10 Literary Pubs To Visit In London

Updated: 21 February 2020

With a literary history spanning well over 1000 years, the list of world-famous novelists, poets, and playwrights who have called London home is endless. In Bloomsbury, you can’t walk more than a few steps without bumping into some marker of literary history or another. Regardless of which direction you choose to point your feet in, you’re never really more than a tube stop away from a literary London pub where a famous writer once enjoyed a few. All you need, to walk in the footsteps of Dickens, Woolf, and Wilde is a London literary pubs guides. These are the ten literary London pubs you can’t miss; the ones which will have you drinking in the same pubs that your favorite authors once called their locals, and imagining said writers scribbling away at the bar or chatting with the regulars. Who can say if their discussions were the height of sophistication or it was all nonsense; either way it’s best imagined in those very pubs, with a drink in your hand. 

Marquis of Granby

Westminster’s Marquis of Granby is one of my favorite literary pubs in London and it certainly has a colorful history that’s peppered with a wild anecdote or two and a list of proprietors which includes more than a few famous names. Named for the 18th century Marquis who will be remembered for rewarding his troops with money from his own pocket, the pub went on to be a favorite of T.S Eliot and Dylan Thomas. Virginia Woolf certainly had a lot to say about Eliot in her diary, but we prefer to focus on his poetry, whilst Thomas was said to come here with the sole purpose of picking fights with guardsmen! This is definitely a historic London pub that’s not to be missed.

2 Rathbone St, Fitzrovia, W1T 1NR.

Open Monday to Saturday from 11 am to 11 pm and Sundays from 12 pm to 10.30 pm.

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Duke of York

The historic Seven Dials area of Covent Garden was famously known for ‘prose, poetry, prostitutes and petty crime’, but the Duke of York pub also bore witness to notorious razor gang fights. One of these brutal ordeals was endured by Anthony Burgess, the author of A Clockwork Orange, when a local crime family destroyed the pub as he, his wife and other drinkers could only look on. This violence was said to have been the inspiration for his iconic novel, but thankfully these days the pub is a much quieter affair. It is still a pretty famous pub in London though. This one has to feature in your list of things to do in London.

47 Rathbone St, Fitzrovia, W1T 1NW

Open Monday to Saturday from 11 am to 11 pm and Sundays from 12 pm to 10.30 pm.

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The Lamb

Next up on your London literary pubs guide is The Lamb. Of all of London’s neighborhoods, Bloomsbury has long been the most associated with arts and literature, and to this day continues to nurture its literary heritage. As well as paying homage to the homes of literary greats like Virginia Woolf and Dickens who once lived in the area, you can enjoy a drink in the same pub which was long frequented by the influential set of writers and artists known as the Bloomsbury Set. The interior is strikingly Victorian, with a horse-shoe shaped bar, a polyphon (the earlier version of a grammar phone) and the screens which were known as ‘snob screens’ still in place! You could be sitting in the same spot where Oscar Wilde or Virginia Woolf Charles Dickens once sat, although they might have replaced the chairs since then. This is one of the must-see literary places to visit in London.

94 Lamb's Conduit St, Bloomsbury, WC1N 3LZ

Open Monday to Wednesday from 11 am to 11 pm, Thursday to Saturday from 11 am to 12 am and Sundays from 12 pm to 10.30 pm.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese has possibly the most impressive list of literary heavyweights on its list of patrons of any London literary pubs. Anyone and everyone has drunk within its labyrinthine interior since its beginnings in the 1530s, including Dickens, Samuel Johnson, P.G. Wodehouse, Mark Twain, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Samuel Pepys and Arthur Conan Doyle who even used the pub as the setting for one of his Sherlockian tales, The Red-Headed League. The original pub was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, but was quickly rebuilt in 1667 and today is a Grade II listed building. For the ultimate literary experience of London, cozy up in one of its nooks and crannies, get lost in its winding passages and enjoy the lack of phone reception as you raise a glass to the long line of literary greats who passed through the doors.

145 Fleet St, EC4A 2BU

Open from Monday to Saturday from 12 pm to 11 pm but closed on Sundays.

Pillars of Hercules

In the heart of Soho on Greek Street, you’ll find the Pillars of Hercules, a watering hole dating back to the 1730’s (although as with many London pubs, the existing building was added later). Often frequented by Dickens, it even made it into the pages of A Tale of Two Cities under its own name! To return the favor, the road next to the pub was named Manette Street, after the novel’s fictional Dr. Manette. To this day, this famous pub in London draws the literary crowd through its doors and in recent years has seen Ian McEwan and Julian Barns pop for a drink or two.

