London’s Best Historic Pubs

Discover these charming pubs and their rich histories

From the oldest public houses in the capital right through to those with a story or two in their walls, here are the most fascinating places to stop for a pint in London.

 

Ye Olde Mitre, Holborn

Not only one of the oldest pubs in London, but also one of the hardest to find. You’ll locate this historic gem only once you’ve discovered the narrow (and very easily-mistakable) passageway between 8-9 Hatton Garden. But your navigational prowess will be well and truly rewarded once you step inside. It’s rumoured that Queen Elizabeth I once danced around the tree in the garden and although it’s unlikely you’ll see any royalty upon your visit, the art-adorned walls and fabulous range of ales will keep you occupied all evening.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, The City

Just off the main drag of Fleet Street, lies this traditional public house. Re-built after the Great Fire of London in 1666, this tavern has gone on to host an array of famous faces. In fact, the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens were known to be regular patrons. Pull up a pew by the crackling fire to enjoy the cosy atmosphere, just as these legends once did.

Gordon’s Wine Bar, Embankment

Albeit not strictly a pub, but we didn’t want you missing out on London’s oldest wine bar. Especially because it’s just steps away from Corinthia Hotel London. This 19th-Century bolthole, complete with flickering candles and traditional décor, is the perfect place to enjoy a good glass of wine before heading off to the nearby theatre district. You won’t even be bothered about the ‘no beer, no spirits’ policy when you are sipping on a Pinot Noir and getting stuck into one of their much-acclaimed cheese platters.

Old Bank Of England, Fleet Street

There are no prizes for guessing what establishment this vast building used to be. For a grand total of 87 years The Bank of England used to operate from inside these walls. It’s now been transformed into a public house and restored to its former glory. The interior is rather impressive for tourists and locals alike: think grand chandeliers and huge paintings.

The Prospect Of Whitby, Wapping

Riverside pubs are rather commonplace in London, after all, the iconic Thames River is one of the city’s most famous sights. However, this watering hole can lay claim to being the site of London’s oldest riverside pub. In the 16th-Century it was called “The Devil’s Tavern” because of its, shall we say, interesting clientele. Today you’ll find a much friendlier brunch propping up the bar, locals from the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

 

The Grapes, Limehouse

A short walk away from the iconic skyscrapers and bustling streets of Canary Wharf, you’ll find this small but very inviting tavern. With a history that spans almost 500 years and a view that overlooks the pebbly beach that saw Sir Walter Raleigh off on his third voyage to the New World. More recently, the likes of David Cameron and Stephen Fry have been spotted inside, and of course co-owner Sir Ian McKellen makes a regular appearance.

The Churchill Arms, Kensington

The Churchill Arms has been a pub since 1750 and was a regular haunt for Winston Churchill’s grandparents in the 1800s, hence the name. As well as its history, another lure of this iconic public house is its incredible external displays. In the summer, you’ll find the entire façade adorned with blooming flowers and come Christmas time, these are replaced by an epic festive display. In 2018, the pub was covered with a total of 97 trees and 21,500 fairy lights.

The French House, Soho

If you’re looking for a pub that’s brimming with personality, right in the heart of London, then The French House will do the trick. Expect the hustle and bustle to spill onto the pavements outside this watering hole, but be sure to locate a seat inside to enjoy a hearty meal alongside a traditional pint. It was commandeered as Charles de Gaulle’s office during World War II and it sounds like a fabulous place to work if you ask us.

The Sherlock Holmes, Embankment

Just a short walk from Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden, this is the ideal place for a sightseeing interlude. You can combine recreation with education by visiting the Sherlock Holmes exhibition upstairs. And the best news is that it’s literally just across the road from Corinthia London, so you won’t have to venture far to get back for a restful night’s sleep.

Ship & Shovell, Charing Cross

Wander around the corner from The Sherlock Holmes and you’ll discover this gem – the only pub in London to be in two halves. It was the 1730s when the buildings were first erected, but in 1998 a remarkable thing happened when the Ship joined forces with the Shovell across the road. We’d suggest having a pint on both sides to say you’ve had the full Ship & Shovell experience.

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