We've rounded up London's best beer gardens, some included for their bucolic atmosphere and fine foliage, some for their summery drinks or irresistible barbecue food, some for their riverside locations (although we also have those covered in our guide to London's best riverside pubs and bars) – and even a couple for their water features. We’ve organised them by north, south, east and west (and no, there aren't any good beer gardens in central London) so you can easily track down your nearest alfresco supping spot.
RECOMMENDED: Outdoor London
The best beer gardens in north London
A regular haunt of local resident George Orwell (who moved to 27b Canonbury Square in 1944), this was one of three pubs to provide him with inspiration for ‘Moon Under Water’, an essay on the criteria for the perfect London watering hole. But don’t come here expecting a period pub – inside and out, it’s now a study in modern Brit minimalism. In the walled garden, you can lounge on designer rattan sofas, all dark weaves and tight angles, while sipping a chilled draft Peroni from the outdoor bar (which also serves cold bottled beers plus a handful of wines and spirits). Need to silence a hunger? The full length of the smart menu (pork and pistachio terrine; lamb burgers; venison casserole) is available to eat in the glorious outdoors.Read more
Halfway between Upper Street and the Caledonian Road, this Georgian boozer has an olde-worlde English charm entirely in keeping with its name. It’s far enough from the main thoroughfares to ensure there’s barely a whisper of traffic noise to be heard at the wooden tables in the walled beer garden, with its trees and colourful flowers. Beer-drinkers usually have a few options on draught, there’s a short list of summery cocktails, and the quality wine list complements a menu speckled with British ingredients.Read more
There’s plenty of space for alfresco quaffing in an enormous front garden that spills down the sides of this friendly pub. You can sop up the booze with summer barbecues (weather permitting), as well as upmarket gastro-grub from the indoor kitchen. Looking out on to a main Islington artery, the garden remains inescapably ‘urban’, though a recent facelift has seen a verdant injection of new foliage. What’s more, there’s plenty of capacity (the garden can hold 300), around a dozen lagers plus a few ciders and ales on tap (including a regularly-changing guest ale).Read more
On a summer’s day, head to the walled rear garden of this Islington pub and bask in the evening sun. The original design had neo-classical leanings, seen in the Roman-style flooring (big paving slabs interspersed with smaller stones) and collection of stone pots. But nowadays, the pots are planted with hops, there’s bunting overhead, a hodge-podge of picnic tables and wooden furniture, and a vibe that’s friendly and informal. The main menu does a good line in posh sarnies and proper pub grub or you’ll sometimes find a laid-back barbecue on offer. Just not on Sundays, when the hugely popular roast is what’s on everyone’s mind.Read more
The rather small interior of this lively Camden institution gives way to a fair-sized outdoor area, with high walls and an array of foliage giving it a real garden feel despite being hemmed in by a busy road and a railway line. If the weather’s dreary, you can grab one of the cosy side tables with their heaters, or shelter under the convenient mini-marquee and admire the fairy lights. The garden can get rammed with Regent’s Park-goers and cool Camden types when the sun shines, especially if there’s a barbecue or hog roast on, which leads to our only grumble – sometimes the service fails to keep up with the crowds.Read more
While there are definitely bigger beer gardens to be found in the capital, the outdoor space at this well-loved, ivy-covered local is certainly one of the cleverest. Faced with the difficulty of only having a small yard, the owners built upwards – creating a tiered village from decking, with room on the various split levels for several tables. It’s an early afternoon suntrap in which to sip a cold lager, from a mainstream bar that includes the likes of Amstel, Heineken and Leffe. In keeping with the exotic-themed surrounds, the cooking (from the indoor kitchen, served in the evening only) is of the Thai street food variety: think stir-fries, curries and noodles.Read more
On the edge of Hampstead Heath just twenty yards down from the train station, the Garden Gate is a lively local with a lovely big garden that’s well endowed with greenery. Should, heaven forbid, it ever get chilly, shelter can be sought under an extended undercover area – heated and furnished too – that hosts weekend barbecues through the summer and the occasional hog roast. Ask for cask and you’ll be offered the choice of London Pride and four ales changed at least weekly.Read more
Regular visits prove the Junction Tavern to be a reliable source of good (sometimes outstanding) gastropub food at extremely reasonable prices. In fine weather, the secluded paved garden, with its dozen-odd picnic tables, makes a wonderful place to enjoy the full run of the a la carte. In 2013, it was taken over by Kentish Town local and experienced publican Ben McDonald.Read more
Nowadays, the Stag attracts a young, laid-back crowd, drawn to the large selection of decent ales (around half a dozen of which are on tap) and spacious rear garden, with its leafy displays, outdoor heaters and covered areas – all of which offer table service, so there’s no need to queue at the bar. Eight Ibiza-esque private cabanas around the periphery of the garden (which can be booked in advance) further enhance the holiday vibe, as does accoustic music (check their website for exact times). The barbecue menu (usually available on Friday evenings and weekends from noon) might include grilled chicken, lamb burgers, sausage hot dogs, although there’s no venison – the deer connection ends with the name.Read more
In chillier weather, this spacious Stokey boozer – owned by quirky pub group Antic – should appeal to fans of Trivial Pursuit’s orange wedge (that’s ‘Sport and Leisure’, in case you’d forgotten), given that it offers everything from football on the telly to old-school pinball machines and a large pool table. Come summer though, the garden becomes the space for ‘leisure’, with two tiers (one patio, one lawned) offering ample space for locals to recline, relax and refresh themselves (from the outdoor bar, which comes stocked with cold bottles and sometimes one on-tap beer).
