Writers have been seeking inspiration — or should that be solace? — at the bottom of a glass for as long as there have been stories to tell. It’s not surprising then that so many London pubs have literary links, what with the huge number of authors who have lived and worked in the city over the centuries. Whether you want to drink to Ernest Hemingway or charge a glass for Charles Dickens, London has an historic pub to fit the bill. Bookmark these favorites.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
Dating back to just after 1666’s Great Fire of London, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is one of the capital’s oldest pubs. The atmospheric vaulted basement is thought to have been part of a 13th-century monastery, while the wood-paneled first-floor rooms are straight out of the Victorian era. It was during this period that Dickens frequented the pub while working as a journalist on Fleet Street around the corner. It’s attracted other literary types, too, including the great dictionary compiler Samuel Johnson, who lived just up the lane at 17 Gough Square in the 1750s.
Another pub with a strong association with Dickens is George Inn, the last remaining galleried coaching inn in London. What for centuries was a yard for mail and passenger coaches arriving in the capital is now a charming spot for an open-air pint. Dickens referred to the pub by name in his 1850s novel Little Dorrit and the writer’s signed life insurance policy hangs proudly on the wall of the Middle Bar. Grab a table in the higgledy-piggledy Parliament Bar, if you can — it’s where passengers used to wait for their coaches.
Hemingway, Graham Greene and Welsh poet Dylan Thomas were all regulars at this characterful riverside pub in west London. It dates back to the 18th century, possibly as early as the 1730s, when Hammersmith was still a semi-rural area on the outskirts of town. The riverside terrace is a great spot for a quiet pint in the sunshine, while the cozy interior — full of nooks, crannies and a roaring fire —really comes into its own on cold winter nights. Look out for one of the smallest bar rooms in the world, accessible by a tiny doorway beside the main entrance.
The Dog and Duck
There are a handful of Soho pubs with links to George Orwell, but the nicest by a long shot is The Dog and Duck. It’s not much to look at from the outside, but squeeze past the hoards of drinkers lining the sidewalk and you’ll find a glorious Victorian interior dating back to 1897. Glazed tiles and mirrors cover the walls opposite the bar, where a few high stools provide an opportunity to rest weary legs, while a tiny seating area at the back of the pub features less ostentatious décor thought to have been introduced in the 1930s. There’s a dining room upstairs, too, where you can nosh on items like slow-cooked pork confit, line-caught cod and burgers.
The Spaniards Inn
Refuel after a long walk on Hampstead Heath with a Sunday roast at The Spaniards Inn. Surrounded by the greenery of this huge area of wood and parkland, this 16th-century pub has a countryside feel despite its relative proximity to the center of town. Romantic poets Lord Byron and John Keats were regulars to the pub (Keats’ former residence, which you can visit, is on the other side of the Heath), and it gets a mention in both Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers. Dickens, in fact, refers to the pub’s “tea-gardens,” still open to the public today but is better known now for its beer and barbecues than cups and saucers.