Discover the Top 10 Pubs in London

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The Great British pub has been at the heart of local communities throughout the years. Pub numbers may have declined in recent times, but the pub remains a much loved institution.

In London, pubs are still as vital as ever, a place to meet, drink, eat and laugh.

Great pubs still abound across the whole of London. From gastropubs to the traditional local, visitors to the capital have an excellent choice of pubs where you can find quality food as well as quality beer. The range of London pubs means you can find venues to suit most budgets.

Pubs are great keepers of tradition, serving traditional British food sourced from local British produce. Real and craft ales are being fully appreciated once more, with many small breweries having been founded in recent years and supplying their local pubs.

The following are 10 of the top pubs you should try when visiting London.

1. The Mayflower

The Mayflower Pub was previously used for grain storage. Now one of South London's most beautiful pubs, the Mayflower has a traditional pub on the main floor with dining on the second floor. (© Se16boy, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The historic pub "The Mayflower" in Rotherhithe seen across the Thames (© Steve F-E-Cameron, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Tucked away in Rotherhithe, this hidden gem of a pub next to the river Thames is well worth finding. The Mayflower is a traditional British pub and is said to be the oldest pub located along the Thames in London.

It is from here that the Pilgrim Fathers set sail in 1620 and hence the name of the pub, having originally been called the Spread Eagle.

The dark beams and low ceilings point to the pub’s age and provide for its cosy feel. Outside there is a decking area with lovely views across the river Thames. There is a separate restaurant area on the first floor, serving fresh seasonal food with all your traditional pub classics.

The main menu includes a slow-cooked BBQ pulled pork burger priced at £13.95, as well as classics such as fish and chips for £12.95. You may plump for the sausage and mash for £13.95 or for the vegan equivalent. If you are looking for a lighter bite at lunch there is a separate baguettes menu, while if you visit on Sundays you can treat yourself to a Sunday roast starting from £14.95, with the vegetarian option priced at £13.95.

The Mayflower is part of the Black Dog pub company and their draught beers include guest ales priced from £4.50 a pint. On Wednesdays you can enjoy a pie and a pint for £15, or alternatively you can visit on Fishy Friday, when two portions of fish and chips will also cost you £15.

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2. The Lamb & Flag

The Lamb and Flag, a pub up a small alleyway off Garrick St, gets very very busy, and downstairs is mostly standing room, though it has an upstairs room with tables. (© Ewan Munro, CC BY-SA 2.0)

This Fuller’s pub in Covent Garden was reportedly the watering hole of choice for author Charles Dickens. Indeed, this historic pub, dating back to at least the 18th century, was probably frequented by many well known names from the Restoration period.

We know that the poet John Dryden was unfortunately attacked in an adjacent alley, the incident noted today by a plaque outside the pub.

Today the pub retains the feel of a traditional pub, with lots of wood flooring and wood panelled walls. There is a main bar and a cosy back bar on the first floor. Venture up to the first floor and you will find the Dryden room, an extension of the pub complete with its own bar.

Traditional English pub food is the order of the day, using fresh local produce. The main menu has a range of starters, sharing dishes and mains. The Fuller’s Frontier battered haddock with triple cooked chips is priced at £15, while the crispy squid starter costs £6.25. Vegetarian choices of mains start from £11. There is a separate children’s menu for the little ones and a sandwich menu for a lighter bite. The Lamb & Flag also serves Sunday roasts from £16, with a nut roast option priced at £14.50.

The pub serves a range of Fuller’s ales plus seasonal ales, meaning there is always something new to try. Food is served from noon every day, finishing at 8pm on Monday to Thursday, 9pm on Friday and Saturday, and 7pm on a Sunday. Located close to some of London’s world class theatres, the pub provides the ideal location for pre or post show refreshments.

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3. The French House

Famous and long-standing pub "The French House" (© Ewan Munro, CC BY-SA 2.0)
"The French House" previously known as "York Minster", a historic pub in Soho where General Charles De Gaulle is supposed to have written his speech "A Tous les Francaise"

If you ever wondered what the traditional British pub would look like if given a slight French twist, then this Soho pub provides the answer. As well as ales, lagers and spirits, the French House stocks 30 wines and champagnes.

This is a no nonsense, TV and machine free pub with a no mobile rule, where you can go and have a decent conversation with your friends.

The French House has always attracted a diverse and creative clientele thanks to its location in Bohemian Soho. However, everyone is welcome to this atmospheric pub set over two floors. This is another pub wrapped with history, where it is said Charles De Gaulle wrote his vital rallying call speech to his fellow countrymen during the second world war while exiled in London.

