Pints of the past: What are the oldest pubs in London?

London’s history is etched in its streets, buildings, and yes, its pubs. As we navigate the bustling city today, it’s fascinating to imagine the generations that have come before us, seeking solace and connection within the walls of these ancient watering holes.

These quaint establishments have been serving pints and fostering camaraderie for generations. 

In this article, we delve into the intriguing world of London’s oldest pubs, where the ambience is rich with stories and the walls could tell tales of long-forgotten times.

The Prospect of Whitby

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Approx. age:  503 years old (Built in 1520)

Location: 57 Wapping Wall, London E1W 3SH, United Kingdom 

Contact: +44 20 7481 1095

Website

Now, you might be wondering about the peculiar name. The “Prospect” part is easy enough – it offers a stunning view of the river and its bustling traffic. But “Whitby”? That’s a nod to the coastal town in Yorkshire, famed for its shipbuilding heritage. 

And guess what? The pub’s location was quite strategic from the start, as it provided the perfect vantage point for catching criminals. 

In fact, one of its notable visitors was the infamous “Hanging Judge” George Jeffreys, who apparently enjoyed his drink while watching executions across the river. Talk about a mix of criminal justice and happy hour!

Ye Olde Mitre 

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Approx. age: 477 years old (Built in 1546)

Location: 1  Ely Ct, Ely Pl, London EC1N 6SJ, United Kingdom 

Contact: +44 20 7405 4751

Website

Back in the day, the pub was owned by the Bishops of Ely, and rumour has it that Queen Elizabeth I herself danced around a cherry tree here. Talk about rubbing shoulders with royalty, right?

Ye Olde Mitre’s longevity boils down to a mix of history, character, and a dash of enchantment. It’s a living, breathing relic that bridges the gap between eras, reminding us that the past is more than just stories in dusty books.

The Spaniards Inn

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Approx. age: 438 years old (Built in 1585)

Location: Spaniards Rd, London NW3 7JJ, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 8731 8406

Website

The Spaniards Inn wasn’t just a place to quench one’s thirst, it was once a muse for none other than the legendary wordsmith, Charles Dickens himself! 

Rumour has it that he found inspiration for “The Pickwick Papers” within these very walls. If only those old timber beams could talk, the tales they’d spin!

Not only does The Spaniards Inn flaunt a history that could make a museum blush, but it also boasts a menu that’s a feast fit for royalty. From traditional British grub to contemporary culinary delights, this pub offers a gastronomic journey through time and taste.

The Hoop and Grapes

Approx. age: 430 years old (Built in 1593)

Location: 47 Aldgate High St, Greater, London EC3N 1AL, United Kingdom 

Contact: +44 20 7481 4583

Website

 “Hoop and Grapes” might sound like a code for a secret society of wine-loving acrobats, but the reality is just as intriguing. “Hoop” refers to a hoop of grapevines – a symbol of prosperity and fertility. 

So, the name is actually a nod to the good times and bountiful harvests that have been celebrated within its walls.

The Seven Stars

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Approx. age: 421 years old (Built in 1602)

Location: 53 Carey St, London WC2A 3QS, United Kingdom 

Contact: +44 20 7242 8521

Website

The staircase inside The Seven Stars is like a special kind of time machine. It’s a narrow spiral one that takes you from the ground to the first floor. It’s been around since the time of Queen Elizabeth I. In 2019, they gave it a makeover, keeping the old wood but making it look better.

When they were adding a new thing in 2001, they accidentally found some really old stuff hidden in the walls – like wooden beams that weren’t smoothed out and even old bits of reeds used for insulation!

The Anchor Bankside

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Approx. age: 408 years old (Built in 1615)

Location: 34 Park St, London SE1 9EF, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7407 1577

Website

What truly cements The Anchor’s place in history is its riverside location. Back when ships ruled the Thames, this pub was a prime spot for sailors to unwind after their nautical escapades. Fast forward to today, and you can still bask in the same riverside charm. 

The scenic views, the gentle lapping of the water, and the echoes of centuries past – it’s a combination that’s hard to beat.

The Dove 

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Approx. age: Approximately 400 years old (Built in the 17th century)

Location: 19 Upper Mall, London W6 9TA, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 8748 9474

Website

The Dove has prime real estate along the River Thames. Back in the day, when trade and travel ruled the waves, The Dove was the perfect pit stop for sailors seeking respite. 

And you bet your pint glass that even today, the riverside terrace beckons you to soak in the views, the breeze, and the unmistakable atmosphere that only riverside pubs can deliver.

Now, here’s the quirk that sets The Dove apart from the pack: its teeny-tiny doors. I’m talking doors that seem like they were built for hobbits instead of sailors. But hey, that’s part of the charm!

The Dog and Duck 

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Approx. age: Approximately 400 years old (Built in the 17th century)

Location: 18 Bateman St, London W1D 3AJ, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7494 0697

Website

This pub is famed for being a “magnet for actors”. Yep, you heard me right! The Dog and Duck has seen the likes of literary and acting greats from George Orwell to David Bowie sauntering through its doors. 

And if you are a bookworm, The Dog and Duck has something special up its sleeve for you. Rumour has it that George Orwell himself used to perch at the bar, nursing a pint while penning his masterpiece “1984”.

The Star Tavern 

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Approx. age: Approximately 400 years old (Built in the 17th century)

Location: 6 Belgrave Mews W, London SW1X 8HT, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7235 3019

Website

Ever heard of the notorious Great Train Robbery of 1963? The Star Tavern played an unexpected cameo in this real-life crime drama. The robbers supposedly planned their heist right here, over a pint or two. 

