London’s reputation as a great “pub city” dates back to the early Middle Ages. Back then, public houses catered to travellers seeking lodging, food and drinks; these days, there are more pubs and inns in London than in most other cities, but only a handful have retained their original, historic charm.
We’ve selected seven of the capital’s oldest pubs that evoke the grandeur and cosiness of bygone eras.
Old Bell Tavern, Fleet Street
Located on Fleet Street, the Old Bell Tavern was built by Sir Christopher Wren in the 1670s.
With its stone floor and colourful glass windows, the pub still attracts thousands of visitors, who come in for a pint in historic surroundings.
Barley Mow, Marylebone
With some of the original features from its 1791 founding still intact, the Barley Mow is something of a time capsule.
The pub boasts a pair of wooden drinking boxes attached to the side of the bar, where groups of people can sit in privacy and enjoy an ale or two.
The food menu includes award-winning pies and there’s live music every night of the week.
The Windsor Castle, Kensington
Built in 1835, this Kensington pub once upon a time offered views stretching to the original Windsor Castle, around 20 miles away.
London construction has since then obscured its breathtaking vistas, but the venue remains a go-to for all those seeking a classic atmosphere and traditional English food.
Its secret doors, wood panelling, and large garden are particular selling points.
Ye Olde Mitre Tavern, Holborn
Tucked away inside Holborn’s narrow streets, Ye Olde Mitre Tavern is a Tudor-style pub, initially built in 1546 and expanded in the 18th century.
The food and drinks menu offer a selection of ales and lagers as well as Sunday roasts, stews and pies.
A colourful courtyard, barrel tables and fireplaces highlight the authentic vibe of the historic building – rumour has it that Queen Elizabeth I once danced around the cherry tree at its door with Sir Christopher Hatton.
The Lamb, Bloomsbury
Retaining its 18th century façade, The Lamb has also preserved its Victorian feel.
An antique polyphone, placed in the corner of the pub, welcomes today’s guests, while vintage sepia-toned photographs of Victorian actresses line the walls.
The Lamb attracts a range of customers, eager to sample its range of real ales.
The George Inn, Borough Street
A favourite amongst the historic literary figures of London, including Charles Dickens (who mentioned the pub in Little Dorrit), The George Inn was opened more than 300 years ago, and is the capital’s only remaining galleried coaching inn.
It was rebuilt in 1677 after a fire destroyed most of medieval Southwark.
The Red Lion, Mayfair
The current building that houses The Red Lion was built in 1821, and is one of the only structures in the area to have retained all of its original Victorian features after surviving the Blitz.
With a selection of great ciders and a seasonal food menu, it’s still popular amongst today’s punters.
Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to… whose London guide covers all the best hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs, sights, shops and spas
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