Visiting the most famous pubs in London is a great experience to include in your London itinerary. With their rich histories spanning centuries, these iconic establishments have become an integral part of London’s culture and social scene.
From cozy and traditional pubs to modern and trendy bars, there is a diverse range of ales for anyone looking to enjoy a pint or two.
Touring the most famous pubs in London is a must-do activity for locals and tourists alike so that you can experience the city’s unique atmosphere.
Short for public house, a pub is a central gathering place for local villagers to exchange news, socialize, and engage in recreational activities.
It’s interesting to know that there are over 48,000 in England alone! It comes as no surprise that some of the most famous pubs are in London.
While pubs began centuries ago, they are still a prominent part of European culture today. Accessing these famous pubs is quite easy using the London tube, just don’t forget to mind the gap!
The History of Pubs
London pubs have some of the most interesting histories. In 1393, King Richard II made a rule for pubs and Inns to have his emblem “White Hart”.
Thus, many establishments were named White Lion and carried the white crescent to represent the monarch of its time.
King James then ordered that the Red Lion of Scotland be displayed on all buildings of importance, including pubs!
This sounds like #GameofBritishPubThrones, but there is nothing more British than fish and chips. Malt vinegar, ketchup, and tartar sauce are just a few condiments that enhance the taste of the moist, white fish swathed in a crispy, golden batter.
Plan to spend the day the day in Covent Garden. One of the things you’ll love about London pubs is the stately curb appeal.
While visiting, you can find quite a few named after fictional characters like this favorite, The Sherlock Holmes Pub. Located at 10 Northumberland St in London, you can easily get there by using the Tube. Take the Bakerloo or Northern Line tube to Charing Cross Station.
The Most Famous Pubs in London
These pubs are the most famous in London for a reason. Here are, categorically speaking, the most famous pubs in London. Don’t miss them for a gastro experience and a pint!
The Prettiest Pub in London
The Churchill Arms
📍119 Kensington Church St, Kensington | 🚇Central or Circle Line to Nottinghill Gate Station
The Churchill Arms is best known for its plant-clad façade.
Described as the most beautiful pub in London, it’s most attractive when the flowers are in bloom, which also makes it irresistibly Instagram-able!
You’ve likely already spotted another picture of it on Instagram or Pinterest.
The building is something special so if you are in Notting Hill it is worth the visit to Kensington. The walk from the tube is about 5 minutes.
Churchill’s interior is equally over the top with florals, foliage, and whatnots hanging from the walks and ceilings.
Spoiler alert – this pub was the first in London to open as a Thai restaurant and they’ve been serving the same cuisine for over 30 years.
They are open for lunch, and dinner, and close early morning. If you are craving fish and chips, keep reading for more interesting pubs with good eats!
There are also plenty of pubs near Covent Garden and some of them are gastronomic!
The Oldest Pub in London
The Prospect of Whitby
📍57 Wapping Wall |🚇DLR to Limehouse Station, Bus D3 to Shadwell Basin
Many may argue this claim to fame but according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is the oldest pub in the UK, dating back to the 8th century.
However, the oldest pub in London is …drum roll…The Prospect of Whitby was established in 1520.
That title could be argued depending on the criteria. Is it the oldest running pub with doors that never closed for business? The oldest building? The oldest license to sell liquor on the premises? The oldest pub next to the River Thames?
I’ve found pubs in London that were established long before 1520, but they were opened under a different name. Any way you choose, London is not short on pedigree pubs.
It’s not just one of the most famous pubs in London, it’s also rich in history. The infamous Hanging Judge Jeffries was a local and a regular patron.
It’s said that he would enjoy lunch on the balcony while watching hangings on the Execution Dock, where Captain Kidd met his fate in 1701.
Originally named The Pelican, this famous pub was known to attract smugglers, thieves, and pirates, thus making the area a dangerous place to live.
The interior is authentic and quaint with a good selection of wines and food.
Sitting on the Thames-side terrace, the setting was picturesque, with a weeping willow tree for shade, and a hangman’s noose dangling in the wind.
The Oldest Irish Pub in London
📍66 Fleet Street |🚇 Circle or District Line to Blackfriar Station.
While on a walking tour, we stopped at Tipperary Pub and listened to commentary about it being the oldest Irish Pub in London. I was immediately drawn to stop out of sheer curiosity.
The exterior looks fragile and unkempt. Though it is beloved by the neighborhood and sought after by tourists, the interior follows the tone of the exterior.
The pub has distinct areas, the ground floor has a bar and it’s usually packed. As one of the most famous pubs in London, it is quite unassuming.
The downstairs bar is located in a long and narrow room with scant seating and a TV.
The restaurant is located upstairs and serves acceptable pub grub during breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours.
Tipperary is the OG of a pub pint.
The Biggest Pub in London
The Porter House
📍 21-22 Maiden Ln |🚇 Bakerloo or Northern Line to Charing Cross Station, or Picadilly Line to Covent Garden Station.
Located at Covent Garden, The Porter House is a massive and widely-popular Irish brewery with four floors of pure pub indulgence. The atmosphere and aesthetics are a big draw.
Your sights will feast on shiny brass rails, beer pipes, uber-large tv screens, and the maze of charm.
The ground floor has a big, shiny bar with superior lighting and plenty of seating. Below the ground floor is a cellar level with a somewhat different vibe. It’s a bit darker, with another bar and there are nooks of smaller areas all around.
It’s quite spacious. It’s no wonder the Porter House is one of the most famous pubs in London.
There are a pair of stairs winding from the first floor to the top floors where you can walk around on the balcony and overlook the lower floor.
You will love this pub’s atmosphere and if you’re a lover of world beers, you will love what this pub has to offer.
The menu is extensive with tons of interesting beers from around the world, and standard British food including pizzas, burgers, mussels, and oysters.
Prices are fair given the location and there is great entertainment courtesy of the house band in the evenings. Expect large crowds and a lively ambiance, especially for rugby games.
The Ireland v England matches are taken seriously!
The Smallest Pub in London
📍 19 Upper Mall, London |🚇 District Line to Ravenscourt Park Underground Station
What makes this pub so famous? The Dove holds the title of the smallest room in London and the world!
The pub is located on the post and idyllic River Thames and has a very old-world yet cozy feel.
As commonly found in the architecture of the 17th century, the ceilings are low with oak beams.
They’ve cleverly attached a conservatory and terrace with ample seating looking out onto the Thames, perfect for sunny days.
During colder seasons, the fireplace is constantly ablaze to ease the winter chill.
A little-known fact is that the fireplace was once bombed by Hitler, yet it still stands.
Final Thoughts on the Most Famous Pubs in London
Visiting the most famous pubs in London is an unforgettable experience that offers a glimpse into the city’s rich history.
if you are a first-time visitor to London why not discover the unique architecture, design, and history of these iconic establishments and soak up the atmosphere of London’s gathering places?
You’ll travel from centuries-old taverns to modern watering holes, all while immersing yourself in the unique atmosphere of London’s pub culture.