Searching for the best bars and pubs in London? You’re in the right place. The capital’s drinking scene is one of the best in the world, with boundary-breaking cocktail bars taking mixed drinks to the next level, while traditional pubs bring you back down to earth in the best possible way.
Should you be looking for the perfect pint or a cocktail beyond comprehension, we’ve rounded up our favourite bars and pubs across the capital on Time Out’s list of the 100 best bars and pubs in London. Plus, we've sliced and diced them by area below so you can cut out the faff and concentrate on getting a round in. Bottoms up!
The best bars and pubs in central London
What’s the vibe? Tongue-in-cheek tipples in a hip Tokyo-style setting, the bar below Jason Atherton’s Sosharu is achingly cool and covered in city signage. Asian ingredients pep up a short and inventive cocktail list, or imitate the whisky-drinking slickers.
When to visit: Forget pre-dinner drinks: order snacks down from the restaurant.
What to drink: The Champagne Papi, a sparkling drink with the final ingredient dispensed from the bar’s vending machine.
What’s the vibe? In an area full of touristy pubs, this stripped-down drinking den is a hideaway worth knowing about. The Polpo team run things here, so expect a wealth of Italian liqueur behind the bar.
When to visit: When you fancy something a little classier than a sauv blanc and soda at a nearby Sam Smith’s.
What to drink: The spritz (Aperol or Campari) between the hours of 4pm and 6pm, when they’re only £5 each.
What’s the vibe? Art deco opulence hidden away in the heart of theatreland. Descend the building’s grand staircase to find this dark and moody bar with twinkly gold and bold embellishments.
When to visit: Great for a pre-theatre pick-me-up, even better for a late nightcap.
What to drink: Stick with the classics – they won’t disappoint. The martinez is one of the best we’ve had in the city.
What’s the vibe? It’s the dolce vita at Bar Termini, with Continental-style service and Italian aperitifs (and espressos). Lively and always busy, but quiet because of its size, the minute setting offers the rare luxury of peace and quiet in central London.
When to visit: Early evenings are perfect for a cocktail before dinner in Soho.
What to drink: Marsala martini (gin, sweet marsala, dry vermouth and almond bitters) .
What’s the vibe? A little taste of laidback Spain in the non-stop West End, this bright, modern bar serves drinks and tapas straight out of Andalusia. If canary-yellow walls don’t transport you, a drop of the old Jerez sure will.
When to visit: When the Med is calling.
What to drink: A glass of fino, to prove that sherry isn’t just for your nan.
What’s the vibe? There’s eye-opening dusky glamour any time of the day at this hideaway of supreme style. The setting is as rich as you’ll find in London, with walls embossed in gold for the mega-dollar effect.
When to visit: To remind yourself that such places exist in your city. Make the most of them.
What to drink: A champagne cocktail. What more of an excuse do you need?
What’s the vibe? Yes, it’s another take on the Prohibition theme, but it’s classy as hell and Jason Atherton’s at the helm. Rich, dark oak furnishings and white marble features (and even a mirrored ceiling) juxtapose playful, decorative drinks. Think ‘Bugsy Malone’ for grown-ups and you’re about there.
When to visit: After an indulgent dinner in Atherton’s Social Eating House below.
What to drink: The bar’s take on Butter Beer from a menu inspired by childhood stories.
What’s the vibe? A cosy and unassuming little boozer bringing a touch of flamenco to Fitzrovia. Don’t let the name mislead you – tattered furniture and jukebox tunes make Bradley’s as ‘pub’ as it gets. Londoners love the low-key vibe.
When to visit: When another rainy day reminds you that you’re definitely not in Spain.
What to drink: A glass of Spanish wine – it offers the most Bamboléo for your buck.
What’s the vibe? This long-standing Soho spot is old-school and unpretentious, with a wistful pride in its heritage as a writers’ drinking den. Throwbacks include the threadbare carpet and jars of pickled eggs, which are flogged at the bar.
When to visit: On a Wednesday or Saturday night for the bi-weekly piano singalong, which sees cockney classics and pop hits alike belted out with boozy abandon.
What to drink: The standard Fuller’s ales are nothing special, so go for the guests: Redemption’s punchy Hopspur makes regular appearances.
