Despite the fact that London has had its share of devastation, namely in the Great Fire of London and during the Second World War, there remain a great number of really old pubs. There is nothing more iconically British then supping a pint of beer in a traditional old public house. So, let’s explore some of the ones that deliver that experience in and around the city. The Nag’s Head not only sports a wonderful name, but it is a delightful little establishment tucked away a short distance from the bustle of Knightsbridge. Move away from the likes of Harrods down a secluded mews and you will come upon this tiny gem. Much like the pubs of centuries ago the Nag’s Head retains that cluttered, bustling vibe with an abundance of bric-a-brac as decor and good beer on tap. Certainly, a pub with an individual character and quirkiness. A pub with a good story behind it is The Star Tavern found in Belgravia. Many famous stars have graced its doors but perhaps the most famous are those of the Great Train Robbery who were said to have used the upstairs room of the tavern to plan their robbery in 1963.
Stars or criminals aside the welcoming tavern offers a fine selection of beer and is a great spot to visit. Also famous for the noteworthy patrons is The Dog and Duck in the Soho district of London. This pub is where George Orwell could be seen drinking and where in its original form, before the 1897 rebuild, John Constable and Dante Gabrielle Rossetti were reportedly regulars. More recently the likes of Madonna have graced the building. The present pub has a Victorian interior and is a grade 2 listed building beautifully preserved with ornate tiling and fabulous mirrors. Also, in Soho, The Grenadier, built in 1720, is a pub that was originally an officer’s mess until 1818 and was thought to have seen the likes of the Duke of Wellington stop by for some refreshment. In keeping with a pub of its age it is also thought to house the ghost of a soldier, murdered when he cheated at cards. Currently the pub is a favourite with the rich and famous looking for traditional pint in a cosy environment. Interestingly Madonna has also enjoyed time here too following one of her performances!
You can’t come to London without visiting Covent Garden one of the city’s best-known locations. The Cross Keys, easily spotted for the foliage that adorns the outside, is a landmark of the area. Inside the pub is a fantastic array of memorabilia and ornaments of all kinds. A favourite with the locals The Cross Keys offers a traditional experience in an iconic location. In the same location, Covent Garden, stands one of the area’s most historic public houses The Lamb and Flag. Much of the old, original charm has been retained within the pub and its quaint location down an alleyway, once famed for bare-knuckle fighting, contributes to the allure. Some auspicious characters were regulars namely Dickens and the 17th century poet John Dryden. The pub though small manages to regularly host various forms of live entertainment but because of its size and popularity be prepared for a livelier experience!
Finally, Ye Old Mitre Tavern, as the name suggests, dates back in its current form to 1772, but originally was the site of a pub dating back to the mid-1500s. Located in ElyCourt, Holborn, London this is probably one of the more obscure pubs tucked away off the beaten track. The pub is very traditional, and you won’t find a TV screen anywhere inside. It is rumoured that Elizabeth 1 visited the original pub at this site and a cherry tree that hails from that era is still there. This is a mere drop in the ocean when it comes to the choices of pubs in the city of London. There are so many wonderful, historic options that you would have a hard time visiting them all but why not sample these first and see what you think.