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London's best riverside pubs and bars

Few things in London beat a pint by the river (or, indeed, canal). Here's our guide to the city's best waterside pubs and bars

If you're looking for inner-city supping with a countryside feel, sometimes London's best rooftop bars or best beer gardens simply won't cut it. Get yourself a spot by the river with our guide to London's finest riverside pubs. As well as the very best Thames-side drinking spots, we also guide you through some first rate canalside pubs and bars fit for any sunny day of drinking in the capital.  

Riverside pubs in west London

City Barge (Kew)

Beside a muddy but peaceful stretch of the Thames, facing a little island straight out of Arthur Ransome, this higgledy-piggledy pub offers tranquillity both inside and out. The honking of multitudinous geese all but drowns out the regular passing of Heathrow-bound aircraft; the nearest bridge welcomes trains only rarely, and you’re just as likely to see an oarsman breaking the water. Artefacts related to the location – sepia waterside scenes of yesteryear, an old wooden ‘Beware of the Weir’ sign – decorate the raised main bar area, leading to the back terrace.

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Gunnersbury

Crabtree (Hammersmith)

Situated on a fine stretch of the riverbank between Hammersmith and Putney bridges, this vast Victorian venue is within shouting distance of Craven Cottage, the homely home of Fulham Football Club. It's been given a grandiose, gastro-tastic going over, and is the latest feather in the bow of posh boozer specialist Realpubs. The locals approve of the remodel, it seems, and on a sunny day can be found in their droves enjoying some of the nicest waterside drinking in the city. The seats under the weeping willow deserve especial mention. As well as a restaurant bathed in white linen at the rear, there’s a gorgeous, gigantic beer garden, bedecked in wood and stylish shrubbery, which flows down to the riverfront.

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Fulham

Dove (Hammersmith)

Several pubs stand amid the rowing clubs, dog-walkers and strategically placed park benches on the Upper Mall embankment upriver from Hammersmith Bridge; this one is perhaps the best (and certainly a prime spot from which to watch the Boat Race). Inside, it’s basically a classic duck-your-head heritage pub experience, but most drinkers come here to sit in the vine-entangled conservatory or the riverside terrace overlooking the houseboats.

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Ravenscourt Park

Duke's Head (Putney)

If you’re a fan of rowing (and rowers) make a dash for the Duke’s Head, where the lads and lasses of the nearby LRC (London Rowing Club) can often be found quenching their thirst. To watch them in action, simply tell the bartender you’re going outside, and they’ll give you your pint (Young’s, plus guest ales from the likes of Meantime and Dogfish), in a plastic cup, allowing you to lean against the railings and cheer on the crews. No training on? Pull  up a pew in the dinky patio area, and drink in the views. Of the river, we mean.

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Putney

Old Ship (Hammersmith)

It’s a long walk from Hammersmith Bridge along a lazy bend in the Thames, a world away from belching buses and snarled-up traffic, but if you bypass a few pubs in favour of this one, you’ll be pleased you’ve made the trek. The boathouse feel of the airy building is continued in the maritime-themed decor of sailing paintings and iconography. Depending on which areas have been hired out, you should have a choice of outdoor seating upstairs or down, or a spot in the classy main bar/restaurant.

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Ravenscourt Park

Ship (Wandsworth)

This great Young's local, founded as a waterman's inn around 1786, shines like a riverside beacon. The peaceful and relaxing front bar is ideal for reading or quiet conversation, whereas the much larger conservatory by the Thames attracts a lively mixed crowd, which means seats are always at a premium; an excellent garden overlooks Wandsworth Bridge. The pleasant dining room serves an ambitious seasonal menu that comes - like the list of entertainment (including an informal Irish session on Tuesdays) - printed on a surreal image of a sea captain with a ship for his head and fish for his hands.

