London is a complex and multifarious urban space, a centre of international finance and tourism, an extraordinarily modern city in many ways, but it is ancient, too. One characteristic that is entirely unique to London is its pubs – there is nowhere else on the planet where you can travel to and find anything that compares to these strange, bibulous microcosms which speak with clarity of another era. Today, some of London's great pubs exist in guises only subtly changed since the 17th or 18th centuries. The pubs chosen here are ones that have managed to maintain some of the intrinsic character that originally marked them out.
The French House may not be London's oldest drinking establishment, but due to its position and to the patrons who've filled its iconic front bar, it deserves to be on any list of historic London pubs. This was where Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud would regularly drink together and where Dylan Thomas would go on binges with Brendan Behan in the 1940s. 'The French', as it is affectionately known by regulars, still holds a louche, raffish charm.
LUXOS Recommends: A large bottle of Breton Cidre
The French House
49 Dean Street
London W1D 5BG
Tel. +44 (0)20 7437 2477
Discreetly hidden down a quiet lane in Belgravia, The Grenadier has long been known as a reliable bolthole for those who want to enjoy a discreet and relatively undisturbed pint away from prying eyes. The pub opened in 1720 as an officer's mess for the senior infantry regiment of the British Army. These days the pub attracts a reliable crowd of financiers and well-to-do younger denizens of Belgravia, including, once in a while, Prince William.
LUXOS Recommends: A pint of London Pride
8 Wilton Row
London SW1X 7NR
Tel. +44 (0)20 7235 3074
The Windsor Castle is a gem of a pub caught between Notting Hill and Kensington High Street. The pub dates back to 1826, when it catered for farmers as they herded their cattle to Hyde Park Market. Inside, the pub is decked out in thick oak panels and low, old fashioned saloon doors, which makes it just as attractive in winter as the sprawling garden does in summer.
LUXOS Recommends: A bottle of cold Rosé in the garden on a warm day
The Windsor Castle
114 Campden Hill Road
London W8 7AR
Tel. +44 (0)20 7243 8797
Walking into The Jerusalem Tavern (title image) in Clerkenwell truly is like stepping back into another age. The tavern has occupied its current site since 1720, but there was a Jerusalem Tavern in this area of London since the mid-14th century. Today, the pub attracts a wonderfully eccentric mix of local characters who come for the excellent St. Peter's Brewery beers. This may not be the oldest pub in London, but it is one of the most charmingly antiquated and handsomely maintained.
LUXOS Recommends: St. Peter's Brewery ale
The Jerusalem Tavern
55 Britton Street
London EC1M 5UQ
Tel. +44 (0)20 7490 4281
The Prospect of Whitby is one of London's great maritime pubs and enjoys magnificent views out across the Thames. The Prospect finds itself in a building that dates back to the early 16th century, but the current frontage was completed just over 300 years ago. The pub is lined with artefacts that pay homage to its colourful past and centuries-old association with the river, piracy and all matters nautical. The terrace is a spot where one can look out and palpably feel London's complex past.
LUXOS Recommends: Cold lager on the terrace on a hot afternoon
The Prospect of Whitby
57 Wapping Wall, Wapping
London E1W 3SH
Tel. +44 (0)20 7481 1095
Now here is a Bloomsbury pub of true Dickensian charm; indeed it has been said that Dickens used to enjoy drinking here. The pub has a beautifully maintained 18th century façade and inside, the walls are lined with antique pictures of Victorian actors and actresses. Sitting at the far end of Lamb's Conduit Street, the pub serves an excellent selection of real ales and attracts a robust crowd of lawyers, tourists, Bloomsbury publishers and young couples on dates. A charming spot for a moment's repose.
LUXOS Recommends: A pint of Young's Best Bitter and a Scotch egg
94 Lamb's Conduit Street
London WC1N 3LZ
Tel. + 44 (0)20 7405 0713
Read More: LUXOS Guide to Notting Hill