The 12 oldest and greatest pubs in London
Finding a pub in London is not difficult since there is one in every corner. Some are better than others but which ones are the greatest? Here are the 12 oldest and greatest pubs in London.
1. The Prospect of Whitby – Wapping (1520)
This pub is located in a very quiet spot and it’s absolutely stunning.
It was originally known as Devil’s Tavern since it used to be a popular hangout for smugglers and pirates.
Today there is still a noose hanging outside the pub as a reminder of the times river criminals were sentenced to death.
Some of its famous visitors included pirate Captain Kidd, novelist Charles Dickens and Princess Margaret.
When the weather allows it, its worth visiting the outdoor seating area with the impressive Thames’s view.
Location: 57 Wapping Wall, Wapping, London, E1W 3SH
2. Ye Olde Mitre – Holborn (1546)
This small pub is placed between two lanes and it is usually busy with tourists and bankers.
Walking into the pub feels like stepping into Tudor England. The decor is full of character.
The Ye Olde Mitre is famous for having a cherry tree, that Queen Elizabeth once danced around with Sir Christopher Hatton.
The area surrounding the pub is quite historical as well. It’s near where William Wallace the legendary Scottish hero (Braveheart movie), was hung, drawn, and quartered at Smithfield.
Location: 1 Ely Court, Ely Place, London, EC1N 6SJ
3. The Mayflower – Rotherhithe (1550)
This pub has changed many names; Shippe, The Spread Eagle, The Crown and finally The Mayflower.
It was last named after the vessel which took to the seas from there to discover America. You can even spot the original 1620 mooring point of the Pilgrim Father’s Mayflower ship.
This is a Thames river pub that used to host explorers and drunk sailors.
The nautical grotto decor definitely gives out its long history.
When the weather permits it you can seat on the deck overlooking the Thames and London Bridge.
Location: 117 Rotherhithe Street, Rotherhithe, London, SE16 4NF
4. The Grapes – Limehouse (1583)
This cozy pub was bought in 2011 by Sir Ian McKellen (Lord of the Rings, Gandalf) but he is not the only celebrity that has spent time here.
Charles Dickens , explorer Sir Walter Raleigh and Samuel Pepys were also regulars.
The Limehouse Basin where this pub is located used to be a very sketchy area. That is why there are so many murder stories surrounding this location.
Besides this, it’s worth visiting for the rustic wooden floors, the Singer sewing machine tables, and the great Sunday roast.
Location: 76 Narrow Street, Limehouse, London, E14 8BP
5. Spaniards Inn – Hampstead (1585)
This pub stands between Hampstead and Highgate.
It is rumoured that this the place the famous villain Dick Turpin was born and learned his criminal ways.
Spanniards Inn is a wood-paneled pub with a homely fireplace and a large garden. Ideal for a nice meal and outdoor pints.
When you visit the indoors you can notice its authentic character.
The ceiling in the smaller rooms is quite low and it’s decorated with antique furniture.
Charles Dickens wrote about this pub in “The Pickwick Papers” and it is said that John Keats penned “Ode to a Nightingale” in the garden.
Location: Spaniards Road, Hampstead, London, Greater London, NW3 7JJ
6. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – the City (1667)
The original pub (Horn Tavern) was lost in The Great Fire of London in 1666 and was rebuilt shortly after.
Stepping into this pub is like stepping back in time, especially due to the lack of natural lighting.
This is a 6 tiers building that has numerous bars and gloomy rooms; each with different character.
The vaulted cellars are thought to belong to a 13th-century Carmelite monastery, that once owned this place.
In 1962, the pub gave the Museum of London a number of sexually explicit erotic plaster of Paris tiles recovered from an upper room.
It is believed that the room was used as a brothel in the mid-eighteenth century.
Location: 145 Fleet Street, London EC4A 2BU
7.Tipperary – The City (1667)
It was originally built on the side of a monastery which dated to 1300. The monks amongst other duties brewed ale.
This site was an island between the River Thames and River Fleet.
Today, a little more than a stream still runs under the pub.
The property survived the Great Fire of London because it was made of stone.
Most of the surrounding premises were made of wood.
In 1700 the S. G. Mooney & Son Brewery chain of Dublin, Ireland purchased it.
It then became the first Irish pub outside Ireland, the first in London and the first one to serve Guinness.
Location: 66 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1HT
8. Old Bell Tavern – The City (1670)
The Old Bell Tavern was once called The Swan.
This pub is close to some of London’s main tourist attractions, such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Blackfriars Pier, and The Mercer Art Gallery.
It was built by Sir Christopher Wren to house his masons who were rebuilding St Bride’s Church after the Great Fire.
The street that this pub is located is most well known by Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Originally this place could be reached only via an alleyway from Fleet Street, making it an ideal space for a workshop. The first printing presses operated here around 1500.
Location: 95 Fleet St., London EC4Y 1DH
9. The George Inn – Southwark (1677)
Currently owned by the National Trust, this place has been around since 1543.
It is located on the south side of the river Thames near London Bridge and is the only surviving galleried London coaching inn.
The impressive outdoor terrace gives out its past.
The ground floor is divided into a number of connected bars. The Parliament Bar used to be a waiting room for passengers on coaches.
In The Gallery, on the second floor, there are exposed beams, tapestries, old maps and portraits of famous guests like William Shakespeare.
Location: 75-77 Borough High Street, Southwark, Greater London, SE1 1NH
10. Lamb & Flag – Covent Garden (1772)
This pub was once called Bucket of Blood due to the violent fistfights held here in the 1800’s.
The building’s brickwork is circa 1958 and conceals what may be an early 18th-century frame of a house, replacing the original one built-in 1638.
The Lamp and flag was a once-common London public house sign depicting the Holy Lamb bearing a cross surmounted by a golden streamer.
This symbol is said to have represented an emblem used by the Knights Templar.
The Fleet street gateway to the Middle Temple has a sculpture of the Lamb and Flag on its keystone, dated 1684.
Location: 33 Rose Street, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9EB
11. Trafalgar Tavern – Greenwich (1837)
This Victorian riverside pub was built the year Queen Victoria’s ascended to the throne.
It is an impressive building that reflects a time of great prosperity for London. This is why it was hugely popular.
Regular customers were many well-known ministers, artists, politicians, and writers.
After WWI it became a home for retired sailors and later accommodation for serving naval officers.
Upon restoration, it went back to its original form.
The decor is a tribute to old London with charming period artefacts and original artworks.
Location: Park Row, London SE10 9NW
12. Angel – Rotherhithe (1850)
This pub overlooks River Thames and the ancient ruins of King Edward III’s Manor House.
It is said to be the spot from which Turner painted the Fighting Temaraire.
This is definitely a locals pub with traditonal character and reasonable prices.
The monks of Bermondsey Priory built the first Inn there during the 15th century. However, the front of the building has been completely refurbished since then.
It is rumored that Captain James Cook supposedly drank here before he embarked on his famous journey to Australia.
Location: 101 Bermondsey Wall East, Rotherhithe, London SE16 4NB
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