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Wandsworth

Waterfront (Wandsworth)

Its appearance in keeping with the swish, neutral look of the show apartments and community facilities of Battersea Reach (‘defining riverside living with style’) around it, this well-conceived place is atypical of the Young’s stable. It feels 21st-century, for a start, with floods of natural light coming from the river-facing floor-to-ceiling windows, beyond which is a decked terrace. Regrettably, the opposite bank is an eyesore. Even so, tucked far away from a busy Wandsworth roundabout, between two Thames bridges, this seems like a world unto itself.

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Wandsworth

Ye White Hart (Barnes)

Right on the river, this capacious barn of a bar makes best use of its prime location. It’s a Young’s pub, so it’s well looked after, providing the usual range of ales from the brewery stable, as well as reliably satisfying steak pies and Sunday roasts. What really brings in the punters, though, is the chance to sink into a chesterfield by the fire, or find a spot to stand on the river-view first-floor veranda, down a pint and talk about the rugby match that’s just played out on the big screen.

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Barnes

Riverside pubs in east London

Gun (Canary Wharf)

The devotedly lazy may baulk at the 10-15 minute walk to the Gun from the nearest tube or DLR station, but trust us – it’s well worth the pilgrimage. Once there, you’ll find few tourists (not something you can say of many riverside pubs – Mayflower, we’re looking at you) and plenty of outside space, all washed over by river breezes and the wafting smells of excellent food. You can order from the smart modern British restaurant menu, or keep it casual with seriously good bar bites (brawn croquettes; black pud scotch egg). Of the drinks, it’s the huge, globe-trotting wine list that gets the glory.

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Canary Wharf

Mayflower (Rotherhithe)

Dating back to 1620, the Mayflower certainly looks the part: appearing suddenly along the Thames path, its white and black-timbered frontage set with diamond-leaded windows positively oozes tradition. Inside, beyond the counter, the small main bar area (cosy alcoves, open fire) leads to a deck outside at the rear. So far, so apparently authentic, but the prices tagged both to the drinks (a fairly uninspiring selection of beers punctuated by the odd real ale) and the food (fish a speciality of sorts) are pure 21st century, and the nagging suspicion of being in a tourist trap is hard to shake off. A waterfront terrace makes up for any disappointment.

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Rotherhithe

Narrow (Limehouse)

Mr Ramsay’s first foray into gastropub territory remains well received by Limehouse’s more moneyed residents. And it’s a good ’un. For a start, there’s plenty of space for actual drinking – the spacious bar, decked out in stylish stripes and greys, makes a fine place to indulge in quality ales (Deuchars IPA, Meantime wheat beer, London Pride) and wines (a Sancerre la Vigne Blanche perhaps?). Bottled beers include St Peter’s Organic and Wells’ Banana Bread. The excellent restaurant boasts superb Thames views, as does the sunny beer terrace.

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Prospect of Whitby (Wapping)

Drink in London history at the Prospect, a building in Wapping that dates back to the 1520s and claims to be the city’s oldest riverside inn. Luminaries together with altogether shadier characters have found refreshment in the dark wooden interior and contemplated the views from the terrace.

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Wapping

Princess Of Wales (Clapton)

This Young’s pub isn’t exactly brimming with character but it has a wonderful lockside location on the River Lea to compensate. Sit at one of the many picnic tables and survey the vista – a seat in the conservatory does the job in bad weather. As well as standard draughts, the bar offers the likes of Bombardier and various Young’s brews – the Wells Banana Bread beer in the chiller is dangerously addictive. For entertainment, there’s a retina-popping seven-foot screen showing MTV and sport, a pool table and a dartboard. Food runs to industrial pub grub standards: roasts, lasagne with salad and chips.

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Lea Bridge

Town of Ramsgate (Wapping)

Though claiming to be the oldest pub on the river, the Ramsgate looks like it had a refurb in the ’70s – all patterned carpet and chunky wood tables. But it’s full of nautical bric-à-brac and the odd historic manuscript. This much-loved hostelry serves comforting burgers, roasts and fish and chips. Equally comforting was the service – warm and welcoming when we visited on a wet Sunday afternoon. On tap you’ll find Adnams, Young’s Bitter and even Beck’s. We’ll be back when the sun’s out to take advantage of the terrace overlooking the river.

