Any visitor to London will undoubtedly be tempted to take a tour of the city’s most historic pubs—centuries-old watering holes known to host the likes of both literary legends and legions of thirsty patrons who desired camaraderie, good times, and a great plate of fish & chips. Steeped in history, many of these traditional taverns still contain original features dating back generations—and, even if they do have modern upgrades, they still hold on to those iconic public houses feels that once defined them.
Placeholders in history, these architectural gems are often hidden in plain sight amid London’s busiest neighborhoods, distinctive time travelers whose hustle and bustle still retain their glorious past. A great way to see some of London’s most classic neighborhoods and historical settings, these age-old pubs will strike the fancy of any London visitor looking to raise a pint to the good olde days.
A Trip Back In Time At Cittie Of Yorke
Though the building that houses the current Cittie of Yorke was rebuilt in the 1920s, the site has been home to a number of pubs throughout its nearly 600(!) year history. And just one trip inside the dark, wooden interior of this iconic London bar is enough to grasp its illustrious history as a Grade II listed historic pub. Complete with three bars, each with a personality of its own, the classically ornate main bar—adorned with wooden barrels; hanging globes; and fantastically high ceilings—undoubtedly steals the show in the pub’s marvelously medieval setting.
- Where It’s At: 22 High Holborn London WC1V 6BN
- Hours: Monday through Saturday 12 PM-11 PM; Sundays 12 PM-10 PM
- Dates From: The site has been home to public houses since 1430, though the Cittie of York dates from the 1920s
- What To Try: Steak & Kidney Pudding; Hand-Battered Fish & Chips; Selection of Sam Smith cask ales
- Claim(s) To Fame: The famous Welsh poet Dylan Thomas reportedly wrote an ode to the pub when it was called Hennekey’s Long Bar
A Haunted (Public) House At The Flask
A haunting, historic atmosphere awaits guests of the Highgate classic The Flask—now in a bustling part of London, the original pub dates back to the ye olde times when the area was simply part of a small village on the outskirts. With its storied past and eerie vibes, this atmospheric bar’s cozy touches, like 17th-century horseboxes and shutter window bar, are enough to transport any visitor back in time.
- Where It’s At: Highgate, 77 Highgate West Hill, Highgate, London, N6 6BU
- Hours: Monday through Saturday 12 PM-11 PM; Sundays 12 PM-10 PM
- Dates From: The building has both late 17th century and early 18th century features; though the main bar dates from 1800
- What To Try: Sticky Toffee Pudding; Pickled Anchovies; Beer Battered Haddock
- Claim(s) To Fame: The Flask has a haunted reputation—it’s said that the classic, centuries-old pub is haunted by both a Spanish barmaid who died in the cellar and a uniformed ghost who frequents the main bar area
The Grapes: A Gandalf-Approved Gem
The neighborhood favorite The Grapes has been serving thirsty London patrons for over 500 years—and today, its bustling vibes and good times continue with a cozy, welcoming atmosphere (both inside and out); a delicious food menu; and delightfully traditional pub vibes that have hosted the likes of Charles Dickens. Home to weekly pub quizzes and fish & chips, The Grapes is truly a quintessential English pub experience.
- Where It’s At: 76 Narrow Street, Limehouse, London E14 8BP
- Hours: Monday through Saturday 12 PM-11 PM; Sundays 12 PM-10:30 PM
- Dates From: Dates back over 500 years
- What To Try: Traditional British Apple Crumble; Battered Seafood Platter (for two); Lamb Koftas
- Claim(s) To Fame: Actor Ian McKellen has written a brief history of The Grapes—and he is also famously a leaseholder of the classic bar
A Riverside Retreat At The Prospect Of Whitby
The Prospect of Whitby claims to be London's oldest riverside pub, slinging suds and serving up their famed fish & chips for over 500 years. And its location overlooking the Thames is good for more than just its balcony views; it’s responsible for an infamous reputation as a former gathering place for all manner of smugglers, scoundrels, and of course--pirates. Though much of the pub’s interior has been rebuilt throughout its centuries-long history, it's still possible to tread on the original flagstone floor that has been located here for generations.
- Where It’s At: 57 Wapping Wall, Wapping, Greater London, E1W 3SH
- Hours: Monday through Saturday 11 AM-11 PM; Sundays 12 PM-10 PM; Kitchen open 12 PM-9 PM daily
- Dates From: Built in 1520
- What To Try: Pork Crackling; Grilled Cheese & Ham Toastie; Whitby Big Fish & Chips; British Steak & Ale Pie
- Claim(s) To Fame: The Prospect not only has a literary history (it was once visited by both Samual Pepys and Charles Dickens) but has more recently been featured in the popular British comedy, Only Fools, and Horses
The Spaniards Inn Is the Stuff Of Legends
A self-described “Landmark London Pub,” The Spaniards Inn has a storied past that involves the likes of literary legends. Once a tollgate, this Hampstead haven still exudes traditional public house charm with its myriad of historic features—think cozy tavern feels with a roaring fire, hidden corners, and all the wood paneling befitting a Grade II Listed building. But, despite its signature history, The Spaniards also appeals to a modern clientele with its quaint beer garden, elegantly rustic setting, and elevated takes on British comfort food.
- Where It’s At: Spaniards Road, Hampstead, London, Greater London, NW3 7JJ
- Hours: Monday through Saturday 10 AM-11 PM; Sundays 10 AM-10:30 PM
- Dates From: Built in1585
- What To Try: Handmade Scotch Egg; Chicken, Smoked Ham Hock & Leek Pie; Half-Roast Chicken (Sundays Only); Strawberry Amaretti Eton Mess
- Claim(s) To Fame: Infamous highwayman Dick Turpin was reportedly born in The Spaniards while his father served as a landlord in the 1700s
today, visitors can walk in the footsteps of past generations simply by stepping into these dim, cozy, and oh-so-British pubs where one can still get an order of fish & chips, a decent ale, and good company, all in 21st century London.London has changed a great deal over the centuries—but one thing that has stayed constant is the city’s love affair with classic public houses that are a touchstone to the city’s illustrious (and sometimes infamous) past. Steeped in history and rich tradition, these wood-paneled backrooms and centuries-old bars tell a story of the London of old—and