Even though it’s amazing to hear that in London you can still find pubs that were established centuries ago, at the same time it’s to be expected of this city. The oldest and finest 10 pubs in London have tremendous history behind them. When you think about literary greats that might have found inspiration here, like Charles Dickens and Samuel Pepys, it really puts things into perspective. Drinking a pint of fine ale in a pub is the quintessential English experience. You have to keep in mind that London has went through many disasters and events, such as the horrendous and devastating bombings during WW2, the great Fire of London and the post war planners. But somehow many of the pubs that we’re going to talk about today still remain in place. Where else in the world could you visit a pub that has been around before Shakespeare’s birth? Other than in London, you’d have no chance. A lot of the pubs on the list are located in the heart of London, which is another interesting little fact. Not all of the pubs got back to the 16th century, there are more recent ones from the Victorian era, but you have to admit, even that’s an admirable feat.
Staying true to its roots with the Tudor beams, portraits of Henry the VIII and a coal fire burning inside, the Ye Olde Mitre is full of charm and character. Established in 1546, it makes its way onto the list of the 10 oldest pubs in London with ease. Nowadays it’s not really the public house it use to be, as the more frequent visitors are suit wearing bankers and tourists who admire the history behind it. The beers they offer are very carefully chosen too.
Visiting address: 1 Ely Court Ely Place, London EC1N 6SJ England
Originally named “The Swan”, there’s been a pub in this location for over 300 years. In 1666 the building was destroyed in The Great Fire of London, but thanks to the work of London architect Sir Christopher Wren, he rebuilt the pub for his masons. It’s been said that the printer Wynkyn de Worde created his work here and also sold his art in the pub. The beer selection is more than decent, especially for casual drinkers, but many will find the atmosphere to be lacking.
Visiting address: 95 Fleet St., London EC4Y 1DH
During the 19th century many locals referred to this pub as the Bucket of Blood, only because of the constant bare-knuckle fights that were breaking out. Today, however, it’s a completely different story. It’s family friendly, tame with a cozy atmosphere. It’s believed that Charles Dickens was a regular customer here, and there are photographs that back this claim up. If you’ve ever read his work, the vibe you’ll get inside these old pubs might just send shivers down your spine.
Visiting address: 33 Rose Street Covent Garden, London England
7. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
It’s no wonder why this venue if heaving with American and Japanese tourists, seeing as the pub dates back to 1538, believe it or not. It was renamed from Horn Tavern to its current name in 1667. During the 13th century, at this location there was an Inn owned by the Carmelite Monastery. There’s absolutely no natural light coming into the building, and each room offers a different vibe. The ale selection isn’t the greatest nowadays, but considering its stunning history, the drinks are the last thing important here.
Visiting address: 145 Fleet Street, London, England
Gone are the days when you could smell the coal fire burning in the corner of the room, or when the pub was only lit up by candles. But never the less the Spaniards Inn dates back to 1585, and thanks to Charles Dickens it was immortalized in his piece called “The Pickwick papers”. If you’ve gotten this far to the list, there’s a pattern evolving around Dickens, as he was clearly a regular guest in public houses all over London. The legacy and tradition of this venue more than makes up for its lack of choices on the beer list.
Visiting address: Spaniards Rd Hampstead Heath, London NW3 7JJ
Named after the vessel that took off in 1620 that discovered America, The Mayflower has changed a few names since its doors first opened in 1550. It’s a mostly nautical themed pub, with taxidermy trimmings of dear heads on the wall and stuffed rats in small cages. Animal rights activists better seek out another venue. The ambiance is unlike anything you’ll ever experience in any modern bar.
Visiting address: 117 Rotherhithe Street, Rotherhithe, Bermondsey, London
What use to be a roadhouse in the 16th century, or otherwise called a coaching inn, is one of London’s finest and oldest pubs today. Its now ancient doors first opened in 1543, and they’ve been open ever since. This is one more pub where Charles Dickens use to drink. It’s no wonder the man wrote so many novels and stories, being constantly exposed to people’s life stories and experiences. One can’t help but daydream about all the history of this venue while drinking a cold pint.
Visiting address: 77 Borough High Street Southwark, London SE1 1NH
The open layout of the pub resembles a slightly more modern bar, contrary to the small rooms and areas that most old pubs have. But that’s not as important as the tremendous stories this old venue could tell. Pirates and smugglers use to visit the pub where they would trade goods, contraband and anything else they could make a shilling on. On the balcony area there’s a cringe worthy noose that swings in the wind to commemorate “The Hanging Judge” George Jeffreys who was a regular guest after a day’s work at the Execution Docks. And you guessed it, Dickens drank here too.
Visiting address: 57 Wapping Wall, London E1W 3SH England
History buffs, who also happen to enjoy a cold manly beverage, will most definitely love everything about The Viaduct. This London establishment opened in 1869 and for years it has been rumored that the beer cellars were once used as prison cells for the Newgate Prison that was right across the street. In recent years this myth was debunked for the most part, but it’s a cool story never the less. The etched glass panels on the walls of this Victorian gin palace will undoubtedly leave quite an impression on anyone visiting. Charles Dickens died just a year after The Viaduct opened, so no one is quite sure whether he managed to visit this particular pub.
Visiting address: 126 Newgate Street; EC1A 7AA
How could have Dickens been such a prolific author seeing as there’s not a public house where he wasn’t a regular guest? Anyway, The Grapes was first established in 1583 and today it’s owned by “Lord Of the Rings” actor Sir Ian McKellen. A long time ago this wasn’t a place where a person would casually walk in for a drink, as the pub has somewhat of a dark past regarding numerous murders and other horror stories. The décor will take your breath away, but the locals here aren’t usually too fond of first time visitors.
Visiting address: 76 Narrow Street, London E14 8BP England