The best beer gardens in east London
One minute it was an everyday boozer, the next it had become a forward-thinking microbrewing gastropub destination. But the real appeal of the pub formerly known as the Britannia is its lush beer garden backing on to the vast Victoria Park, with an outdoor kitchen and a fantastic selection of drinks. It offers all the benefits of drinking in the park without looking like a derelict, accidentally tripping up an angry red-faced jogger or wandering around looking for a loo.Read more
Located in the more salubrious part of Walthamstow, the Nag’s Head could hardly be more accommodating, hosting everything from jazz and folk sessions to the odd vintage pop-up shop upstairs. For your alfresco entertainment, there are a few tables in front, and plenty more in the back garden, with heaters and a couple of awnings against the inevitable showers. The pub brims with good beer: there’s an assortment of English ales (Timothy Taylor Landlord, St Austell Tribute and the Oscar Wilde Mild are regulars), and a flurry of Belgian fruit beers in the summer – of which the Mongozo coconut beer is the most adventurous or, depending on your point of view, ill-advised.
It might seem odd to visit a stone-flagged, pewter-countered ye-olde watering hole when the sun is bright, but head through the darkly wooded interior and there’s a paved beer garden under a weeping tree, right alongside the Thames. A reorganisation a couple of years back also opened up a small first-floor terrace, open to the bracing salt breezes. Inside, there’s a basic selection of standard pub grub (ham, egg and chips; lasagne; bangers and mash) and a handful of cask ales to choose from as you ponder the nearly five centuries of seriously sinister shenanigans of the swashbuckling, smuggling and gangstering sort witnessed by this venerable boozer.
In a corner of Hackney where pool tables and a giant TV were until recently a prerequisite for survival, the former Sussex Arms did well out of its smartening up: out went the carpets and scruffier furniture and in came a more aspirational clientele, but it still manages to feel like a good old-fashioned pub. In summer, the best place to enjoy it from is the small, fenced beer garden, settled in the fork of roads in the front. Bad weather? Out comes the ‘jumbrella’, a squared-off parasol that covers half the garden. Rain or shine, sustain yourself with well-priced ales; a brief but thoughtful wine list; and good, fairly priced British food, stretching from carefully sourced gastropubby mains to own-made sausage rolls and epic, softball-sized scotch eggs.Read more
Truth be told, the space out the back of this trendy twist on a traditional boozer is less ‘garden’ and more ‘yard’, but it remains one of the few places to soak up the sun near the City. Attracting a mix of open-collared suits and a Shoreditch/Spitalfields crowd, the Water Poet boasts a sheltered spot in which to sip a pint of Landlord or Truman’s Runner. The barbecue is typically in action weekdays from the late afternoon, with a hog roast firing up on some Saturdays – weather permitting, of course.Read more
Hackney Wick may be a hinterland of former industrial warehouses, but perched on the River Lea is a welcoming space filled with people, noise, pizza and beer. Crate serves up its own fine microbrews right by the water – and if you’re lucky, you can even sit in one of their rowing boats. A pleasant enough experience when sober, but a little dicey when sozzled. You have been warned.Read more
Clapton is transforming quicker than Katy Perry doing a costume change, but the refurbed Crooked Billet remains a place for all E5-ers to enjoy. When the mercury rises its massive garden becomes a big boozy playground: there’s a food truck, beach-hut booths for groups, a ping-pong table and loads of plants and deckchairs for that Clapton-on-Sea feel. Grab a locally brewed beer, slap on a ‘kiss me quick’ hat and reveal your knobbly Hacknees.Read more
The best beer gardens in south London
The Castle has been home to a public house since 1832, although its newly revamped decor (2014) is anything but 19th century. The new garden - where a car park used to be – was added in summer 2014. It has various outdoor seating areas including cabana-style huts and outdoor heating on demand. The menu holds few surprises - burgers, pies, roast meats, fish and chips. Our chicken, ham and leek pie was standard pub fare, served with mash and a tiny and superfluous saucepan of gravy. The main attraction here is undoubtedly the garden, though the Meantime brews (it's a Young's pub) are also worth investigation.
