London's Best Pubs and Wine Bars

Five can't-miss watering holes in this iconic city 

Photo courtesy Cahoots

There are pubs, bars and wine bars aplenty in London. Here are five of our favourites.

Cozy sup

Soak up some history and great brews at The Dove pub, tucked away down a cobblestone alley in the Hammersmith neighbourhood. Above the fireplace, check out the list of celebrities who have pulled a stool up to the dark-wood bar over the years—legend has it the 18th-century poet James Thomson penned the words to Rule, Britannia here—then settle into the small space to the right of the bar, which, according to Guinness World Records, is the smallest barroom in the world. If the skies are clear, head out to the riverside, two-tiered terrace and watch the world glide by.

Must try: A pint of Fuller’s Frontier craft lager with refreshing notes of citrus, passion fruit and melon and a biscuity finish.

Vintage feel

When Cahoots opened early last year, the wait list to get into this former air raid shelter turned 1940s-style underground bar was months long. Thankfully, the list is finally under control, so it’s now easier to visit this popular spot located just off the West End’s legendary Carnaby Street. Head down the escalator-inspired stairway, take a seat in the old tube carriage seating area and order a drink from the fake-newspaper cocktail menu. There are high-gloss railway tiles and vintage-advertising posters on the walls, and piles of leather-bound, trunk-style luggage stacked up at the bar.

Must try: The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Swing cocktail—a mix of VII Hills Gin, chinotto liqueur, rosemary syrup, and fresh sage and rosemary served up in an enamel tin cup.

Celeb spot

Just off Kensington High Street and backing onto the beautiful, leafy Edwardes Square, The Scarsdale Tavern is a traditional, quintessential neighbourhood pub and a favourite celebrity hangout. The pub has an exposed white brick interior and serves continental beers including Vedett and Sierra Nevada. The pretty terrace out front is the perfect spot to spend an afternoon reading the Sunday papers or a warm summer evening enjoying a jug of refreshing, fruity Pimm’s.

Must try: The Honey Dew organic lager.

Serious skills

A quirky bar in the city’s trendy Shoreditch neighbourhood, Callooh Callay is the place for serious cocktail connoisseurs to carouse away an evening. With three distinct spaces (you’ll need a code to get into the secret JubJub bar), the decor ranges from eclectic furniture (think claw-foot bathtubs converted into couches) and vintage cassette-tiled bathroom walls to a Narnia-style wardrobe that transports you into a cocktail lounge. But, it’s the ever-evolving drinks menu—created by the cream of London’s mixology crop—that really shines. This bar’s many accolades include Best Cocktail Menu in the World.

Must try: The New World Spritz made with rum, fresh watermelon juice, lime, lemon bitters and prosecco.

Historic hub

Take a stroll along the River Thames to Gordon's Wine Bar, a gem of a bar located in a 17th-century building just minutes from Embankment tube station. Thought to be London’s oldest wine bar, the subterranean setting of this family-run bar has an authentic Dickensian London feel. In the main bar, brush up on your Royal history by reading the royal-focused, decades-old newspaper clippings on the walls, or duck into the low, brick-arched cellar for a cozy glass of vino, sherry or port by candlelight with a plate of award-winning cheese and crusty French bread.

Must try: Viña Real Crianza—a full-bodied red with intense black cherry notes and a hint of vanilla.