The main bar area is on the ground floor, where local photographers and artists are encouraged to display their work. The small restaurant room is located on the first floor, with lunch served from noon to 3pm on Tuesday through to Saturday. Dinner is served from 6pm to 9pm from Tuesday to Friday.

The French House offers an authentic slice of France in Soho. The food also has a French twist, which can include duck rillette for starters and spicy sausage and aligot for mains, a take on the traditional British pub staple of bangers and mash.

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4. The Harp

The Harp, a pleasant pub if it's not too busy, especially the charming little upstairs room. However, usually it is very busy. (© Ewan Munro, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Covent Garden is one of the most popular areas among visitors to London, and the Harp is one of its most popular pubs. This is an award winning pub which is frequently rated as one of the best pubs in the capital, let alone Covent Garden.

The Harp is a good, traditional British pub in the heart of London, whose lovely stained glass windows make an instant first impression.

This is a real ale lovers haven too, with the compact bar holding 10 hand pumps providing a selection of Fuller’s and guest ales. The range of previous ale offerings are represented by all the beer mats you can see as part of the décor above the bar.

The Harp is a cosy pub where you can escape from city life for a while and enjoy good beer and good conversation. Just a stones throw from attractions including Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, this is an ideal place to come and relax and recharge your batteries after a day exploring London’s landmarks.

5. The Blue Posts

The Blue Posts is a lovely traditional free-house pub with an ever changing selection of craft beers, lagers and ciders on tap. (© Ewan Munro, CC BY-SA 2.0)

This historic Georgian pub has been restored to its former glory and offers a three for the price of one venue. Housed within a grade II listed building in Chinatown, the Blue Posts is situated on the ground floor.

The first floor has been converted in to the Mulwray wine bar, while the basement houses the acclaimed Evelyn’s Table restaurant.

The Blue Posts is a lovely traditional free-house pub with an ever changing selection of craft beers, lagers and ciders on tap. Visitors to the Blue Posts will be able to sample beers produced by up and coming independent breweries from across the country, with draught beers starting from £5.95 a pint.

The pub also stocks a selection of international wines, providing a taster of what you can expect if you are thinking of taking in the Mulwray bar upstairs. There is also a small bar snack menu which is put together by the head chef at Evelyn’s Table. You can find sharing snacks such as Campagne sour dough with cultured butter priced at £5 and London cured meats priced at £6.

The Blue Posts can be found on Rupert Street in the heart of Chinatown, with Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square tube stations just a five minute walk away. The pub opens from 4pm to 11pm Tuesday to Thursday, and 12pm to 12am on Friday and Saturday. The Blue Posts does not currently open on a Sunday and Monday.

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6. The Harwood Arms

The Harwood Arms is currently the only Michelin-starred pub in London, a venue which combines fine dining with everything which is good about the British pub. Here you can eat and drink in a relaxed, cosy atmosphere while enjoying the best that British produce has to offer.

The provenance of the food served at the Harwood Arms is paramount to their philosophy, working with quality British producers and suppliers. There are not many road miles involved in some of the produce you will eat at this pub as it is supplied from their own rooftop vegetable garden.

The menu has a focus on promoting British game, with Aynhoe Park Sika deer and Sladesdown Farm duck a couple of sample dishes from the daily menu. For a Michelin-starred establishment the prices are not too eye-watering, with a two course meal costing £42 and three courses priced at £55. There is a separate Sunday menu which is available all day, where a three course lunch will again cost you £55. Don’t forget to take a look at the pub’s extensive wine list.

The Harwood Arms is located on Walham Grove in the residential backstreets of Fulham. Lunch is served Friday and Saturday from 12pm to 2.15pm, while dinner is served Monday through to Saturday from 5.30pm to 9.15pm. On Sunday you will find the Harwood Arms open from 12pm through to 8.15pm.

7. Spaniards Inn

The Spaniards Inn (© T. Thielemans, CC BY 3.0)
The garden of the Spaniard's Inn on a sunny lunchtime in Hampstead (© Harry Wood, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Spaniard’s Inn is located on the edge of Hampstead Heath and is the ideal spot to relax after a good walk on the heath. A former toll-gate, this striking white building has quite a literary background.

This is where Keats is said to have written ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, while Charles Dickens includes the pub for a scene in ‘Pickwick Papers’.

Wood panelled walls adorn the cosy interior, combining with period features and dashes of contemporary décor for a traditional yet modern feel. The bar has an extensive selection of traditional craft beers, as well as premium lagers and ciders. One of the hidden gems of the Spaniards Inn is its lovely walled beer garden, with barbecues in the Summer and patio heating in the cooler months.

