City of London area guide

Find the best restaurants, bars, pubs and things to do in the Square Mile with our ultimate guide to the City

The City of London, usually just called the City or the Square Mile, is the centre of trade and finance in Europe, rivalling New York City as the finance capital of the world. The traders, bankers and other wage-earners in the area work hard, so it’s no surprise they like to play hard, too. Flashy bars outnumber quiet pubs in the City, and most bars and pubs are designed to impress. Likewise, the restaurants are grand and often expensive – great for hashing out the details of a deal or letting someone know how important you are. The City also roughly follows the boundaries of the ancient Roman capital of Britannia, Londinium, so there are plenty of museums to check out. And if you fancy slowing down the pace and soaking up some culture, the Barbican Centre is one of the capital’s most important cultural cornerstones.

Recommended: London by area

Things to do in the City of London

Barbican Centre
Cinemas

Barbican Centre

A prime example of brutalist architecture that's also home to one of London's leading arts centres and 2,000 flats. 

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4 out of 5 stars
Monument
Attractions

Monument

Constructed between 1671 and 1677, the Monument commemorates the Great Fire of 1666. 

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Museum of London
Museums

Museum of London

The history of the capital, from prehistoric times to the present, is told in the Museum of London. 

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
5 out of 5 stars
St Paul’s Cathedral
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St Paul’s Cathedral

One of London's most iconic landmarks, St Paul's has survived 12 monarchs and two world wars.

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5 out of 5 stars
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Bars in the City of London

Searcys 1847
Bars and pubs

Searcys 1847

Champagne and meatballs are the order of the day at Searcys St Paul's bar. Located on the first floor of One New Change, this Searcys has a sociable vibe with ’20s-styled raised seating surrounding the central bar, which is banked by plump leather benches. As well as the meatballs, you can get salads, cheese and charcuterie boards, smoked salmon with truffle oil and a few sweet treats. But the main focus here is on the Champers, something that Searcys specialise in; order it by the glass, the bottle or even by the magnum should the mood take you. Classic and signature cocktails come as an alternative to the bubbly, as well as a good selection of whisky, beers and ciders.

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
The Four Sisters Townhouse
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The Four Sisters Townhouse

Sisters doing it for themselves? Not really: this City cocktail bar was packed with beery blokes in suits when we arrived, crammed round delicate tables with big old pint glasses and plenty of boorish banter. It was a total surprise given the name, drinks and borderline chichi decor, but perhaps not the location – down an alley around the backstreets of St Paul’s, among the age-old taverns. Luckily, the bar staff immediately clocked us looking all ‘rabbit in the headlights’ and ushered us in, clearing a table in minutes. The warm welcome didn’t dissipate during our stay. Happily, the boozy bankers did, leaving a crowd of more discerning drinkers in their wake. The theme and look of The Four Sisters Townhouse feels a little borrowed for anyone who’s ever been to Zetter Townhouse Cocktail Lounge, with its quirky Georgian salon vibe. It doesn’t quite reach the chic heights of that Clerkenwell staple, but the clash of fusty faux bookshelves with floral wallpaper and plush banquettes has its charms, as do the antique lamps and framed paintings dotted around. Cocktails aren’t as sophisticated, either – there’s not a dry martini in sight – but they’re all fun originals using premium spirits on a weekly-changing menu. On our visit, a Vive La France! with cognac, orange curaçao, lime and ‘pineapple fizz’ was an effervescent and impressive choice, bright yellow and just as bold on the tongue. The small selection of classics is diverse and interesting too, shining a light on an Old Cu

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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The Drift
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The Drift

This City cocktail bar and restaurant on Bishopsgate comes from Drake & Morgan – a group with bars and restaurants across London. Weeknights see its cavernous innards kept busy by the Square Mile after-work crowd.  That means it's mostly about the drinks. Cocktails range from mojitos, bloody marys and martinis to sierra madres (mezcal with triple sec, peach, star anise and lime) and a papaya and chia daiquiri, featuring bitters made from chia seeds. Beers by the bottle include Battersea IPA, Fat Yak Pale Ale and Einstök White Ale, from Iceland. Wines are evenly spread between the old and new world. Bar food includes polenta crisps, sweet potato fries and burgers, but if you're staying for lunch or dinner then the offer extends to steaks, Thai chicken curry, linguine with clams, white wine and chilli, and a pea and lemon risotto with mascarpone. Keep an eye out for special offers too, including bottomless brunch. 

