The George Inn, London Bridge
A serious contender for most attractive pub in London, Grade I-listed The George Inn in Southwark is one of only two coaching inns left in Greater London (the very last of the galleried coaching inns) and is owned and leased by the National Trust. The pub was first established in the medieval period, rebuilt after it burned down in 1676, and was visited by Charles Dickens. Sitting in a large courtyard area off the busy high street, the exterior of The George is picture perfect — wonky, balustraded white galleries adorned with colourful hanging baskets cover one half of its façade — while on the inside, unbearably cute interlocking rooms are characterised by low ceilings, oak beams, open fires and creaking, uneven floorboards. Only a swift, two-minute walk away from London Bridge Station, this is an unbeatable spot for a quick, pre-journey drink.
The George Inn Yard, 75-77 Borough High Street, London SE1 1NH, UK, +44 20 7407 2056
Euston Tap, Euston
One half of a pair of old station lodge buildings that once flanked the original Euston Station, you couldn’t be closer to the trains unless you were, you know, in the station — FYI, the station also houses a rather incongruously-located All Bar One, where you can grab a cocktail if beer isn’t your thing. If it is your thing, however, you’re in for a treat. Euston Tap may be among the smallest of London’s pubs, but it houses a seriously impressive selection of beers, ales, stouts and bitters, the delight of beer pilgrims from across the city. The small, horse shoe-shaped bar boasts almost 30 taps, and is flanked either side by two fridges bearing bottles to be drunk in or taken home. The ground floor is mostly standing space, while the small lounge upstairs offers respite for weary travellers, and in summer crowds congregate in the tiny beer garden, spilling out into the path of oncoming commuters.
190 Euston Road, London NW1 2EF, UK, +44 20 3137 8837
Waterloo Tap, Waterloo
Located less than a minute from the steps of Waterloo’s main entrance, Waterloo Tap is the third bar in London from the owners of Euston Tap, bringing the same great selection of craft beer south of the river— in fact, the pub makes the lofty claim of offering ‘the freshest beers known to humanity’. The focus is on British breweries, particularly of North England, with a selection of 20 kegs and seven casks on offer at any one time (regularly rotated) along with a selection of bottles, allowing you to continue your session on the train. The bar is housed in a railway arch, but desists with a lot of the pretension this normally entails; simple, polished tables, leather booths and an attractive copper bar back keep things minimal, unfussy and classy.
Sutton Walk, London SE1 8RL, UK, +44 20 3455 7436
Dirty Dicks, Liverpool Street
Get your mind out of the gutter — this historic pub is named after Nathaniel Bentley, an 18th century merchant who once owned it alongside a hardware store and warehouse. Bentley earned his unflattering nickname after his fiancée died on their wedding day, with the presumably heartbroken chap refusing to wash himself from that day on — legend has it that Dick was the inspiration for Miss Havisham, with Charles Dickens having learned his story through visits to the pub. A long-standing tourist destination, Dirty Dicks arguably lost some of its charm after undergoing a major refurbishment lately, but it’s still a great place for a quick pre-train drink, located just across the road from the station.
202 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 4NR, UK,+44 20 7283 5888
‘Smiths’ of Smithfield, Farringdon
A mini-kingdom is housed inside this Grade II-listed building, with a café, bar, two restaurants and a craft market spread over four floors of New York-style cool — bare brick, large windows, concrete industrial steel and exposed beams and pipework. The bar on the ground floor is a great space overlooking the railway tracks, serving a good selection of drinks and bar snacks from its long bar. The first floor craft market, however, is where the real action is, with a dedicated craft beer bar serving over 70 options from mainly London Breweries. Smiths of Smithfield is housed, unsurprisingly, in the Smithfield Market, virtually joined to Farringdon station.
67-77 Charterhouse Street, London EC1M 6HJ, UK, +44 20 7215 7950
Gordon’s Wine Bar, Charing Cross
OK, so not strictly a pub, but frankly we don’t care and, trust us, you won’t either. Located between Charing Cross and Embankment stations, this hidden corker of a wine bar (sorry) is the kind of place that, once discovered, you’ll kick yourself for not having done it sooner. Established in 1890, Gordon’s is one of the city’s oldest wine bars, and doesn’t it just show it. Stepping down the steep wooden staircase into this cramped, beautiful, subterranean space is like stepping into a time capsule; the front bar area is crammed with rickety furniture, its untouched wooden walls plastered with antique pictures, knick knacks and old newspaper cuttings, while towards the back of the bar, the wood panelling gives way to low-ceilinged, rough stone arches, where tables sit bathed in candlelight. The only problem is that you’ll never want to leave.
47 Villiers Street, London WC2N 6NE, UK, +44 20 7930 1408
The Parcel Yard, King’s Cross
Sitting comfortably among the best of train station pubs, The Parcel Yard is an attractive, sympathetically-converted Fuller’s pub housed inside a disused parcel sorting office above the King’s Cross concourse. The renovated space has managed to maintain a lot of its original features, most notably the listed, three-storey glass atrium at its centre. The large venue is subdivided into loosely-themed rooms, filled with mismatched furniture that alludes to their original function — the Station Master’s Office and the First Class Lounge, for instance, which are decorated with vintage train signs and luggage racks. On the food and drink front, there’s a great selection of real ales, and some intriguingly unconventional gastropub dishes.
King’s Cross Station, London N1C 4AH, UK, +44 20 7713 7258