Oldest pubs London

London is steeped in tradition and history, but few establishments have endured as successfully as the public house. Often the scene of plots, brawls, crimes and hauntings, these centuries-old boozers have stood the test of time and provide as comfortable a spot for a pint now as they did back when the Tudors still ruled England. Check out our round-up of the oldest pubs London possesses and treat yourself to a good, old-fashioned pint.

Updated on 24 September 2019

London’s drinking scene has come a long way over the centuries, but while many traditional old pubs have closed to make way for sleek cocktail bars, there are, thankfully, still a fair few historic old boozers in the capital for you to enjoy. Most have a story or two to tell, whether it’s of revolution, foul play, ghostly apparitions or the patronage of notable figures, so you can soak up a bit of history (and/or mystery) while you sip.

Perhaps you’re after a creaky old building complete with wooden beams and shadowy nooks to inspire your creative side, or maybe you’re chasing that distinctive, smoky pub smell that you can only find in the very oldest pubs; or possibly you’re set on visiting every London pub in existence (if this it is, we salute you). Whatever your reason for seeking out this expert round-up of the oldest pubs London has to offer, we hope you find what you’re looking for.

The Viaduct Tavern

The Viaduct Tavern

126 Newgate Street, London, EC1A 7AA

Built in 1869, The Viaduct was once a High Victorian gin palace. Still intact today are the beautiful Pre-Raphaelite panels and busts, along with a stunning gothic mahogany bar, but it’s the resident ghosts and creepy basement cellars that get the tourists excited. Head here for a pint of Fuller’s and a possible sighting of a murdered prostitute or the mischievous Victorian revenant called Fred.

Pubs
The Tipperary

The Tipperary

66 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1HT

This Irish pub began life as a medieval monastery and having survived the plague, the Great Fire of London and two world wars, is now owned by Greene King. Here you can enjoy pints of the brewery’s well-known real ales, big-name lagers and Guinness (naturally) with or without The Tipperary’s popular Sunday roast.

Pubs
The Dove Hammersmith

The Dove Hammersmith

19 Upper Mall, London, W6 9TA

This 17th-century riverside gem has two impressive claims: firstly, that it possesses the smallest bar in England, and secondly, that the words to ‘Rule, Britannia!’ were penned here. We can’t say whether either is true, but we can attest to a pretty waterside terrace, beautiful old beamed interiors and a good stock of Fuller’s ales.  

Under £30
Pubs
The Trafalgar Tavern

The Trafalgar Tavern

Park Row, Greenwich, London, SE10 9NW

Built in 1837, this Greenwich tavern once counted Charles Dickens, J.M.W Turner and William Gladstone among its celebrated patrons, so it’s no surprise it continues to be a popular spot for riverside drinking and dining today. Modern-day visitors scramble for bay window seats that project over the Thames for terrific views of the river traffic, or at the atmospheric bar, with its dark-green walls and oil paintings of naval battles.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

145 Fleet Street, London, EC4A 2BU

The first thing that hits you on entering this ancient tavern is a deep scent of oak, ale and history that’s managed to survive the past few centuries. Rebuilt in 1666 after the Great Fire of London, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese remains a popular spot for both locals and tourists in search of a good, English pint to enjoy in one of the pub’s higgledy-piggledy, low-lit rooms. This particular pub is known for being popular with some famous figures over the years, including Charles Dickens, G.K. Chesterton and Mark Twain. Well, if it was good enough for Dickens…

Pubs
Cittie of Yorke

Cittie of Yorke

22-23 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6BN

The awe-inspiring, medieval-style interiors of the Cittie of Yorke are actually a Victorian reconstruction of the pub’s original 1430 design, but no one cares because it’s so beautiful. Situated in the heart of the capital’s legal quarter, this rather imposing-looking establishment is actually super laid-back and friendly, making it a popular choice for a whole range of Londoners as opposed to just lawyers.

Pubs
£30 - £49
The Ten Bells

The Ten Bells

84 Commercial Street, London, London, E1 6LY

This Spitalfields institution is riddled with history, most famously as the watering hole visited by two of Jack the Ripper’s victims before their grisly demise. To this day, The Ten Bells remains a bustling candlelit boozer, complete with original tilework, worn leather sofas, and a well-curated selection of beers, wines and gins.

£30 - £49
British
The Grapes

The Grapes

76 Narrow Street, London, E14 8BP

A vintage riverside setting if ever there was one, this charmingly wonky pub in Limehouse is a fine place to enjoy a pint of London Glory. Almost 500 years old, and one of Charles Dickens’ known haunts (there are many), The Grapes remains a popular watering hole for locals and visitors alike thanks to its olde-worlde charm - which includes an absence of TV screens - and careful running by none other than Sir Ian McKellan.

Under £30
Pubs
British
Ye Olde Mitre

Ye Olde Mitre

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

It’s said that Queen Elizabeth I once danced around the cherry tree that now forms part of the wall of the front bar at this historic pub near Hatton Garden, which should give an indication of just how old the place is. Beautifully decked out with dark wood panelling, Ye Olde Mitre has an abundance of ancient pubby virtues that history buffs will love, along with a wealth of real ales on tap.

