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city barge, london's best riverside pubs and bars

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 back and taking bookings

By Laura Richards
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Summer may be over, but the sun hasn't abandoned us just yet. And while London's best rooftop bars or best beer gardens are absolutely heaving in the age of social distancing, you may want to consider getting down to the river. That way, your inner-city supping comes with a countryside feel.

In our guide to the best riverside bars and pubs we provide top-notch Thames-side drinking spots, as well as some first rate canalside pubs and bars fit for a pleasant 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.

All the pubs below are back open again – but be mindful that most of them require you to pre-book your riverside spot. But if it’s organised alfresco drinking you’re after, you’ve come to the right place.   

The best riverside boozers in London

Boaters Inn, Kingston

Restaurants Gastropubs 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 for a loaded pub roast by the water. 

River Thames

White Swan, Twickenham

Bars and pubs Gastropubs 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. The offerings from the kitchen are a bit more adventurous these days – but you’ll still find scampi and chips, crowd-pleasers for locals and the occasional interloping tourists like it.

River Thames

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Steins00023_2.jpg
Steins00023_2.jpg
© Michelle Grant

Stein's, Richmond

Bars and pubs Gastropubs 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. Just the setting for socially distanced drinking.

River Thames

WhiteCross_Richmond.jpg
WhiteCross_Richmond.jpg
© Simon Leigh

White Cross, Richmond

Bars and pubs 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 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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City Barge, Chiswick

Bars and pubs Gastropubs 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

White Hart, Barnes

Bars and pubs 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 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 on the river-view first-floor veranda.

River Thames

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Old Ship, Hammersmith

Bars and pubs Pubs 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. Book a spot on outdoor seating, upstairs or down.

River Thames

The Dove - Ext_0034v2.jpg
The Dove - Ext_0034v2.jpg
Photograph: Dove

Dove, Hammersmith

Bars and pubs Pubs 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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Blue Anchor, Hammersmith

Bars and pubs 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 under the Hippo Inns umbrella, meaning the food and drink offering is handsome – wash down harissa-marinated chicken 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

Venue says Children eat half price, Monday to Friday, 4-6pm. Children must be 12 years or under & there must be a dining adult. Join the fun, book now!

Crabtree, Hammersmith

Bars and pubs Gastropubs 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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Duke's Head, Putney

Bars and pubs 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, book an outdoor table to cheer on the crews. No training on? Pull up a pew in the dinky patio area, and drink in the views.

River Thames

The Ship, Wandsworth

Restaurants British 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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The Lighterman, King's Cross

Bars and pubs Gastropubs 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

The Narrowboat, Islington

Bars and pubs Pubs 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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The Mayflower
The Mayflower
Photograph: The Mayflower

Mayflower, Rotherhithe

Bars and pubs Pubs 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

Prospect of Whitby, Wapping

Bars and pubs Pubs 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.

River Thames

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princess of wales, clapton - london's best riverside pubs
princess of wales, clapton - london's best riverside pubs
princess of wales

The Princess Of Wales, Clapton

Bars and pubs Gastropubs Clapton

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

Narrow, Limehouse

Bars and pubs Gastropubs 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

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Palm tree Pub.jpg
Palm tree Pub.jpg
© Nick Ballon

Palm Tree, Mile End

Bars and pubs Pubs 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 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 an East End knees-up you won’t believe.

Regent’s Canal

Grapes
Grapes
SouthEastern Star/Flickr

Grapes, Docklands

Bars and pubs 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

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Number 90

Restaurants Eclectic 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 – plus a rare thing right now, a licence until 4am.

River Lea

Crate Brewery
Crate Brewery
© Olivia Rutherford

Crate Brewery, Hackney Wick

Bars and pubs Breweries 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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TrafalgarTavern20090402-200.jpg
TrafalgarTavern20090402-200.jpg
© Kate Beatty

Trafalgar Tavern, Greenwich

Bars and pubs 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, and they still serve whitebait among other traditional dishes.

River Thames

Cutty Sark Tavern, Greenwich

Bars and pubs Pubs 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

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The Gun, Canary Wharf

Bars and pubs Gastropubs 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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