At their best, pubs in London are deeply egalitarian institutions, 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. These days, pubs have ascended from spit and sawdust commuter drinking holes to fulfill all sorts of needs in our daily lives. You want to eat top quality food, but with the friendly buzz of a good pub? No problem - some of London's best gastropubs are right up there with the best restaurants in the city. You just want a pint of ale in an old public house that has a bit of history and character? Many of London's surviving pubs are centuries old, and some even showcase some original features.
When you travel to other countries, you realise how wedded we are to pub culture in the UK. There's a comforting familiarity that comes with a good pub. There will be beers available on tap at the bar. There might be a dart board or a pool table to sink some pound coins into. You might get a bit of small talk from a regular, or someone behind the bar. If you grew up in the UK, chances are these are all things that make you feel a little bit at home.
Aside from that, we gravitate towards pubs for lots of other things too. Some pubs are renowned for cracking pub quizzes, for example. Others are hot tickets for a Sunday lunch, or for live sporting occasions. Some are just special, historical pubs in their own right, because sometimes it's nice to hang out at the bar and consider that people have been drinking pints here for hundreds of years. We've tried to round up a bit of everything in this list of must visit pubs in London, and separated it out into geographical areas, so click through to whichever bit of the capital works for you.
Scroll down for 30 or so of the best pubs in London, across all areas - each and every one of them is worth raising a glass to.
Best pubs in Central London
Pubs are everywhere in London's centre, and the breadth of options can be somewhat overwhelming. Avoid the tourist traps and the sub-par gastros and head to one of these instead.
The French House, Soho
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
Book now: The French House
The George, Fitzrovia
What: The George dates back to the 18th century, but has been restored to its former glory as recently as 2021, by JKS Restaurants no less (the group behind smash hits like Bao, Sabor, Lyle’s and BiBi). Kitchen Table supremo James Knappett looks after the stunning upstairs restaurant, but you can take a seat at the mahogany bar and enjoy some more down to earth pub fare on the ground floor too.
Where: 55 Great Portland Street, W1W 7LQ
Book now: The George
The Duchess, Marylebone
What: A swift jaunt from Bond Street, The Duchess is another of London’s recently refurbished pub set, and we love the smart but traditional feel of warm wood details, red velvet seating and white checkerboard floor. It’s just a warm, cosy pub, with a great range of drinks and an excellent Sunday lunch - that’s what pubs are about isn’t it?
Where: 39 Duke Street, W1U 1LP
Book now: The Duchess
The Audley, Mayfair
What: 41-43 Mount Street is an iconic address with a great history - Grade II-listed Audley Public House first opened its doors in 1730. It reopened after a mega refurb in 2022 and, we must say, it looks absolutely stunning. Upstairs you’ll find Mount St. Restaurant - a beautiful restaurant with gorgeous marble floors, a priceless collection of artwork and a cracking menu of luxurious British cooking.
Where: 41-43 Mount Street, W1K 2RX
Book now: The Audley
The Barley Mow, Mayfair
What: Recently renovated by the Cubitt House Group, The Barley Mow is a treat for anyone wandering the streets of Mayfair - the ceilings are high, and no expense has been spared on the decor. At the same time, it has retained its old roots (and plenty of the old features and materials too), and upstairs is a restaurant of the highest quality, run by the steady hands of chef director Ben Tish.
Where: 82 Duke Street, W1K 6JF
Book now: The Barley Mow
The Devonshire, Soho
What: The long-awaited new gastropub project from esteemed publican Oisin Rogers and Flat Iron founder Charlie Carroll has, somehow, lived up to monumental expectations, delivering both as a rip-roaring Soho boozer and a wonderful gastropub, with wood-fired cooking at its core. Having a Guinness here is mandatory, as is posting a picture of it on Instagram.
Where: 17 Denman Street, W1D 7HW
Book now: The Devonshire
The Crown & Two Chairmen, Soho
What: An iconic Soho boozer that dates back to 1736, The Crown & Two Chairmen is one of those central London waypoints we can all find our way to at any time of the day or night. It is a pub for all seasons, with crowds of punters huddling outside with pints in blazing sun or heaving snow.
Where: 31-32 Dean Street, W1D 3SB
Book now: The Crown & Two Chairmen
The Three Compasses, Farringdon
What: Newly refurbished, The Three Compasses is a popular drinking hole in Farringdon that has been furnishing commuters with pre-journey drinks for nigh on 300 years. Expect a good range of drinks and some top-class landlording from owner Dave Strauss. The trump card is upstairs, where Henry Harris has revived his legendary Knightsbridge restaurant Bouchon Racine - inspired by the bouchons of Lyon.
Where: 66 Cowcross Street, EC1M 6BP
Book now: The Three Compasses
The Guinea Grill, Mayfair
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 its top-hatted doorman.
