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Bradley's Spanish Bar, Fitzrovia | © Ewan Munro/Flickr
Bradley's Spanish Bar, Fitzrovia | © Ewan Munro/Flickr
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Where to Find the Best Dive Bars in London

Picture of Christina Dean
Updated: 14 October 2017
The dive bar may be an American concept, but London does have its fair share of places with loud (and sometimes questionable) music, sticky floors, decidedly unpolished décor and drinks of varying quality, potency and price. These bars may not be the most glamorous places in the capital, but they’re certainly up there with the most fun.

The Dolphin

Bar, Pub, Pub Grub, $$$
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Dolphin, Hackney
Dolphin, Hackney | © Ewan Munro/Flickr

Things don’t properly get going at The Dolphin until late, so it’s the place to go if you’re in Hackney and aren’t ready for your night to end. Like all dives, the effort has gone into the atmosphere and not the appearance, although the owners did have the good sense to build a karaoke machine into the wall and there is quite a spacious garden out the back too. The soundtrack is always on point though, with plenty of nineties music to keep you dancing, and the place also happens to have a great Twitter feed to keep you entertained until your next visit.
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Mon - Wed:
4:00 pm - 1:00 am
Thu:
4:00 pm - 12:00 am
Fri - Sun:
4:00 pm - 4:00 am

Meal service:

Late Night

Atmosphere:

Fast Casual, Casual

Dogstar

Bar, Pizzaria, Pub, Nightclub, Italian, $$$
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The Dogstar, Brixton
The Dogstar, Brixton | © Chris Whippet/WikiCommons

Dogstar has become a Brixton institution, welcoming locals for over 20 years, and though it’s developed slightly (they have a pizza kitchen now, but the furniture is still worn and mismatched), it’s still unpretentious. By dive bar standards, its three floors make the place enormous, which means you don’t feel packed in like sardines and you’re able to get drinks quickly. Dogstar started life as a DJ bar and music remains at the heart of what they do, so it’s also a great place to come and dance.
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Sun:
12:00 pm - 11:00 pm
Mon:
4:00 pm - 11:00 pm
Tue - Wed:
4:00 pm - 1:00 am
Wed - Thu:
4:00 pm - 1:00 am
Thu - Fri:
4:00 pm - 2:00 am
Fri - Sat:
4:00 pm - 4:00 am
Sat - Sun:
11:00 am - 4:00 am

Meal service:

Late Night

Atmosphere:

Casual

The Alibi

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Pub Grub
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While it isn’t as much of a hipster magnet as it was a few years back, The Alibi still has people queuing down Kingsland Road. Entry to the basement bar is free by the way. There’s also a proper sound system, so the music is loud and the house drinks – like the Wray & Ting (rum and grapefruit soda) or the Root 56 (Jagermeister, ginger beer, lemonade and lime) – are cheap. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Motto for the night 🍻 credits to @biancapavetto coz I'm a bad photographer #thealibi #londonlife

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Meal service:

Late Night

Atmosphere:

Fast Casual, Casual

Shacklewell Arms

Bar, Pub, Pub Grub, $$$
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Citizens005
Citizens005 | © Adam Shoesmith/Flickr

The Shacklewell Arms is half pub, half music venue, although both of these spaces amount to two separate rooms. The back is a popular place for up-and-coming bands to play as well as being home to club night,s so it quickly gets hot, sweaty and crowded. The front half, where the main bar is, is distinctly unpolished but works as place to drop in for a pint and some bar food during the day.
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Sun:
4:00 pm - 12:00 am
Mon:
5:00 pm - 12:00 am
Tue:
5:00 pm - 12:00 am
Wed:
5:00 pm - 12:00 am
Thu:
5:00 pm - 12:00 am
Fri - Sat:
4:00 pm - 3:00 am
Sat - Sun:
4:00 pm - 3:00 am

Meal service:

Late Night

Atmosphere:

Fast Casual, Casual

The Crobar

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Pub Grub
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The Crobar
The Crobar | © Garry Knight/Flickr

Because it’s a hangout for rockers, The Crobar is about as classic a dive bar as it’s possible to be – beer ‘n’ whiskey, rock ‘n’ roll are their watch words after all. Despite being small and grungy, there’s an impressive range of bourbon behind the bar, which you can enjoy to the max thanks to their five-hour-long daily happy hour.
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Mon - Tue:
4:00 pm - 3:00 am
Tue - Wed:
4:00 pm - 3:00 am
Wed - Thu:
4:00 pm - 3:00 am
Thu - Fri:
4:00 pm - 3:00 am
Fri - Sat:
4:00 pm - 3:00 am
Sat - Sun:
4:00 pm - 3:00 am

Meal service:

Late Night

Atmosphere:

Fast Casual, Casual

Efes Snooker Bar

Bar, Nightclub, American, $$$
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Efes is as much a bar as it is a pool club, so if you’re no good on the tables, there’s still plenty to draw you in, like cheap drinks, arcade games and Plonk crazy golf. It’s even been known to let people bring up kebabs from over the road, so you don’t have to wait until you’re on way the home to stop for food. The venue itself is definitely on the basic side, but nothing is taken seriously here –meaning the atmosphere is hard to beat.

Playin' pool n drinkin' red bull

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Mon - Sun:
10:00 am - 4:00 am

Meal service:

Late Night

Atmosphere:

Fast Casual, Casual

Canavan’s Peckham Pool Club

Bar, Pub Grub, $$$
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Canavan’s is Peckham’s most popular pool club/dive bar. In fact, it’s become so popular that it has also evolved into a club space complete with sound system and dance floor. It welcomes DJs as much as it does pool sharks. It’s still rough around the edges though, with cheap cans and a 4 a.m. closing time on weekends.

Peckham 🎱

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Mon - Sun:
10:00 am - 4:00 am

Meal service:

Late Night

Atmosphere:

Fast Casual, Casual

Bradley's Spanish Bar

Bar, Spanish, $$$
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Bradley's Spanish Bar, Fitzrovia
Bradley's Spanish Bar, Fitzrovia | © Ewan Munro/Flickr

Bradley’s only becomes properly noticeable in the summer when drinkers line the pavement, otherwise it’s quite easy to miss the yellow and red fronted bar, even though it’s just a stone’s throw from Oxford Street. As well as being painted in the colours of the flag, the Spanish part of Bradley’s is evident behind the bar, with beers like Estrella, Mahou and Alhambra either on tap or in the fridge. It also boasts a proper vinyl jukebox, proving that sometimes old-school is best.
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Sun:
12:30 pm - 10:30 pm
Mon:
12:00 pm - 11:30 pm
Tue:
12:00 pm - 11:30 pm
Wed:
12:00 pm - 11:30 pm
Thu:
12:00 pm - 11:30 pm
Fri:
12:00 pm - 12:00 am
Sat:
12:00 pm - 12:00 am

Meal service:

All Day

Atmosphere:

Fast Casual, Casual