London is one of the most architecturally and historically diverse cities in the world– with a fair few of the city’s 3600-plus pubs claiming roots going back as far as 600 years. This rich tradition of public drinking means there are today hundreds of quirky, historic or just plain old prestigious pubs to sip a pint or grab some food in. Starting from North London and gradually heading South, to just past the river, these are some of the most individually interesting pubs you can visit in London right now.
Starting out with the most northerly pub of the list, we have The Spaniards Inn in Hampstead. Dating back as far as 1585 according to some sources, The Spaniards’ far flung location made it the ideal lurking spot for highwayman back in the day. Apparently, it was a frequent haunt of Dick Turpin, and caught criminals were hanged from a tree just down the road. It also has literary connections as it was mentioned in both Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Dickens’ Pickwick Papers.
Only a few miles down the road our next stop is The Hemingford Arms, Islington. Today an expensive residential area, with the razor topped fences of Pentonville Prison just over the road too, The Hemingford Arms has a varied clientele – and the décor to match. Covered in flowers on the outside, the interior walls are bedecked with all kinds of curios such as prosthetic legs and taxidermized ducks. Oh, and they also serve great Thai food apparently.
Our next stop is a little more central, and boy can you tell by its hidden entrance. The only access to the Lamb and Flag, Covent Garden, is down a tight alleyway barely big enough to fit two people side by side. One of London’s oldest boozers, it was well known for the bare-knuckle boxing fights that would occur in the courtyard here during the 18th century. The perfect place to sip your pint as you look at the alley wall and imagine you’re in a Victorian crime drama.
For another pub that has a storied past, try The George in Southwark. Not far from London Bridge, almost anyone going in and out of the city would have passed by here for many years from the 16th century onwards. Geoffrey Chaucer started the Canterbury Tales in the now demolished Tabard Coaching House that was next door, and Shakespeare himself is said to have visited a few times. For something a bit more modern, take a swift (or somewhat leisurely by now probably) walk to the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town in Spitafields. Or, since you won’t actually be able to see it from outside, look for a branch of The Breakfast Club resteraunt chain near Liverpool Street station.
Once you find it, head inside and tell staff you’re here to see the mayor. Or, if you’re feeling confident – stroll right in and head for a vintage Smeg fridge at the back of the premises. Open it, and you’ll see some stairs which head right down into this fairly pricey but super-cool and hidden cocktail bar. Or, if that’s not your thing, they also do craft beers too.