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
city barge, london's best riverside pubs and bars
By Laura Richards and Time Out editors |
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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.  

Restaurants, Gastropubs

Boaters Inn, Kingston

icon-location-pin Kingston Upon Thames

Owned by the Metropolitan 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. Less trad is the Boaters’ answer to bottomless brunch.

West London

Bars and pubs

Blue Anchor, Hammersmith

icon-location-pin Hammersmith

There's a fair bit of history to this riverside pub and kitchen in Hammersmith – it was first licensed back in 1772. Today it's a family-run venue, with its expansive views of the river and Hammersmith Bridge making it a west London draw, especially when sunny days hit.

West London

Venue says Join us here at The Blue Anchor on Nov 29 for an ale-some festive offer. A keg of ale on the house to get everyone in the Christmas spirit!

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Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

City Barge, Kew

icon-location-pin Gunnersbury

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. 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.

West London

Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

Crabtree, Hammersmith

icon-location-pin Fulham

Situated on a fine stretch of the riverbank between Hammersmith and Putney bridges, this vast Victorian venue is within shouting distance of Craven Cottage. On a sunny day, find locals in their droves enjoying some of the nicest waterside drinking in the city. The seats under the weeping willow deserve particular mention. A gigantic beer garden, bedecked in wood and stylish shrubbery, flows down to the riverfront.

West London

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Bars and pubs, Breweries

Crate Brewery, Hackney Wick

icon-location-pin Hackney Wick

This is one of the few success stories of the great Hackney Wick Olympic 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.

Canalside

Bars and pubs, Pubs

Cutty Sark Tavern, Greenwich

icon-location-pin Greenwich

Three floors of bow-fronted Georgian magic, with the top-level room in particular giving fantastic river views both upstream and downstream. Secure a window seat, or a table on the cobbled street outside, and tuck in to some better-than-average grub and a decent, if unadventurous, selection of ales and wine.

East London

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Bars and pubs, Pubs

Dove, Hammersmith

icon-location-pin Ravenscourt Park

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.

West London

Bars and pubs

Duke's Head, Putney

icon-location-pin 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.

West London

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Bars and pubs

Grapes, Docklands

icon-location-pin Limehouse

The downstairs room of this riverside pub – which is owned by Sir Ian McKellen and which dates from 1720 – is all wood panels and nautical jetsam (and is mercifully devoid of mobile ringtones and music); a tight stairway leads up to a more plain restaurant room that accommodates the Sunday roast overspill. Watch out for your shoes if you step out of the main bar room on to the tiny deck at high tide.

East London

Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

The Gun, Canary Wharf

icon-location-pin 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.

East London

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Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

The Lighterman, King's Cross

icon-location-pin King's Cross

With its first-floor wraparound terrace taking in the waterways, and a canalside alfresco area, this gastropub is convincing competition for the more established terraces on Granary Square. All its alfresco spaces are first come, first served, so prepare for a bun fight on hot days. There are no parasols or heaters, but while the weather holds, you can enjoy menu highlights including wood-grilled meats, superfood salads, and flatbreads topped with thoughtful, seasonal combinations, teamed with fresh juices, wines by the glass, or on-trend cocktails.

Canalside

Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars

Lockside Lounge, Camden

icon-location-pin Camden Town

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.

Canalside

Venue says The next in our series of Big Summer Weekends kicks off this Friday and features one of our all time favourites, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum!

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Bars and pubs, Beer hall

Mason & Company

icon-location-pin Hackney Wick

The interior of Mason & Company is slick and inviting and the craft beer line-up deserves close attention. But in the summer it’s also about the grassy canal-side bank outside where staff are more than happy to serve customers (and their dogs). Street food is served alongside all things hoppy, so you’re best off bagging a few deck chairs out here and making an afternoon of it.

Canalside

Bars and pubs, Pubs

Mayflower, Rotherhithe

icon-location-pin 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. This waterfront terrace makes up for any disappointment you may have from the 21st century prices for food and booze.