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Black Rock
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Black Rock

Ever drunk in Golden Gai in east Shinjuku, Tokyo? It's three dingy streets crammed with over 200 tiny bars, each with a novelty of their own. Black Rock, tucked away in the maze-like streets behind Liverpool Street station, has a whiff of that. Tristan Stephenson and Tom Aske, the guys behind nearby Worship Street Whistling Shop, have created a dimly lit underground whisky lounge big enough for 40 but small enough to have a drinks trolley bar.  On one side of the room, three cabinets filled with over 250 bottles offer six descriptions: smoke, fruit, spice etc. Each brand is placed by a ‘relative’ – find your ‘favourite’ and try its cousin. Dots give you the price – one, two or three dots; £7, £9 or £11 a slug. Two barmen pace the joint (well, there’s no bar to stand behind) and willingly chat whisky.  But we’re neglecting the ‘novelty’ – in the middle of the room stands half the trunk of a magnificent 185-year-old oak tree, glass-topped for punters to sit at, with two booze-filled rivers hewn in to the wood and slopping beneath the surface. On one side there’s ‘Cherry River’ – bourbon and morello with spices – and on the other ‘Table Whisky’, to which the establishment adds a different label each week, creating an ever-evolving house blend. Both are thoroughly drinkable and at £6 a 35ml shot, the cheapest option in a bar where whisky fans can blow a hole in their bank accounts.

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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Restaurants in the City of London

1 Lombard Street
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1 Lombard Street

Housed within the kind of handsome, neo-classical bank building that the City does better than anywhere, this long-standing brasserie is a grand, striking space, all cream walls and marble, with a huge domed skylight above the circular bar. Breakfasts are good for business, while the full menu promises pimped-up variations on the classics.  

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Angler
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Angler

Michelin-starred seafood cookery is the lure at this swanky City restaurant up on the seventh floor of the South Place Hotel. The food’s ultra-modern and impeccably crafted – a perfect fit for the dining room’s sophisticated vibe and gleaming monochrome interiors. Smooth-as-silk service is a bonus for the City’s expense-account crowd.   

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Bad Egg
Restaurants

Bad Egg

A City brunch spot with an American diner feel, Bad Egg comes courtesy of London’s bbq king Neil Rankin (Pitt Cue, Temper etc) – so expect smoky thrills and guilty pleasures galore, all driven by a rocking and rolling soundtrack. Don’t miss the pulled pork and kimchi hash or the ’nduja cheese fries. Manically popular.

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Beany Green
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Beany Green

One for the City’s early birds, this bright and breezy Antipodean café makes lots of friends from its pitch within Broadgate Circle. From huge savoury ‘power balls’ to sticky sweet ‘energy balls’, healthy fast food is the all-day deal. Shiny happy interiors, loud hip hop, tuned-in staff – you get the picture.

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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Pubs in the City of London

The Pepys Riverside Bar & Dining
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The Pepys Riverside Bar & Dining

Set in a historic riverside warehouse with views taking in The Shard, Globe Theatre and Tate Modern. 

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
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The George
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The George

A quintessentially British pub retaining its original architecture of oak-panelled walls and crafted Victorian ceiling. 

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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Pelt Trader
Bars and pubs

Pelt Trader

A spartan drinking hole and craft beer goldmine that's far more than a pre-train commuters’ tanking house.

