Exploring the Top 5 Oldest Pubs in London

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People raising glasses at a London pub tour.

London is known for its magnificent ancient buildings and classic architecture. You can also find many old pubs in the city, which have been rebuilt and refurbished to preserve their historic importance. Below are some of the most iconic pubs that you must include in your itinerary when on a London walking tour.

The Lamb & Flag, Covent Garden

This pub has been in operation since 1772; it was originally named The Coopers Arms and later rebranded as the Lamb & Flag in 1833. It is said that Charles Dickens was a regular here, which is why the pub attracts many creative heads and performers even today. The pub was also known as the “Bucket of Blood” in the early 19th century when it used to host bare-knuckle boxing matches.

The Dove, Hammersmith

This pub has been serving residents and tourists to London since the 17th century, and it has never lost its original charm. Many prominent writers and poets of the past were regular visitors here, including Ernest Hemingway and Dylan Thomas. Its front bar is even listed as the smallest public bar in the UK in the Guinness Book of World Records.

The Ship Tavern

This pub in Holborn dates back to the year 1549. It was once used to shelter Catholic priests during the English Reformation period in the 16th century. Today, the off-the-beaten-track pub houses a Dickensian-style dining room on the first floor with candle-lit tables, while there is an impressive gin cabinet downstairs. You can find more than 60 gins from all around the world here.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

This pub on Fleet Street is also known for its literary associations, and its regular patrons once included Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and G.K. Chesterton. Records say that the pub has been operating on the site since 1538, although it was rebuilt in 1666 after the Great Fire of London. It is said that the vaulted cellars in the pub belong to a 13th-century monastery.

The Spaniards Inn

This pub in Hampstead dates to 1585 and has been a literary landmark in the city ever since its opening. The Spaniards Inn pub is mentioned in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, and it is believed that John Keats wrote his masterpiece, Ode to a Nightingale, here. Even today, the pub offers a true country retreat with roaring fires and wood paneling.

If you have some more time to explore the city on your London walking tour, then check out the 16th-century Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe or head to the Cittie of Yorke or Ye Olde Mitre pubs in Holborn to dive back in time and enjoy some classic drinks.