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Oldest Pubs in Central London

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by Maria K (subscribe)
Postgraduate student based in London.
Published November 28th 2016
Discover true pub culture in the city
This article will focus on the oldest pubs around the historical area of London from Holborn to Fleet Street, notable for being the city's heart of publishing business for centuries. These pubs share their long histories that date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. They were hosts to many historical figures of England and centres to the key events of the country's timeline. You will be immersed in the spirit of the past and forget the rush of central London for at least a couple of hours.

Ship Tavern

Established: 1549
Address: 12 Gate Street, London, WC2A 3HP
Working hours: Mon-Fri 11am - 11pm, Sat 11am - 12am, Sun 11am - 10pm



Ship Tavern is hidden in the small street, just in the corner of Lincoln Inn's Fields park, reminiscent of London city structure of the 1500s. It has appeared in Holborn as early as the 16th century when the English Reformation was taking place in the country. The pub was used to hide Catholic priests from persecution, as well as secretly carry out Catholic masses. The place also became a Masonic Lodge in the mid-18th century.

ship tavern pub holborn
Source: Ship Tavern website


Today, Ship Tavern is a traditional English pub with the beautiful wooden decor. The pub has two floors, the top one romantically called 'The Oak Room' which serves as a dining room with mahogany walls and classical paintings. Ship Tavern serves a variety of exquisite British dishes, including Beef Wellington with truffle mash, venison steak and classical beer-battered haddock with chips. The dinner menu offers dishes ranging between £15 and £25. The bar downstairs presents an extensive collection of lagers from all over the world, as well as British ales for £4-£5 for a pint, plus an impressive wine list with a range of quality wines. There is also a bar menu served downstairs, including a simpler list of British classics, the most expensive of which is £14.

The pub's atmosphere is warm and welcoming, regularly gathering crowds of London workers in after work hours. No wonder, Ship Tavern is a perfect escape from the noise and pace of central London, making you feel you went back to the distant past.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

Established: 1538
Address: 145 Fleet St, London EC4A 2BU
Working hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am – 11pm, Sat 12pm – 11pm

ye olde cheshire cheese fleet street
Source: VisitLondon.com


Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is the Grade II listed building on Fleet Street, the heart of London publishing business for many centuries. One of the oldest pubs in London, it is known for having hosted literary giants like Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oliver Goldsmith. The pub also has a long history of association with literary figures. A poetic group called Rhymers' Club, which included W.B.Yeats and Ernest Rhys regularly met in Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese between 1892 and 1894.

The pub has been rebuilt after the Great Fire of London in 1666. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese occupies quite a large space and is situated in a tiny medieval alley just off the main street. Inside, the pub is a labyrinth of small rooms and an underground bar space. The place is also equipped with fireplaces to keep it warm in the winter.

ye olde cheshire cheese fleet street
Source: DesignMyNight.com


The place is usually lively in the evenings, regardless of its impressive amount of space for a pub. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese offers a great variety of British beers, ales and ciders (around £4 for a pint), as well as a traditional menu for average prices £10-£12 for a main dish. Today, the pub's main customers are tourists, which does not necessarily deprive it of its charm. The place itself stands for the rich London history and English literary heritage, which is reflected in the gloomy interior, low ceilings and old furniture.

Ye Olde Mitre

Established: 1546
Address: 1 Ely Pl, London EC1N 6SJ
Working hours: Mon-Fri 11am - 11pm

Ye Olde Mitre holborn
Source: Ye Olde Mitre website


Ye Olde Mitre was also built around 16th century for the servants of the Bishops of Ely and further expanded two centuries later. This place is also Grade II listed public house and is currently run by Fuller's brewery, one of the oldest and largest beer producers in the country today

The pub is hidden in a small alley, just like other two, maintaining a special atmosphere around it. Inside space is a bit out of this world, with old-fashioned jugs and mugs hanging from the ceiling, medieval-style chairs and carpet with natural ornament.



A multiple award-winner, Ye Olde Mitre was listed in the 'Golden Beer Guide 2014' and was awarded 'pub of the year' four times by Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). The menu includes 'an English twist on classic Spanish tapas', as well as a variety of beer snacks. The range of drinks always includes a minimum of 3 guest ales across the country.



London has a great history of pub culture. In these ancient places, the time is frozen, allowing us to grasp the spirit of the past. These are only a small part of the large heritage across the country, and even these are powerful enough to bring us back to the times we read about in the great works of English literature.

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Why? Historical landmarks of London pub culture
When: Anytime
Where: Holborn, Fleet Street
Cost: £4 - £30 (depending on time spent inside)
Your Comment
Great article! Nice to see some pubs with style and history
by Jay Johnson (score: 2|924) 210 days ago
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