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City of London area guide

Find the best restaurants, bars, pubs and things to do in the Square Mile with Time Out's City of London area guide

© Britta Jaschinski

The City of London, usually just called the City or the Square Mile, is the centre of trade and finance in Europe, rivalling New York City as the finance capital of the world. The traders, bankers and other wage-earners in the area have to work hard, so it's no surprise they like to play hard here, too. Flashy bars outnumber quiet pubs in the City, and most bars and pubs are designed to impress. Likewise, the restaurants are grand and often expensive – great for hashing out the details of a deal or letting someone know how important you are. The City also roughly follows the boundaries of the ancient Roman capital of Britannia, Londinium, so there are plenty of museums and other things to do if you want to slow the pace down a bit.

Love London Awards: this year's winners

The Fat Bear
Restaurants

The Fat Bear

There's a Southern feel to this soul food spot at the Rising Sun pub on Carter Lane. Keep an eye out for the sign, and then follow your nose.  Starters tend towards the rich and hearty, with dishes such as filled sweet potato skins and Cajun fried chicken livers. But there are also raw oysters at a very reasonable £2 apiece, and clam chowder. Main courses feature grills, fish dishes including shrimp and grits (basically polenta, southern-style), and biscuits and gravy, another uniquely Deep South dish. There is also gumbo served five different ways (including a vegetarian version), and a range of cocktails focusing on rum and bourbon. And note: if you don't want a full meal, The Fat Bear also provide the bar snacks for the pub downstairs.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Lamb Tavern
Bars and pubs

Lamb Tavern

A stunning, long-standing (they've been there since 1790!) pub in the city with charming interior. You can the place for you wedding reception or birthday, or simply pop in for a pint and supper.

Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Beany Green
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Beany Green

They say it’s the early bird that catches the worm, and this bright and breezy Antipodean café – the first to open in the City’s Broadgate Circle restaurant complex – has been working hard to make loyal customers of everyone passing through its doors. Its modern, colourful interior, chirpy staff and loud hip-hop music  – plus the quality coffee – certainly shake morning visitors from their stupor. And the pretty food displays, the pleasant terrace overlooking the piazza below, and little touches such as fresh flowers encourage them to linger. The all-day menu ranges from Aussie-rules brekkies such as bacon and egg wraps or broccoli and sweetcorn fritters, to fresh, hearty salads and the sort of filling, protein-rich snacks that go hand in hand with the Australian reputation for healthy living. Think huge ‘power balls’ of meat and pulses, skewers and berry and nut smoothies. There are also plenty of sweet treats ranging from feather-light lamingtons (sponge cake with chocolate and coconut) and slabs of marshmallow-laden rocky road, to broccoli loaf cake and sticky ‘energy balls’. For after-work lingerers, there’s a sizeable drinks list, including cocktails. Beany Green’s founder is a former investment banker, so it’s a good bet that there’s a solid market for healthy fast food in the heart of the City. But in terms of your investment, prices are reassuringly reasonable – a real plus in this part of London.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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See the full results of this year's Love London Awards

Bars and pubs in the City of London

Vertigo 42
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Vertigo 42

Situated on the 42nd floor of the former Natwest Tower, Vertigo 42 combines vintage fizz and fine food with one of the City’s most breathtaking views.

Users say
  • 2 out of 5 stars
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1 Lombard Street
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1 Lombard Street

City slickers should feel right at home in this neo-classical former bank opposite the Royal Exchange.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Anthologist
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Anthologist

This enormous and ambitious undertaking comprises a pair of cocktail lounges, restaurant, bar, suitably rustic deli and wine shop in a vast space that resembles a more edgy, metropolitan All Bar One.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 2 out of 5 stars
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Counting House
Bars and pubs

Counting House

As the name might suggest, this pub was once a bank, but don't imagine a transformed local branch of HSBC: this is a grand, towering old building with ornate railings and colossal mirrors.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Things to do in the City of London

Barbican Centre
Art

Barbican Centre

The Barbican Centre, a vast concrete estate of 2,000 flats and a leading arts complex, is a prime example of brutalist architecture, softened a little by time and rectangular ponds of friendly resident ducks. 

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Dennis Severs’ House
Attractions

Dennis Severs’ House

Dennis Severs’ House is a time capsule attraction in which visitors are immersed in a unique form of theatre. The ten rooms of this original Hugeuenot house have been decked out to recreate snapshots of life in Spitalfields between 1724 and 1914. 

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Monument
Attractions

Monument

Although the Monument, which commemorates the Great Fire of 1666, is often attributed to Christopher Wren, it was almost certainly designed by Robert Hooke, the seventeenth-century polymath who also invented the sash window and spirit level. 

Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Museum of London
Museums

Museum of London

The history of London, from prehistoric times to the present, is told in the Museum of London through reconstructed interiors and street scenes, alongside displays of original artefacts found during the museum's archaeological digs.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants in the City of London

Hawksmoor Guildhall
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Hawksmoor Guildhall

Hawksmoor’s easy-going charm appeals to the more relaxed type of City diner (shirtsleeves, no ties), happy to be served by an efficient but casually dressed young crew.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Goodman City
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Goodman City

Goodman’s three branches are perfectly located to pull in its target audience: people who will pay top dollar for top beef.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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City Caphe
Restaurants

City Caphe

Long before you see this charming little Vietnamese café, you’ll smell some enticing aromas wafting down the street. At lunchtime, you can expect to see a line of City workers at the door.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Sauterelle
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Sauterelle

Probably the best (only?) restaurant in London to be named after an insect, this D&D spot in the Royal Exchange takes its name from the French word for the golden grasshopper.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Duck & Waffle
Restaurants

Duck & Waffle

There’s a dedicated entrance for the restaurants in Heron Tower, from where a glass lift will whizz you in seconds up to Duck & Waffle on the 40th floor, or its glitzier sibling Sushisamba two floors below. The views are, as you might expect, stunning – if you’re pointed in the right direction and, preferably, sitting at a window table (many of which are for two diners only). 

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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1 Lombard Street
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1 Lombard Street

City slickers should feel right at home in this neo-classical former bank opposite the Royal Exchange.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
Read more
City Social
Restaurants Book online

City Social

‘Visitor bag search’, the sign read. Next to it was a walk-through metal detector and a burly security guard. He had a glint in his eye, the kind that says, ‘I’ve got a box of latex gloves here, and if I find so much as a nail file in your purse, I won’t be afraid to use them.’ So we approached the receptionist instead. ‘Is this the way to City Social?’ ‘No,’ she sighed, ‘this is the main entrance, you’ll need the side door, opposite Wagamama.’ Happily, there’s only a single gatekeeper at the alternative entrypoint, so once you negotiate a long, oppressive tunnel and an express lift so fast it’ll make your ears pop – boom – you’re in. 

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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The Don
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The Don

The Don is aimed squarely at moneyed, wine-savvy City diners. Located in a cobbled courtyard in a building owned by the Sandeman port house, the restaurant has a gentlemen’s club feel.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
Users say
  • 1 out of 5 stars
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