What’s the vibe? As classy as they come, the Connaught Bar is a must-try for any Londoner. Sip mega-dollar drinks in a mega-dollar Mayfair setting, among a clientele of flashy hotel guests. Hey, you’re worth it.
When to visit: That very special occasion.
What to drink: Order a martini and they’ll roll a trolley to you table. You may need rolling out after, too.
The best bars and pubs in north London
What’s the vibe? Not quite as saucy as the name suggests; a tiny space where people come in search of serene, simple cocktails. You’ll be well taken care of at this intimate Islington hideaway that continues to innovate.
When to visit: When you’re in need of something simple and stunning – these are drinks that don’t need to show off about how good they are.
What to drink: The Prairie Oyster is a London icon.
What’s the vibe? A comfortable pub with an excellent beer list from the esteemed Craft Beer Co – this is definitely their most cosy outpost. Dozens of taps means dozens of excuses to settle into this beer-heavy hideaway.
When to visit: When you’re feeling decisive.
What to drink: Ask a bartender for something new, gasp at their incredible beer knowledge, sip, enjoy, repeat.
What’s the vibe? Nowadays, almost every new pub tries to sell itself on a ‘craft beer’ offer, but not all manage it on this scale. That’s why this backstreet pub packs them in; the Earl of Essex is a lovely local, beer-focused but welcoming to all and with a cracking garden out back.
When to visit: For a beery but refined evening – everything on tap is great.
What to drink: Ask what’s on from Earl’s brewery.
What’s the vibe? Lively, undiscerning, fun-loving crowds flock to the Fullback for fun times in north London’s best beer garden. All major sports are screened to lively crowds, but this is a rugby fan’s pub above all else.
When to visit: On a summer evening that you want to extend as far as possible.
What to drink: Guinness. None of it's fancy, so you might as well embrace the classics.
What’s the vibe? Unassuming backstreet boozer with a character all of its own – and a pub dog of its very own, too. The Hemingford is covered in plant life on the outside and decked in all kinds of props indoors, so there’s plenty to soak up beyond patter from locals.
When to visit: On a sunny weekend afternoon, or for their Thursday-night quiz.
What to drink: Pick a pint of ale with the help of the well-informed staff.
What’s the vibe? If you’re heading for a night on the cocktails you’re probably prepared to spend a penny. Well, this Kentish Town cocktail magnet has something for every taste, and is all set in a disused public loo.
When to visit: When you want to flush away the cares of the day.
What to drink: Rhubarb and Custard (gin, Bird’s custard, rhubarb syrup, lemon).
Venue says: “Join us for one of the best roasts you'll find in London – according to us and Time Out.”
What’s the vibe? Comforting boozer for the north-east London set, the Lady welcomes its visitors with a spread of craft beer, pub grub and boardgames. Pooches are more than welcome too, and will love curling up by the roaring fire.
When to visit: Get down early on a Sunday before the pub’s damn fine roast sells out.
What to drink: Ask! Staff happily guide you through the craft beers or the gin of the day.
What’s the vibe? With its impeccably pleasant staff and classy drinks, Original Sin kicks off the Stoke Newington cocktail revolution. The narrow room holds booths for groups to nestle into or a pool table for a tipsy match . Cocktails should always be this fun.
When to visit: Before climbing the stairs to Burger Bear for food.
What to drink: Red Hook (rye, maraschino and Punt e Mes).
What’s the vibe? You can feel the history in the weathered wood of the joyously unmodernised main bar. All of K-Town mingles here, so it’s a constantly lively scene. The Pineapple gets crazy as a coconut on first-rate comedy nights.
When to visit: When the locals come out to play, every night of the week .
What to drink: A pint of Camden Hells lager, the local brew.
What’s the vibe? A Stokey local that anyone would love to live beside. The residents of these quiet terraces have taken this independent to heart: it’s busy most nights. That’s thanks to a passionate team delivering real ales and exceptional pub grub in a beautiful Victorian building.
When to visit: Unless you live nearby, it requires a journey – but it’s always worthwhile.
What to drink: There’s often something from the local Five Points brewery on tap.
