5 Historic London Pubs for Grabbing a Pint

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Rub elblows with the ghost of William Shakespeare at The George Inn.

London’s Historic Pubs

Order an ale, and consider what tales those walls could tell.

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For Thames views with your pint, head to The Mayflower's beer garden.
The Lamb & Flag counts Dickens as one of it's most famous patrons.

By Amy Laughinghouse
 
Pity the liver of anyone who attempts to sample a pint at all of London’s distinctive old pubs, so we’ve whittled the list to five of the most atmospheric.
 
1. The George Inn
“Would I were in an alehouse in London! I would give all my fame for a pot of ale.” When Shakespeare penned that line in Henry V, he may well have been nursing a pint on this very site, where a pub has stood since at least 1542. The current National Trust-owned structure – which earned a mention in Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit – was rebuilt after a fire in 1676. Today, it’s the last galleried coaching inn in London.
 
2. The Spaniards Inn
Billing itself as “a country pub in the city,” this sixteenth-century inn near bucolic Hampstead Heath boasts beautiful wood paneling and scarred wooden floors that creak with history. Charles Dickens featured it in The Pickwick Papers, and John Keats allegedly wrote Ode to a Nightingale on its lush grounds, now occupied by a leafy beer garden.   
 
3. The Lamb & Flag
It’s a wonder that Dickens had time to write at all, given his penchant for bellying up to bars, including this popular old Covent Garden watering hole, where a pub has stood since 1772. In the nineteenth century, it was dubbed “The Bucket of Blood,” thanks to its patrons’ penchant for bare-knuckle fighting. “Nowadays,” the website assures, “it’s somewhat more friendly!”
 
4. The Mayflower
According to legend, many of the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower embarked from a mooring alongside this pub’s location for their voyage to the Colonies in 1620—and even the purist of Puritans probably couldn’t resist quaffing one last pint. Tempted by its cozy oak beam ceilings and wood-swathed walls, and a beer garden overlooking the Thames, you may find yourself sailing three sheets to the wind after a few brews, too. 
 
5. The Churchill Arms
As you might expect, given the name, this eighteenth-century Kensington pub is linked to Britain’s most famous prime minister. It was a favorite of Winston Churchill’s grandparents, and today, it’s chockablock with Churchill memorabilia. It also claims to be the first pub in London with a Thai restaurant, and the blooming baskets adorning the exterior have earned accolades from the famous Chelsea flower show.

A pint of London's finest.