Avoid the crowds and enjoy a quiet pint or a crafty G&T in London’s best West End pubs. Whether you’re looking for a quick drink before a theatre show or a nightcap in the centre of town, you’ll find the ideal spot in this list of pubs in the West End – from old-school boozers to modern craft beer meccas.
Tiny, ramshackle Bradley’s is part of the London drinker’s rite of passage. Stumble down the staircase and stare at anyone with a seat in a bid to intimidate them into giving up a bit of room. Then get drunk on expensive Spanish lager and sing along to ’60s classics on the famous jukebox. An institution.
This central spectacular in the heart of Soho is one of a roster of Brewdog branches in every corner of town. It carries the faux-punk look sported at other bars, and there are no surprises in the craft beer selection, either – it’s typically great, a mix of the brewery’s range and special guest stars.
This is still branded Norman’s Coach & Horses after the legendary landlord, Norman Balon. But the old bugger’s gone now and it’s rapidly turning into – shudder – a young person’s pub. Regular sing-songs with a piano accompaniment provide welcome lo-fi entertainment. Real ales are usually well kept.
One of the Craft Beer Co chain with an astonishing amount of beer on offer – 30 keg lines, 15 cask pumps and actual hundreds of cans and bottles. Expect to find the bar quite busy as a result, with hop-heads browsing the selection and asking for advice from expert staff/
In Covent Garden you have to battle your way into pubs, although in the case of this Endell Street fixture it’ll be through the shrubbery. The Cross Keys is probably London’s most fascinating pub for bric-a-brac. As well as pop curios, there are miniature portraits of PMs, unattributed Victorian oil paintings, diving helmets, stuffed fish and a brass privy.
Small, brilliant Victorian drinking hole. Admire the wonderful green tile-work and the Victorian glass. This is an ale house, so drink whatever the beer of the week is – there are four on pump and they change regularly.
Charles de Gaulle used the pub as a workplace during World War II; Dylan Thomas and Francis Bacon both drank here… the list goes on. ‘The French’ is small, memento-filled, and very crowded when the place is busy. You may end up joining the regulars on the pavement outside.
A former Camra pub of the year, the Harp is the closest thing you’ll get to a local in Covent Garden. The dedication to cellar craft means the full-bellied ale-spotter is well represented among the crowd, but there are often a fair few tourists delighted to have found somewhere with real character among the neon steakhouses and chains.
This bar’s tiny size, combined with its cracking range of beer and office-friendly location, makes drinking here a bit of a scrum. But force your way to the bar and you’re greeted with a tantalising array of ales to make the squash worth it – the Whippet is draught-only, which is both bold and brilliant.
Everything about this pub says old. Walls are covered in Punch cartoons and the floorboards definitely creak. Peer out of the top-floor window, and you could be in gaslight London. In summer, expect to see punters lining the pavement directly outside the pub.
The Lyric is a longstanding favourite, not least because its location near a fantastically crowded part of London’s West End. The Victorian pub’s 18 taps pour out reliable pints including Camden Hells and Brooklyn Lager, as well as more unusual fare from the likes of Magic Rock.
A West End pub that’s kind of theatrical, Mr Fogg’s Tavern is inspired by the protagonist of Jules Verne’s adventure novel ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, and it’s overflowing with Phileas Fogg regalia. There’s an extensive drinks list, but real ales are the crowd-pleasers here.
It's not a coffee house, it's a pub. And a good-looking one, too: vintage ads on mirrors, copper kettles and amateur taxidermy pieces adorn every available wall space, and a fire crackles away in the corner. It has an unfussy proper-pubness to it, and pours craft beer on tap from Leyton microbrewery Brodie's.
Probably London’s best-looking pub, the Princess Louise (named after Queen Vic’s fourth daughter) was built in 1872, but its spectacular decor dates to 1891 and is now ‘a monument to the craftsmanship that was taken for granted in the 1890s’, as one pub guide puts it. Go here to experience what it meant to drink in one of London’s gin palaces.
Situated just a few steps away from Bond Street station, The Running Horse is a venerable pub that first opened its doors in 1738, and the wood panelling, attractive fireplace and lived-in furniture certainly give it the feel of a well-established boozer. Chase Distillery are co-owners, so find their tipples on the optics for posh drinking that suits this well-heeled ’hood.
Snap up exclusive discounts in London
Time Out's handpicked deals — hurry, they won't be around for long...