Pubs
The Prospect of Whitby

The Prospect of Whitby

57 Wapping Wall, London, E1W 3SH

Dating from around 1520, this Wapping pub claims to be the oldest on the Thames and was once a favourite of – wait for it – Charles Dickens (of course) and Samuel Pepys. It was also once a handy spot for a pint before or after an execution at the adjacent gallows, where pirates were regularly hanged. Nice! These days, the uneven flagstone floors, wood-panelled interior and pewter-topped bar attract throngs of tourists, but it’s still a great spot for a pie and a pint.

Pubs
Grenadier

Grenadier

18 Wilton Row, Belgravia, London, SW1X 7NR

Originally an officers’ mess for the 1st Royal Regiment of Foot Guards, this 350-year-old pub sports an interior hung with paintings of soldiers from bygone eras and a ceiling covered in money. Legend has it that the ghost of a soldier who was beaten to death at the pub for cheating at cards appears during the month of September, so visitors over the years have attempted to pay his debt by plastering the ceiling with cash. If that hasn’t put you off, The Grenadier does a good range of cask ales and some jolly good grub too.

Pubs
£50 - £79
Charles Lamb

Charles Lamb

16 Elia Street, Islington, London, N1 8DE

Named after the Georgian writer who lived locally, this cosy, 170-year-old Islington pub sports weathered Victorian tiles, dark wooden tables and a warm welcome for all. Beers are discerningly selected at this free house, with Dark Star’s Hophead and Meantime on tap, along with a laudable list of Old World wines and posh English- and French-inspired peasant food.

Pubs
French House

French House

49 Dean Street, London, W1D 5BG

A relatively new pub by this list’s standards, the iconic French House is known for its strict rules on pub irritants (including the commendable absence of live music, gaming machines and blaring TVs) and its famous punters. Actors, writers and artists from the surrounding theatres congregate at this most iconic of Soho watering holes to enjoy Breton cider and beer by the half pint only and glasses of pastis throughout the afternoon and evening.

Pubs
The Seven Stars Holborn

The Seven Stars Holborn

53-54 Carey Street, Holborn, London, WC2A 2JB

Hidden away behind the Royal Courts of Justice, this petite pub attracts a mix of barristers in search of liquid refreshment and tourists looking to soak up some of its 400-year history. Real ales are the tipple of choice here though, increasingly, people are coming for the homely grubbed served up by the charismatic owner and chef Roxy Beaujolais.

Pubs
The George, Borough

The George, Borough

77 Borough High Street, London Bridge, London, SE1 1NH

Once frequented by Shakespeare, Dickens and probably a number of other literary legends, this galleried inn on Borough High Street is a must for anyone seeking historic drinking vibes. The grand fireplaces and ancient wood panelling remain intact and while it is now owned by Greene King, you can still get a pint of the pub’s own George Inn ale.

Pubs
£30 - £49
Lamb & Flag

Lamb & Flag

33 Rose Street, London, WC2E 9EB

Formerly named the ‘Bucket of Blood’, on account of the bare-knuckle fights that took place behind its thick walls, this renowned Covent Garden pub is a historic London pub, now owned by Fuller’s, that should be on your ‘to-visit’ list. One of Dickens’ regular water holes (we’re starting to wonder if there are any pubs in London that weren’t), its atmospheric ground-floor saloon, with its settles and open fire, are a swell place for a pre-theatre or mid-shop pint.

Pubs
Spaniards Inn

Spaniards Inn

Spaniards Road, London, NW3 7JJ

This charming 16th-century pub situated opposite Hampstead Heath is a must for literary buffs, for not only is it one of London’s pubs referenced by Dickens, but apparently the very place in which John Keats penned ‘Ode to a Nightingale’. Spaniards Inn has undergone a revamp, but you will still find oak-panelled walls, beams and log fires, along with a drinks list that covers everything from British cask ales to global wines.

Under £30
Gastropub
The Flask

The Flask

77 Highgate West Hill, Highgate, London, N6 6BU

This Highgate pub dates from around the 1720s and has not one, but several exciting stories to its name. One such is that it was allegedly the scene of one of the first-ever autopsies, performed secretly with a body robbed from a grave at nearby Highgate Cemetery. Nowadays, you can expect rustic charm in the form of flagged stone floors, roaring fires and wood panelling, all of which make a lovely setting in which to enjoy a pint of Fuller’s.

£30 - £49
Pubs
International
The Red Lion Crown Passage

The Red Lion Crown Passage

23 Crown Passage, London, SW1Y 6PP

Tucked away down a Diagon-Alley-like street, this delightfully dingy public house is an early example of James I’s pub branding. Its heraldic crest (the eponymous ‘red lion’) was one of many ordered by the king to signify to his illiterate subjects that they were about to enter a government-approved tavern whose ale would not leave them ailing. To this day, it remains popular among civil servants after a pint and a sandwich at lunchtime.

Pubs
The Three Cranes

The Three Cranes

28 Garlick Hill, London, EC4V 2BA

Named after the timber cranes used by French merchants to deliver wine in Elizabethan times, this snug drinking den has been given a new lease of life by chef-restaurateur Henry Harris. Tucked down a City side street, The Three Cranes offers pleasingly simple, well-executed food and a euro-centric wine list. The interior has been modernised, so you won’t find any shadowy corners, but dark wood and leather banquettes ensure that the historic pub feel remains intact.

Under £30
Gastropub

For more drinking inspiration, see our recommendations for the best bars in London