· The Old Bank of England · Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese · Blackfriars · St. Paul’s Cathedral · Millennium Bridge · Tate Modern · Globe Theatre · Anchor Bankside · Thameside Inn · The George Inn · The Crosse Keys · Leadenhill Market · The Lloyd’s Building · The Gherkin Building · Tower of London ·
I used to sort of think of myself as a foodie, but I don’t really think I make the mark. I think I’m a little too open minded in liking most things to have any sort of acute sense of subjectivity when it comes to food and beverage. I’m pretty much a fan of it all.
Example: When asked what kind of beer I like, my response is “most,” if that helps you understand me a little more.
To move forward, I am thrilled to share with you the bloody brilliant pub crawl that was created by a dear friend in while him and his wife lived in London worked within the city’s original limits. Because his sense of humor and wit made this crawl all the more better, I have included his instructions word for word, and it is represented in the regular print words below. My additions and photos are in italicized print to add my personal experiences (plus my own superlative awards just for fun). I was so grateful for this day, because not only was I guided through the coolest pubs I have ever been to, but I got to venture into a parts of London I hadn’t before. I hope you enjoy!
Instructions – Read This First
(This was written in an era before iPhones. Finding these places should be easier now.)
My advice would be to ‘save’ the locations ahead of time on Google Maps on your phone – so that it’s easier to get from place to place! I’ve included addresses for all of the locations as well as you read (remember my contributions will be in italics from here on out!).
The bulk of this pub crawl takes places in the City of London, the financial district. Since a lot of places are closed on the weekend, this will work best during the week. Thursday or Friday will be most interesting, although also the most crowded in some places.
You will also walk along the south bank, which is my personal favorite spot in all of London. It has gentrified quite a bit over the last few years, but it retains some of its gritty charm from earlier days.
There is only one rule. Unless otherwise specified, you may only drink cask ales. This is the superior, although slowly dying, traditional English way to serve beer. You’ll know it’s a cask ale if the bartender has to pump it from the cellar manually. In general, cask ales are slightly less alcoholic, but always very refreshing and flavorful. These are ales, but most are much lighter than the very hoppy, bitter ales common in the U.S.
Added suggestion for the faint of heart (or those of us running on zero sleep): order half pints as you go, you’ll find it easier to continue on!
These pubs are the best of the best. While following this route, you may be tempted from time to time to stop by some other pub not listed. It will be a mistake. Your humble author spent years researching this route, and he has no doubt imbibed within those unsanctioned pubs on multiple occasions. They didn’t make this list because they fell short in one way or another. Optional side trips are included in case you feel the need to meander.
I recommend that you heed this advice particularly, not only because I’ve tested it, but because I hold his opinion in the highest regard. He has yet to steer me wrong. If his humor isn’t enough to command your relentless adherence to what he says, then I don’t think you’re cut out for this pub crawl.
Dinner is for tourists and little girls (Insert foreshadow to a future mistake – be better than me! You were warned). Up until a couple years ago, the pubs closed at 11pm, so the goal was to binge as quickly as possible until closing time. Dinner was secured from a dodgy kebab stand while staggering home. Man up and stick with beers. Get some peanuts and crisps if you need sustenance.
Don’t let some drunk Brit rope you into and argument about who “won” World War II. Or about how worthless the U.S. is. You would be surprised how often this sort of thing happens. We’ll probably be doing the same in 50 years to Chinese tourists when their country surpasses ours.
I’ve got some touristy stuff thrown in, so you’ll get a chance to justify spending half a day drinking after flying across the ocean at great expense.
For fun, keep a journal of the pubs and beers. Like this one!
I recommend getting here around lunchtime. Maybe take in the British Museum and Covent Garden in the morning before wandering down this way. They have decent food, so I recommend laying down a good base for the afternoon. Steak and Guinness pie should do the trick.
Welcome to the City of London! The City, also known as the Square Mile, sits within the original walled city limits of the original London. Today, the City serves as London‘s financial district, although many banks are relocating to Canary Wharf, farther east. Hedge funds have tended to congregate in Mayfair on the West End.
I love this area in London, because everyone is in a suit and seems important just by walking down the street with a phone to their ear. Although there is a considerable amount of “touristy” things to see on Fleet Street, you won’t ever encounter the amount of foot traffic you find near Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. It’s quite a refreshing break to be away from all the tourist bustle. Plus, you’re on the infamous Fleet Street from Sweeney Todd. History of the pub is shown below!
This pub is affiliated with Fuller’s, an excellent brewery located just west of town. You may have passed it if you took a taxi in from London Heathrow Airport. Some pubs are affiliated with breweries, while others, the “free houses,” can serve any beer they like. Fuller’s London Pride is a perennial favorite, but I like the ale with the green label, whose name escapes me at the moment. Chiswick Bitter, perhaps?
