The UK is a place that’s teeming with history and alcohol. And London is the city with the most number of bars in the world! Does that not raise the question of the oldest pubs in London? For those of us who are history nerds, visiting a place is not only about sightseeing. It is about basking in culture of these cities, about standing where history made itself. So here are some of the oldest bars in London where you could sit and witness living history.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Fleet Street it
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street is one of the most renowned pubs in London, and records suggest that a bar has been at this location since 1538. It was rebuilt following the Great Fire of London in 1667, thus it is rather ancient. It was reported to be frequented by Mark Twain, Alfred Tennyson, and Charles Dickens.
The Dove, Hammersmith
The location has had a tavern since the 17th century, and it has attracted a number of writers throughout the years, including Ernest Hemingway and Dylan Thomas. You can choose a comfortable seat in one of the creaking rooms beneath the ancient ceiling beams of the building, or wrap yourself up and walk out to the riverfront terrace.
The Spaniards Inn, Hampstead
The Spaniards Inn, on the outskirts of Hampstead Heath, dates from 1585 and is a literary monument as well as one of the city’s oldest pubs. It is mentioned in Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and it is claimed to be the location where Keats composed Ode to a Nightingale. It was a popular hangout for highwaymen and a well-known location for covert meetings back then. Its offbeat locale also means that it is a little off the beaten path, giving it a more authentic feel as one of London’s most historic pubs.
Dirty Dicks, Liverpool Street
The bar has been around since 1745, when it was known as ‘The Old Jerusalem.’ Around the same period, Nathaniel Bentley, a merchant, maintained a hardware store on Leadenhall Street. On their wedding day, tragedy struck when his bride-to-be died. According to legend, he vowed never to wash his hands again after that. He festered, changing only when his clothing withered away. Some speculate that he was the inspiration for Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations.’
The Mayflower, Rotherhithe
The Mayflower is built on the site of the 1550 tavern The Shippe. Inside, the dark wood paneling and low ceiling beams provide a pleasant ambiance, and every Sunday evening, the bar is lit exclusively by candlelight. Here , you can salute the Pilgrim Fathers, who embarked on a transatlantic trip to discover the New World in 1620 on the Mayflower ship.
Lamb & Flag: Covent Garden
The Lamb & Flag, located in the heart of Covent Garden, is a backstreet boozer that has been in operation as a bar since 1772. Charles Dickens was a regular, and its West End location continues to draw creatives and performers. It was known as the ‘Bucket of Blood’ in the early nineteenth century because it featured bare-knuckle prize bouts, but things are much quieter now.
The Star Tavern, Belgravia
It is most known for its link to one of history’s most audacious heists, the Great Train Robbery of 1963. The mastermind, Bruce Reynolds, and the rest of the crew would gather upstairs to iron out the specifics. The Star Tavern already had a famous clientele that included Bing Crosby, Peter O’Toole, and Princess Margaret in the 1960s.
Which of these historical bars have you visited, and which ones made it to your travel-list? Share with us in the comments below!
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