Even after countless trips to London and three years of living there, every time I’m in the big smoke, I somehow find it even more beautiful and interesting.
Full of iconic buildings and historic landmarks, there’s a timeless, yet energetic, vibe.
Like any major city, there’s no shortage of ways to fill your time. If it’s your first time traveling to London and you only have a few days to see what the city has to offer, these are the 10 things you can’t miss doing.
While there’s no shortage of museums to visit, shops to browse, or parts of the city to explore in London, one of my favorite can’t miss activity?
Hanging at a pub with a pint.
I love a good British pub. Whether it’s spending a summer afternoon sitting in a pub garden with a pitcher of Pimms, or sipping mulled wine next to a fireplace in the midst of winter, pub culture is a quintessential part of visiting England.
You simply can’t go to London without popping in a few pubs for a pint. Even better if there’s a game on to enjoy.
There are a ton of pubs across the city, but when I lived in London, the below were my go-to’s, which I still recommend to visitors time after time.
22 of London’s Best Pubs, Perfect for a Pint
- The Ten Belles (Tower Hamlets): Known for being the watering hole of a few Jack the Ripper victims, this place is a go-to for day-drinking outside, or after work in summer. My favorite time to drop in? After a Jack the Ripper walking tour in October- spooky vibes in the most excellent way
- The Commercial Tavern (Spitalfields): A quirky neighborhood pub, great for after-work drinks. Everything about it cues ‘classic British pub’
- The Culpepper (Tower Hamlets): Cute pub with small roof terrace, ideal for spring, summer or early fall. If you’re not a huge beer or cider drinker, The Culpepper is also known for its cocktail menu, enter: goblet-sized G&Ts
- Churchill Arms (Kensington): The plants on the outside of this pub make it a must-see, especially in the spring and summer when it’s covered in dozens upon dozens of flower baskets. It’s no less impressive in winter though, when the outside is covered in miniature Christmas trees. And while the decor is impressive, the pub itself is also know for its bangin’ Thai food
- Windsor Castle (Kensington): Cozy pub with a lovely beer garden for summer evenings, a great place to stop after an afternoon lounging in Hyde Park
- The Champion (Notting Hill Gate): The epitome of a perfect local. Cozy booths, plenty of options on tap and crispy chips (fries, for my Americans)
- The Harp (Charring Cross): Great selection of beers & plenty of space to sit upstairs. My favorite time to visit The Harp is around 4/5 pm on Thursdays/Fridays during the spring, summer and early fall. With the after-work crowd, it’s a hopping place- prime street drinking
- The Horseshoe Inn (Southwick): Located behind The Share, the Horseshoe Inn is a reminder not everything in this part of south London is newly constructed. It’s the kind of pub that drips with charm of days gone by, and there’s a great garden and sun terrance for those summer days
- The George + Ye Olde Cock Tavern (The Strand): A stone’s throw from one of London’s most visited areas (Covent Garden), The George is known for its photogenic facade. Down the road from The George, don’t miss Ye Olde Cock Tavern, London’s skinniest pub. Dating back to 1549, Londoners of all types, including Charles Dickens, have enjoyed a drink here.If you’re going to sip a pint in London, may as well do it in a classic English atmosphere, right?
- Princess Louise (Holborn, Covent Garden): A good old fashioned Victorian pub. Love coming here for a pint whenever I’m in the area
- Coach & Horses Pub (Mayfair): Dating back to the 1770s, The Coach & Horses is thought to be one of the first properties built on Bruton Street. Even if you don’t know it’s history, its skinny shape with a timbered facade stands out among the area’s modern buildings. My favorite time to visit? After a night spent walking around Soho + Mayfair, browsing the holiday lights
- The Albert (Westminster): Much like Coach & Horses, The Albert immediately stands out for it historic charm in a sea of modernity
- The Spice of Life (Soho): One of the city’s most visually arresting pubs, Spice of Life was built in the 19th century and has everything you could possibly ask for in a pub, including gargoyles. Spice is also known for being a musical hotspot over the years, hosting acts from Bob Dylan to The Sex Pistols
- The Three Greyhounds (Soho): Behind The Spice of Life, you’ll find The Three Greyhounds, a pub with a Tudor facade. Built in 1847, the pub is named for hunting dogs that used to roam the area before Soho was modernized. I love recommending The Three Greyhounds to visitors for its curb-side appeal – walking up to it really makes it feel like you’re in England
- Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (Blackfriars): In the heart of the city, the atmosphere doesn’t get much more historic. Rebuilt right after the Great Fire of 1666, the pub is known for its literary associations, regular patrons included Charles Dickens and Mark Twain
- The Holly Bush Pub (Hampstead): The best way to end a day out at the Heath? A pint at the Holly Bush, a charming pub tucked away down a side street
- The Crown and Anchor (Covent Garden): The perfect spot to pop in after a mid-afternoon show in Leicester Square, I’ve always loved this pubs beautiful red tile and flowered exterior
- Brewdog Shoreditch (Shoreditch): Not a pub in the traditional sense, but a great selection of craft beers and must-visit for beer lovers
Many of the above pubs are in East London, if you’re in that part of the city, a few other pubs I love: The Crown & Shuttle, The George & Vulture, The Princess of Shoreditch, and The Eagle.
Not into pints, but in the mood for a night out in London town?
Legend has it British bartenders introduced cocktails to London after making them for American passengers on Atlantic cruise liners. One thing is for certain, there are world class mixologists in London.
London (and the United Kingdom, by nature) may be famous for its pints, but if you’re visiting and need a break from beers and ciders, these places are worth spending time (and money) at:
- Nightjar & Oriole: Tucked away behind a (nearly) unmarked door off the Old Street roundabout, this speakeasy-style bar is one of my favorite hangs in London. Divided into historical eras, the menu seems never ending. Bonus: Late night, there’s live jazz. And, Oriole is the sister bar to award-winning Nightjar, serving up cocktails made with ingredients from all parts of the world.
- Happiness Forgets: An unassuming basement bar with great drinks. Located on Hoxton Square in the heart of Shoreditch, there are plenty of awesome restaurants and bars nearby
- The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town: Hidden behind a fridge door at The Breakfast Club’s Spitalfields location, you’ll find quirky variations on classic cocktails. Brunch, then speakeasy? Sounds like an ideal Saturday afternoon
- Callooh Callay: Against the back wall of the ground floor main room, there’s a wardrobe that leads to a hidden bar. Getting in without a reservation can be tough, but the drinks are worth it- simple deliciousness
- Mr. Fogg’s Tavern: Full of weird artefacts and delicious tipples. Classically British in every way
- Disrepute: Newly opened member’s only bar in Soho, the cocktail list is killer. And, what’s not to love about a bar where the drinks are described via a story vs. ingredient list?
- The American Bar at the Savoy: Recently named the ‘World’s Best Bar’, the bar is over 125 years old and is, in my opinion, one of London’s top places for a fancy drink. Because this place isn’t perfect enough, there’s also usually a live pianist in the evenings
- Duke’s Bar: Famed for popularising the martini, the classic drink is made table-side here via trolley. They’re so strong, and good, the hotel only allows two per guest
- Evans & Peel Detective Agency / Pharmacy: Get ready to state your case or be prepared to tell the doctor what ailment you need taken care of for entry into these bars. The Detective Agency is one of my favorite speakeasies in London- great ambiance, character and wonderful drinks. I haven’t been to the Pharmacy yet, but we’ve got reservations for a night with the ‘doctor’ at the end of November
Have you ever enjoyed a pint in London? Which pubs are your favourite?
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