London’s boozers are legendary. They have an atmosphere that few other capital cities – Dublin and Edinburgh aside – can match. In fact, England’s capital has a higher density of pubs or bars than any other city in the world. Whether it’s a cozy traditional Victorian tavern or a trendy gastro diner with sleek interiors and craft beer on tap, we’re raising our glasses to our 10 favourite London neighbourhood pubs.
Skip tourist traps and mingle with real Londoners at these local favourites.
Bradley’s Spanish Bar Photo: Tnarik Innael
Fitzrovia: Bradley’s Spanish Bar –A cross between a Lower East Side Manhattan dive bar and a traditional London pub, most tourists won’t stumble upon this hidden gem tucked just off Oxford Street. It has a cult following thanks to its vinyl Motown juke box, reasonable prices and unpretentious party vibes that last into the wee hours. Don’t be fooled by the name, Bradley’s is not a spot for tapas – there’s no food on the menu at all.
The Churchill Arms
Kensington: The Churchill Arms –Dating back to the 1750s, this colourful Kensington pub demands attention with its hanging flower–covered exterior and wall–to–wall tchotchkes inside. Winston Churchill’s grandparents were regulars, and it was renamed in his honour after World War II. Inside you’ll find a veritable treasure trove of trinkets such as wartime memorabilia and vintage signs, a huge selection of cask ales and a tasty Thai food menu.
The French House
Soho: The French House –If ever there was a British pub with a Gallic soul, this is it. During World War II, Charles de Gaulle used this London neighbourhood pub as his office in exile and it was a meeting place for the French resistance. The French House was also a popular haunt for creative types – Dylan Thomas accidentally left the manuscript for Under Milkwood after a few too many and Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud were regulars. These days the pub’s French touch endures: Wine, not beer, is the drink of choice and the menu includes tartare de boeuf rather than rosbif.
The Spaniards Inn Photo: Jacob Surland
Hampstead: The Spaniards Inn –When this pub first opened around 1585, Canada was not yet a country and it was a two–hour journey by horse–drawn coach from what was then London. The tavern, which is one of the most historic pubs in London, was mentioned in Dickens's The Pickwick Papers and Bram Stoker's Dracula and Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and William Blake are among its former patrons. These days, The Spaniards Inn offers a modern take on pub food and has a sizeable collection of cask ales on tap.
The Carpenter's Arms Photo: Jim Osley
Stepney: The Carpenter's Arms –This East London neighbourhood pub was once the most infamous boozer in town because it was owned by the notorious gangster twins, Reggie, and Ronnie Kray, who bought it in 1967 for their mother Violet. These days, the atmosphere is decidedly chill – the pub recently underwent a millennial–friendly renovation featuring stained wood floors, hanging light bulbs and craft ales on tap.
The Old George Photo: Ewan Munro
Bethnal Green: The Old George –This renovated pre–Georgian 18th–century Bethnal Green pub has a shabby–chic aesthetic with mismatched furniture and a large beer garden out back. There’s a large selection of cask ales on tap and a menu inspired by Turkish and Jewish cuisine.
Covent Garden: The Harp –An impressive selection of 20 rotating cask ales is bested only by the collection of beer coasters plastered above the bar in this cozy Covent Garden pub, which has been around since the early 19th century. The pub’s stained–glass windows and walls lined with historical painted portraits make it a beautiful setting for drink in the heart of London and just a few steps away from busy Trafalgar Square.
Clerkenwell: The Sekforde –Restored and reopened in 2018, The Sekforde balances its original charm with new mid–century modern furnishings – the end result is a stylish space to sample some of the newer brews from London’s revitalized craft beer culture. This central London pub has impeccable eco credentials – the building reportedly only 15 percent of the energy that would be used in similarly sized establishment and all its profits are donated to Sekforde House Trust, which offers scholarships and accommodation to students each year.
Marksman Photo: Anton Rodriguez
Hoxton: Marksman –British food has long been the butt of many jokes (fishfinger sandwiches and mushy peas anyone?), but the menu at this chic East London neighbourhood pub by head chefs and joint owners Tom Harris and Jon Rotheram is no laughing matter. Think devilled crab on toast, beef and barley buns with horseradish cream or chicken and wild garlic pie. Head upstairs into the dining area with interiors by Italian designer Martino Gamper featuring colourful mid–century Scandi furnishings or stay downstairs for a pint or two in the elegantly refurbished bar area.
The Prince of Greenwich
Greenwich: Prince of Greenwich –Quirky furnishings and a menu of fresh pasta and pizza are part of what make this Sicilian–owned Greenwich pub worth a visit. The Prince of Greenwich keeps its original Victorian charm, but it stands out thanks to a giant rhinoceros head and a sperm whale jawbone hanging over the bar, once–a–week cinema nights and live jazz performances on weekends.