Fans of the written word from all over the world know that London has been home to some of the greatest authors and playwrights to have ever walked the earth. From Shakespeare to Dickens or Waugh to Woolf, London is full of places with literary connections. And for those who may want to share their love of good written works with the love of a good drink – this is the guide for you! What follows is a list of London’s best literary pubs.
Read our related posts:
- London's Best Historic Pubs
- London's Best Riverside Pubs
- London's Literary Hampstead Tour
- London's Literary Chelsea Tour
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The Grapes [76 Narrow Street, E14]
Built in 1583 originally, this pub used to be known as “The Old Grapes.” Today it is owned by world renowned actor Sir Ian McKellen but it was formerly a haunt of Charles Dickens. It is said that the opening sentences of Our Mutual Friend is referencing this pub.
“A tavern of dropsical appearance…long settled down into a state of hale infirmity. It had outlasted many a spruce public house, indeed the whole house impended over the water but seemed to have got into the condition of a faint-hearted diver, who has paused so long on the brink that he will never go in at all.”
Nearest Underground: DLR - Westferry
Prospect of Whitby [57 Wapping Wall, E1W]
Once the site of executions and dating back to 1520, the Prospect of Whitby was previously known as The Devils Tavern! It is known that the artist Turner sketched views of the Thames from the fabulous outside balcony here but the literary connection comes via Samuel Pepys who was a frequent regular here.
Nearest Underground: Overground – Wapping]
The Jerusalem Tavern [55 Briton Street, EC1M]
This is one of the oldest pubs on our list, having been first constructed in the 14th century! It’s been located in this part of town never since, but has moved premises at least four times since it was founded. The Tavern today has been sitting on this site since 1720 and the literary connection comes through Samuel Johnson who was a regular here in the 18th century, having a house not too far from here.
Nearest Underground: Farringdon
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese [Wine Office Court, 145 Fleet Street, EC4A]
A London institution, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was originally built in the 1530’s but the incarnation standing here today was built in 1667. The list of literary Londoners who drank here is impressive: Samuel Pepeys, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens (who mentions the pub in A Tale of Two Cities), Mark Twain, Thackeray, Yeats, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes series who set a scene in one of his Holmes stories (The Red Headed League) in this pub.
Nearest Underground: Blackfriars
Ye Olde Cock Tavern [22 Fleet Street, EC4 ]
Another haunt of Samuel Johnson and Pepys, Ye Olde Cock Tavern also hosted Charles Dickens and T. S. Eliot, who was a regular in the 1920’s.
Nearest Underground: Temple
The Anchor [34 Park Street, SE1]
It is believed that The Anchor is built on top to a former bear and bull baiting pit as well as a 17th century plague pit! The building that stands today comes from 1822 and, just around the corner from Shakespeare’s Globe, it is theorised that the Bard himself may have drank in a tavern on this site. It has also been visited by Samuel Johnson and Samuel Pepys.
Nearest Underground: London Bridge
The George Inn [77 Borough High Street, SE1
Dating back to the 1540’s it is known that William Shakespeare had visited this pub in its’ early days. In the Victorian era it was a popular haunt of Charles Dickens – who mentioned the pub in Little Dorrit and fictionalised it in Our Mutual Friend.
Nearest Underground: London Bridge
Trafalgar Tavern [5 Park Row, SE10]
Another pub mentioned by Dickens in Our Mutual Friend, the pub was said to be a personal favourite of Charles. It was also a favourite of Prime Minister Gladstone!
Nearest Underground: DLR – Cutty Sark
The Swan [The Globe Theatre, SE1]
Now this pub may not have been standing for centuries but today it is attached to the modern Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, which makes it a perfect place for fans of the Bard to grab a drink before or after viewing a performance at the Theatre itself.
Nearest Underground: Blackfriars
Museum Tavern [49 Great Russell Street, WC1]
Sitting right next to the British Museum, The Museum Tavern dates back to the 1700’s although the current incarnation was constructed and expanded in 1855. The list of literary figures who are known to have drank here is quite extensive and includes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Karl Marx and J. B. Priestley.
Nearest Underground: Holborn or Russell Square
The Lamb and Flag [33 Rose Street, WC2E]
One of the oldest pubs in Covent Garden, The Lamb and Flag is known to have been visited by Charles Dickens and the celebrated 17th century poet John Dryden – who survived a murder attempt just outside the pub! As a sign of respect and honour for all the hours Dryden spent in this pub, they renamed the upstairs room after him.
Nearest Underground: Covent Garden
The Dog and Duck [18 Bateman Street, W1]
Built in 1734, the Dog and Duck most recently boasts a visit by singer Madonna but has a far more illustrious literary history! Notable figures who have visited this pub, which was built on the site of the Duke of Monmouth’s home, include George Orwell, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Constable.
Nearest Underground: Tottenham Court Road
Fitzroy Tavern [16 Charlotte Street, W1]
A Victorian pub, the Fitzroy Tavern is right in the centre of an area known as Fitzrovia on the edge of the more well-known Bloomsbury District which is famous for it’s literary connections. This means that the Fitzrovia has seen a lot of big names come through the doors and many of them are depicted in the portraits that line the walls of the pub. Think Dylan Thomas, George Orwell and Lawrence Durrell.
Nearest Underground: Goodge Street
The Flask [Highgate West Hill, N6]
The Flask is another pub on the list that is a popular pub for London locals. Tucked in the leafy hills of northern London, the Flask is rumoured to have been the haunt of the famous highwayman Dick Turpin. But we also know that poets Keats, Shelley and Byron all drank here as well, in addition to T. S. Eliot and John Betjeman.
Nearest Underground: Highgate
Spaniards Inn [Spaniards Road, NW3 ]
The Spaniards Inn has been sitting on this site for around 500 years so it’s no surprise that some big names have walked through the doors. Another known watering hole of Dick Turpin, the Spaniards Inn is mentioned by Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers and has hosted Shelley, Keates and Byron in addition to Dickens himself.
Nearest Underground: Hampstead or Golders Green