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Traditional pubs for a drink in the City

Who’s getting a round in? Pulling pints is just one glorious role performed by the pubs of the Square Mile - they’ve been at the heart of London life for centuries, providing refuge, inspiration and (naturally) plenty of beer for the capital’s great and the good.

Some of the City’s oldest taverns have survived plague, fire, war and modernisation, and are still serving today. This means you can get a round in with the locals and sit where Shakespeare perhaps grappled with rhetorical questions, or where Dickens found inspiration for his rogues and rascals (maybe – although those writers were definitely City pub punters).

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese 

This labyrinthian pub, one of London’s few remaining 17th century chophouses, is possibly one of the most famous pubs in the world after Charles Dickens, a regular, featured it in A Tale of Two Cities. Dictionary creator Dr Samuel Johnson, Mark Twain, PG Wodehouse, plus princes and ambassadors have all supped an ale in these atmospheric rooms. Order a pint and go find Polly the (stuffed) parrot – she died in 1926 but was famous for entertaining pub regulars for 40 years.

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9 Best Pubs in the City of London - A slanted view of the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub, looking down an narrow alley leading on to the road, with a hanging plant basket in the foreground

© Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

The Blackfriar 

While you’re here, raise a glass to Sir John Betjeman who helped save this beautiful pub from demolition in the 1960s. This curious wedge-shaped building is an Art Nouveau Grade II listed masterpiece, full of Victorian era arts and crafts-style mosaics and ornamental balconies. The menu runs from vegan burgers to traditional British pies.

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9 Best Pubs in the City of London - The Black Friar pub at night, a narraow building with 'The Black Friar' written in mosaics on the side, with a human-sized friar standing over the door frame entrance.

The Blackfriar

Punch Tavern 

Named in honour of the regular drinkers from the nearby Punch magazine office back in the 1840s, this Fleet Street watering hole keeps today’s regulars satisfied with lunch specials, vegan options, Steak Fridays, Sunday roasts, quiz night Tuesdays, and a wealth of cask ales and craft beers with gin a speciality.

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9 Best Pubs in the City of London -  The punch Tavern pub interior, with a crowd of people gathered round a old school bar drinking and having a nice time in the evening.

© Punch Tavern

Old Doctor Butler’s Head

Serving the Moorgate masses for more than four centuries, this tavern is still popular today thanks to its warm atmosphere and traditional pub grub. If you’re wondering, the real Dr Butler was a 17th century physician who, despite becoming court physician to King James I, had some, erm, ‘interesting’ treatment methods such as plunging patients into the Thames to cure the plague.

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9 Best Pubs in the City of London - The sign of the Old Doctor Butler’s Head pictures a portrait of a man in an oval frame in the style of early modern painters

© Old Doctor Butler’s Head

The Hoop and Grapes

This charmingly twisted, wonky little pub amazingly survived the Great Fire of London – the fire stopped a mere 50 yards from the building. Built in 1593 (it’s the oldest licensed house in the City), it still serves wine and beer (the clue is in its original name, Hops and Grapes) but now craft beer, alcohol-free drinks and pub food join today’s menu. They love a traditional pie but this also covers a lentil and vegetable version for vegans.

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9 Best Pubs in the City of London - The Hoops and grapes pub interior, with wooden floors and in an old building with wooden beams  going across the ceiling

The Hoop and Grapes

Williamson’s Tavern 

The 1930s-style interior of this intriguing pub hides an even longer history. Having once been the residence of the Lord Mayors of London, King William III and Queen Mary dined here, and today locals and tourists alike tell of the ghostly apparition of Martha, a poltergeist who has even scared police dogs. On most days, Martha leaves drinkers and diners in peace (you’ll be pleased to know).

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9 Best Pubs in the City of London - Williamson’s Tavern interior with a curved bar in an old english style. There are flags going across the ceiling.

© Williamson’s Tavern

The Hand & Shears 

Smithfield’s only Grade I listed pub has been operating on this site since the 16th century, although today’s building dates from around 1852. Centuries ago the tavern would have hosted community meetings, sporting events and a court for cloth merchants to settle disputes. Regulars still flock to its bar today to sip seasonal local beers and sample the extensive wine list.

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9 Best Pubs in the City of London - The Hand and Shears exterior on the corner of the street, it's dark green with flowers along the top of the building

© The Hand & Shears

The Lamb Tavern 

Located in the beautiful Victorian arcade of Leadenhall Market, the menu of this 18th century bar and dining room celebrates the market’s heritage of British meat, poultry and game. It remains popular with City workers due to an extensive drinks menu, and food including Guinness rarebit and Dorset lamb shank.

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9 Best Pubs in the City of London - The Lamb Tavern in Leadenhall market. Leadenhall market is a red outdoor covered market, with ornate pillars. Outside the Lamb tavern there are tables where people are drinking as well as traditional shoe shiners.

© The Lamb Tavern

Ye Olde Watling

Did you know that right where you could be getting stuck into a plate of fish and chips (or beluga lentil nourish bowl), the plans for St Paul’s Cathedral were being drawn up back in the 17th century? Even with his mind on these ambitious plans, St Christopher Wren still made time to have this pub rebuilt after the Great Fire as a place for his workers to drink.

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9 Best Pubs in the City of London - Ye Olde Watling pub exterior on the corner of the street, its a dark black building with gold writing and white window frames.

© Ye Olde Watling

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