historic pub trail: london

head to the capital and experience the history of london through these ten incredible British pubs.

The Star Tavern -Belgravia, Belgrave Mews SW1X 8HT

The Star Tavern in Belgravia has seen its share of well-heeled visitors – including Peter O’Toole, Diana Dors and Alexander Korda – since it was built in the early 19th century. However, it is most noted for its role in one of the most colourful – and notorious – episodes in 20th century England. The grand upstairs room was supposedly where the Great Train Robbers hatched their plan to attack the Mail service in 1963.

Drinks Partaken

  • Oliver’s Island (Fullers) 3.8% ABV

  • Wild River (Fullers) 4.5% ABV

  • London Pride (Fullers) 4.1% ABC

The French House - Soho 49 Dean St, W1D 5BG

The French House is a Grade II listed pub and dining room. It was previously known as the York Minster, but was informally called "the French pub" or "the French house" by its regulars. It sells more Ricard than anywhere else in Britain and only serves beer in half-pints, except on April the first, when a recent custom has been that Suggs serves the first pint of the day.

Drinks Partaken

  • French House Lager of indeterminate provenance.

The Lamb and Flag - 33 Rose Street, London WC2E 9EB

This has a good claim as Covent Garden’s most historic watering hole, and retains much of its traditional charm. Tucked down an alleyway – which was once notorious as the site of bare-knuckle fighting – this is an enormously popular pub, where drinkers have included Dickens, and the 17th-century poet John Dryden.

Drinks Partaken

  • Seafarers (Gales ) 3.6% ABV

The Seven Stars - 53-54 Carey St, London WC2A 2JB

One of the few places in the area to survive the Great Fire of London, the tiny Seven Stars pub now has more than four centuries of history behind it. Located just behind the Royal Courts of Justice, it is a natural stomping ground for the pin stripes of the legal profession. Unassuming from the outside, it’s a traditional pub through and through within, and has a good range of real ales. Given its size, don’t expect to find much space – try to avoid lunch time and the post-work rush.


Drinks Partaken

  • Sussex Gold (Arundel) 4.2% ABV

  • Sussex Best (Harveys) 4.0% ABV

  • Broadside (Adnams)  4.7% ABV

  • Bedlam Porter (Bedlam) 5.0% ABV

  • Kentish (Shepherd Neame) 4.5% ABV

Ye Olde Mitre Tavern - Ely Court, Hatton Garden, Holborn, London EC1N 6SJ

One of the most difficult to find of all the pubs listed here, but it is well worth the effort. It’s unashamedly traditional (no TVs), and long may that continue. Previous clientele are rumoured to have included Elizabeth I (one story goes that she danced around a cherry tree that is still there). The current incarnation was built around 1772, although there had been a pub on the site since the mid-1500s. It is actually technically still part of the Diocese of Ely, Cambridgeshire, a bizarre quirk due to its origins as a tavern for the servants of the Palace of the Bishops of Ely, which was once based here.


Drinks Partaken

  • Backstage (Signature) 5.6% ABV

  • Oliver’s Island (Fullers) 3.8% ABV

  • Seafarers (Gales) 3.6%

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese - 145 Fleet Street, EC4A 2BU

On every list of historic pubs in London, and with reason: the warren-like Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is an absolute treat. Countless literary grandees and journalists – from Samuel Johnson and Dickens to the Fleet Street hacks of the 20th century – have occupied a nook or cranny in its labyrinthine interior. Although very much on the tourist trail, it is big enough to cope. Rebuilt in 1667 after the Great Fire – a date flagged boastfully on the sign outside.

Drinks Partaken

  • Samuel Smiths Bitter  4.0% ABV

  • Pure Brewed Organic Lager (Samuel Smith) 5.0% ABV

  • Organic Wheat Beer (Samuel Smith) 5.0% ABV

The Viaduct - 126 Newgate Street, EC1A 7AA

The last surviving Victorian gin palace in London, the Viaduct opened the same year (1869) as the nearby viaduct. It is opposite the Old Bailey (where Newgate Prison once stood). The story that its beer cellars are former cells of the prison may be a myth, but even so the pub is a great stop for history buffs. Elegantly curving on a corner, it has Fuller’s ales on tap and a noteworthy interior, particularly its etched glass panels (the nearby Princess Louise also has striking examples), and a series of large portraits representing agriculture, banking and the arts.

Drinks Partaken

  • Various variety of Gin & Tonic – Portobello Road, HMS Victory, Plymouth

The George Inn - The George Inn Yard, 77 Borough High Street, SE1 1NH

The George Inn (being south of the river) is out an a slight limb but along with Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, is possibly the most striking and atmospheric of them all. Once a coffee house visited by Dickens (it was mentioned in Little Dorrit), it is London’s last remaining galleried inn, and the only pub in London to be owned by the National Trust. An older incarnation was destroyed by fire in 1676. There is extensive outdoor seating.

Drinks Partaken

  • Rocking Rudolph (Greene King) 4.2%

  • High & Dry (GK) 5.0% ABV

  • George Inn Ale

The Grapes - 76 Narrow Street, London E14 8BP

It was known by Samuel Pepys and by Dickens (again). In fact, the opening of Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend is supposedly based on it: “A tavern of dropsical appearance… long settled down into a state of hale infirmity. It had outlasted many a sprucer public house, indeed the whole house impended over the water but seemed to have got into the condition of a faint-hearted diver, who has paused so long on the brink that he will never go in at all.”

The Prospect of Whitby, Wapping - 57 Wapping Wall, Wapping, London E1W 3SH

Another riverside pub oozing history; it claims to be the oldest riverside hostelry in London. It's found on the north side of the Thames and there are terrific views over the river from the rear terrace. Turner is thought to have sketched views from the location.

The Spaniard’s Inn, Hampstead - Spaniards Road, Hampstead, London NW3 7JJ

Perhaps the best watering hole in North London for literary associations, this pub once counting the romantic poets John Keats and Lord Byron among its clientele. Dick Turpin is also thought to have been a regular. Inside, there are wood-panelled walls, while high-backed pub pews still give a sense of intrigue.

The Mayflower, Rotherhithe - 117 Rotherhithe Street, London SE16 4NF

Extremely old, this pub south of the river was a stopping point for the Pilgrim Fathers as they emigrated to America.

Drinks Partaken

  • Yakima Red (Asahi) 4.1% ABV

  • Seafarer (Gales) 3.8%

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