Once you are inside the Star Tavern, you’re stepping into a world frozen in time. The wood-panelled walls, the snug corners, and the low ceilings create an ambience that’s part historical haven, part secret society meeting spot. 

The Old Bell Tavern

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Approx. age: 353 years old (Built in 1670)

Location: 95 Fleet St, Greater, London EC4Y 1DH, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7583 0216

Website

The pub is believed to have been named after an actual old bell that hung nearby, possibly summoning folks from all corners of London to gather, unwind, and share stories over drinks. In a way, you could say that this pub was like a beacon for camaraderie, ringing in good times.

The Old Bell Tavern has stood the test of time, but that’s not to say it hasn’t undergone its fair share of transformations. It has been lovingly renovated over the years, maintaining its historic charm while adapting to modern comforts. 

The original oak beams and cosy corners tell tales of generations past, while the comfortable seating and friendly atmosphere cater to today’s discerning patrons.

The George Inn

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Approx. age: 347 years old (Built in 1676)

Location: 75 Borough High St, London SE1 1NH, United Kingdom 

Contact: +44 20 7407 2056

Website

The George Inn didn’t just survive the test of time – it thrived through some gnarly challenges. From the Great Fire of London in 1666 to the blitzes of World War II, this pub has seen it all. 

The George Inn proudly boasts its title of “oldest” due to its establishment as a coaching inn in the 17th century. Fast forward to today, and it’s still the place to take a break from the modern hustle and bustle.

The Lamb and Flag

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Approx. age: 251 years old (Built in 1772)

Location: 33 Rose St, London WC2E 9EB, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7497 9504

Website

The Lamb and Flag carry the charm of yesteryear through its low ceilings, wooden panels, and cosy nooks. It’s a living, breathing time capsule where you can soak in the ambience of days gone by while savouring some modern culinary delights.

Now, what’s a proper historical pub without a touch of the supernatural? Rumour has it that The Lamb and Flag boasts a few friendly ghosts who might just be lingering around to hear your tales over a nightcap. 

The Jerusalem Tavern

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Approx. age: 303 years old (Built in 1720)

Location: 55 Britton St, London EC1M 5UQ, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7490 4281

Website

The tavern was built on the site of a former priory, and the name pays homage to the Knights of St. John, also known as the Hospitallers, who were founded in Jerusalem during the 12th century. 

Now, let’s raise our glasses – or rather, our tankards – to the tradition that lives on within these hallowed walls. From classic ales to hearty stouts, every sip is like a journey through time, offering a taste of what the folks of yesteryears might have savoured.

The Grapes

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Approx. age: Approximately 300 years old (Built in the 1720s)

Location: 76 Narrow St, London E14 8BP, UK, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7987 4396

Website

The Grapes’ splendid location is in Limehouse. This district wasn’t just a random choice: it was one of the few patches of dry land amidst marshes. 

By the time Queen Elizabeth I reigned, Limehouse had become a hub of global trade, and explorers like Sir Humphrey Gilbert called it home. 

Not to mention, the waters just below The Grapes were the very ones Sir Walter Raleigh sailed on his third voyage to the New World.

The Blackfriar

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Approx. age: 251 years old (Built in 1772)

Location: 174 Queen Victoria St, Greater, London EC4V 4EG, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7236 5474

Website

The Blackfriar Pub, nestled in the heart of London, wasn’t always the pub we know today. In fact, its roots dig way deeper, tracing back to the medieval times when the Dominican friars strolled the cobblestone streets. 

Fast forward to 1905, and architect Herbert Fuller-Clark decided to give this historic relic a facelift. And boy, did he deliver! His Art Nouveau masterpiece transformed The Blackfriar into the architectural gem we can’t get enough of today.

The Princess Louise

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Approx. age: 151 years old (Built in 1872)

Location: 208 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EP, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7405 8816

Website

The Princess Louise is a nod to the real deal – Princess Louise, the daughter of Queen Victoria. 

But let’s not forget the pièce de résistance – the pub’s interior. The Princess Louise is a masterclass in Victorian architecture and design. The intricate woodwork, the dazzling glasswork, and the sense of luxury in every corner make you feel like you’re in a Dickens novel. 

The Captain Kidd

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Approx. age: 109 years old (Built in 1914)

Location: 108 Wapping High St, London E1W 2NE, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7480 5759

Website

Let’s rewind the sands of time to an era when the scent of saltwater mingled with the cries of seagulls, and ships ruled the waves like kings. We’re talking about the 17th century, a time when swashbuckling adventurers set forth to explore uncharted territories. 

Amid this maritime frenzy, Captain Kidd dropped anchor on the scene, opening its doors in 1860. Yes, you read that right – this pub has seen more tides than a sailor’s vocabulary!

The French House 

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Approx. age: 109 years old (Built in 1914)

Location: 9 Dean St, London W1D 5BG, United Kingdom

Contact: +44 20 7437 2477

Website

The French House used to be the unofficial headquarters of the Free French forces during World War II. Yes, you heard that right – this pub played a role in the fight for liberty! General Charles de Gaulle himself is said to have penned part of his historic wartime address here. 

But why the name “The French House” in the heart of London? Well during the early 20th century, it was known as “The York Minster”, but after a change in ownership, it became a hub for the French community, offering a taste of home in a foreign land. 

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