If there is one thing in London that you find more of than rain, it’s bars. Around every corner you can find pubs, wine bars, cocktail venues, al fresco drinking and rooftop bars. From casual to elegant, hidden to popular, crowded to empty, there is something for everyone. So whether you’re a tourist or a native, here are seven of the best bars in Britain’s capital that you absolutely cannot miss.
1. Sky Garden
Found on the top floor of London’s famous Walkie-Talkie building, the Sky Garden is one of best bars that London has to offer. Not only is this bar an incredible public garden, but it also looks out onto the entire city, giving you a view of almost every London landmark as you walk around the 360˚ observation deck. Whether you’re a native or a tourist this is the perfect place to explore London from a new perspective and appreciate the skyline like you’ve never been able to before. And the best part about this bar? It’s free to enter. You do need to book a place online, but going up is free so you won’t be spending a fortune just for a good view of the city. The drinks themselves are quite pricey, but for the location it is definitely worth it, and you can spend as much time there as you like. Try the cocktail of the day for £11 (which for London, isn’t too extreme) and wander around this greenhouse in the sky at your leisure. Sunsets are more crowded, but it is definitely worth it to catch London at golden hour.
Lyaness was created by Ryan Chetiyawardana, who holds a number of bartending awards, including the Telegraph’s International Bartender of The Year in 2015. Lyaness’ main draw is their sheer creativity in cocktails and mixology. Their menu is designed around seven signature ingredients rather than cocktail types, and these ingredients are constantly changing in parallel with new discoveries and experimentation. These seven ingredients are bizarre and unheard of but used creatively they make incredibly good cocktails. One of these seven is known as infinite banana – a Cavendish banana cooked very specifically to get a taste which they describe as “banana goodness beyond the candied notes.” From this they have concocted a drink entitled Double Painkiller, mixing the banana flavouring with Bacardi and notes of lemon and orange. Lyaness is not your average cocktail bar; it is weird and wonderful, and definitely worth a visit.
3. Punch and Judy
Built in 1787, this is one of London’s most iconic pubs. Upstairs in the West of Covent Garden’s famous Piazza you’ll find the Punch and Judy balcony, looking over the busy square – the perfect place for one of those rare sunny evenings in London. Punch and Judy is one of the few structures in Covent Garden that survived World War Two, so it still retains much of its original structure – this is a landmark in itself. The drinks they serve are basic but high quality and reasonably priced considering its central location. For a classic British pub experience, Punch and Judy is the place to go.
Often featured on Made In Chelsea, Bluebird is another iconic London spot. This is one of Kensington and Chelsea’s most popular locations, located on King’s Road, so is usually busy at all times of day. In the afternoon, you can sit in the outdoor courtyard, and then as evening settles head to their upstairs venue where you can find the Bluebird Cocktail Bar. Here, a vast range of cocktails fill the menu, including a Cactus Collins: a tequila based take on a Tom Collins, as well as their classic mojitos and cosmopolitans, all served elegantly and extravagantly. The bar at Bluebird is a sophisticated and stylish location, ideal for a week nights drinks or a weekend party.
Grind is definitely one of London’s most instagrammable bars, with its neon lights and exposed brick walls, all framed in beautifully aesthetic baby pink. This is both an espresso bar and a cocktail bar, blended into one, serving a range of unique coffee based cocktails. This includes Chai Your Luck – filter coffee, rum, chai and oat milk – and an Espresso Old Fashioned. Their cocktail menu is extensive, also filled with classic mixes, shots and spritzes. There are multiple locations across London, such as Covent Garden, Shoreditch and Liverpool Street, some being cafe bars, and some restaurant bars, also serving food. Grind is the perfect location for an after dinner drink with a hint of caffeine.
You can find a Pergola bar in Paddington or Olympia for the perfect summer destination. These hidden rooftop gardens offer food and drink in beautiful structures in central London. The Paddington Pergola aims to bring an element of warm, Mediterranean summers to Britain’s capital with an al fresco deck and a downstairs roof, altogether seating over 850 people. You can find a range of food trucks, including Smash Patty for burgers or Temaki Bros for fresh, handmade sushi. Surrounded by bars serving beer, wine, spirits and cocktails, Pergola demands a visit before the end of summer. Despite their central locations, the bars at Pergola offer some great deals: at Pergola Olympia you can celebrate Ginsday, unlimited gin and tonics 5pm-8pm for just £20 per person. Or, enjoy 2-for-1 cocktails from 4pm-6pm at Paddington, every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Cahoots is a 1940s themed cocktail bar in Soho, found in what was once Kingly Court Underground Station. This disused train station has now become one of London’s most popular bars – a quirky and unique experience to bring you back in time. Browse the extensive drinks menu, printed on old fashioned newspapers and enjoy Cahoots’ live entertainment. The menu includes ‘first class carriage cocktails’, featuring a Marilyn Monroe – gin based with lemon and berry flavours – and a Winston Churchill – a whiskey based pineapple cocktail. Be sure to book a table as this experience is definitely a popular one.