London’s 8 Most Unique Pubs

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Nov 19, 2014 / 0 comments

In a town (nay, country!) known for pubs, it’s hard to find truly unique ones. Whether you’re in London for a short visit, a job, your sabbatical, or residing to do a part-time degree study in London, or on a study abroad term (I remember that fondly!), you’ll soon discover that pubs are an important part of life in the UK. And while we all have a corner pub we love, and have blazed trails to the more famous pubs (Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, I’m looking at you!), there’s something fun about discovering the unusual. 

London’s 8 Most Unique Pubs

Black Friar Pub interior – one of the best examples of Art Nouveau buildings in London. Photo Wikimedia Commons: Love Art Nouveau, adapted by Wandering Educators

Visit Germany

Take a trip to Germany without leaving London! At Zeitgeist London Gastropub, you’ll discover all kinds of German goodness, including German beer, German cuisine, German staff, and even German sports (in the form of international football on 5 screens). Don’t be misled because the outside signs say Jolly Gardeners (a previous incarnation of this pub) – just head inside and enjoy!

49 - 51 Black Prince Rd, London, SE11 6AB
Tel.: +44 (0) 20 78400426

Zeitgeist Gastropub, London. From London’s 8 Most Unique Pubs

photo courtesy Zeitgeist London Gastropub

Zeitgeist Gastropub, London. From London’s 8 Most Unique Pubs
Zeitgeist at the Jolly Gardeners, Lambeth, SE11 by Ewan Munro, on Flickr

A ski chalet

Head to the Leather Bottle in the winter, especially, where they transform the outdoor beer garden into a winter wonderland with 5 ski chalets! Each one is named for a famous peak – Whistler, Cortina, St Anton, Verbier, and Meribel. Note: Must book your ski chalet in advance. If you forget? Just cosy up inside.

538 Garratt Lane, Earlsfield, London. SW17 0NY
Tel: 020 8946 2309

chalet at Leather Bottle pub, London. From London’s 8 Most Unique Pubs

Photo courtesy Leather Bottle

History Comes Alive

Possibly London’s oldest pub, the Prospect of Whitby was founded in 1520, burned in the 18th century, and was rebuilt. It is the oldest riverside tavern in London,;former names include The Devil’s Tavern and the Pelican. Hanging Judge Jeffreys (of the Monmouth Rebellion) frequented the place – a noose hangs in a window in commemoration. Famous personages to have also come around include Dickens, Pepys, Turner, and Whistler.

57 Wapping Wall, Wapping, London E1W 3SH
Tel: +44 20 7481 1095

Prospect of Whitby pub. From London’s 8 Most Unique Pubs

Photo Wikimedia commons: Kevin Thompson

A Famous Owner

Head to The Grapes, possibly the only pub in the world to have served Dickens, Pepys (yes, those two loved to carouse)… and Gandalf?! Yes – The Grapes, a 500 year old pub, is owned in part by Sir Ian McKellan, a wonderful actor who is perhaps most known at the moment for playing Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings movies. You might find reference to the Grapes in Dickens’ novel, Our Mutual Friend; Wilde’s novel, Dorian Gray; and from authors Arthur Conan Doyle and Peter Ackroyd, among others.

76 Narrow Street, London E14 8BP
Tel: 0207 987 4396

The Grapes, London. From London’s 8 Most Unique Pubs

Photo Wikimedia commons: Ewan Munro


Now Closed: Royal Kitsch

Fancy immersing yourself in royal style? At The Windsor Castle, royal decorations abound (aka kitsch). You’ll find royalty memorabilia everywhere – the walls are plastered with it. Two particular things to note: they serve great Thai food (!) in addition to traditional pub fare, and the pub is home to the Handlebar Club. Established in 1947, the Handlebar Club celebrates all things handlebar mustache.

29 Crawford Place, London W1H 4LJ
Tel: +44 20 7723 9262

Best treasure hunt pub

Possibly London’s most hidden pub, Ye Olde Mitre was established in 1546. Located in Holborn, you’ll probably work up an appetite trying to find it. This pub has plenty of history, including a cherry tree that Queen Elizabeth (daughter of Henry VIII) danced around.

1 Ely Court, Ely Place, London EC1N 6SJ
Tel: 020 7405 4751

Ye Olde Mitre. From London’s 8 Most Unique Pubs

Photo Wikimedia Commons: Ewan Munro

Poems and more

Head to the Cittie of Yorke, in High Holborn, to experience more history. A pub has been on this site since 1430; the latest version was built in the 1920s. Dylan Thomas, Welsh poet, wrote an ode to the pub in 1951 (then named Henneky’s Long Bar). Perhaps you, too, will be inspired to pen some poetry while sipping your ale.

22 High Holborn, London WC1V 6BN
Tel: +44 20 7242 7670

Cittie of Yorke. From London’s 8 Most Unique Pubs

Photo Wikimedia Commons: Ewan Munro

Art and Architecture

The Black Friar Pub was built in 1875 on the site of a Dominican friary, and is a uniquely shaped building, with a triangular front. The pub is known for its Art Nouveau decorations (done in 1905 by sculptor Henry Poole), and visitors have likened it to visiting a museum, the art is so beautiful. Be aware, this is a very popular pub so there might be a wait. It’s worth it…

174 Queen Victoria Street, Blackfriars, London EC4V 4EG
Tel: +44 20 7236 5474

Black Friar Pub, London. From London’s 8 Most Unique Pubs

Photo Wikimedia Commons: Edwardx




This article was originally published in 2014 and updated in 2018