London has lots of two things: pubs, and stuff that happened... most of it in pubs. That's why we put together a pub crawl that chronologically works its way through six full centuries of boozy tradition. Cheers!
Stop One: Begin your quest in Mayfair, where The Guinea started serving beer in 1423. That's a few centuries before we discovered Australia. Back then, Mayfair was just fields, and this was a country pub. After the plague/great fire one-two punch, rich folks moved their way in, and it wasn't more than a quarter of a millennium later that the place finally felt confident enough to start serving steaks. Serve yourself with an ironically named Young's on draught.
Stop Two: Just a short jaunt away, exactly halfway between Parliament & 10 Downing Street, you'll find The Red Lion, which quickly became the "favoured watering hole of the political elite" after being established in 1434. The law of averages tells us that means it's responsible for the besotted invasion of at least one country. Pretty much every PM ever has popped in for a pint, and it's where the first-ever trade unions were figured out. Develop your own union with the strong lineup of cask ale (Bengal Lancer pale, honey ale, etc)
Stop Three: Hop on the tube and head South to Wapping, where The Prospect of Whitby lies on the banks of the Thames. The flooring's the very same as when it was laid in 1520, the bar is still made from parts of an old ship, and past historical guests include Dickens, Paul Newman, Princess Margaret, and a dude named Judge John Jeffreys, who tied smugglers up at low tide and enjoyed a beer while watching them drown. Drown yourself in via one of the 50+ taps, which include Harvey's and Black Sheep Bitter
Stop Four: Head across the river to The Mayflower (est. 1621), where a certain ship originally set sail (and picked up some dudes in Plymouth or whatever), lending a lot of weight to the theory that America was just a drunken bet that got waaay out of hand. While you're there, discover a pint of the house ale, Mayflower Scurvy
Stop Five: It's back to Central, where you can pop into De Hems Dutch Bar: built in 1685, owned by a bareknuckle boxer, bought by a Dutch sea captain called "Papa", the headquarters of the Dutch resistance during WW2, and currently serving the biggest selection of Netherlander draughts in the city. Go Dutch with your liver on taps of Oranjeboom, three types of Leffe, and Grolsch
Stop Six: Roll on to Covent Garden's Lamb & Flag (1722), and grab a pint of Seafarers Ale w/ a chaser of Blavenie Doublewood from their vast whiskey collection. Drink it in the stone courtyard, then ask the bartender why they changed their name from "The Bucket of Blood" back when that same courtyard had bareknuckle boxing, and the alleyway leading to it was used to ambush & literally kill dudes.
Stop Seven: Next up is East London for Dirty Dicks (hahaha!), whose debut clocks in at a modest 1745. It still houses the dead cats that were originally on display (for whatever messed up reason), and was founded by a dude who, after his wife died, refused to clean either himself or his place even once. Today they have very-much-live music, plus pints of the gloriously named Butcombe Bitter
Stop Eight: Staying East, make your way to The Eagle, cobbled together in 1825. Original features include the bar & floorboards, but cooler still is the fact that it's name-dropped in the "childrens" poem Pop! Goes the Weasel, which is apparently actually about desperately alcoholic local workers pawning tools for booze. If you've got the tools, they've got a "Czech pilsner, German lager, American craft, or British cask ale" with your name on it in their heated beer garden
Stop Nine: Skip forward to 1894 and you'll be at Whitechapel's The Blind Beggar, the very place where famed gangster Ronnie Kray shot and killed a dude named George Cornell in front of witnesses. The bullet's still lodged in a wall in the upstairs bar. It's also where The Salvation Army was created, so maybe it evens out? Take a couple of shots yourself after downing an appropriately named Courage Best Bitter
Stop Ten: Now it's back to Central for The French House. Dating back to a paltry 1910, it was founded by a German dude right before WW1 (awwwkwaaaard), so they changed the name. During WW2, de Gaulle wrote his speeches here. They still institute a rule of "no music, no machines, no television and no mobile phones", which has been harder to police since the invention of a couple of those things. You'll find deliciously oaky Breton hard cider, a house lager (just called "beer"), and 30 French vinos.