Why settle for one when you can have three? The Avalon’s alfresco options comprise front and side terraces (the latter used for private barbecues) and, in the rear, a proper garden – huge, beautifully landscaped and full of families come the good weather. The pub also serves perfectly well as a comfortable pub with nice sofas, a heated outdoor smoking area, and smart dining area. There’s always a decent selection of real ales and they’ve introduced some long cocktails for summer sippin’.Read more
In operation since 1852, the County Arms is a big, stately lump of a pub, dominating the north end of the Trinity Road dual carriageway. Within it is mostly winter-cosy mirrors, fireplaces, armchairs and leather sofas, with gastropub nosh and half a dozen Young’s ales on draught, usually plus a couple of guest handpulls. Out in the refurbished beer garden, there’s now a dedicated summer barbecue station manned by a young but eager team. But the real attraction is just to be able to sit outside, with the purr of traffic from Trinity Road far enough away (just) to get a little peace. Take note that Wandsworth Prison is just round the corner, in case any of your family, friends, or work colleagues in the City are currently doing time.Read more
This gigantic Dulwich Village pub ticks the beer garden box not once, nor twice… but thrice. The big, blooming back garden is divided into two tiers, one shadier than the other; while out front there’s a tidy patio area. The pub really comes into its own for lunchtime summer barbecues, served from a covered grill area, so rain isn’t a problem. Elsewhere, there’s a classic pub menu plus a handful of cask ale pumps (including at least one regularly changing guest brewery).
Since the untimely demise of Avalon's summer barbecues, the Devonshire has become the Balham grill of choice. Sprawling though this Young’s outfit might be, it’s also attractive since the refurb a few years ago. The open-plan indoor area is done out with contemporary sofas and banquettes, so it feels both lived-in and looked after. As for the clean-lined rear terrace, you’ll need to arrive early to bag a plum spot. The posh barbecue runs most summer evenings (though call ahead to check), as well as an all day on weekends. The beer list you can imagine, but the wine list is long for a Young’s pub.Read more
Not far from Sydenham rail station, the Dolphin is a striking 1930s mock Tudor building, given a proper refurb a few years back. There are a handful of ales at the pumps (plus a weekly guest) and a range of solid pub grub to eat. But the real reason to visit is out back. There you’ll find a spacious and peaceful garden, a formal criss-cross of box, privet and gravel around a central water sculpture, edged by apple trees. Unlike so many large pub gardens, it doesn’t include a play area – a deliberate decision to maintain the space ‘for adults’. Children are permitted, but must remain seated (or at the very least, be supervised).Read more
This spacious local does summer stuff well. The beer garden not only has its own dedicated bar, serving a shorter range of the tap selection indoors (usually a couple of their own microbrews, an Adnams and a guest), but has a children’s ‘playroom’, perfectly meeting their family demographic with soft toys, books and DVDs for unsupervised play. For the grown-ups, there are plenty of tables on the decking at which to enjoy the superb selection of beers and an original, affordable food menu.Read more
Part of the Grand Union pub chain, this gentrified bar-cum-boozer on the border between Clapham and Brixton was previously known as the Hope and Anchor. Nowadays, it offers a typical line-up of gluggable wines, beers and cocktails, alongside an all-pleasing menu of burgers and pizzas. Come summer, the 300-seater beer garden is a big draw, with good-value Sunday barbecues.Read more
Inside is more restaurant than pub, but the garden is a beauty. The secluded space has terraces, lawn, plants, mature trees, tables and lighting, and is one of the best spots in south-east London to drink outdoors. A seasonal beer from the nearby Meantime Brewery is just the thing to quench a summer thirst, though there’s table service should you prefer the longer range of drinks from the main bar. Soak it up with something from the compact gastropub menu or the classy weekend barbecue.Read more
Renaissance Pubs has a reputation for providing great gardens in its south London venues (the Avalon in Balham is notably good), and the Rosendale lives up to the promise. As well as a few umbrella-covered tables out the front, there's a secluded side garden (complete with a boules pitch, table tennis and table football), and a larger, landscaped one at the back with a children's play area (which has just been extended to include a new slide and climbing frame). Table service keeps things civilised, with food from the posh pub grub à la carte or own-made artisan pizzas fresh from the pizza oven (installed in spring 2013). A cold pint of Tommy (from local Herne Hill brewery A Head in a Hat), completes the picture.Read more
