The hub of local British life

Historically, the pub was at the heart of every local British community, the place you went for every occasion between celebration and commiseration. The barman plays the role of agony aunt to scores of people, and some locals have been propping up the same spot for decades.

Times have changed though. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) estimates around 18 pubs are closing every week, as publicans struggle to make a living due to high taxation and recession. Pubs have been forced to diversify, and this is partly to thank for the boom in gastropubs - a pub that serves restaurant-standard food as opposed to the 'scampi and chips' style grub they were once famed for.

In London now, the stylish gastropub with its chic interiors and seasonal menu outnumbers the old fashioned drinking establishment with soggy carpets and a dartboard, of which there are woefully few. A handful of corporations now own thousands of pubs, which can make them seem like identikit places lacking real character or atmosphere. 

The pubs on this list represent a cross section of the best of British pubs, from the no nonsense, old timer like The Palm Tree to the new-fangled gastropub like The Cow, each excellent in its own right. The best way to save the independent pub from demise, is to get drinking in one immediately. 

One of a string of Tom Conran establishments on Westbourne Park Road, each one takes you into another culinary world. The Cow, contrary to what its name suggests, is a seafood gastro pub and restaurant excelling in all things fishy. This...  Read More


Covered in ivy on a backstreet of Finsbury Park, you would never guess that this cavernous pub has one of the best beer gardens in London. This is a venue of many faces. On first walking in, it looks like your traditional British pub: cozy and...  Read More

East London

On a corner of Cheshire Street, this now adorable little pub has had a colourful history. It was once owned by the notorious Kray twins, who bought it for their mum Violet, and according to legend, made the bar top from coffin lids. After that...  Read More

This pub stands out as an island of old East End life in the middle of leafy Mile End Park. It's is about as typical as a British boozer gets with just the right dash of surreal. There are china plates on the shelves, photos of unknown celebrity...  Read More

A firm favourite amongst Londoners, The Spaniards Inn has been fueling the city since the 16th century. Originally the tollgate to the Bishop of London's estate, it was immortalized in Dicken's Pickwick Papers and it is thought Keats wrote...  Read More

This is a real ale, no nonsense, pub beloved by many for just those reasons. The sign outside reads 'Ale, cider, meat,' and it does exactly what it says on the tin. They change the casks every few days with a dedication to stocking from only...  Read More

First built in the 1830s, this charming Kensington pub has kept its olde worlde feel. The original wood panelled interiors partition different sections of the pub, with adorable little doors leading between them, which once would have prevented...  Read More

Every week, the majority of London descends on Columbia Road for the Sunday flower market, but for many years, the midweek days were eerily quiet. One of the few reasons you would find yourself on this sweet Victorian terraced street, was to go...  Read More

Opposite Canonbury Overground station, this is where ale lovers converge enticed by its dedication to stocking an ever-changing menu of delectable ales. A member of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), they always have at least one locally-produced...  Read More

Soho is one of the most historic and colourful parts of town, popular with London's waylaid artists, mavericks, and libertines. The French House has a long and potted history, and counts the likes of writer Dylan Thomas, artists Lucian Freud,...  Read More


Meet Tyler Wetherall

Tyler Wetherall is a freelance writer specialising in travel, food & drink, covering topics as varied as narcs in the Colombian jungle to cocktail drinking in Cuba. Tyler has lived in London...  More About Tyler