12 Legendary London Pubs that You Don’t Want to Miss
With places that are centuries old and still serving drinks, London’s many pubs are one of the city’s main attractions. Here are some you should make sure to visit.
A lot of London’s history is hidden between the walls of its traditional pubs. Besides having the best tap beer, these places offer a look into the city through the ages.
In fact, the best way to develop a feel for the city is to visit the venues that have been serving its residents for decades and centuries past.
With many of them counted among the best pubs in England, here are the 12 legendary London pubs where you can experience the authentic soul of Britain’s capital.
1. The Flask
Located at the top of Highgate Hill, The Flask is a famous pub that was a favorite of renowned poets like John Keats and Lord Byron. The oldest part of the pub dates to the mid-17th century, while the newer features are around 80 years younger.
The Flask is named after the tradition of collecting nearby spring water in flasks. After all, one of the springs was located right behind the pub.
2. The Star Tavern
Belgravia’s Star Tavern opened in the early 19th century and has since seen its share of celebrity visitors, such as Peter O’Toole. The historical bar earned its notoriety as the staging ground for the grand robbery of the mail service that happened in 1963.
Today, the pub is among the best and most charming in Belgravia, and even in all of London, to enjoy a quality pint.
3. The Spaniard’s Inn
Another spot that attracted literary giants, the Spaniard’s Inn in Hampstead has a stylish, authentic atmosphere perfect for tasting outstanding ales, craft beers, and a selection of fine wines.
You won’t find many pubs as iconic as this one, and the unique flair is evident from the ever-changing selections of lagers, ciders, and refreshing craft drinks.
4. The Nag’s Head
Not far away from Harrods and the Knightsbridge shopping district, this pub presents a wonderful surprise for those that discover it. It’s filled with unusual decorations and curious items representing a time long gone.
Per its old-fashioned charm, cell phone use is forbidden inside. And to stay true to this attitude, The Nag’s Head doesn’t have an official website to this day. This pub’s the closest to time travel you could get and just having a drink in there is an experience in itself.
5. The Grapes
Formerly known as Bunch of Grapes, the pub situated in Narrow Street is famously described in Our Mutual Friend’s opening by Charles Dickens. It hardly comes as a surprise, as he’s a reportedly loyal patron.
If that’s not enough celebrity power, the current owner of The Grapes is the theater champion, Sir Ian McKellen.
But even if you’re not very interested in Shakespeare and modern theater arts, you might still find the idea of stopping by Gandalf’s for a drink to be an enticing one that’s impossible to miss.
6. The Grenadier
Originally a mess for the Foot Guards regiment officers, The Grenadier transformed into a pub about a century after it was built. Its pleasant, cozy interior has proven irresistible for many, including the Duke of Wellington and Madonna.
Despite its history and status, The Grenadier is still a place where you can find the perfect pint and grab an authentic English pub lunch.
7. The Black Friar
There’s no chance you wouldn’t recognize the wedge-shaped building, the massive black sculpture above the doors, and the clock beyond it when approaching The Black Friar.
The pub stands exposed because it narrowly avoided demolition during the extensive reconstruction of the surrounding area.
Its interiors are extravagant, done in an Art Nouveau style with plenty of religious-themed decorations and art. And once you step inside, you’ll feel glad that the city planners didn’t follow through with their original intent.
8. The French House
The French House is famous as the former meeting place for the French Resistance members during the Second World War. It’s become a bohemian hotspot in more recent times, although it kept the French charm to the point that French measures are used for the drinks.
To keep the pub as authentic and reminiscent of the past, there’s no TV inside and mobile phones are banned.
All that’s missing from this historic Soho venue is Charles de Gaulle sipping wine on one of the tables.
9. The Viaduct
The renowned Victorian gin palace and the last surviving of its kind in London, The Viaduct opened in the mid-19th century. It’s located across the street from the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, better known as the Old Bailey. The central location ensures there are many exciting historical stories tied to the pub.
You can come in for a pint of excellent tap ale and take in the beautiful interior decorated with etched glass panels and massive portraits that adorn the walls.
10. The Cross Keys
With lush foliage covering the exterior and the heavily-ornamented, gorgeously lit space inside, The Cross Keys pub might be among the most authentic spots in Covent Garden.
A large portion of its atmosphere comes from an avid adherence to tradition because, despite its popularity, the pub remains primarily a gathering place for local patrons.
And because of its loyalty to the local customers, The Cross Keys remains among the secret bars Covent Garden hides among its streets.
11. The Lamb
Although it’s considered one of the Victorian pubs due to its interior, The Lamb significantly predates the Victorian era. It’s a legendary London pub with a rich history, a connection with Dickens, which isn’t a rare case for local pubs, and a distinct setting.
Inside, you’ll find antique screens, a bar that’s shaped like a horseshoe, and, as an item of great curiosity, a polyphon, which is a sound reproduction device that preceded the gramophone.
And if you proceed to the back, there’s a secret garden waiting to be discovered.
12. The Seven Stars
The Seven Stars pub is among the rare places that survived the terrible Great Fire of 1666. Due to the lucky escape, it’s now an institution with over four centuries of history. But if you don’t pay attention, it would be easy to miss the tiny place despite its wonderful, flowery exterior decoration.
A traditional pub with a great selection of exceptional ales, The Seven Stars is frequented by legal professionals as it’s located right by the Royal Courts of Justice.
Have a Pint in a Historic Locale
Experiencing the most unique and legendary London pubs will leave an impression comparable to seeing Big Ben for the first time. And it’s not all about the drinks.
Witnessing the living history of a metropolis such as London is priceless. And what you learn during your historic bar crawl will stay with you for a long time.