Popular with large groups (especially rugby fans), the Ship’s huge decked garden had a 2013 revamp, introducing, among other features, three bookable seating booths with cushions and heaters. As before, there are dedicated outdoor bars and an all-day weekend barbecue menu (which typically has gourmet leanings). What’s more, the terrifyingly loud PA has been replaced with a new mobile-based system, which sends you a text when your food is ready. Peace at last. Well, if the rugger buggers aren’t bellowing.Read more
The best beer gardens in west London
This handsome Parsons Green public house is well known for its smart and spacious beer garden (not to mention its smart crowd: they don’t call it 'arrogant house' for nothing). A line-up of crowd-pleasing beers, plus cider, Sharps Doom Bar and a regularly-changing guest ale, is one attraction, as is the popular summer barbecue.Read more
On a fine stretch of riverbank between Hammersmith and Putney bridges, in shouting distance of the Michael Jackson statue at Fulham’s Craven Cottage, this big Victorian boozer was gastrofied a couple of years back. On a sunny day locals can be found in their droves enjoying some of the nicest waterside drinking in the city, a gorgeous, gigantic beer garden bedecked in wood and stylish shrubbery. The seats under the weeping willow deserve especial mention. Inside, at a big lounge bar furnished with deep leather banquettes, weighty wooden tables and a smattering of stools you can sup a daily-changing roster of ales, or a couple of ciders.Read more
The Eagle on the fringes of Ravenscourt Park is a great escape. It’s a Geronimo Inns establishment, so the wine list is well chosen, the interiors are luxurious and the grub is reliably good. The star, however, is the back garden – a vast lawn for stretching out on beanbags on a summer’s day, swing chairs for couples to sway at sunset, and tables for dinners with friends. At weekends on warm days the garden bar is open and the barbecue gets fired up.
The Drayton Court Hotel is really a pub with rooms (albeit 27 rooms), so don’t feel like you need to be an overnight guest to enjoy drinks here. Come summer, the huge landscaped gardens come into their own, offering ample seating on picnic tables set either over the verdant groomed lawns, or over a stylish decked area. Lagers and ales come courtesy of Fuller’s (who own the building), and there is a perfectly pleasant range of pubby food if you’re hungry.
The tree-fringed deck, overlooking the languid curves of the Thames, is probably one of London’s best spots for getting a cold-one outside. There’s an appealing selection of simple pubby food but the big attraction in summer are the barbecues, held every weekend, weather permitting. The alfresco area is split into a fully covered, heated terrace, and a more open balcony. There’s also a less formal section featuring ten picnic tables.
This is a leafy, lederhosen-slapping, stein-swaying, pretzel-munching Bavarian beer garden perched right on the Richmond riverside overlooking the Thames. A selection of unfeasibly large sausages is the ‘wurst’ they can do, while the Bavarian beers, available in towering 1 litre steins, include the golden Helles from Paulaner, Erdinger weissbier and, in bottle, the delectable dark Erdinger Dunkelweiss. There’s a small children’s play area too. In spring and summer, if the weather’s good, it’s open noon until 10pm daily. There’s a branch at Kingston (again, overlooking the Thames), too, that’s open even later.
Sweltering in central London? Then jump on the 94 bus heading west and don’t get off until it stops. Within seconds, you can be sitting in the dappled light of The Swan’s lush and leafy 30-table garden sipping well-kept cask ales from one of Chiswick’s best-kept secrets. As the local hero, Fuller’s ales are ever-present at the pumps. Table service keeps things civilised, as does the tempting gastropub menu. There’s a strong wine list too, and super-friendly staff.
Perched on the corner of Parson’s Green, this popular pub takes barbecuing seriously. Every summer weekend from noon (plus sunny weekdays from 6pm), the pavement jams with eager drinkers queuing to rip into char-grilled burgers and sausages. Alternatively, there’s gastropubby food from the kitchen. There’s limited outdoor seating (with only 16 tables), but at least heaters and brollies help guard from inclement weather.Read more
The interior of the White Swan has seen better days, but this doesn’t matter. You’ll be sitting outside at one of the dozen or so picnic tables across the road on the sun-drenched riverside terrace with the Thames lapping at the slipways either side of you, and views of boaters and weeping willows stretching either way. On the pub’s terrace, a gas-fired barbecue does simple barbie dishes on sunny weekends. Cold refreshments include Peroni, Asahi and Orchard’s cider, while the regular ale (Sharp’s Doom Bar) is supplemented by four regularly-changing guests.Read more
Find more bars for outdoor drinking
As much as we love London's dark and dingy pubs, there are occasions when tatty banquettes and yellowed walls don't quite cut it. For a classier night of inebriation, get yourself to one of London's best rooftop bars. Here, you'll find swish cocktails, plush lounges and gourmet snacks galore, not to mention a front-row seat to the sexiest skyline on the planet.Read more