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City of London pubs

Find age-old inns, lively craft beer joints and proper boozers in our list of the best pubs in The City and around Liverpool Street Station

By Laura Richards

While The City may be best known as home to the Bank of England and the Stock Exchange, it also hides a host of enticing pubs down its narrow backstreets and passages (and just a skip from Liverpool Street Station). From hauntingly historic pubs like – the Blackfriar and Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – that have stood the test of time (and still know how to pour a great pint) to newer, craft beer focused hangouts that suit the suited-and-booted at clocking off time just as well as those passing through the area. Tuck into Time Out’s list of the best pubs in the City, and you can definitely bank on a good time.

RECOMMENDED: Find more fun in the neighbourhood in our City of London area guide

The best pubs in the City of London

The Blackfriar Pub
Andy Parsons


3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Blackfriars

Built in 1875 on the site of a medieval Dominican friary, the Blackfriar had its interior completely remodelled in the Arts and Crafts style. It’s a run-of-the-mill Nicholson’s pub, but its bright panes, intricate friezes and carved slogans (‘Industry is Ale’, ‘Haste is Slow’) still make a work of art out of the main saloon.

The Bull & The Hide

3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Liverpool Street

A surprisingly good-looking gastropub given its proximity to Liverpool Street station, The Bull & The Hide also doubles as a hotel. The pub part has a few London beers and classier versions of the classics – sausage rolls, scotch eggs, bacon rolls at breakfast. In contrast, the upstairs ‘gastro’ part, named The Hide, is an elegant and fairly formal restaurant. 


Counting House

3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs City of London

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 not too far away from Liverpool Street Station. While it's essentially a Fuller's pub, the place is clearly geared up to serve a moneyed clientele – there are such strange offerings as an 'ale and pie tasting board' for £18.45, and racks of vintage wines. 

Craft Beer Company

3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Craft beer pubs Holborn

The first in the Craft Beer Company chain opened its doors on the site of an old pub in Hatton Garden jewellery quarter back in 2011. Spread over two floors, it’s a diamond-looking drinker with ornate mirrors on the ceiling, stained glass windows, a long wooden bar and a sparkling central chandelier. But obviously, it’s all about the astonishing range of craft beer on tap and by the bottle. 


Draft House

3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Craft beer pubs Holborn

Can London have too many craft beer houses? The people behind the Draft House chain don’t seem to think so. And in this City location, they’re on the money – the pub is often busy and buzzy. It’s modern and industrial looking, with outside seating if that doesn’t do it for you. There are 13 beers on tap and countless bottled brands, plus knowledgeable staff who seem more than happy to help you out with a taster or two.

Edgar Wallace001.jpg
© Charlotte Rumsey

Edgar Wallace

3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Temple

Named after the crime-writing regular, the Edgar Wallace has coped well with the demise of nearby Fleet Street. Much of its daytime trade now comes from the Royal Courts of Justice, and the legal trade’s patronage helps to ensure standards remain high. The pub has upped its beer game, as evidenced by the 200-plus beer mats and pump clips, and there’s hearty fare on the food menu.

© Heike Bohnstengel

Fox & Anchor

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Pubs Smithfield

Pristine mosaic tiling and etched glass scream ‘sensitive refurbishment’ from the moment you arrive at this stalwart of Smithfield. Inside, the dark wood bar is lined with pewter tankards (don’t expect to be given one if you want to drink outside); to the back is the Fox’s Den, a series of intimate booths used for both drinking and dining. The bar food is outstanding, uncomplicated British cuisine and bar snacks.

Harrild & Sons

3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Cocktail bars St Paul’s

This new-ish pub is made to look old in a former printing-press manufacturer. Robert Harrild manufactured equipment for many of Fleet Street’s organs, but moved out a while ago. There are loads of craft beers and some big decorative mirrors, just as you’ll find in other pubs in the Barworks family. Downstairs is also another branch of the cocktail club called 5CC, and it’s a relative haven of sophistication and calmness. 


Jugged Hare

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Gastropubs Barbican

This handsome pub has a lovely oak floor, red leather seating and more than a scattering of stuffed and mounted animals. The bar is an idealised version of an old drinking haunt; pints of real ale (four on draught) are downed at tables fashioned from antique whisky barrels. Bar snacks are a cut-above while an a la carte menu is meat-heavy, with game often featuring on the list of specials.

Old Red Cow

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Gastropubs Smithfield

With its close proximity to the Barbican and the restaurants of Farringdon and Clerkenwell, it would be easy to treat The Old Red Cow as a quick pitstop before moving on to pastures new. But that would be a mistake: this is a place to be appreciated over a few boozy hours, not just a speedy half. There are two floors, each with its own bar serving a fine selection of beers – look out for The Old Red Cow pilsner, along with a good selection from the brewery of the month. 


The Oliver Conquest

Bars and pubs Aldgate

Into your gin? This pub is a surprising stop-off on the London gin trail. It has more than 300 trypes of Mother’s Ruin to sample. That should keep even the most hardened gin fan busy. They go toward making a range of gin and tonics as well as a fair number of cocktails, including negronis, brambles and martinis. Not satisfied? Keep an eye out for gin flights and tastings, too.

Pelt Trader

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Craft beer pubs Cannon Street

Tucked beneath a brick-lined railway arch with a vibrant neon sign giving away its presence, Pelt Trader is the kind of spartan drinking hole you'd expect to find in a south-east hipster hotspot. But it's actually in the heart of the City, directly beneath Cannon Street station – and it’s far more than a pre-train commuters’ tanking house. This craft beer goldmine is one of the best you'll find in the Square Mile, with 16 taps offering a selection of beers that changes every few days. 


Temple Brew House

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Gastropubs Temple

Temple isn’t the kind of area you’d expect to find a basement beer ’n’ ribs joint: this is wine bar territory if there ever was one. But in among the law courts, olde-worlde Pepysian pubs and fancy new plonk purveyors, a set of stairs leads down to craft beer nirvana. At Temple Brew House you can find a wicked selection of keg and bottled beers from all over the shop as well as a good selection of own-brewed beers on cask.

© Laurence Davis

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Pubs Fleet Street

Everyone should pay at least one visit to this venerable Fleet Street landmark and Sam Smith’s pub. It’s one of the oldest pubs in the city (rebuilt not long after the Great Fire of 1666, and still today occupying the same labyrinth of seemingly random rooms connected by higgledy-piggledy passageways). The tourists love it, naturally, for its manifest antiquity and its literary connections: Charles Dickens and PG Wodehouse are just two of those who frequented these dimly lit rooms. 


Hand & Shears

3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Smithfield

The history displayed on a plaque outside this cubby-hole of a pub dates back as far as 1132, when an alehouse stood on this site. In Tudor times, it was frequented by the tailors and drapers who gave the pub its current name. Oval-shaped, with an island bar of similar outline, and black-and-white images of old London complementing the atmosphere, the Hand & Shears continues to preserve the tradition it has spent centuries bolstering. An honest wooden bar serves trad ales and the food menu is of the sausage-and-mash-for-a-fiver variety.


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