Great Britain and Northern Ireland are considered by many to be, alongside Belgium, the beer capitals of the world. Most styles of ale, bitter, porter and stout can be traced to these islands, with porter’s name generally agreed to be a result of that style’s enduring popularity with London’s porters. With this rich brewing history in mind, it is no wonder that London is home to a wealth of pubs. With this guide you can dodge the station ones and tourist traps and instead enjoy those venues that have proved popular with those who drink in the area on a weekly, even nightly basis.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – City of London
Don’t be fooled by its name and location (15 minutes on foot from St. Paul’s Cathedral): this tucked away boozer is no tourist trap. Huddled away just off Fleet Street, in spite of the heavy foot traffic in the area you’d easily miss it if you weren’t looking. The Cheese is one of the several pubs to lay a claim to the title of “oldest pub in London”, as there has been a pub on the site since 1538 (although the existing building dates back to the Great Fire of London in 1666). A labyrinthine, storied and historic interior is courtesy of a monastery that once occupied the site, and the beer selection (the Cheese is a Sam Smith’s pub) is broad and, considering the location, very reasonably priced.
The Aeronaut – Acton
In West London and in stark contrast to the antiquity and tradition of the Cheese, you won’t be disappointed with a visit to the Aeronaut. Part of the recent wave of brewery pubs, most of the pints on tap are brewed in-house and come directly from the large vats visible behind the bar. The Aeronaut is also notable for an expansive, well-maintained and attractively decorated beer garden, adopting the theme of classic English funfair and equipped with heat lamps for the winter months, as well as its attached venue, which plays host to frequent circuses.
The Eagle Ale House – Wandsworth
A 30-minute walk from Clapham Junction Rail Station, the Eagle is a perfect example of a well-run regulars’ pub, which is nonetheless welcoming to unfamiliar faces. While the selection is adequate and the beer well kept, the appeal of the Eagle is mostly due to the casual, smiling service and the traditional fireside pub decor. It’s the sort of cosy, easy-going and warm atmosphere that makes it hard to tear yourself away before closing, so this pub is best visited after dinner on a lazy evening.
Our Black Heart – Camden
One of London’s rock bars, the Black Heart rose to prominence due to its popularity as a music venue. Popular with metal heads and rockers, it’s worth visiting whether or not you’re interested in any of the bands playing due to it housing one of the best beer selections in London. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable about the drinks, although the loud music makes long conversations over the bar a challenge.
The Dove – Hammersmith
For a quiet pint by the river on a summer’s afternoon, look no further than the Dove. Slightly more tucked away than many riverside pubs, its less public location means that the Dove is less crowded and overpriced than the nearby boozers beside Hammersmith Bridge. A Fuller’s pub, the Dove has a reasonable selection for the ale drinker, as well as one or two lighter beers for those warm days. The inside portion is pleasant and snug too, making this pub one to visit year-round.
London is a huge city with a fantastically rich history, and as such no list of “best pubs” could ever hope to be exhaustive. A little bit of exploration will turn up all kinds of hidden gems, and feel free to write us if you find any pubs you feel we should know about.
How to get to London:
London has several nearby airports. Heathrow links straight to the Piccadilly Line of the London Underground, while Luton, Stansted and Gatwick are all reachable by train (around 30-60 minutes depending on the airport and the service). A train from any one of those airports will take you to Liverpool Street, Euston or Victoria, all of which have excellent bus and London Underground links. Should you wish to avoid the stress and crowds, we also offer a Gatwick airport taxi service for those who land at London Gatwick.
Where to stay:
Double Room West Guesthouse – Located in Hammersmith, within walking distance of five different underground lines and two major bus stations, you’d be hard-pressed to find better budget accommodation than West Guesthouse. With shared kitchen and facilities, double and twin rooms are available. The building has free Wi-Fi and a shared terrace.
The Captain Cook – This hotel offers private or shared bathrooms and a flat-screen TV in every room. It also has an in-house dry cleaning service and is in the central location of Fulham. For an excellent hotel and good value, look no further than The Captain Cook.
The Dorchester – For a truly stunning hotel experience, The Dorchester comes highly recommended. Situated on the world-famous Park Lane, The Dorchester offers boutique bedrooms with private Italian marble bathrooms. There is also a terrace, a spa and some of London’s finest dining in the form of a Michelin-starred restaurant. Free Wi-Fi and world class facilities are, of course, provided.