The Best Pubs and Cocktail Bars in London, England

SD › London Pubs, Bars, & Breweries
Updated: May 24, 2022
By Santorini Dave

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Exterior of the French House  pub in London, with patrons enjoying drinks outside

The French House pub in Soho.

6 Best Historic Pubs in London

The French House • Soho

Known as ‘The French’ to its regulars, this pub has been part of London’s bohemian scene for decades. During World War II, it was used as headquarters by Charles De Gaulle and the Free French, and in its heyday it counted Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, and Lucian Freud as members of its clientele. Lots of French and Spanish wines by the glass.
Location • +44 20 7437 2477

The Lamb & Flag • Covent Garden

This 18th-century local institution used to be the favorite watering hole of Charles Dickens. Then it became more low-brow and acquired local fame for staging bare-knuckle fights, earning it the nickname ‘Bucket of Blood’. More sedate these days, it’s a good spot for a pint of London Pride.
Location • +44 20 7497 9504

The Star Tavern • Belgravia

Classic upscale pub – all chandeliers, dark-wood furnishings, heavy drapes and bookcases full of antique tomes. The Star was the haunt of the rich and famous during the Swinging 60s – Peter O’Toole, Diana Dors, Albert Finney – as well as criminal masterminds (the Great Train Robbery of 1963 was planned here). Popular for Sunday roasts and cask ales.
Location • +44 20 7235 3019

The Ten Bells • Spitalfields

This Spitalfields pub used to be a regular haunt for the Victorian prostitutes who were murdered by Jack the Ripper in the late 19th century. All tours featuring London’s most notorious murderer swing by here; the faded decor and candlelight add to the creepy atmosphere of the allegedly haunted building.
Location • +44 20 7247 7532

Ye Olde Mitre Tavern • Clerkenwell

This low-ceilinged inn is allegedly London’s smallest pub and also one of its oldest, dating back to 1546. Queen Elizabeth I is said to have drunk here and danced on the courtyard out back. Award-winning real ales and cider on tap and good pub grub.
Location • +44 20 7405 4751

The George Inn • Southwark

William Shakespeare himself propped up the bar at the George while his plays were performed in the courtyard below. It’s the only galleried coaching inn still standing, with a maze-like interior, warped wooden floors, and original fireplaces. Serves contemporary pub food such as jerk duck nachos.
Location • +44 20 7407 2056

5 Best Cocktail Bars in London

The Vault at Milroy’s • Soho

Step inside the oldest whiskey shop in London, go to the large bookcase, and press a button. The bookcase will swing open. Take the blue-lit steps down to the intimate, speakeasy-style bar and order either one of the classic cocktails, beautifully mixed and presented, or a tropical, refreshing Porter House Punch.

Iris at the Gherkin • City of London

There are many sky bars in London, but the view from the 40th floor of The Gherkin is hard to beat. The cocktails are beautiful and divided according to London’s geographical regions. Try Jack the Ripper (a twist on the Bloody Mary), or the Brixton Pound, with rum, tonka bean molasses, and chocolate bitters. The bar snacks and the British cheese platter are as good as the drinks.
Location • +44 330 107 0816

Lyaness • South Bank

Dress nicely before coming to sample some of London’s most original cocktails at the recently-acclaimed Best Bar in the World. All concoctions are ground-breaking originals by award-wining mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan. Try the Stranger Things Old Fashioned (Jim Beam, valerian, chamomile bitters, habanero).
Location • +44 20 3747 1063

Mr Fogg’s Residence • Mayfair

You can easily imagine Jules Verne’s fictional explorer, Phileas Fogg, drinking here in a velvet armchair, surrounded by mismatched furniture and Victorian knick-knacks. The original cocktails are inspired by Mr Fogg’s travels; we recommend the Nocciole Night Train and Saved From Sacrifice.
Location • +44 20 7036 0608

Oriole Bar • Clerkenwell

The showy little sister of the legendary Nightjar jazz bar has a speakeasy ambience, leather-and-fur-meets-the-tropics decor, and a creative cocktail menu filed under Old World, New World, and The Orient – where the namesake bird is found. Nightly live jazz (no cover on Mondays and Tuesdays); reservations essential.
Location • +44 20 3457 8099

Best London Craft Beer & Breweries

Cask Pub & Kitchen • Westminster

The original pub from the group behind the Craft Beer Co chain typically features a constantly changing selection of 25 beers on tap. 300 more bottled brews available – German-style, Belgian-style, lambic, and stouts, plus IPAs by the likes of Siren and Evil Twin.
Location • +44 20 7630 7225

Camden Town Brewery • Camden

One of London’s most popular breweries. This bustling place is known for its three types of lager, as well as pale ale, ink stout, and numerous seasonal lagers, ales, and IPAs. Tours of the brewery available; book online.
Location • +44 20 7485 1671

The White Horse • Parson’s Green

Known to its regulars as The Sloaney Pony, this west London institution usually has eight rotating brews on tap from the likes of Lagunitas, Lost & Grounded, Fyne Ales, and other London brewers. Over 130 imported brews from Belgium, Germany, and the USA. Excellent pub grub.
Location • +44 20 7437 5745

The Porterhouse • Covent Garden

Irish bar with some hand-crafted brews from Dublin. This large bar with gleaming copper pipes is divided into several sections, with cozy nooks and crannies and live music in the basement in the evenings. Huge selection of beers, ales, and stouts from around the world.
Location • +44 20 7379 7917

Earl of Essex • Islington

This pub is particularly good for serious beer lovers – strong on beers from local London breweries such as Redemption and Loka Polly. Pub grub is paired with individual craft beers and there’s a nice beer garden to boot.
Location • +44 20 7424 5828

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