7 Greek St, Soho, W1D 4DF

Open Sunday to Wednesday from 3 pm to 11.30 pm, Thursday and Friday from 3 pm to 12 am and Saturday from 3 pm to 11 pm.

The George Inn

As far as literary places to visit in London go, The George Inn is a must. Both Dickens and Shakespeare were known to frequent The George Inn since it opened its doors in 1540, and you can still see why its oak beams, open fireplaces, and long galleries would have been a draw. It’s a famous pub in London for a good reason. During the Victorian period, the inn was also home to a coffee house which makes it into the pages of Dickens' Little Dorrit and was immortalized in fiction in Our Mutual Friend. And as far as literary landmarks in the city go, this watering hole is particularly special as it’s the only galleried coaching inn still standing in London today. When Shakespeare was penning his masterpieces, galleried inns were used for staging Elizabethan theatre productions; the cast would stand on a platform in the center of the coaching yard, with the audience surrounding them whilst those wanting a better view and with money to spend would watch from the galleries.

The George Inn Yard, 77 Borough High St, SE1 1NH

Open Monday to Thursday from 11 am to 11 pm, Friday and Saturday from 11 am to 12 am and Sundays from 12 pm to 10.30 pm.

The Fitzroy Tavern

The Fitzroy Tavern is something of a local institution and is the reason behind the name of its neighborhood, Fitzrovia. With Bloomsbury as it’s next-door district, this pub is in the heart of the city’s Artists’ Quarter, and like Bloomsbury was known to be a meeting place for writers, artists, and intellectuals throughout the 1930s and 40s. Amongst the regulars were George Orwell and Dylan Thomas - hence it making it onto my London literary pubs guide. You can grab a drink and head downstairs to the aptly named Writers and Artists Bar where their portraits hang in pride of place on the walls. It sounds like the ultimate literary experience in London.

16 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, W1T 2LY

Open Monday to Saturday from 12 pm to 11 pm and Sundays from 12 pm to 10.30 pm.

The Dog and Duck

Of all of the notable patrons of the Dog and Duck, a Grade II listed watering hole in Soho, the most famous is surely George Orwell. Within its lavish Victorian interior which is still complete with original features, the novelist of Animal Farm and 1984 often stopped by for a pint. The good news is that this historic London pub's ale selection is as good today as it ever was. But it’s not only Orwell who was a regular, John Constable and Dante Gabriel Rossetti were also known to frequent this now-famous pub in London regularly, and if that wasn’t enough history, the site was originally the home of the Duke of Monmouth, although sadly the original 1734 building was replaced in 1897.

18 Bateman St, Soho, W1D 3AJ

Open Monday to Friday from 11:30 am to 11 pm, Saturdays from 11 am to 11.30 pm and Sundays from 12 pm to 10.30 pm.

The Lamb and Flag

A Covent Garden institution, the Lamb and Flag holds Charles Dickens (hardly a huge surprise, he seems to have got around) as one of its patrons, as well as the renowned 17th-century poet John Dryden. One of the most historic spots in the area this London literary pub is nestled away along an unassuming mews was once where notorious bare-knuckle fighting took place. It also happens that the aforementioned John Dryden was almost murdered - although he lived to tell the tale! In honor or consolation, the upstairs room of the historic London pub, which is reached by a narrow staircase, was named after him.

33 Rose St, WC2E 9EB

Open Monday to Saturday from 11 am to 11 pm and Sundays from 12 pm to 10.30 pm.

The Grapes

It seems that Dickens wasn’t keen on the idea of settling on just one local. If stopping by for a drink in The Grapes wasn’t enough, it’s even said that the opening lines of Our Mutual Friend was inspired by it: “A tavern of dropsical appearance… long settled down into a state of hale infirmity. It had outlasted many a sprucer public house, indeed the whole house impended over the water but seemed to have got into the condition of a faint-hearted diver, who has paused so long on the brink that he will never go in at all.” Whilst this description might not make you want to rush through the doors, the fact that it also features in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock very well might. There’s a lot of history surrounding this famous pub in London and if that wasn’t enough, this spot is now owned by Sir Ian McKellen, so you never know who you might run in to. Definitely, one for any London literary pubs guide!

76 Narrow St, Poplar, E14 8BP

Open Monday to Saturday from 12 pm to 11 pm and Sundays from 12 pm to 10.30 pm

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