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Wapping

Trafalgar Tavern (Greenwich)

Thanks to the Thames lapping against its wall and the resulting busy tourist trade, this place is something of a local landmark. Built in 1837 and regally restored in 1968, it feels more historic than it is, with photographs of maritime scenes and portraits of braided admirals aiding the illusion; there are rooms named after Nelson, Hardy and Howe. In fact, the place is huge: downstairs alone there are five spaces, in addition to the side terrace guarded by a statue of Horatio. Draught beers include British ales (Sharp’s Doom Bar, Adnams Bitter) and Belgian brews (Palm, Estaminet), with plenty more Beneluxuriant options in the fridge.

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Greenwich

Canalside pubs in London

Waterway

The chief selling point of this stylish bar-restaurant is its wide terrace, so close to the Regent’s Canal that you can touch the bobbing barges. It’s quite pricey, but the clientele are happy to keep ordering as long as the sun keeps shining (you may find the interior completely empty of a July lunchtime), and it’s not as if the venue is cutting corners in its provisions. A flatscreen TV has been placed in front of a sofa for rainy days, though it’s just as nice to watch the barges from inside.

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Maida Vale

Lockside Lounge

A pleasant ten-minute walk past an array of bars clustered around the bridge, this first-floor boathouse-like venue above Cafe Chula makes great use of its location. It’s occasionally hired for private parties but when it’s open to all, you can gaze over the twinkling lights around the lock and the bobbing barges as you sip your Erdinger. If it’s too nippy, the interior is long and artily loft-like, and fairly relaxed – at least compared to the glug-’em-quick vibe on the main drag.

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Camden Town

Crate Brewery

This is one of the few success stories of the great Hackney Wick Olympic café boom. While many of the area’s newer cafés and restaurants have floundered or closed since summer 2012, Crate is more popular than ever – especially among the Wick’s young creative types. This hip canalside pizzeria-cum-microbrewery is run by the people behind the Counter Café. High vaulted ceilings are accompanied by bare light bulbs, benches made from recycled coffee sacks and a bar pulled together using railway sleepers.

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Hackney Wick

Proud Archivist

It’s unsettling to walk along the Regent’s Canal towpath to find loiterers grinning at you – until, that is, you’re close enough to see the quality of their funk-goth nail polish, admire the luxuriance of their bandido moustaches and be warmed by their solar-flare strength hospitality, for they are this new bar-café’s greeters.

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De Beauvoir Town

Riverside pubs in Outer London

Boaters Inn

Owned by the Capital Pub Company, the Boaters Inn sits on a quiet stretch of the river in Kingston. Sup local ales (Twickenham and Sambrook’s) while sitting under dappled shade on the large riverside terrace.

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Kingston Upon Thames

Stein's

Optimism is creating an entirely outdoor establishment on the Thames. At this German beer garden in Richmond (open weather permitting), the wursts are pretty great, especially washed down with a weissbier und sauerkraut.

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Richmond

White Cross

The White Cross stands on the site of a monastery. A big, handsome boozer, it has large bay windows that offer none-closer views of the river. Crowds flock here in summer to bask on the waterfront with a cooling drink, but fires and little niches in the many rooms keep things cosy in winter. Happy staff pull pints of Young’s Special and Bombardier at the rectangular bar, or pour Pimm’s and lemonade. At weekends, book a table if you fancy trying some of the traditional pub nosh.

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Richmond

Find riverside restaurants in London

London's best riverside restaurants

Whether it's a pub on a canal or a restaurant on the Thames, enjoy scenic surroundings when dining in the capital and discover the best places to eat near water. Below our critics have rounded up their favourite waterside restaurants in London.

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By: Time Out editors

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