London Pride was how I started off my day strong, which is Fuller’s award-winning flagship ale. Let this also serve as confirmation to our author that he is correct, the green label is Chiswick Bitter!
I like this pub because of its over the top opulence. It used to be a bank. The grandness of this pub is exceeded only by The Crosse Keys, much later in the tour. Look around you and notice the suited bankers and lawyers during lunchtime. England rules.
My friend Jenna and I were so thrilled when we walked inside this pub. It definitely makes a strong first impression when you walk inside. The word I used to describe it was decadent, from the chandeliers that adorned the ceiling to the beautiful 360 degree wooden bar. We sat down to lunch here to start off our day, and honestly had a hard time believing that any pub to follow would do more than shy in comparison. Man, were we wrong.
The front room to the right is the one I like. Dark, small, and covered in wood. Ye Olde Schoole for sure (actually laughed out loud when I read that). Some of the guidebooks say Charles Dickens hung out here, but if you spend enough time in England, you’ll find out just about every place claims Charles Dickens hung out there. Dude must have enjoyed his booze.
When you walk in, it’s exactly as described. We made our way straight to the room on the right, which was small and already occupied by a few groups getting their drinking started early that day (who am I to talk?). This spot is extra endearing, because it’s tucked away from the street and seems very divey.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a Sam Smith pub (different one from the singer-song writer, just because that may not be obvious to everyone). I was at a party a few months ago where some beer nerds were saying Sam Smith is known as one of the best brewers in the world. I disagree strongly, and you probably will too once you try their product.
I just want to take a moment to appreciate that our guide here is irrevocably honest. How very refreshing.
Alright, we’re good now.
Moving forward, I’ll repeat once again that I am no foodie (which means while I have great appreciation for food and drink, I’d rather just love it all than form any sort of critique). But following the theme of unrelenting trust for our guide, I will say the Sam Smith India Ale I ordered was nothing memorable. However, accompanied by the scenery, this place felt tucked away and unique.
The bathrooms here used to be very primitive, but I think they’ve upgraded since. The stairs to get down to them are still deadly though (watch your head fellow giants of the world!). Be sure to ask the staff about the stuffed parrot.
Pictured below, the stuffed parrot adorns the top shelf right behind the bar. When asking the bartender about it’s origin, we soon came to realize that he was new to the job, and a little bit clueless. He had an adorable French accent though, so I gave him a break.
He did mention that in the room across the foyer there was actually a live parrot named Coco, and then he made a joke about her dying someday and inevitably joining her stuffed pal. Alright dude, I threw you a bone before and you’re not doing any better for yourself… Oh well, at least he got us our drinks effectively.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese‘s Parrot, who I suppose will remain unnamed
Optional Pub – Blackfriars (Best Interior)
174 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4V 4EG, UK
Notice the black friar himself on the right!
This pub used to be on my standard pub crawl route, but the beer selection is often pretty poor, and the pub itself only has a couple cool areas. If the weather is nice and your spirits are high, head down New Bridge Street. The pub will be on the lefthand side, just before you get to the Blackfriars rail and tube station. Note the decorations on the walls and the cozy little drinking niches.
We wandered up to this pub, which had already started to pick up a lot of business. Ordering my Wadworth 6X Amber Ale, we mosied out of the crowd as quickly as possible. I particularly liked this stop because of the abundance of outdoor seating, which we took advantage of by people watching.
Above is the only photo I snapped to try and capture the interior, probably because of that guy on the left. Although not my best work, you can see some of the intricacies and characteristic detail this pub featured.
You’ll pass Goldman Sachs on the left, where my wife used to work. At this very moment, Goldman Sachs bankers in this building are plotting our doom. Fleet Street used to be the newspaper district, and if you look in the front windows as you walk down the road, you’ll see some of the art deco signs from those old days.
You’ll eventually end up at St. Paul’s Cathedral after a couple blocks. This isn’t the first version. Another stood on the same site, but it was destroyed in the 1666 fire along with pretty much all of London. Christopher Wren designed the replacement, along with most of the other churches around the city. If you like looking at big churches, go on inside. If you do go in, try to find the exhibit on St. Paul’s Cathedral during the Blitz. The Brits kept the cathedral safe, and it ended up being a great source of pride for them.
For the record, exploring the inside (and eventually making the climb to the top of the dome) is on my to do list. This day, however, there was only one goal. We pressed on.
Millenium Bridge was opened to commemorate the year 2000, but it ended up being an embarrassment because it shook like crazy once people started walking across it. They immediately had to shut it down for repairs.
