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The best pubs in Soho, London

From historic hostelries to more modern inns, Soho is home to some of the best pubs in London

Leonie Cooper
Written by
Leonie Cooper
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If you're looking to grab a drink in central London, you've come to the right place. Soho boasts some of the best boozers in the city, but not all pubs here are alike. Avoid the tourist traps and instead use our insiders guide to getting the perfect pint – as well as some excellent people watching.

If you think we've missed somewhere, that might be because we've been pretty damn empahtic when it comes to respecting and honouring the traditional boundaries of Soho. Here you'll find boozers within the area marked by Oxford Street to the north, Charing Cross Road to the east, Regent Street to the west and Shaftesbury Avenue to the south. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less. See you at the bar. 

RECOMMENDED: Find more fun with our Soho guide

The best pubs in Soho

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This Soho institution may have mellowed somewhat since self-proclaimed ‘London’s rudest landlord’ Norman Balon finally hung up his polishing cloth in 2006, but there’s still plenty to make it stand out from the crowd. Decor is stuck firmly in the past, with carpets worn threadbare by decades of post-work sessions. There's also a piano and regular singalongs. Bliss.

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A warm and rowdy boozer that attracts old timers from nearby Berwick Street Market as well as impressively attired art school types and a lingering 1990s media crowd. The Blue Posts is the plantonic ideal of a Soho pub. A well stocked – and loud – jukebox powers drinkers through the evenings, but it's also great for a quiet afternoon pint with a book. Just make sure you get the correct Blue Posts; there are a handful of similarly named pubs nearby, none of which are a patch on this place.

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  • 5 out of 5 stars
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An evergreen haunt for Soho barflies, the French House should have ‘La Marseillaise’ playing as you walk in. Lager is sold in halves; eau de vie comes in fruity varieties; and there’s Breton cider and Ricard behind the bar. Even though the pub was known as the York Minister for decades, this is no recent Gallic gimmick: this was where Charles de Gaulle ran his London base in the Vichy era. Somewhat more recent regulars (Suggs from Madness and Francis Bacon) also receive wall space.

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Soho’s drinkers wax lyrical about The Lyric. They pack into the small bar or a cordoned-off section of the pavement to the side of the old Victorian pub, now an 18-tap altar to craft beer. Your standard pints of Camden Hells and Brooklyn Lager are met by brews from the likes of Magic Rock and Big Smoke. Regulars are rewarded with a free pint when they get their loyalty card stamped enough times.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Deeply charming, this etched glass and majestic tile-boasting Soho landmark is known chiefly for its literary heritage – George Orwell is the pub’s most famed former punter. It also has an ever-changing ale selection as another of the area’s Nicholson’s pubs.

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It's not a coffee house, it's a pub – but if they called it 'The Old Pub', it would just sound daft. But what the Old Coffee House lacks in coffee it makes up for in Assorted Pub Crafts; 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, even if a more cynical eye might put the 'proper' in quotes.

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A magical Sam Smith's pub, to be found tucked away from the main drag of Carnaby Street. Try and secure the tiny front room, which fits a handful of people and offers extreme cosiness in return. The rest of the oak-pannelled boozer isn't too shabby either, with its classic pub comforts and Sam Smith's ever-reliable menu of pints. 

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  • Soho

The Toucan is known for its prime location right off Soho Square and customers who are fond of sipping a pavement pint on sunny afternoons. The intimate two-floor pub could also easily be mistaken for a Guinness museum; publicity posters for the black stuff cover the walls, overlooked by a trio of toucans. You might also recognise the place from its starring role in director Edgar Wright's 2021 film, Last Night in Soho. 

 

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A famous Soho gay bar on Old Compton Street, operating continuously since the early 19th century. Today it remains a friendly Soho stalwart not afraid of getting a little raucous on occasion. Expect a mixed crowd drinking continental beers, pints of Guinness and wines from a short list. Entertainment comes from a jukebox filled with hits from the 80s and 90s, as well as cabaret and drag acts at the weekends. There's a dancefloor too, should the temptation take you.

 

  • 3 out of 5 stars
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This ornate Victorian pub was built in the dying days of the 19th century. Now it’s Grade II-listed and run by Nicholson’s as a monument to mahogany and etched glass right by Oxford Street. Within, the unhurried sipping of quality ales might recall a quiet rural pub but for the turnover of tourists, all happy to have found a real London pub with an array of suitably eccentric little spaces to sit.

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With a proud rock'n'roll past, The Ship is rumoured to be where Keith Moon from The Who was once barred for letting off a smoke bomb. It's also supposed to be where The Clash's manager told them he wanted to have 'complete control', and inspired the song of the same name. Jimi Hendrix was allegedly a regular. All or none of this may be true, either way, it doesn't stop The Ship from being a fabulously down-to-earth drinking den. 

  • Bars and pubs
  • Soho

Pokey in the best possible way, the Shaston Arms is a small but mighty pub in the cute cobbled lanes by Carnaby Street. In the summer it's for an al fresco drink out front, but it's also an ideal winter warmer, selling Badger Beers from Dorset, which are only available in Hall & Woodhouse pubs. 

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