One pub closes in London every week – all the more reason to celebrate those that remain. At its best, the public house is a deeply egalitarian institution, where people from all walks in life are welcome, whether they’re unwinding after a day at work, meeting up with a group of mates, going on a date or just want a quiet pint alone with the paper. Here we’ve rounded up 30 of the best pubs across all areas of London – each and every one of them is worth raising a glass to.
Why: Small but perfectly formed, the Anglesea is a pub for all seasons. A south-facing terrace gets packed in warm weather, while you can’t beat the button-back chesterfields beside the open fires when it’s chilly. A glazed-roof dining room beckons if you’re after something more substantial than crisps with your pint.
Where: 15 Selwood Terrace, SW7 3QG
Why: Charles de Gaulle composed many of his wartime speeches in the French’s upstairs dining room; these days, the mood is just as rousing thanks to cooking from chef Neil Borthwick. Drink beer and Breton cider by the half pint in the downstairs bar, or nip outside for a Gauloise and a pastis.
Where: 49 Dean Street, W1D 5BG
Why: Originally an officers’ mess, this villagey pub is the very definition of a backstreet boozer and feels more like something you’d find in Hampstead than a short walk from the roar of Hyde Park Corner. Walls are hung with paintings of soldiers and the ceiling plastered with dollar bills donated by visiting Americans.
Where: 18 Wilton Row, SW1X 7NR
Why: The Guinea might be famous for the prize-winning pies served in its dinky dining room but the spit and sawdust bar out front is just as much of an attraction, not least in fine weather when drinkers spill out onto (almost) traffic-free Bruton Place. A microcosm of vintage Mayfair, complete with top-hatted doorman.
Where: 30 Bruton Place, W1J 6NL
Why: With its stained-glass windows, hanging baskets and cracking location near Charing Cross, The Harp would be a place of pilgrimage even if it didn’t have one of the best cider selections in the capital. Real ale is also on tap from eight pumps at the bar, while sausage baguettes act as much-needed stomach lining.
Where: 47 Chandos Place, WC2N 4HS
Why: It looks as old as the 16th-century St John’s Gate round the corner but the olde worlde Jerusalem Tavern actually dates from the 1990s. Six beers on tap from owner St Peter’s brewery in Suffolk are as fresh as you would expect and there’s usually a quiet corner in the pub’s higgledy-piggledy series of rooms.
Where: 55 Britton Street, EC1M 5UQ
Why: It’s a long way to Tipperary, but The Tipperary is much closer to home, on Fleet Street. Believed to be the first Irish pub outside the Emerald Isle, it began life as a medieval monastery, survived the plague, the Great Fire of London and two world wars and has preserved its most important asset – authenticity.
Where: 66 Fleet Street, EC4Y 1HT
Why: In case you were in any doubt you were drinking in a Guinness specialist, every inch of this Soho boozer is covered in retro adverts of the brand’s emblem, the toucan. Drink the black stuff straight up in a pint or in classic mixes such as the black Maria or black velvet. Chase it down with an Irish whiskey.
Where: 19 Carlisle Street, W1D 3BY
Why: Only a pub that dates back to the Great Fire of London could get away with a name as ridiculous as this. The steak and kidney pudding, braised pheasant with bacon and spotted dick with custard served in the Chop House restaurant are as famous as former patrons Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens.
Where: 145 Fleet Street, EC4A 2BU
Why: Elizabeth the First is said to have danced around the cherry tree that now forms part of the wall of the front bar of this historic hostelry dating back to 1547, though the nooks and crannies would look just as much at home in a Dickens novel as a Shakespeare play. Fuller’s ales are joined on the pumps by guest beers.
Where: 1 Ely Court, Ely Place, EC1N 6SJ
Why: Called ‘the most authentic Irish pub in the world outside Ireland’ by The Irish Times, this North London take on an old-school Irish bar is perfect for acting the maggot and enjoying the craic with hospitable expat staff. Properly poured Guinness, live music and a beer garden out back are further reasons to enjoy the craic.
Where: 105 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0UD
Why: With its lively ground-floor bar, calm upstairs dining room and plenty of original Georgian features throughout, The Drapers Arms is a bit of a bobby dazzler. A wine list with 15 or so by-the-glass and carafe options and hefty modern British cooking go down a treat in Islington. Nice beer and a nice beer garden, too.
Where: 44 Barnsbury Street, N1 1ER
Why: This charming, ivy-clad boozer could be the blueprint for the ideal local. There’s a well-stocked jukebox, acoustic sessions and open-mic nights, a hotly contested weekly quiz, plus pool tables and sport on the TV, while out back there’s a magical garden with a tree house. All that and Thai food, too.
Where: 19 Perth Road, N4 3HB
Why: The perfect village pub for London’s most perfect-feeling village, Hampstead’s Holly Bush is down a crooked hilltop street that is well worth squirreling out after a walk across the Heath. Open fires make the warren of softly lit wood-clad rooms snug and toasty, while Fuller’s ownership means that there’s always a pint of London Pride on tap.
Where: 22 Holly Mount, NW3 6SG
Why: ‘Ale, Cider, Meat’ says the sign outside, and that’s pretty much all you’ll find inside. The Southampton Arms is dedicated to showcasing small UK breweries and cider-makers, with a side order, perhaps, of sausage roll. Don’t be deceived by the tiny dimensions: there’s space for an impressive 18 handpumps on the bar.