Reading that blows my mind, how crazy is it that something so carefully manufactured could have those kind of unexpected results? Don’t look into that statement, I promise it’s not a metaphor for anything.
On the other side of the bridge, you’ll end up at Tate Modern. This building used to be a power plant. The museum is free, so why not pop in and look at some crazy modern art? Personally, I find the building itself to be the main draw. The turbine hall itself is an amazing space. They often commission artists to find creative ways to use the space, so maybe something interesting will be there for you.
Yet again, another item on the to do list. My buzz was wearing off.
You’ll reach the Globe Theatre, which is a reproduction near the site of the original. I haven’t been in there for ages, but at one point in time at least, the museum was really good. Lots of great exhibits on London during Shakespeare‘s time. This one isn’t free, so if it doesn’t sound fun, or if your buzz is wearing off, skip it.
One more thing to add to the to do. This one I’m particularly interested in venturing to, because I adore me some Shakespeare. But ‘to drink or not to drink’ was no question at this point.
This used to be my favorite pub in all of London, but they did a remodel a few years back, ruining it a bit. If you check out the left hand side of the building, you’ll see what I liked in the original. All kinds of little rooms, random stairways going all over the place. Multiple bars. The terrace outside by the river is also pretty nice when the weather cooperates.
Before the remodel, this place used to have decent beers, but it’s a little less good now. So you have permission to get a Guiness here instead of a cask ale.
We absolutely adored the way this pub looked from the outside (not sure how much of it was a part of the remodel – I loved the red and gold detailing! I could definitely see myself making this a regular spot, because of it’s different rooms and perfect waterfront view. At this point in the day, all of the business suits had started to get off work and head to the local pub for a brew, so we found ourselves surrounded by a fun crowd as well.
I enjoyed a 1730 Pale Ale outside in front of the pub, which is still a strange experience for me. I’m so used to the strict rule to stay inside with alcoholic beverages in the States. At Anchor Bankside,it was easy to exhale and just enjoy the day (and entertaining people) as they passed by. Oh, and they served us in plastic half pints, which was probably because of our outdoor boozing, but admittedly just a good idea in general. Definitely would recommend this spot!
Optional Pub – Thameside Inn (Best Terrace View)
Pickfords Wharf, Clink Street, London SE1 9DG, UK
Keep heading east. If you’re hungry, Nandos, next to Anchor Bankside, is pretty fast and pretty decent.
The path will leave the riverbank, and you’ll head back behind some old warehouses (and a really awesome lighted overhang!). If you keep heading straight, you’ll see a big replica ship. It’s the Golden Hind, which Sir Francis Drake sailed around the world. The pub next to it isn’t anything special, but it does have some nice river views.
Although this ship is a replica, it’s full size and offers a lot of fun activities, especially for youngsters (that you probably shouldn’t have brought along with you). It offers a nice side piece to Thameside Inn, where we enjoyed our next brew.
Here I enjoyed a Yorkshire Blackout, 100% picked because of it’s name. This particular pub had gotten really busy, so we stepped outside to the terrace. It was here that we decided it was probably a smart idea to start keeping track of our damage, as pictured below. Shortly after this photo was taken, we were rushed under an awning because it had started to rain. Thankfully the bad weather lasted only a few minutes, and didn’t affect our stride as we continued on our way.
Pub #4 – The George Inn (Favorite Pub)
The George Inn Yard, 77 Borough High Street, Southwark, London SE1 1NH, UK
This one is a little tough to find. Just after you pass The Clink Prison after leaving Anchor Bankside, head up to the right on Stoney Street. You’ll pass the Borough Market, which is a huge food market on the weekends.
Some of the pubs on the right are decent, so you have permission to pop in for extra credit, but frankly you are better off just grabbing a few rounds at The George Inn.
When you get out of the Borough Market, you’ll reach a main street heading north/south. Cross the road and head down to the right about half a block. The George Inn will be on the left, set back from the road in a courtyard.
Greeted by the most delightful signage, I knew that this spot was going to stand out. Facing a very busy street, you cut left down a small walkway that leads you into the oasis that is The George Inn.
This pub is the only carriage inn that survived the 1666 fire. The white balcony would have stretched around to surround the entire courtyard. Some think these inns were precursor to theaters like the Globe Theatre, which are constructed pretty similarly, with tall balconies on three sides and some seating on the ground.
The George Inn has an excellent beer selection. This would be a great place to load up before we head back into the city. So feel free to grab a couple rounds. Note the bathrooms across the courtyard. Always a nice touch.