The best bars and pubs in east London
What’s the vibe? A refurbed pub that stays true to its East End roots, even if they’ve ditched the karaoke and embraced the filament lightbulbs. It’s just about off the beaten track, so find locals cosying up for traditional pub snacks and cask ales in a tastefully turned-out room.
When to visit: When you’re on Brick Lane and a curry won’t cut it. Head here for a pasty and a pint instead.
What to drink: Craft beer from the fridge or a glass of red to wash down tasty bar snacks.
What’s the vibe? You don’t have to be into American football to get a kick from a trip to this basement bar. It has a loose sports-bar theme but the focus is on fun and staff are so friendly you’ll feel like one of the team.
When to visit: After chowing down on tacos in the restaurant above.
What to drink: Cocktails. More specifically a wicked banana daiquiri or a Buckfast Negroni. No joke.
What’s the vibe? Minimal basement bar from the guys behind the former club night of the same name. BTW plays its hits-packed vinyl collection through a 1970s Tannoy Gold soundsystem, so you’ll find music buffs and cocktail fans mixing as well as gin and tonic (which, coincidentally, is on the highball menu).
When to visit: When warming up for a big night out in east London. The team here set the mood just right.
What to drink: Settle in with a Manhattan or really get in the party mood with the range of ‘snifters’ paired with oysters for just £4.
What’s the vibe? The Bell’s laid-back charm makes it Walthamstow’s busiest boozer. It’s large, attractive and always entertaining, so expect to see families flocking here for a daytime outing and friends partying here by night.
When to visit: Try an alternative Saturday night out in far-east London; the Bell has DJs and live music on the regs.
What to drink: Work your way through eight rotating ales on hand-pull cask.
What’s the vibe? Broodingly dark bar shining a light on whisky, Black Rock takes any fustiness out of the spirit. Sample from bottles in cabinets or from a whisky tree running the length of the room and filled with two ‘whisky river’ house blends.
When to visit: For serious, considered whisky drinking given a fun edge.
What to drink: Whisky, obvs. From the tree or bottle, or served in cocktails and high balls.
What’s the vibe? A classic Spitalfields pub with a lively local crowd, The Carpenter’s Arms was once under the rule of East End gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray. Now, it’s probably more famed for its cracking line-up of beers.
When to visit: When the full-on clamour of Brick Lane becomes tiresome.
What to drink: Timothy Taylor’s, one of Yorkshire’s finest ales.
What’s the vibe? Stepping into this backstreet Hackney boozer is like stepping into a countryside inn. The community saved The Chesham from re-development, so feel the local pride shine through.
When to visit: Do it country-style and settle in by the fire with the papers on a cold afternoon.
What to drink: Camra voted this their favourite new pub, so get stuck into the ales on rotation.
What’s the vibe? Great pizza, great beer, great outdoor space; Crate is the ultimate brewery bar and the centrepoint of Hackney Wick’s burgeoning social scene. It probably doesn’t hurt that it’s placed right by the canal, either.
When to visit: On a sunny evening, the lure of Crate is hard to resist.
What to drink: The irresistibly malty and light Crate Best is a treat any day of the week.
Venue says: “Visit us and taste our brand spanking new cocktail menu! The pages hold all sorts of adventure, excitement and boozy-delicious treats.”
What’s the vibe? Small, secretive and playful but always serious about the cocktails. Look beyond the pink umbrella in your drink for full-on flavour and watch the barmen at work for a masterclass in mixing.
When to visit: When you’re up for a chat with your local barman – they’re a friendly bunch at CTC.
What to drink: The menu changes regularly, but all cocktails have wacky decorations that won’t disappoint.
What’s the vibe? A speakeasy with soul near Spitalfields Market, finding Discount Suit Company is all part of the fun. Once you’re in, mind your head in this low and slow wood-decked drinking den.
When to visit: Come for a late-night tipple where you’ll find all walks of life imbibing at the bar or in various nooks.
What to drink: Tailored drinks, of course. The bar staff are so good at DSC we advocate going off-menu.
The best bars and pubs in south London
What’s the vibe? Granny chic of the vintage bowls club variety: think frilly-edged lampshades, patterned armchairs and all the old scoreboards. A friendly neighbourhood hangout, there’s also a grown-up dining room, and an upstairs function room hosting everything from film screenings to yoga.