Where: 30 Bruton Place, W1J 6NL
Book now: The Guinea Grill
The Harp, Covent Garden
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
Book now: The Harp
The Toucan, Soho
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 all down with an Irish whiskey.
Where: 19 Carlisle Street, W1D 3BY
Book now: The Toucan
Ye Olde Mitre, Farringdon
Why: Elizabeth I 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, EC1N 6SJ
Book now: Ye Olde Mitre
Best pubs in North London
Now we're talking - North London neighbourhoods like Islington, Stoke Newington and Maida Vale tend to be home to quaint, tastefully-decorated locals. Or, head towards Hampstead Heath for a country pub vibe.
Auld Shillelagh, Stoke Newington
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 this cosy spot.
Where: 105 Stoke Newington Church Street, N16 0UD
Book now: Auld Shillelagh
The Compton Arms, Islington
What: Named after local brothers Lesley and Denis Compton (who both played football for Arsenal and cricket for England), this beloved Islington establishment has a reputation for bringing in fantastic restaurant residencies - this was the pub where Four Legs started, and currently residents Belly are fantastic too. 1984 author George Orwell also spent a lot of time here - in fact, he wrote about The Compton Arms in ‘The Moon Under Water’.
Where: 4 Compton Avenue, N1 2XD
Book now: The Compton Arms
The Drapers Arms, Islington
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
Book now: The Drapers Arms
The Faltering Fullback, Finsbury Park
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 great atmosphere for big sports events, while out back there’s a magical garden with a tree house. All that and Thai food, too.
Where: 19 Perth Road, N4 3HB
Book now: The Faltering Fullback
The Holly Bush, Hampstead
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
Book now: The Holly Bush
The Southampton Arms, Kentish Town
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
Book now: The Southampton Arms
Best pubs in East London
East London has a rep for the cool and trendy and many of these pubs toe the line, offering a cool, buzzy spot for an afterwork drink. Head out to The Marksman in Hackney to visit one of London's premiere gastropubs.
The Princess of Shoreditch, Shoreditch
What: One of London’s gastropub elite is also a great place for a pint, should you find yourself in and around Shoreditch. The upstairs dining room is rather sophisticated, but downstairs, the bar retains a buzzy, laid-back charm that makes it an easy place to pop into for a pint (plus the snacks are top tier).
Where: 76-78 Paul Street, EC2A 4NE
Book now: The Princess of Shoreditch
The Chesham Arms, Hackney
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
Book now: The Chesham Arms
The Culpeper, Brick Lane
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, and there's a lovely roof terrace to enjoy on sunnier summer days.
Where: 40 Commercial Street, E1 6LP
Book now: The Culpeper
The Marksman, Hackney
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, and make sure you order a (now famous) beef and barley bun.
Where: 254 Hackney Road, E2 7SJ
Book now: The Marksman
The Prospect of Whitby, Shadwell
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
Book now: The Prospect of Whitby
The Sun Tavern, Bethnal Green
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 if you prefer.
Where: 441 Bethnal Green Road, E2 0AN
Book now: The Sun Tavern
Best pubs in South London
If you find yourself south of the river, don't fret - you're still not far from a good pub. The antique-laden Trafalgar Tavern is one of our absolute favourites.
The Crown and Anchor, Brixton
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
Book now: The Crown and Anchor
The Ivy House, Nunhead
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, while there are reasonably priced wines and proper pub grub along the lines of pie and mash too.
Where: 40 Stuart Road, SE15 3BE
Book now: The Ivy House
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
Book now: Stormbird
The Trafalgar Tavern, Greenwich
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
Book now: The Trafalgar Tavern
Best pubs in West London
Well-heeled neighbourhoods like Chiswick and Hammersmith are well-served by some lovely old boozers, as well as the only Michelin-starred pub in London - The Harwood Arms in Fulham.
The Pelican, Notting Hill
What: Another acclaimed, sophisticated gastropub, The Pelican also maintains a double life as a thriving neighbourhood pub in Ladbroke Grove. Chances are you’ll hear The Pelican before you see it, with punters spilling out onto the pavements, pints in hand. Inside the pub has been beautifully renovated, but it still feels down to earth. Head over for a drink and there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself in the outstanding restaurant with a lobster pie.
Where: 45 All Saints Road, W11 1HE
Book now: The Pelican
The Anglesea Arms, Chelsea
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
Book now: The Anglesea Arms
City Barge, Chiswick
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
Book now: City Barge
The Dove, Hammersmith
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
Book now: The Dove
Harwood Arms, Fulham
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
Book now: Harwood Arms
The White Horse, Parsons Green
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 to boot.
Where: 1-3 Parsons Green, SW6 4UL
Book now: The White Horse
Looking for somewhere to nurse your pint when the sun shines? Check out our list of London's best beer gardens.