Top Oldest London Pubs
When was the last time you had a cold beer in a pub that’s almost half a millenia old? Businesses nowadays open and close on a daily basis, but for some reason there are numerous pubs across London that have stayed afloat for hundreds of years. If the walls of the oldest pubs in London could talk, one could only imagine what stories they’d have in store for their listeners. Some venues are so old that pirates use to visit them on a regular basis. Unfortunately most pub goers nowadays will spend their time looking at their phones, instead of sharing maritime stories and adventures with the locals. Times change and so do the people, it’s natural. But these old pubs do something much more than give people a place to drink a cold beverage. If you don’t feel overwhelmed and romanticized by the fact that these places were visited by Charles Dickens, notorious villain Dick Turpin, the poet John Keats and pirate Captain Kidd, than these venues are not for you, and chances are you have no style or taste either. Anyway, we’ve compiled a list of some of the oldest pubs that still stand today and do business in London.
The Star Tavern
It was mostly during the 50s and 60s when The Star Tavern became somewhat infamous for receiving guests who were notorious mastermind criminals in their day. It was here where Bruce Reynolds organized what we today know as The Great Train Robbery of 1963. Nowadays the pub has regular people come in who enjoy the history and great stories this pub has to tell. Other notable guest of The Star Tavern were Diana Dors and Alexander Korda.
Visiting address: 6 Belgrave Mews W, SW1X 8HT
The Grenadier was built in 1720 and was originally used as an officer’s mess for a regiment in the British army. In 1818 is when it became a pub that many know and love today. Rumors about the Duke of Wellington popping in for refreshing beverages were never confirmed of course, but it’s a neat thing to think about. Madonna once chose The Grenadier for a post-concert celebration. The warm and cozy vibe is perfect to enjoy a classic pub dish and a frosty pint of ale.
Visiting address: 18 Wilton Row, London, SW1X 7NR
The French House
Whilst this pub isn’t centuries old, it’s worth mentioning because it use to be a hub and meeting place for members of the French resistance during WW2. Given its name, it’s ironic that the first known and documented landlord was a German who was deported after the first world war broke out. General de Gaulle is most likely the greatest historic figure who use to visit this pub. If you’re leaning toward being a traditionalist in this day and age, you’ll be glad to hear there’s no TV and there’s a strict ban on mobile phones at The French House.
Visiting address: 49 Dean St, London, W1D 5BG
What was once a shady and sketchy gathering ground for criminals and murderers with absolutely no morals, today represents one of the oldest pubs in England that also happens to have a celebrity actor for an owner. Sir Ian McKellen bought The Grapes pub in 2011, and over its long history, he wasn’t the only important person or celebrity to walk over its wooden floors. Charles Dickens and the English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh also came here.
Visiting address: 76 Narrow Street, London E14 8BP England
Ye Old Mitre
A Bishop by the name of Goodrich built the first pub in this exact location back in 1546. Everything about the décor and atmosphere will make you feel like a character from “Great expectations”. The burning coal fires, dozens of water jugs hanging from the ceiling and the classic tiny rooms that are often found in old pubs like this. Over the years it has become a tame venue with a charm many won’t be able to resist.
Visiting address: 1 Ely Court Ely Place, London EC1N 6SJ
Overlooking the ruins of King Edward III’s Mansion house, the Angel definitely deserves a place in the list. Since the 15th century this exact spot has been occupied by an inn, while the Angel pub was first established in 1850. Downstairs is where the locals gather who don’t have the warmest approach to strangers. Upstairs, however, is where tourists enjoy the view and the nice dining area. The notorious Captain Cook supposedly had a drink here before embarking on his adventure and voyage to Australia.
Visiting address: 101 Bermondsey Wall East Rotherhithe, London SE16 4NB
The Prospect of Whitby
Established almost 500 years ago, the Whitby use to be a regular gathering place for pirates and smugglers. Since those days, some more notable and respectable people have visited the pub. Namely Richard Burton and Princess Margaret. With Union Jacks covering most of the ceiling, real masts that are actually built into the structure, this pub definitely looks the part. From dark beginnings dealing with outlaws, this pub has turned into a true historic gem of London’s nightlife.
Visiting address: 57 Wapping Wall, London, E1W 3SH
Lamb & Flag
The iconic Lamb & Flag was first established in 1772, and over the two centuries of its existence it has changed plenty, just like the world around it. During the 19th century locals referred to it as the Bucket of Blood, the reason being the horrific fights that use to break out on a regular basis. The first building in this location was built in 1638 and the first pub here was called The Coopers Arms. The only downside to this historic venue is that the bar area is sometimes too crowded.
Visiting address: 33 Rose Street Covent Garden, London England
If you’re familiar with the Charles Dickens novel “The Pickwick papers”, than you’ve certainly heard of the Spaniards Inn. Legend has it that Dick Turpin was born here, and it was the place where he learned his criminal ways. Also, it’s been said that John Keats wrote his famous poem “Ode to a Nightingale” in the garden of the pub. The Spaniards Inn also boasts a lovely beer garden that’s the perfect place on a sunny day.
Visiting address: Spaniards Rd Hampstead Heath, London NW3 7JJ
Americans will certainly appreciate this historic pub. It’s named after the vessel that made the amazing discovery of the Americas. On the thick wooden beams there are scribbled Charles Dickens quotes from his novels that reads “Poverty and oysters seem to go together.” On warm pleasant days the pub opens up its fantastic French doors onto the deck that overlooks the London Bridge and the Thames.
Visiting address: 117 Rotherhithe Street Rotherhithe, Bermondsey, London