Every pub depends on its staff and they change so often in London that your experience can change from one night to the next. Still, some are worth visiting for the setting alone, from an Art Noveau gem to a Queen’s favourite. (Others are notable for their signs and their names.)

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The Dove

A lovely riverside setting, good beers and food, and its old-fashioned charm, make this a popular place. A favourite spot to watch the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, it also claims to have the smallest bar in England. Happily, there’s more than one bar.

9 Upper Mall W6
Tel: +44 (0)20 8748 9474
Tube: Ravenscroft Park

The Knights Templar

Part of the Weatherspoons chain, this quirky old pub is typical of the modern British drinking experience. Near the Templar Church, it’s said the basement has a secret passage once used by the infamous murderer, Sweeney Todd, the ‘Demon Barber of Fleet Street’.

95 Chancery Lane WC2
Tel: +44 (0)20 7831 2660
Tube: Holborn

The Black Friar

Built in 1875 near the site of a 13th-century Dominican Priory, the interior of The Black Friar is a work of Art Noveau extravanganza. The walls are covered in green red and cream marble, and there’s a church-like bar with good real ale on tap.

174 Queen Victoria Street EC4
Tel: +44 (0)20 7236 5474
Tube: Blackfriars

George Inn

One of the last of London’s coaching inns, serving the pilgrim route to Canterbury, the George is now owned by the National Trust. Thronged in summer, when its outside tables are packed with drinkers, it’s a maze of small rooms full of character.

77 Borough High Street SE1
Tel: +44 (0)20 7407 2056
Tube: London Bridge

Lamb & Flag

A Covent Garden institution, dating back to 1623, this is often crowded with drinkers spilling out to the street. Once called the Bucket of Blood, because of the bare-knuckle fights staged in its courtyard, it was frequented by Charles Dickens. Famed for its whiskies and English food.

33 Rose Street WC2
Tel: +44 (0)20 7497 9504
Tube: Covent Garden

Ye Olde Mitre Tavern

Hard to find, this is worth the effort. Dating back to 1546, Queen Elizabeth I is said to have danced round the cherry tree in the corner of the bar. There’s no TV, music or electronic games – just one of London’s best pubs and some of its best beers and famous toasted sandwiches.

1 Ely Court EC1
Tel: +44 (0)20 7405 4751
Tube: Chancery Lane