What makes the perfect pub? A roaring fire in the corner? Friendly staff? Pints still served in tankards? Or maybe something even simpler.
We each have our own vision of the ideal drinking establishment; and as we ponder how so many pubs can disappear when there are so many people who love them, perhaps the answer lies in those well-frequented watering holes that have stood the test of time. Take London for example; there are pubs in the UK capital that have been serving punters for centuries. Want to know more? We thought you might, so here’s the low-down on some of London’s most historic pubs, and what keeps their thirsty clientele coming back for more.
London EC2M 4NR
With its unusual name and even more unusual décor, Dirty Dicks has been pouring pints since 1745. Originally called The Old Jerusalem, the pub was renamed in the early 19th century after Richard (some say Nathaniel) Bentley, an ironmonger with a difference – the difference of dirtiness; the story goes that after the death of his fiancé on their wedding day, he foreswore all cleaning and would no longer wash himself. Over time this filthy fellow achieved somewhat of a celebrity status; he is even said to have been the inspiration for Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, Charles Dickens himself being a regular at the pub.
By 1866, the pub had fully embraced the character and name of Dirty Dick, with successive owners capitalising on the legend. Today’s customers can still marvel at the well-preserved historical curiosities; cobwebs, dead cats, and other unusual features are on display in a glass case near the Main Bar bathrooms. Original beams only serve to enhance the building’s timeless beauty. A stone’s throw from Point A’s Shoreditch hotel, this pub is perfect for fans of the weird, wonderful, and completely unexpected.
King’s Cross St. Pancras
2-4 Caledonian Rd,
London N1 9DU
The history of this King’s Cross pub goes back to 1901; designed by architects Wylson and Long, the building was once an inn and owes its current name to traders visiting from Scotland, who would sell the venison haunches hanging in the bar. Nowadays, there’s no meat on display inside, but we’re confident that the three wood-panelled bars and Arts and Crafts ambience are more than enough to pull in the punters.
Having undergone a recent refurbishment, the pub’s Grade II-listed interior now looks better than ever. So, whether popping in for a pint on your way back to Point A’s King’s Cross hotel or starting out on a crawl through the capital, be sure to expect a healthy helping of history to go with your beverage of choice.
76 Narrow St,
London E14 8BP
Standing on the pebbled Limehouse Reach, The Grapes – formerly The Bunch of Grapes – has been serving customers for almost 500 years. On the site of a pub built in 1583, the current building dates to around 1720. The pub boasts an impressive ownership group – consisting of veteran actor Sir Ian McKellen, stalwart stage and screen director Sean Mathias, and newspaper magnate Evgeny Lebedev – as well as a whole history book of famous frequenters like Samuel Pepys and Charles Dickens.
Having inspired generations of writers, artists, thinkers, and drinkers, The Grapes remains a friendly Limehouse local where visitors are always welcome. Close to Point A Canary Wharf, stop by for a drink and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
84 Commercial St,
London E1 6LY
A Spitalfields institution, The Ten Bells has been around in one form or another for almost three centuries. There is a palpable sense of history within its walls, with the pub being linked to two Jack the Ripper victims. As a result, it has gained a reputation as a pub well suited to fans of the grimmest and grisliest visions of Victorian London.
However, inside the pub customers are treated to a calm candlelit ambience that complements its fine selection of beers and spirits, including a generous gin menu. Conveniently situated near Point A Liverpool Street, consider visiting on your next trip to the capital.
10A Strathearn Pl,
London W2 2NH
Exploring Paddington Basin is thirsty work, and what better way to quench it than with a refreshing drink at The Victoria. A short walk from Point A Paddington, this scenically located pub was named after Queen Victoria herself dropped in on her way to Paddington Station. Also, Charles Dickens is said to have written part of Our Mutual Friend here, adding another dimension to the pub’s already rich history.
Today the pub still has its 19th-century features: numerous alcoves, theatre décor, and a gorgeous curving bar. Widely recognised as one of the area’s best boozers, come to The Victoria and get the royal treatment.
48 Parliament St,
London SW1A 2NH
Just across the bridge from Point A’s hotel in Westminster, The Red Lion counts Big Ben and the London Eye among its neighbours. As one of the closest pubs to Parliament, it has long been a favourite of the political elite, serving the likes of Winston Churchill and Clement Atlee.
The Red Lion’s history is complex, to say the least. In 1434, a tavern called the Hopping Hall existed where the pub now stands. Centuries later, a 12-year-old Charles Dickens cheekily asked a bartender at The Red Lion for ‘a glass of your very best ale’ (he would later immortalise the incident in David Copperfield). With undeniable history and pedigree, the pub promises to excite and enchant all who walk through its doors.
Read more on our blog about our favourite Cocktail bars in London.