The pub serves classic British dishes from its main menu, including beer-battered fish and chips for £15 and chicken, leek and pancetta pie for £15.50. The Beyond Meat burger is one of the vegan options. The pub also has a breakfast menu where you can order all your favourites to start your day, as well as a Sunday menu offering roasts from £17.50. Children can have a smaller roast, priced from £7.

The Spaniard’s Inn serves freshly prepared, seasonal food every day, all day, so no worries about how long that walk on the heath seems to be taking. The pub opens at 10am and shuts at 11pm, except on Sunday when it closes at 10.30pm. The pub is also served by good public transport links.

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8. The Dickens Inn

The Dickens, a reconstructed 18th century pub, originally a warehouse, has a bar, an upstairs restaurant, balconies and plenty of outdoor terrace seating. (© Ewan Munro, CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Dickens Inn, looking suitably festive, with a Christmas tree outside! (© Peter Trimming, CC BY-SA 2.0)

This reconstructed 18th century pub, originally a warehouse, has a bar, an upstairs restaurant, balconies and plenty of outdoor terrace seating.

This all adds up to a roomy venue with lovely views out across St Katharine's Dock. The antique furniture and Victorian style fittings help create a homely and cosy bar.

The floral exterior display as you approach the Dickens Inn is the first thing to grab your attention. Inside the Tavern bar on the first floor you can enjoy a good selection of craft ales and wines. The bar also serves traditional pub food, including burgers from £13.29, pizzas from £10.99 and classics such as as fish and chips for £16.49. There are five large screens for sports fans and two large beer gardens.

The Grill restaurant above the bar also showcases the best in British cuisine. You could opt for the traditional Cumberland sausage and mash for £14.25 or the Teriyaki salmon, priced at £17.45. Steaks and salads also feature on the menu, which could be followed by a tempting dessert like the chocolate and raspberry torte, priced at £8.45.

This pub, named after London’s famed author, is open from 12pm to 11pm Monday to Saturday, and 12pm to 10.30pm on Sundays. The Dickens Inn is located at Marble Quay on St Katharine's Way, in close proximity to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

9. The Churchill Arms

The Churchill Arms in June 2012 (© Ewan Munro, CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Churchill Arms during the Christmas season (© Loco Steve, CC BY-SA 3.0)

This is another pub instantly recognisable for the colourful floral display which adorns the exterior of the building. It is also another historic London pub, first opening its doors to the public in 1750.

Winston Churchill’s grandparents were regular patrons of the pub, which changed to its current name in the aftermath of the second word war.

Inside the pub you will find lots of fun items and signs hanging from walls and the ceiling, including Churchill memorabilia. This all adds to the traditional and cosy feel the pub exudes. An ever changing range of Fuller’s ales, seasonal ales, craft lagers, ciders and artisan drinks means there is something new to try for retuning visitors.

The Churchill Arms specialises in Thai food, with a menu containing a choice of noodles, stir fries and currys. The roast duck curry served with steamed jasmine rice costs £12, while if you fancy a stir fry you could opt for the two chill rated Pad Ped for £11. This dish includes a choice of chicken, beef, pork, prawns or veg, stir-fried with red curry paste, long beans, peppers and bamboo shoots.

The Churchill Arms is located on Kensington Church street, with Notting Hill Gate and High Street Kensington tube stations close to the pub. Doors open every day from 11am to 11 pm, except on Sunday when the opening times are 12pm to 10.30pm. Food is served every day from 12pm until 9.30pm, finishing half an hour earlier at 9pm on Sundays.

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10. The Chesham Arms

The Chesham Arms, a historic pub on Mehetabel Road, Homerton and in October 2014 became the London borough of Hackney's first Asset of Community Value.

It is hard to beat a good, unpretentious local where you feel welcome and at home as soon as you step through the door. The Chesham Arms in Hackney is a community pub which was saved by the locals from being developed in to apartments.

The pub has a feel of a countryside inn within the capital.

The Chesham Arms is located in a Victorian building on a quiet residential street, bookended by houses. Centre stage go to the beers which have been recognised by CAMRA, who named the Chesham Arms 2016 pub of the year for the City and East London area just six months after it re-opened. Not to be outdone, their ciders got in on the act by picking up the 2018 award for London Cider pub of the year.

The pub has two fireplaces to warm yourself up in winter and a beer garden for the summer months. The pub does not have an in-house kitchen but are happy for you to have pizza delivered from the nearby Yard Sale Pizza, which sounds very inviting.

The Chesham Arms is currently open from 4pm to 10pm on Monday to Friday, and 12pm to 10pm at the weekend. This dog-friendly community local has Hackney Central and Homerton as the closest stations for visitors to the area.