Without a doubt, one of the most British experiences you can have is the first time you enter a traditional British pub, whether it is simply to have a pint of beer or to try some of the famous traditional dishes of British cuisine.
And if you also add to that experience the years of history told by a building or the decoration of the place in question… the experience undoubtedly becomes even more special.
Many of London’s historic pubs are located quite close to each other, so a good way to see a few and learn about their history is by joining a London Historic Pub Tour with a guide who explains all the details of various pubs.
What will you find in this article?
History of London Pubs
Every city in the United Kingdom has its traditional pubs or taverns, and obviously, London was not going to be for less! And it is that in the British capital we can find pubs that were standing before the time of Shakespeare, going through pubs from the Victorian era, or the numerous pubs frequented by Charles Dickens… who knows, maybe you sit in the same place where Charles Dickens used to sit to write one of his novels?
At the beginning of the fourteenth century London had more than 350 public houses. These taverns were places where Londoners could go to drink and socialize, and in them today you can breathe the history of the city. They were also places where games and cockfights reigned. Thefts and fights between those who had drunk a little too much were also frequent, as expected. The innkeepers were often involved in the games and tricks that they had in their premises, until in the s. XIV a law was passed that prohibited any owner from retaining the belongings of any person who died on his premises. These taverns not only served as a place to drink, but also became what we would know today as employment agencies, where many went to find work.
Historic pubs in London
The Old Bank of England
Without a doubt, this pub is one of the most spectacular in the city. Famous for its traditional British homemade meat pies (‘ pies ‘) this is an ob to be recommended, both for the location, the history of the pub and the food.
Located on Fleet street, it is saiad to be located on the same spot where the famous Fleet Street barber used to stand. Since in theory, the tunnels under the building are where Sweeney Todd butchered his victims and where the meat for Mrs Lovett’s famous pies was cooked… So we’ll leave it up to you if you want to try one of their wonderful meat pies. (or not!)…
At The Old Bank of England they serve traditional British pub food as well as the famous English afternoon tea. It has a garden (beer garden), and we recommend going up to the upper gallery where it is possible to appreciate the murals and the ceiling.
Address: 194 Fleet St, Holborn, London EC4A 2LT
Official website: Old Bank of England
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
This historic London pub is also located in the heart of Fleet Street, very close to The Old Bank of England Pub. At the entrance, the first thing we can see is a poster with the 15 British monarchs that this pub has survived, to get an idea of how long it has been standing. Its stairs and narrow corridors give the sensation of being in a small labyrinth with a lot of history.
Literary greats such as Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Samuel Johnson frequented this pub. It had to be rebuilt in 1667 after the Great Fire of London.
It’s a good pub to go to for a pint of beer, although they also serve traditional British pub food.
Address: 145 Fleet Street, EC4A 2BU
Ye Olde Miter Tavern
This is one of London’s most difficult historic pubs to find, as it is tucked away in a small alleyway in the Holborn area of London. The current building dates from 1772 but there has been a pub on the site since the 1500s. There is a cherry tree in the small square where the pub is located, and legend has it that Elizabeth I used to dance around this cherry tree. Inside we find authentic wooden paneling that belongs to the Tudor era, and the beer barrels that serve as tables in the different rooms make the atmosphere very special in this pub.
They serve a wide selection of beers, and finger food such as toasties and traditional British snacks such as sausage rolls and small meat pies.
- Address: Ely Court, Hatton Garden, Holborn, London EC1N 6SJ
- Official website: Ye Olde Miter
City of Yorke
The Cittie of Yorke Pub is another historic London pub located in the Holborn area. In this location there has been a pub since 1430, although the pub that we can access today was rebuilt in 1920.
Some notable features of this historic pub include the ‘Henekey’s Pub’ which is located in the great back room of the pub, a Georgian-era metal stove and numerous Victorian-style wooden cubbies to the side.
Address: 22 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6BN
The George Inn
One of the most beautiful and atmospheric pubs we have visited in London, it is one of our favorite pubs in the city and the one we usually take on our visits. This is the last original gallery pub that was rebuilt in 1676 after the Great Fire of London, frequented by Charles Dickens.
It is located next to the London Bridge tube station and to access it you have to go through a kind of alley, which surprises us with a small square upon entering. They serve a wide selection of food, including British pub fare like fish and chips and meat pies with mashed potatoes, or even the traditional British Sunday Roast on Sundays. It is a family pub, which you can go to with children (with children’s menu included) but it is also an ideal pub to go for a pint in the afternoon.
Address: The George Inn Yard, 77 Borough High Street, SE1 1NH
Official website: George Inn and National Trust
The Spaniards Inn
The Spaniard’s Inn is another of the historic pubs that we like the most in London, surely both because of the location, its history and its decoration, as well as its fantastic beer garden, where summers become more bearable.
It is a pub with a lot of history as well as legend. It was built in 1585 in Hampstead , one of the most beautiful areas of London, and specifically at the top of Hampstead Heath Park. It is the pub that is situated on the highest point in London, and when it was built, Windsor Castle could be seen from its beer garden . It was built as an inn that marked the entrance to the bishopric of London, and was frequented by numerous literary figures such as Charles Dickens, Dick Turpin, John Keats, William Blake, Robert Louis Stevenson, William Hogarth, Lord Byron, Joshua Reynolds, John Constable… among others!
They serve traditional British food and the famous Sunday Roast on Sundays, but it is important to reserve a table as it is often full. But it’s also a pub where you can just go for a pint.
Address: Spaniards Rd, Hampstead, London NW3 7JJ
Official website: The Spaniard’s Inn
The Dicken’s Inn
The Dicken’s Inn was an old brewery dating back to the 18th century, and being located on a loading and unloading dock at St Katharine’s Dock , it was frequented by merchants of the time.
Address: Marble Quay, St Katharine’s Way, St Katharine’s & Wapping, London E1W 1UH
Official website: Dickens Inn
This pub is the only remaining pub of the many that existed on the South Bank of the River Thames in Shakespeare’s time, when this area was the heart of the theater district and the Thames was the main access to London.
It was frequented by many actors from neighboring theaters, including Shakespeare’s Globe and the Swan. It is from here that Samuel Pepys saw the Great Fire of London in 1666. He wrote that he took refuge in “a little tavern by the bank…and there he saw the fire grow.”
This tavern became a favorite place for pirates and smugglers who came to London by river. During repairs in the early 19th century, several caches were discovered after removing a solid oak beam, which were probably used for the storage of stolen and contraband items.
In front of the pub there is a terrace overlooking the Thames, and in this pub they serve typical pub food including fish and chips, meat pies with mashed potatoes, and the typical British roast. They also have a children’s menu. It is possible to reserve a table to eat inside but not for the terrace.
Address: 34 Park St, London SE1 9EF
Official website: Anchor Bankside