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London's best riverside pubs and bars

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

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Summer may be over, but the sun hasn't abandoned us just yet. While it might not be the weather for basking at London's best rooftop bars or lounging in the best beer gardens, you can still do your inner-city supping with an alfresco feel. Just grab 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 a pleasant autumnal day of drinking in the capital. The list below runs from west London to east London and takes in the Thames, the River Lea and the Regent’s Canal. 

The best riverside boozers in London

Restaurants, Gastropubs

Boaters Inn, Kingston

icon-location-pin Kingston

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. Or visit on a Sunday evening for a spot of live jazz by the water. 

River Thames

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.

River Thames

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© Michelle Grant
Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

Stein's, Richmond

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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.

River Thames

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© Simon Leigh
Bars and pubs

White Cross, Richmond

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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 nooks 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.

River Thames

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Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

City Barge, Kew

icon-location-pin Chiswick

Beside a muddy but peaceful stretch of the Thames, facing a little island straight out of fiction, 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.

River Thames

Bars and pubs

White Hart, Barnes

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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 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.

River Thames

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Bars and pubs, Pubs

Old Ship, Hammersmith

icon-location-pin 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 with 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 and restaurant.

River Thames

Bars and pubs, Pubs

Dove, Hammersmith

icon-location-pin 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.

River Thames

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Bars and pubs

Blue Anchor, Hammersmith

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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 under the Hippo Inns umbrella, meaning the food and drink offering if handsome – wash down wild boar pappardella with a Bordeaux Negroni. Its expansive views of the river and Hammersmith Bridge make it a west London draw, especially when sunny days hit.

River Thames

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.

River Thames

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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 takeaway 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.

River Thames

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. 

River Thames

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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. 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.

Regent's Canal

Bars and pubs, Pubs

The Narrowboat, Islington

icon-location-pin Islington

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.

Regent's Canal

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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.

River Thames

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.

River Thames

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Bars and pubs, Pubs

Prospect of Whitby, Wapping

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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.

River Thames

Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

The Princess Of Wales, Clapton

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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. 

River Lea

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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 bar snacks or filling portions of fish and chips and the like. 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.

River Thames

Palm tree Pub.jpg
© Nick Ballon
Bars and pubs, Pubs

Palm Tree, Mile End

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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 takeaway cup to carry 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.

Regent’s Canal

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Grapes
SouthEastern Star/Flickr
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.

River Thames

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 deep-fried halloumi to salads, burgers, a range of fries and indulgent desserts. Keep an eye out for DJ sets from credible acts, too.

River Lea

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©Olivia Rutherford
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 and microbrewery has high-vaulted ceilings accompanied by bare light bulbs, benches made from recycled coffee sacks and a bar pulled together using railway sleepers.

River Lea

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© Kate Beatty
Bars and pubs

Trafalgar Tavern, Greenwich

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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, and they still serve whitebait among other traditional dishes.

River Thames

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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.

River Thames

Bars and pubs, Gastropubs

The Gun, Canary Wharf

icon-location-pin Isle of Dogs

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 fish dishes and steak dinners.

River Thames

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