but charming pub isn’t just the haunt of well-heeled locals. A ghost by the name of Cedric's also said to be a regular.
Superstitious visitors still hang banknotes from the ceiling, supposedly to pay off the debt the young soldier incurred before his untimely death.
For the best chance of spotting Cedric, pop in for a pint in September. That's when he's thought to have met his end and sightings peak each year.
The Old Bank of England
194 Fleet Street, EC4A 2LT
Housed in the former Law Courts’ branch of the Bank of England, the interior of this pub has to be one of London's most impressive.
The island bar is lit by goblet chandeliers, while ornate ironwork and plush furnishings hark back to the building's high-class past.
And as if it wasn't already 'London' enough, the beer garden's home to a vintage Routemaster double-decker bus: a prime spot for an Insta snap.
Traditional British food to try
Gone are the days when a trip to the pub meant a warm pint and a packet of crisps. These days, you'll find food from every corner of the globe on a London pub menu.
You can't beat a British classic though, so be sure to track down these traditional pub grub dishes while you're in town.
A stone's throw from Tower Bridge, the Dean Swift is a popular spot with locals and visitors alike. That's why it's well worth booking a table.
Come Sunday, they serve up aged striploin, 1/2 chicken and leg of lamb roasts, plus a tasty wild mushroom wellington.
Piled on your plate you'll also find perfectly-roasted roast potatoes, fresh, flavoursome veg and a giant Yorkshire pudding. Yum.
London department store Fortnum & Mason claims it invented this moreish picnic treat as far back as 1738.
Its origin story hardly matters though. Wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried until golden brown, this egg is arguably the best British pub snack.
Proving you can improve on perfection, The Opera Tavern‘s version is made with 'Nduja sausage for extra kick.
A proper pie is a beautiful thing. Crisp, golden pastry on the outside, succulent, well-seasoned filling within.
Goddards at Greenwich are masters of the art, and have been serving piping-hot pies to hungry Londoners since 1890.
Fillings run the gamut from traditional steak and kidney or chicken and mushroom to chilli minced beef or veggie soya. As per ancient tradition, each comes with a generous dollop of buttery mash and lashings of flavoursome gravy.
Bangers and mash
It may not technically be a pub, but the sausages at Mother Mash are too good to miss. As the name suggests, spuds take centre stage, and every order begins with your choice of mashed potato.
Then it's onto the topping. Along with traditional Cumberland and Lincolnshire links, there are gluten-free and chicken options. The veggie and herb sausages are tip-top, too.
Finally, add a good glug of gravy and dive in. Divine.
Bread, cheese, onions and chutney: this packed lunch was once designed to be taken to the fields.
These days it’s zhuzhed up with all manner of extras (pork pies, terrines and the like), but increasingly hard to find.
Thankfully The Clarence – the Prime Minister’s local – keeps tradition going with a generous sharing platter of cheddar and sourdough, served with celery, apple, pickled onion and a scotch egg.
Frequently asked questions about pubs in London
Central London is packed with ancient pubs, and no two are alike. For a 17th-century chophouse feel (think sawdust on the floor), check out Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.
The Cittie of Yorke on Holborn is an atmospheric spot, and the Samuel Smith beer's a (relative) steal. Otherwise, follow your nose around the alleyways near Bank to find some of the City's oldest pubs.
For piratey vibes, set a course for Wapping. The Prospect of Whitby dates back to 1520 and is right on the river's edge. In the 17th century, "Hanging" Judge Jeffreys would call in for a pint, and the infamous regular is now commemorated with a gallows on the foreshore.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street often claims to be London's oldest pub. There's been a chophouse on the spot since 1538, but the Great Fire of London in 1666 put paid to the original.
Thirsty locals wasted no time in building the 'new' pub though, which opened a year later in 1667.
Another claimant to the 'oldest pub' crown is the George. This London Bridge pub is the last surviving galleried inn in London and the large courtyard is a popular spot on sunny days.
Grab a drink and a snack, and imagine yourself resting a while before saddling up or setting off again in your stagecoach.
Standard closing time for pubs is 11pm, with last orders being called shortly before (listen out for the bell). Some are open later though, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.