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
1 out of 5 stars
Jugged Hare
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Jugged Hare

A classy gastropub that's an idealised version of an old drinking haunt with a hearty food menu on offer. 

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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The perfect weekend in the City of London

Eat: Malibu Kitchen at The Ned
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Eat: Malibu Kitchen at The Ned

Grab brunch at this California-inspired spot housed in a cavernous former banking hall that is now The Ned. 

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
3 out of 5 stars
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Drink: Sushisamba Bar
Bars and pubs

Drink: Sushisamba Bar

Venture 38 storeys above the City to enjoy this pretty impressive rooftop bar, which is open all year round. 

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Visit: The London Mithraeum
Attractions

Visit: The London Mithraeum

See the reconstructed remains of the Roman Temple of Mithras, which was discovered in the shell of a bombsite in 1954.

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Explore: Barbican Centre
Cinemas

Explore: Barbican Centre

Soak up some culture by exploring the art gallery, cinema, theatre, concert hall or library. 

Users say
4 out of 5 stars

Hotels in the City of London

The Ned

The Ned

This very cool-looking new five-star hotel comes from a collaboration between the Soho House Group and the Sydell Group (a US business behind The NoMad in New York). They've taken the Grade I-listed former Midland Bank building by Bank and turned it into what looks like a seriously swanky spot, with 252 bedrooms, nine restaurants, grooming centres and a members' area (open to guests, too) called Ned's Club, housing a rooftop pool, a gym, a spa, a hammam and a late night lounge bar. And if you're curious about the name? The building was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, known to his friends as 'Ned'.  VIDEO: Take a look inside The Ned hotel

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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Threadneedles

Threadneedles

Threadneedles boldly slots some contemporary style into a fusty old dame of a building in the heart of the City; it was formerly the grand Victorian HQ of the Midland Bank, bang next to the Bank of England and the Royal Exchange. The etched glass-domed rotunda of the lobby soars on columns over an artful array of designer furniture and shelving that looks like the dreamchild of some powerful graphics software – it’s a calm space, but a stunning one. The bedrooms are individual, coherent and soothing examples of City-boy chic, in muted beige and textured tones, with limestone bathrooms and odd views of local landmarks: St Paul’s, Tower 42 and the Lloyd’s building. Drinks are served under the stained-glass central dome, and the pillared restaurant (run by Marco Pierre White) is also an impressive space. It’s all smoothly run.

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Club Quarters Hotel, Gracechurch

Club Quarters Hotel, Gracechurch

This exclusive 4-star hotel is in the City, London's historic financial centre. It has free WiFi and air-conditioned rooms in 4 different sizes. Both Monument and Bank London underground stations are 400 metres away.Club Quarters, Gracechurch is next to Leadenhall Market, in one of the oldest parts of London. It is 500 metres from the River Thames and London Bridge. The City's banks, businesses and shops are a short walk away.Guests have free use of the Club Lounge, a social/business lounge area with computers, wireless printing, complimentary coffee/tea and newspapers, as well as a fitness centre, and free chilled, purified bottled water.Each stylish room has bedside charging points, multi-purpose work spaces with task lighting.Gaucho Argentinian Steakhouse serves breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week.

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Andaz Hotel

Andaz Hotel

A faded railway hotel until its £70m Conran overhaul in 2000, the red-brick Great Eastern became in 2007 the first of Hyatt’s new Andaz portfolio. The new approach means out with gimmicky menus, closet-sized minibars and even the lobby reception desk, and in with down-to-earth, well-informed service and eco-friendliness. The bedrooms still wear style-magazine uniform – Eames chairs, Frette linens – but free services (local calls, wireless internet, healthy minibar) are an appreciated touch. Restaurant options include British nosh at the 1901 restaurant in a magnificent former ballroom with a stained-glass dome or Japanese at Miyako. The cinema – set in the basement Masonic Temple, a feature of the original hotel – appropriately favours horror movies.

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
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