When to visit: During the week, when it’s easier to snag one of those dinky tables.
What to drink: Twickenham’s Tusk IPA, or guest ales like Calif-Oregon Amber ale from the Belleville Brewer Co just around the corner.
What’s the vibe? Camberwell boozer with a look of distressed chic and an equally modern rotation of craft beer on tap. Forget about hibernation – at the weekends The Bear rises for brunch and stays up late with live trad Irish bands.
When to visit: Saturdays for the weekly music – make it an all-day thing with boardgames and pub grub.
What to drink: Beavertown, Magic Rock and Siren are regularly on keg.
What’s the vibe? Try before you buy. This Nunhead beer seller has a bar at the back for those keen to sample its London-leaning selection on cask or keg. Staff are so approachable that many who drop in for a takeaway bottle end up staying for several pints.
When to visit: Attend a meet-the-brewer session for a full lesson on the humble hop.
What to drink: Let the couple behind this top operation guide you – advice doesn’t come friendlier than it does here.
What’s the vibe? In the midst of Tooting Market sits this teensy bottle shop and bar where craft beer rules. It’s rustic for sure, with plywood tables and orange steel barstools, but boardgames and cheerful staff offer comfort.
When to visit: On warmer evenings when you don’t mind the chill of the semi-outdoors.
What to drink: Ask for something weird and see what happens.
What’s the vibe? One long, lively room packed with beer-loving locals on an otherwise unloved section of Brixton Road. Seating isn’t designed for a settled down session – you’re encouraged to explore the bar instead for knowledgeable advice on beers and ciders sourced from all around the UK.
When to visit: For a pre-gig party where the beer is always amazing.
What to drink: The staff are always looking for the next brilliant British brewery, so try something new.
What’s the vibe? One for the beer lovers, Draft House is inviting and undemanding: like being inside a beer fridge (without the chills). This particular branch packs in punters and large parties and even holds a cute beer garden out back.
When to visit: If most craft beer bars seem a bit intimidating, visit any of the Draft Houses.
What to drink: Beer, of course – which of the dizzying varieties on offer you go for is totally up to you.
What’s the vibe? This pub perched on Lordship Lane may look bold on the outside, but indoors it’s chilled out and family-friendly, with just the right amount of buzz. Perfect Sunday roast territory, then.
When to visit: Whenever local non-league side Dulwich Hamlet are playing – clusters of pink-and-blue scarved punters add lively (and crucially, not rowdy) atmosphere.
What to drink: It’s mostly mass-produced suds on the keg lines, so look to the hand-pulled casks for options from local breweries like Brixton and Peckham’s Brick Brewery.
What’s the vibe? An apothecary shop filled with boozy remedies, First Aid Box is a café by day and experimental cocktail joint come night, with white tiled walls and pseudo-pharmacological gear on the bar. We’re hooked.
When to visit: For a fun night out with pals.
What to drink: If you fancy some cocktail theatre go for the bramble, served with a syringe of Chambord on the side.
What’s the vibe? There’s not much to the decor, since Four Quarters says it all with retro arcade games available to play at 25p a pop. Swap pals for Pac-Man with a drink in hand – this is London’s nostalgia craze at its best.
When to visit: When a Scrabble session or a night of karaoke won’t cut it in the entertainment stakes, sign up for one of the regular Mario Kart tournaments.
What to drink: Cocktails and craft beers. But remember to focus your energy on beating your Street Fighter score.
What’s the vibe? Microbrewery with an astonishing gin selection and awesome in-house games rooms. Pile into the covered beer garden or take a seat for comedy events – you won’t have a quiet night here.
When to visit: Midweek – when you can play on the retro games without too much queuing.
What to drink: Any of their in-house beers, or ask the staff to make you one of their unbelievable gin and tonics.
The best bars and pubs in west London
What’s the vibe? This boisterous west London outpost for the Aberdeenshire-based brewery remains one of the only places for miles around where you can sup on dozens of carefully crafted beers. And like the other Brewdogs, it’s a beauty of tall tables, bare brick and bright blue logos. Woof!
When to visit: For a pre-Shepherd’s Bush Empire sharpener.
What to drink: A head-mashing half from Brewdog’s Scandi brethren Mikkeller.
