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Historical Pubs: Top 10 Pubs With A Story To Tell

Picture of Historical Pubs: Top 10 Pubs With A Story To Tell

London’s rich history is its major attraction and one of pride for its residents. Since the Brythonic settlements 2500 years ago, London has survived disease, fires, civil wars, unthinkable crimes, and attacks from the Romans, the Nazis, and Islamic terrorists. And yet, it’s also been home to many influential historical figures, and London’s bars, pubs, taverns, inns, cafes and restaurants have played an important part in its history.

Some venues are worthy of note for being places where the great and good, famous and infamous, gathered to discuss ideas, make decisions, take inspiration or ply their trade. In some places, the buildings themselves are of historical significance, capturing a particular epoch of London’s glorious past.

So here’s your guide to the Top 10 bars, pubs & restaurants to make you feel part of London’s history.

Image courtesy of Flickr user SoulStealer<

Image of The George Inn Yard

London Bridge & Bermondsey
Bar

Borough - This old tavern, reportedly visited by Chaucer in the 14th century (the original site of the Tabard, where The Canterbury Tales begin, is next door) and Shakespeare in the 17th century (his Globe Theatre was close by), burned down in 1676. The building that replaced it is now a Grade I listed building, and is the only galleried coaching inn in London. The compact interior makes for a typically cosy experience; the more expansive courtyard outside is perfect for summer drinking.

Image of The Lamb & Flag

West End
Bar

Covent Garden - Far from the high-rent civility of modern Covent Garden, this characteristically cosy old pub - a quaint old relic - spent most of its 400-year history surrounded by the kind of poverty, violence and vice that was rife throughout the West End until the late Victorian period. It was once known as the Bucket of Blood for staging bare-knuckle prize fights and poet John Dryden was beaten to within an inch of his life on the street outside in 1680.

Image of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

City of London
Bar
Eclectic

Fleet Street - A labyrinthine network of cave-like rooms and awkward passageways, this pub is soaked in an atmosphere of old London that few other public buildings can match. It was converted from a medieval guest house in 1538 (the original 13th century walls still border some of the downstairs rooms), and tourists and locals alike continue to revel in a unique atmosphere once enjoyed by Shakespeare, Voltaire, Twain, Tennyson, Dickens and Conan Doyle.

Image of Spaniards Inn

Hampstead
Bar
Eclectic

Hampstead - Jutting inconveniently into the road the way old buildings love to do, this up-market gastropub has welcomed famous regulars like Byron, Hogarth, and Constable in its time, plus a few infamous characters (highwaymen Dick Turpin and Sam Bacon). It was referenced in classic novels The Pickwick Papers and Dracula, and the beer garden (one of London's best beer gardens) is reportedly where Keats wrote Ode To A Nightingale. An ideal pub after a day at nearby stately home Kenwood House.

Image of The Punchbowl

Mayfair
Bar / Restaurant
British

One of the oldest pubs in Mayfair, The Punchbowl has been serving fine local ales and exquisite British cuisine to London's gentry since 1750. Recently reopened after some grand renovations, each floor now offers a different but equally delicious dining experience. You can choose to unwind with a classic Sunday roast and real ale in the cosy downstairs pub, savour sophisticated plates modern British cuisine in the first floor Dining Room or, for an evening of true indulgence, the upstairs Club offers private dining with a distinct Victoriana feel.

Image of The Blackfriar

City of London
Bar
Pub

Blackfriars - This isn't London's oldest pub - even though it's built on the foundations of 13th century friary, it only opened in 1875 - but this wonderfully unusual City boozer makes the Top 10 as London's only surviving art nouveau pub. A dark, deceptively roomy pub with walls depicting medieval life in distinctive, simplistic Edwardian style, The Black Friar is a perfect architectural encapsulation of how London has continuously called on its rich history to inspire its cultural advancement.

Image of Prospect of Whitby

Whitechapel & Wapping
Bar
Pub

Tower Hamlets - Though only the stone floor remains from the original 1520s riverside tavern (most of the rest was destroyed in a fire around 300 years later), this pub is still a charming Grade II listed 19th century building, with views of the Thames immortalised in paintings by patrons JMW Turner and James Whistler. A famous meeting place for sailors, explorers, smugglers and pirates, taverns like this were the throbbing heart of British sea power back when Britannia ruled the waves.

Image of Trafalgar Tavern

Greenwich
Bar

Greenwich - Though not nearly as old (it only opened in 1837), the Trafalgar's oak-panelled grandiosity stands in neat contrast to the more modest Prospect of Whitby. While sailors and smugglers crammed into the pub to drown themselves in rum, it was the likes of Prime Minister Gladstone and novelist William Thackery that dined out at the pub on the success of Britain's naval dominance. A beautiful spot to enjoy dinner or a drink after a visit to the numerous historic attractions of Greenwich.

Image of Gordon's Wine Bar

West End
Bar

Embankment - Established in 1890, Gordon's Wine Bar is the oldest wine bar in London, making it probably the oldest wine bar in the world. Built into the cellar of a building that was once home to Samuel Pepys and Rudyard Kipling, Gordon's' stubborn refusal to modernise (there is no music, all the décor is original, and wine and water are the only drinks available) have helped it retain a historical caché that few other London bars can match.

Image of Beauberry House

Dulwich
Bar / Restaurant
European

Image of Anchor Bankside

Borough & Southwark
Bar

Image of Ye Olde Cock Tavern

City of London
Bar
Pub

Image of Blind Beggar

Whitechapel & Wapping
Bar
Pub

Image of The Old Bull & Bush

Hampstead
Bar
Modern British

Image of The Eagle

Shoreditch
Bar
Pub

Image of The Grenadier

Knightsbridge
Bar

Image of Seven Stars

City of London
Bar
Pub

Image of The Viaduct Tavern

City of London
Bar
Pub

Image of Jamaica Wine House

City of London
Bar
Pub

Image of The Red Lion

Westminster
Bar

View all Top 10 guides

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