East London

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Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

Narrow, Limehouse

icon-location-pin Limehouse

Gordon Ramsay’s Limehouse gastropub makes the most of its Thames-edge location with a bright conservatory complete with retractable roof, serving pitch-perfect Modern European dishes from the restaurant menu, plus a handful of alfresco tables overlooking the wharves of Rotherhithe, serving poshed-up sharing platters, pies and sandwiches. Either way, you get to contemplate a summer sunset sparkling off the towers of Canary Wharf. And did we mention the barbecue on the terrace on special occasions? Good times.

East London

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Bars and pubs, Pubs

The Narrowboat, Islington

icon-location-pin Hoxton

A posh Islington pub on a prime stretch of the Regent’s Canal, visit The Narrowboat to convince yourself you’re not in London any more. It’s a Young’s pub with a focus on seasonal grub, fine wine and dog-friendly, daytime sessions. A few tables on a tight balcony that juts out above the water are the place to be come summer.

Canalside

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Restaurants, Eclectic

Number 90

icon-location-pin Hackney Wick

A Hackney Wick bar and kitchen, Number 90 boasts a great canalside location, on the banks of the Lee Navigation. Drinks by the water prove popular when the sun shines but food is a draw, too. Expect a menu ranging from chicken wings and mac and cheese balls to salads, burgers, a range of fries and indulgent desserts. Keep an eye out for DJ sets from credible acts, too.

Canalside

Bars and pubs, Pubs

Old Ship, Hammersmith

icon-location-pin Ravenscourt Park

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.

West London

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Bars and pubs, Pubs

Palm Tree, Mile End

icon-location-pin Mile End

It’s not your traditional riverside charmer, but the Palm Tree has a style of its own, a relic of a pub with an old-school, East End vibe. Get your pint poured into a plastic cup to take outside to this stretch of canal and while away the day. Then by night, retreat back indoors and be prepared to discover live music and a knees-up you won’t believe.

Canalside

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Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

The Princess Of Wales, Clapton

icon-location-pin Lea Bridge

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. 

East London

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Bars and pubs, Pubs

Prospect of Whitby, Wapping

icon-location-pin 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.

East London

Restaurants, British

Proud East, Haggerston

icon-location-pin De Beauvoir Town

The reincarnation of the Proud Archivist, Proud East’s proudest thing is its pretty little riverside terrace. But the bar, restaurant and café also spreads itself across a main floor, a mezanine and a basement should you tire of flower-filled settings (you monster). Entertainment comes in the form of comedy and live music, which is usually in the basement, as well as DJs, ping pong and pool tables. 

Canalside

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Restaurants, British

Rotunda Bar & Restaurant

icon-location-pin King's Cross

If you don't fancy roughing it in a riverside pub, go for pure class. Fancy bar Rotunda opens its outdoor terrace on Kings Place's pretty canalside for the summer with rum galore, as they've themed their space around the spirit du jour for summer 2018. Expect enough rum cocktails to make you feel like you’re living the pirates life. 

Canalside

Venue says Coming soon...Alpine Christmas. We've taken inspiration from the classic ski setting! Festive cocktails and menus for any style of event.

Restaurants, British

The Ship, Wandsworth

icon-location-pin 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. 

West London

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Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

Stein's, Richmond

icon-location-pin Richmond

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. There are plenty of picnic benches to fight over, and parasols create a Continental vibe in this plummy part of London.

West London

Bars and pubs

Town of Ramsgate, Wapping

icon-location-pin 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 is the service – usually warm and welcoming. For even more warmth, there’s a terrace overlooking the river.

East London

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Bars and pubs

Trafalgar Tavern, Greenwich

icon-location-pin 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. Draught beers include British ales and Belgian brews.

East London

Bars and pubs

The Waterfront, Wandsworth

icon-location-pin 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.

West London

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© Simon Leigh
Bars and pubs

White Cross, Richmond

icon-location-pin Richmond

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.

West London

Bars and pubs

White Hart, Barnes

icon-location-pin 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.

West London

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Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

White Swan, Twickenham

icon-location-pin Twickenham

Set on a particularly rural bend of the Thames, the White Swan is in a peach of a spot, and the views over the river are wonderfully bucolic. But if the weather rules against sitting outside, the interior’s far from ugly, wearing its 300-year history with ease. Unsurprisingly, the offerings from both bar (decent ales) and kitchen (pub grub) don’t divert much from tradition, but that’s just the way the locals and the occasional interloping tourists like it.

West London

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