What’s the vibe? Camra-championed local boozer serving down-to-earth pints in well-heeled Putney. This is what people call a ‘proper pub’ with a beer garden, bar skittles and a roaring fire.
When to visit: A winter’s eve – bagsy a seat by that fire.
What to drink: Ale, ale and more ale.
What’s the vibe? A gathering of beer lovers celebrating all that’s brilliant about the brown stuff. The cellar and fridges are filled with an almost absurdly generous range of the finest brews from London, Britain and beyond.
When to visit: For a night of halves – it’s the only way to make the most of the menu.
What to drink: There are often exclusives pouring – ask what’s hot right now.
What’s the vibe? A relaxed and refined riparian inn littered with picnic benches out front and great for the summer months. The Barge is just as beautiful and bright indoors and offers a roster of rugby fixtures on screen, but you didn’t come here for that, did you?
When to visit: At the end of a riverside stroll.
What to drink: Your favourite waterside drink – it will taste even better here.
What’s the vibe? A classic duck-your-head heritage pub experience, The Dove also boasts a cracking riverside location. Plus, if you like a bit of history with your pint, famous past drinkers include Charles II, and ‘Rule Britannia’ was supposedly penned here.
When to visit: When watching the boat race – just arrive very early.
What to drink: Fuller’s beers are made just up the road – it would be rude not to.
What’s the vibe? A delightful and historic old coaching inn with a modern brewery on site, The G&D is pouring beers made on the premises, possibly for the first time in centuries. It’s well worth the journey if you’re not from these parts – the Central line is your time machine to the Victorian era.
When to visit: When in Acton. What else are you going to do?
What to drink: It has to be a Dragonfly beer, made metres away from where you’re sitting.
What’s the vibe? An attractively spruced-up pub with a gastro lean that hasn’t neglected to cater for those still in search of a pleasing pint. The dining space sparkles, but prop yourself at the bar for a riotous post-work pint in Chelsea.
When to visit: When you fancy following your ale with a full-flavoured roast in the upstairs dining room. The team behind Brompton Food Market do great stuff.
What to drink: Try ales on tap or browse the extensive wine menu.
What’s the vibe? Sharp-looking hotel joint within the Town House Kensington, complete with a marble-topped bar, velvet-covered chairs and oak-panelled walls. It’s a surprisingly buzzy spot for an aperitivo or a nightcap.
When to visit: Don’t just stop by – you can easily make a night of it here.
What to drink: The cocktail classics are done well. Class in a glass.
What’s the vibe? Cool customers crowding in for cocktails and conversation at one of west London’s true star bars. It even has its own ‘ginstitute’ up the road if you really want to get to grips with what this place does best.
When to visit: To get a deeper connection to the spirit that almost caused London’s ruin.
What to drink: Anything made with Portobello, the house gin .
What’s the vibe? A rare and endlessly fascinating old Victorian pub tucked away among the imposing mansions and canals around Warwick Avenue. The Prince Alfred has just undergone a bit of a spruce-up but it still retains its gorgeous carved woodwork and period snob screens.
When to visit: To remind yourself that all pubs were like this, once.
What to drink: Of all the Young’s beers, the Double Chocolate Stout is probably the most interesting.
How many have you drunk in?
Our critics have been hard at work (if you can call it 'work') finding the greatest bars and pubs that London has to offer. From classy cocktail bars and craft beer havens, cosy pubs with open fires, and gorgeous beer gardens for the summer. There's truly somewhere for everyone, so the only question that remains is: how many have you enjoyed a drink at?
Find more great drinking spots
This Camden spot follows on from the original London BYOC, over in Covent Garden. The acronym stands for 'bring your own cocktail', which means that for a set entrance fee (£25) guests can bring their own bottle of booze for the BYOC bartenders to use as a base for some creative concoctions. They've got a fair few tools in their kitbag, too. They'll jazz up your chosen spirit with handmade syrups, bitters, mixers, herbs, cordials, juices, salts, fruits and whatnot, tailored to the kinds of tipple to which you're partial. Visits are limited to two hours, and must be booked in advance.
Venue says: “A beautiful, dimly lit basement bar created in the style of a 1920s casino – the perfect place to enjoy a night with friends old and new.”