Best Old World pubs in London

London is steeped in tradition and history and boasts some charming pubs to drink in, all featured here in SquareMeal’s list of the best old world pubs in London. Dating back centuries, London’s old world pubs are a world away from the capital’s new sleek + chic style bars.  Enjoy a drink in one of London’s traditional public houses, where wooden beams hang from the low ceilings and little nooks and crannies provide quirky places to sit. Soak up the history of each old world London pub over a typical British pint.

Updated on 18 April 2018

For more drinking inspiration, see our recommendations for the best bars in London. Each SquareMeal listing features an independent review, as well as reviews from those who have visited, together with unique special offers such as free drinks and discounts.

The George Inn - Borough High Street

The George Inn - Borough High Street

77 Borough High Street, London, SE1 1NH

The National Trust-owned George Inn is stolen away off the choke of Borough High Street, although its historical significance as the capital’s last surviving galleried inn means it’s often an obligatory stop-off for tour groups & guided walks. Dickens made reference to its medieval charms in Little Dorrit, while its proximity to the Globe meant it was a regular haunt of Shakespeare & his ilk. The best time to soak up the atmosphere is during the mid-afternoon lull, before the office hordes descend & spill out onto the cobbled courtyard – supping pints from the Greene King range as well as the pub’s own George Inn ale. Most of the interiors have been ‘modernised’ in some sense though a few remnants of the past remain, including the grand fireplaces & ancient wood panelling.

Pubs
£30 - £49
Grenadier

Grenadier

18 Wilton Row, London, SW1X 7NR

Leafy Wilton Row is so mature it feels like a slice of the countryside with a London postcode. The Grenadier, originally an officers’ mess for the 1st Royal Regiment of Foot Guards, maintains its 350-year bond with servicemen via an interior hung with antique pots from army kit bags, and paintings of soldiers from bygone eras. But this place certainly doesn’t stand to attention: staff are friendly, and the unpretentious bar and interconnecting back rooms feature ceilings plastered with signed dollar bills from visiting Americans who’ve happened upon this old-fashioned hidey-hole. In fact, few tourists actually make it here, and the clientele – mainly salubrious local gents making exuberantly wealthy style statements – sip their pints of London Pride and Timothy Taylord Landlord in peace.

Pubs
£50 - £79
Ye Olde Mitre

Ye Olde Mitre

1 Ely Court, Ely Place, London, EC1N 6SJ

A proper drinking den since 1547, Ye Olde Mitre comes gloriously decked out with dark wood panelling, and has more than its share of ancient pubby virtues – not to mention local tales. It’s said that Good Queen Bess once danced around the cherry tree that now forms part of the wall of the front bar, and it’s easy to imagine Dickensian villains lurking amid its nooks and crannies as the swirling mists of a pea souper clog the narrow alley outside. Fuller’s Discovery and London Pride are fixtures on the pumps, although real-ale buffs can also expect regular visits from the likes of Titanic Anchor, Grafton Ironman and Lincoln Spring Green. Food is an afterthought (cheese toasties, pork pies, pickled eggs) – there aren’t many pubs where you’ll see sausages advertised at 85p these days.

Pubs
Charles Lamb

Charles Lamb

16 Elia Street, London, N1 8DE

Sitting on a quiet Islington backstreet, its weathered Victorian tiles sporting lovingly tended hanging baskets, this cosy corner pub is a congenial spot for lucky locals. Easy-going staff make everyone (newcomers as well as the regulars) welcome. The landlady cut her teeth here before launching the award-winning 69 Colebrooke Row, & her care & attention to detail is evident in everything: from the laudable list of Old World wines to the posh peasant food on the blackboard menu. English & French influences produce satisfying ‘simple but not plain, thoughtful but not over-elaborate’ dishes: the likes of potted crab with aïoli & toast; steak, mushroom & Guinness pie with green beans & mash; & rhubarb syllabub. Beers are well-kept & discerningly selected at this free house, with Dark Star’s Hophead & Meantime on tap, as well as bottles of Liberty Ale, Sierra Nevada & Anchor Steam.

Pubs
The Red Lion Crown Passage

The Red Lion Crown Passage

23 Crown Passage, London, SW1Y 6PP

Hidden down a doppelgänger for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, this timber-fronted, lead-windowed ancient boasts an early example of pub branding. Its heraldic crest (the eponymous ‘red lion’) was one of many ordered by James I to signify to his illiterate subjects that they were about to enter a government-approved tavern whose ale would not leave them ailing. No chance of that today, with well-kept Adnams from Suffolk or Cornish Tribute on tap. Fine Scotch is also on offer, along with wines & a range of fresh-cut, deep-fill sandwiches, which are available for the modern equivalent of a groat or two. Popular with our future king’s courtiers & Mondeo man alike, this is a timely reminder of how friendly neighbourhood public houses used to be.

Pubs
The Audley

The Audley

41-43 Mount Street, London, W1K 2RX

This late-Victorian revivalist local on the corner of Mayfair’s swanky ‘high street’ (home of Louboutin, Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga & Lanvin, with not a Poundland in sight) once entertained Michelle Obama. She popped in unannounced with the kids (after half the FBI had gone over it with a fine toothcomb, no doubt) & sat down to a plate of fish & chips. By contrast, The Audley’s usual crowd is everyone from white-van man to the sort of chap more commonly found at Black’s. Sit in the spacious red & gold-hued interior to sample a range of cask ales (St Austell Tribute, Wadworth 6X to name but two) & ‘divine wines’, along with some trad English pub food & sharing plates; otherwise take advantage of the outdoor seating under parasols (heaters supplied).

Pubs
The Three Cranes

The Three Cranes

28 Garlick Hill, London, EC4V 2BA

Under £30
Gastropub
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

145 Fleet Street, London, EC4A 2BU

Stooping to pass through the black wooden doorway of this Fleet Street legend means following in the wake of drinkers & hungry folk who have made their way here over the last five centuries. Inside, there’s a deep scent of oak, of ale & of history. A hostelry has stood on this spot since 1538, although the original was destroyed & rebuilt in 1666 after the Great Fire of London. Dr Johnson & Charles Dickens were regulars in the Cheese’s higgledy-piggledy, low-lit rooms, but now you’re more likely to rub shoulders with American tourists & local businessmen supping pints of bargain-priced Sam Smith’s beers. Many famous names have also frequented the Chop House restaurant, which dishes up old faithfuls such as steak & kidney pud, braised pheasant with bacon & celery or spotted dick with custard.

Pubs
French House

French House

49 Dean Street, London, W1D 5BG

The French' could be a Gallic film set. Imagine the scene: Jean Gabin hatches a plot as Piaf warbles ‘Padam, Padam', while Ginsberg & Gainsbourg talk existential twaddle over bottles of Sancerre. These days, you can still soak up the Gitanes-stained ambience in the elbow-to-elbow, street-level bar, or puff Gauloises with the poseurs on the pavement. In the commendable absence of live music, gaming machines, blaring TVs and other pub irritants, the assembled company enjoys Breton cider and beer by the half pint only – although pastis is the tipple of choice for the hardcore crowd (more is sold here than in any other bar north of Calais, apparently). It's said that the Anglophobic Général de Gaulle composed many of his rousing wartime calls-to-arms in the dining room upstairs.

Pubs