The Best Oldest Pubs in London
There’s no greater experience than having a drink in one of the many historical pubs dotted throughout the city. No matter which part of town you’re staying in, or what kind of drink you want to have, there’s always a great local boozer just around the corner. So check out our list of some of London’s oldest pubs and choose for yourself!
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One of the most atmospheric pubs in London, The George Inn has been serving drinks for centuries. The pub that stands today was built in the 1670’s but a pub has been sitting on this site even longer. The only pub owned by The National Trust, the George is also a prime example of an old ‘inn,’ the galleries of which can be seen from their courtyard. William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens are said to have frequented this inn. Dickens’s life insurance policy is hanging on the wall of one of the rooms. You can take a virtual tour of the George Inn.
Further afield than other mentions on this list, the Spaniards Inn is worth the trek to get to! Dating from the 1500’s and sitting on the edge of Hampstead Heath, the Spaniards Inn has been a notable London locale for centuries. Previously haunts of highwaymen such as Dick Turpin, the pub is referenced in both The Pickwick Papers and Dracula. Crooked wooden beams, leaning walls, and wonky doorways all come together to keep this pub one of the most charming in the capital. Across the street is a building that was once a toll collection station.
There has been an inn on this site since 1420, although the current building is newer it still dates from the 1640’s! There are three different bars here and the ones in the back are worth a look – a grand hall with benches separated by wooden screens. This pub is also a Grade-II listed building, making it a worthwhile stop for historians as well as those looking for a tipple!
Tucked away on a cobbled street, The Star Tavern has played host to numerous recognisable drinkers such as Peter O’Toole and the Great Train Robbers. The pub that stands today is a 19th century creation but it is really the link with the Train Robbery that keeps people seeking this pub out year after year. A good example of Victorian architecture, the surroundings are inviting, cozy, and worth a visit!
Take a virtual tour of the Star Tavern below.
A Covent Garden gem, the Lamb and Flag dates from the 17th century and has played host to notable names like Charles Dickens. Licensed in 1623, the Lamb and Flag was previously called the Bucket of Blood and played host to bare-knuckle fighting. Notable poet John Dryden was a patron here and it is said he participated in a particularly brutal beating, which is why the upstairs private bar is named after him.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (6) 145 Fleet St, London EC4A 2BU, (map and reviews), Nearest Station: Blackfriars
A London institution, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese has been operating on this site since the 1600’s, although an earlier incarnation was here in the 1500’s. Perhaps the most atmospheric of pubs on this list, ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a dark, cozy haven tucked away on a side street just off of Fleet Street. You’d think with a nearly hidden location that this pub may be off the beaten track – but London locals and visitors alike seek it out all year ‘round. Situated in the financial district of London, the quietest time to visit is actually a Saturday!
The Viaduct (7)
The Viaduct stands out as the last surviving Victorian gin palace in London. It’s interesting décor’ is worth a look on it’s own but what truly makes this pub historically appealing is that it sits on the site of a medieval prison: Newgate. When the bar staff are in a friendly mood, it is possible to be led down to the basement of this pub and see the remaining prison cells that still stand underneath the bar!
Nearest Station: St. Paul’s
Sitting on a site that has held a pub since at least the early 1400’s, the Red Lion is not just known for it’s historical significance. Directly across the street from the Houses of Parliament, and within spitting distance of Number 10 Downing Street, the Red Lion has long been associated with politics and politicians. Recently refurbished, the pub is a Victorian glory and an excellent place to relax at the end of our Westminster Tour!
Dating back to the 1500’s, the Prospect of Whitby is one of the oldest riverside taverns – if not THE oldest – in London. Originally associated with sailors and pirates, in previous times smugglers and pirates were hanged just outside what is now their beer garden! Keep an eye out for a kitsch noose that is often swaying in the breeze – a reminder about the fate of many previous drinkers…
Nearest Station: Wapping (London Overground)
The Olde Wine Shades dates from the late 1600’s and is considered to be one of the oldest public houses in London. The double-pile frontage range dates from the late 17th century and parts of the building pre-date the Great Fire of 1666. The architectural and historic significance of the Olde Wine Shades is recognised in its status as a grade II listed building, making this one of the most authentic and beautiful pubs in the city!