I could have just visited this one pub and been blown away by what London has to offer in terms of great drinking atmospheres. Packed with Londoners coming from work, we were able to nuzzle our way inside to order, and returned to the courtyard to enjoy our brews underneath a picnic table with an umbrella. I don’t particularly remember what I got here, probably because I was distracted by the wonderland that was the courtyard, pictured below.
If you can only make it to one pub on this list, make it this one. You won’t regret it.
Pub #5 – The Crosse Keys (Best Food Menu)
9 Gracechurch Street, London EC3V 0DR, UK
Take a right out of The George Inn and head north. You will cross London Bridge and get a great view of Tower Bridge on your right. We are heading back into the city. You will reach a big intersection north of the river. Take a little jog to the right and then back north on Gracechurch Street.
Any pub from here on is worth checking out, so you are free to take on any extracurricular pints you would like. (I used to work in this area, so I spent a ton of time in all of these pubs). The Swan, somewhere on the right, is a pretty interesting one. It forms a pedestrian bridge over the road.
On our way to The Crosse Keys we caught a really cool glimpse of The Swan – definitely a cool exterior with the bridge! Mentally putting a pin in that one, but we continued on to our intended destination.
Of particular note is The Crosse Keys, which will be on the left hand side a few blocks up. This place is huge (like way huge). The Crosse Keys is run by Wetherspoons, which is a chain of similarly huge pubs. Cyrus used to work at one on the south side of Trafalgar Square (one of my favorite London spots), called The Lord Moon of the Mall. All Wetherspoons have a great beer selection and cheap, decent pub grub.
Very honestly, this place reminded me of a Buffalo Wild Wings. I mean that in the most endearing way possible of course, but when we walked in I was shocked at how large it was inside. Although Walmart-sized dining spaces are common in the States, this pub/restaurant was at least 10x the size of the others we had been to that day.
It was here that we made the most unfortunate mistake. We ate dinner. I know I know, it seems harmless, but remember the rule – “dinner is for tourists and little girls.” In our weakness we didn’t heed the advice of the man who came before us, and it cut our night short. As soon as we finished our delicious food (fish and chips for are always a must in London), we realized we could go no further. Don’t get me wrong dinner was amazing in itself, but learn from our mistakes if you plan on crawling all the way through.
Assuming you get here after 4pm, you will see a bunch of bankers standing outside drinking. How cool is that? Just standing out in the street drinking beers. There are a couple pubs in Leadenhill Market, and both are equally meh. But it’s worth it to stand out in the open, watch the cars go by, and revel in the freedom of outdoor, public intoxication.
How perfect is that last sentence? Leadenhill Market is one of the spots I’ve been dying to see in London, featuring retail stores nestled in a Victorian market place. It also has Richard Wentworth’s False Ceiling that is so intriguing, an art installation featuring an array of books hanging from the roof. This spot provides a great photo op for book junkies (and avid Instagrammers no doubt).
Tourist Break – The Lloyd’s Building and The Gherkin Building
1 Lime Street, London EC3M 7HA, UK
30 Street Mary Axe, London EC3A 8EP, UK
Head straight back through Leadenhill Market and you’ll reach the famous Lloyd’s Building. It has all kinds of architecture and stuff. I used to work across the street from The Gherkin Building, so you are in the heart of my old stomping grounds.
Both gorgeous and unique structures, you’ve never seen anything like them.
Choose Your Own Adventure – End of the Tour
If you like the city drinking experience, head back westward towards the Bank tube.
There’s another decadent Fuller’s pub on Cornhill Street. I think it’s called The Counting House, but I could be wrong (no you’re right, always right). That’s what Google Maps has in the approximate location I remember. If you make your way back towards St. Paul’s Cathedral you’ll hit all kinds of interesting stuff.
If you’d rather finish on a more poetic and touristy note, wander south-eastward to the Tower of London. The Liberty Bounds is another Wetherspoons pub nearby, and if Google Maps is to be trusted, there’s a new BoDean’s Barbeque down there. If you finish here, you will be on the easternmost side of the original walled city of London. A portion of the old wall still stands by the Tower Hill tube entrance.
In my first visit to London, I wound up next to this wall dating back thousands of years. It’s right across the street from the Tower of London, and next to a park with a pretty rad swing. This area is also used as the starting point for the Jack the Ripper Walking Tour (free access with some city bus tour passes), which I went on earlier last year. An added pub you may be interested in this area is The Ten Bells, the exact spot in which all of the victims (and most likely Jack the Ripper himself) enjoyed a brew in their day. Read more about it in For the Love of London!
I cannot even begin to tell you how much fun this pub crawl was – for sure the best way to spend a day in the great city of London! Thank you Roger for creating this pub crawl and allowing me to share, all for the love of good ale.
Cheers to you and yours!