Stop Eleven: Throttling forth into the 1970s, there's Islington's Hope and Anchor, whose stage was host to an explosion of punk music, including early gigs from the likes of The Pistols, The Clash, The Cure, The Police, The Pogues, Dire Straits, U2, and Joy Division. If you're still standing, snag a Greene King, or an Old Speckled Hen on tap
Stop Twelve: Ready to wrap things up? The Thirsty Bear opened in but 2012, and hails the glorious future as "London's first self-service pub". Beer taps & iPads are built into both mismatched wooden tables and a "barman-less bar", where you can pour yourself any measure you want of their various brews, and'll be charged literally by the milliliter. You can also surf the web, control the jukebox, and order food from them too.
1. The Red Lion48 Parliament St, Westminster
2. The Guinea Grill30 Bruton Pl, London
3. The Prospect Of Whitby57 Wapping Wall, Wapping
4. The Mayflower117 Rotherhithe St, London
5. De Hems11 Macclesfield St, London
6. Lamb and Flag33 Rose St, London
7. Dirty Dicks202 Bishopsgate, London
8. The Eagle2 Shepherdess Walk, London
9. The Blind Beggar337 Whitechapel Rd, London
10. French House49 Dean St, London
11. The Hope and Anchor207 Upper Street, London
12. The Thirsty Bear62 Stamford Street, London
The Red Lion serves up great cask ales -- if you're lucky enough, you'll get to down one next to a member of the political elite. It boasts an impressive bar menu and a separate dinner menu for those looking to dine in a finer atmosphere.
Founders of the Scotch Beef Club, this unique London pub combines prime meats, tasty pies, and an extensive Scotch list to ensure a bloody good time. An impressive list of draft beers is also available, because without beer, this would be a terrible pub.
The Prospect is London's oldest riverside pub, boasting views overlooking the River Thames. They proudly serve up quintessential British pub food alongside 50+ taps and a lot of killer historical references.
Ya know that ship, with the same name, that set sail in the 1600s? It once docked here to pick up passengers en route to America. If that's not enough to get your attention, maybe their house ale, uniquely chosen wine, or delicious British cuisine will.
Their 25+ cask ales are catered to match the season of service and the food on the menu. Not to mention, it's acclaimed as the only Dutch Cafe bar in London. Grab a seat, a pint, and your entire afternoon and hang out at this historically stellar London pub.
Prideful of their location in the lovely Covent Garden and their long history (the foundations bricks were laid in 1958), this timeless British pub serves up local fresh fare and a dizzying selection of brews. Go on Sundays for their special roast.
This tri-level pub boasts live music (check the schedule ahead of time to see who's playing), free wi-fi, beer, and tasty food.
"Possibly the only pub you'll ever frequent that's famed for its name-check in a nursery rhyme: 'Up and down the City road, in and out The Eagle. That's the way the money goes. Pop goes the weasel...'" If this isn't enough to lure you in, at least pop in for a continental selection of lagers in their heated beer garden.
For those who can't sit through a beer without a cig break, this pub was awarded Regional Winner for Best Smoking Area in London by The Great British Pub Awards -- pairs well with its trendy, young atmosphere and traditional British pub grub.
Boasting over 30 champagne and wine options by the glass, this Soho hotspot is home to actors, artists, and British royalty alike. Rub shoulders with some of Soho's elite while noshing on pork rillettes and ogling at showbiz wonders.
The Hope and Anchor was of the first bars in the area to embrace "pub rock", and it's still going strong: they've got a jukebox and a pinball table in the main room. The place's got an eclectic beer menu and solid bar food, so no visitor can go wrong.
It's no wonder this pub is owned by The Robot Pub Group... each table is equipped with a self-service iPad to order drinks, choose music from an electronic jukebox, and select grub. Upon entrance, your credit card nabs you a swipe-able access card that lets you rack up that bill quite easily (the beer is measured per milliliter). Let your inner robot out and take a seat at the bartender-less bar.