Where: 139 Highgate Road, NW5 1LE
Why: Hackney locals saved the Chesham from being turned into luxury flats and set about restoring it to being a pillar of the community, as welcoming to drinkers as dog walkers and families with kids. A beer garden beckons when the sun shines, two open fires add cheery glow when it’s cold outside and pies put smiles on faces whatever the weather.
Where: 15 Mehetable Road, E9 6DU
Why: Billed as a ‘proper English pub’, this stripped-back, all-day venue turns out patriotic grub with some French overtones – from haddock and chips to cod brandade. Breakfast, weekend brunch and Sunday roasts are part of the offer, while local bottled beers feature, too.
Where: 40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP
Why: Owned by a pair of chefs who worked at St John and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, The Marksman might look like a traditional East End boozer on the ground floor, but upstairs there’s a bang-up-to-date dining room done out in pop-art colours, though the gutsy British cooking (including Sunday roasts) can also be enjoyed on the rooftop terrace. Drink Old World wines, cocktails or London beers.
Where: 254 Hackney Road, E2 7SJ
Why: The prospect from this waterside pub is not of the Yorkshire coast but a broad bend of the Thames at Shadwell, and things are just as scenic inside, too. Dark rooms decked out with uneven flagstone floors look the 16th-century part, while pies and roasts are washed down with Greene King beers.
Where: 57 Wapping Wall, E1W 3SH
Why: Originally opened in 1851, the current incarnation of The Sun dates from 2014, when new owners kept the ramshackle look but brought the drinks offering up to date (in a retro kind of way) with Victorian cups, cobblers and Collins, as well as poitin-based cocktails – though they’ll still pull you a pint from one of seven London ‘fine ales’ on tap.
Where: 441 Bethnal Green Road, E2 0AN
Why: Once a scruffy music pub, The Crown and Anchor is now a local fit for the 21st century with a noteworthy line-up of craft beers to match. Simple stripped-back furnishings place the emphasis on the drinks and the clued-up staff know their way around a beer list full of unfamiliar names while there are burgers, steaks and roasts if you’re hungry.
Where: 246 Brixton Road, SW9 6AQ
Why: Slap bang in the middle of Brockley, Nunhead, East Dulwich and Honor Oak Park, the Grade II-listed Ivy House was London’s first co-operatively owned free house. London craft beers keep up the sense of community, there are reasonably priced wines and proper pub grub along the lines of pie and mash.
Where: 40 Stuart Road, SE15 3BE
Why: Real ales, Sunday roasts and quiz nights are just three of the attractions at the sort of local everyone would love to have at the end of their road. Despite the dated look of the place, the quality of the global cooking, the care that goes into selecting what’s on tap and the friendliness of the staff are all on point.
Where: 83 Lansdowne Way, SW8 2PB
Why: Brooklyn Brewery is about as famous as it gets at this independent-minded taphouse on a mission to bring lesser-known British, European and American beers to the drinkers of Camberwell. There are ciders and perrys, too, and a cracking selection of whisky and wine. The ever-changing line-up on the taps mean that this is a pub that pays repeat visits.
Where: 25 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR
Why: Its knockout location right on the Thames in the heart of historic Greenwich makes this famous hostelry somewhere that nearly every Londoner will pass through at some point. Things are just as eye-catching inside and the line-up of guest ales is a good match for fish and chips. It’s not cheap, but where else can you have a pint in a bay window projecting over the river?
Where: Park Row, SE10 9NW
Why: The Lord Mayor of London’s barge was moored alongside here in Victorian times, though The City Barge can trace its history back to the 16th century. There are open fires in winter, riverside seating in summer, London craft beers on tap and a dining room upstairs where the food is more gastropub than pub grub.
Where: 27 Strand-on-the-Green, W4 3PH
Why: Rule Britannia was written in the upstairs room here and with its Thames view down to Hammersmith Bridge and beer on tap from local brewery Fuller’s it would be hard to find a more quintessentially British spot than this 17th-century riverside pub. The food is as posh as the location suggests but prices are reasonable for such a plum spot.
Where: 19 Upper Mall, W6 9TA
Why: This renovated coaching inn gets everything right for its suburban location. The wine list is as wide-ranging as the choice of ales on tap, there’s modern British cooking in the week and a roast on Sundays, plus barbecues in the garden in summer. Loads of space means that this rightly popular gastropub never feels cramped even when it’s rammed.
Where: 222 South Ealing Road, W5 4RL
Why: London’s only Michelin-starred gastropub might be a foodie destination for its seasonal British cooking (grouse is a highlight in autumn) but at heart this is still a local boozer, with bare-wood floors, mismatched furniture, Sunday roasts and a quiz night. If beer’s not your thing there’s a 200-bin wine list.
Where: Walham Grove, SW6 1QP
Why: Affectionately known as the Sloaney Pony, The White Horse isn’t just for hooray Henrys and Henriettas. This was one of the first places to promote the idea that beer was every bit as good a match for food as wine, though there are open fires and leather sofas if you just want a drink. There’s a terrace in summer with views over Parsons Green.
Where: 1-3 Parsons Green, SW6 4UL
Looking for somewhere to nurse your pint when the sun shines? Check out our list of London's Best Beer Gardens.