London is a city full of rich history, invigorating culture, and stunning art museums. One aspect of its culture that is popular with locals and tourists is the hundreds of pubs that dot the streets of London. While you’ll find many different types, this article dives into the top 10 historic pubs in London.
If you’ll plan a trip to England soon, perhaps you’ll find just the right pub to complete your journey on the list below.
How Many Pubs Are There in London?
Pubs are a place of community for many people. From watching football matches to sharing a pint with friends, pubs serve as a central third place for many around the world. Because of this, it’s no surprise why you can find numerous pubs around London.
Some estimate that 3,500 pubs lie within the city limits. While that may seem like quite a large number, it makes a little more sense when you learn that London is home to a little over 8.9 million people.
What’s the Oldest Pub in London?
Seven Stars in Carey Street is the oldest pub in London. Built in 1602, Seven Stars has maintained an antique atmosphere, with its most recent interior renovations dating back to the Victorian era. Original, exposed beams still help to support the roof.
Some believe Shakespeare may have been an early customer as he worked half a mile from the pub from 1608 to 1612. While you’ll find many older buildings, they didn’t become pubs until later — some even date back to 1423.
10 Historic Pubs in London
London is a bustling city with much to see and explore. A rich history is visible in the city, including in many of its eateries. Below we will dive into the top 10 historic pubs in London. Read on to see which of thousands of pubs we recommend to add a little extra history to your London visit.
1. The Seven Stars
When It First Opened: 1602
Address: 53 Carey Street, London WC2A 2JB
About: We briefly touched on the history of the Seven Stars already. It is the oldest pub in London and gives visitors a glimpse into the past through its authentic decorations and architecture.
Besides being thought to have been frequented by Shakespeare at one time, the pub is well-known for other reasons. It holds its status as the oldest pub in the city because it managed to escape the Fire of London in 1666, which destroyed much of the city.
Roxy Beaujolais, an Australian-born London resident, and her architect husband currently own the pub.
2. George & Vulture
When It First Opened: 1870
Address: 63 Pitfield Street, London, N1 6BU
About: Known as the tallest pub in London, George & Vulture opened its doors in 1870. While not much history is available on this particular pub, there is much to say about its current happenings. You’ll find several weekly activities and events at the pub, including a two-for-one pizza night, quiz night, and a special Sunday menu.
3. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
When It First Opened: 1538 but was rebuilt in 1667 after it burnt down during the Fire of London.
Address: 145 Fleet Street, London, EC4A 2BP
About: Known as the most famous pub in the world, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese has played a big role in London’s story. From its rebuilding in 1667 to its mention in several literary works, the Cheshire Cheese has enjoyed an impressive legacy.
Most notable of its literary mentions is perhaps that of Charles Dickens in his novel “A Tale of Two Cities.” Today the pub serves as a reminder of time gone by and acts as both a chop house and an upscale pub.
4. The Hoop and Grapes
When It First Opened: 1721
Address: 80 Farringdon Street, London, EC4A 4BL
About: The history of the Hoop and Grapes is a fascinating one. Originally opened on the grounds of the historic St. Bride’s Church, the pub was once used as a spot for illegitimate weddings. It also survived the Fire of London and has undergone renovation since.
In 1990, the pub was slated for demolition. These plans were halted, however, due to the site’s historical significance.
Today the Hoop and Grapes is closed until further notice, and not much information is available as to the reason why. You can still view the property from the road, which makes for a great photo opportunity.
5. The Old Bell Tavern
When It First Opened: 1670’s
Address: 95 Fleet Street, London, Greater London, EC4Y 1DH
About: The Old Bell originally housed masons and builders engaged in rebuilding part of London after the fire in the 1660s. Due to its original entry found within a popular printing alley, the history of the Old Bell has often coincided with that of London’s printing business.
Like a few other pubs on this list, the Old Bell is located on Fleet Street, the prominent location of London’s most infamous fictional demon barber, Sweeney Todd.
6. The George
When It First Opened: Rebuilt in 1677 after the Fire of London
Address: 75-77 Borough High Street, Southwark, Greater London, SE1 1NH
About: Originally known as George and the Dragon, The George is a medieval tavern and inn located on High Street. You can’t find much history available about the early days of the pub.
However, like Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Charles Dickens mentioned The George in two of his works, “Little Dorit” and “Our Mutual Friend.” Some say that it also served as a theater for Elizabethan-era plays. Today it still functions as a popular pub and inn.
7. The Spaniards Inn
When It First Opened: It was built in 1585 but didn’t become a pub until the mid-1600s.
Address: Spaniards Road, Hampstead, London, Greater London, NW3 7JJ
About: Originally built as a tollgate on the Finchley border, the Spaniards Inn was named after the Spanish Ambassador to James I of England. As another favorite of author Charles Dickens, he heavily features The Spaniards in “The Pickwick Papers.”
Today it offers a cozy and warm environment indoors and in its comfortable outdoor beer garden. Due to its notoriety, the inn has been well-kept and remains a popular spot for locals and tourists.
8. The Lamb and Flag
When It First Opened: 1772
Address: 33 Rose Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9EB
About: Though many of the pubs on this list are featured in famous works by several English authors, namely Charles Dickens, The Lamb and Flag claims Dickens chose to spend his off hours during the 18th century here.
Due to its location in a once-violent neighborhood, the upstairs room in The Lamb and Flag once served as a place for high-value secret bare-knucle fights. Today, the pub is a vibrant, highly frequented location and is a favorite amongst the residents of Covent Garden.
9. The Grapes
When It First Opened: 1661
Address: 76 Narrow Street, Limehouse, London, E14 8BP
About: Several prominent English figures, namely Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Peter Ackroyd, frequented The Grapes historic pub. The Grapes also managed to escape destruction during the London blitz, preserving centuries of culture within its walls.
It houses a rich English history, and the celebrated actor Ian McKellen currently owns it. He is most well-known for playing the roles of Gandalf in “The Lord of the Rings” series and Magneto in “The X-Men” franchise and has decades of theater experience. The pub is warmly run and offers a welcoming atmosphere for all who enter.
10. The Guinea
When It First Opened: The grill officially opened in 1952, but the location has served as either a restaurant or pub since 1423.
Address: 30 Bruton Place, Mayfair, London, W1J 6NL
About: Though the building within which The Guinea stands has been around for centuries, there is little history available for this historic London pub itself.
Celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Greta Garbo, and Bing Crosby stopped here on their trips through London. This upscale pub offers a wide selection of premium ales and steaks. It remains a popular spot for the Mayfair crowd.
Are Historic Pubs in London Worth Visiting?
The pubs we’ve listed above have a rich history and color. From establishments that started centuries ago to haunts frequented by celebrities old and new, it is clear that London’s historic pubs are worth seeing.
If you make a trip across the pond, be sure to take this list with you to truly immerse yourself in a unique section of London’s history.
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