The pubs have reopened – and those in central London need more custom at present. This pub crawl is in the heart of central London; the spectacular City of Westminster. On this central London pub crawl you’ll stroll through 1000 years of British history. The royal centre that gave birth to the ‘model parliament’ in 1295 – still officially called the ‘Palace of Westminster’ (Houses of Parliament). And the Benedictine monastery that, under the sponsorship of the English king ‘Edward the Confessor, grew to become Westminster Abbey.
You’ll visit eight historic pubs in the City of Westminster. In addition to the historical sights, if you go late afternoon, it’s a great opportunity to join Londoners in the exodus from work and into the public houses – and that unique British experience of drinking in the street. The walk is around 1.5 miles and will take you around three to four hours if you have a ‘half’ in each – otherwise, give yourself longer for this central London pub crawl.
We start at the Red Lion in Parliament Street.
The Red Lion (#1)
This is a pub for the public and Members of Parliament! You’re likely to be rubbing shoulders with one or more of the country’s elected representatives – and their Civil Servants who work in ‘Whitehall’. A tavern has been located at this site since the 1430’s. The current building dates from 1890 and has been visited by Prime Ministers over the years, including Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee.
(Directions to next pub: exit the front entrance, turn left and proceed 200m to end of Parliament Street. Turn left and proceed 50m).
St Stephen’s Tavern (#2)
You’ll have noticed this pub is even closer to the Houses of Parliament. Again it’s packed with civil servants, some MP’s – and tourists; well it is right under one of the world’s most recognised tourist destinations (Elisabeth Tower, AKA Big Ben). There is live television feed to the ‘House’ across the road – and even a ‘division bell’ to alert MP’s to get back to vote. There is plenty of standing room outside and an opportunity to take to memorable photos with a pint in hand against the backdrop.
(Directions to next pub: exit the front entrance, turn right. Cross over Parliament Street. Continue straight along Great George Street for 200m. Turn left into Storey’s Gate).
The Westminster Arms (#3)
Another pub bustling with civil servants, journalists and conference delegates. It’s slightly less touristy. In-fact there is a trend here. As we progress further west on this pub crawl, we’re going to find fewer and fewer tourists. Ending with none at all.
Apparently, many famous people have been served here, including Desmond Tutu, Bill Clinton and Angelina Jolie. It’s also a chance to visit a London wine bar, often located in a basement, like it is here.
(Directions to next pub: exit the front entrance, turn left. Proceed 10m and turn let into Old Queen Street. Proceed 100m to end and turn left and proceed 2m).
Two Chairmen (#4)
Now we’re talking off the tourist trail. It’s quiet location makes it ideal for standing outside and mingling with the local workers. If there is a crowd standing outside the entrance to the pub, just enter.
The Two Chairmen is possibly the oldest pub in Westminster, tracing its origin back to 1730’s. It’s name derives from the favoured mode of transport of the day; the sedan chair. Back then, sedan chair carriers would wait in the pub for fares.
(Directions to next pub: exit the front entrance. Cross the road and proceed 200m along Queen Anne’s Gate, admiring the 1700’s architecture and famous people blue plaques along the way. Turn left at the end and proceed 100m into Petty France. Go along Petty France, par the giant Ministry of Justice on your right and spot the Adam and Eve pub on the corner of Petty France and Palmer Street).
Adam & Eve (#5)
After that short trek, you’ll be ready for another ‘half’ at this local to workers from the Ministry of Justice and London Underground (head offices on Petty France).
Another pub from the 1800’s and nice example of a Victorian corner pub with flowering hanging boxes. Incidentally pubs are often on corners, as developers would build a pub and boarding rooms (for the builders) on the corner of the plot – and build out from there.
(Directions to next pub: exit the front entrance. Turn left. Proceed 200m along Petty France)
Buckingham Arms (#6)
This is one of our favourites – also named after the favourite of King James I and his son King Charles I. The Duke of Buckingham, George Villiers, met a grisly end however – people resented his familiarity with the King! There are some great historical prints on the walls of the duke and of Buckingham Palace. The pub also has a selection of fine English ales – one of only a few pubs to have been in the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Good Beer Guide every year. Also a favourite of The Queen Mother, judging by the photo (by the bar) of her pulling a pint with her grandson!
(Directions to next pub: exit the front entrance. Turn left. Proceed 100m along Petty France. Cross over into Castle Lane. Proceed 100m and enter the pub by the rear entrance).
The Colonies (#7)
A surprisingly spacious pub frequented by many after work. It’s has a small outdoor ‘beer courtyard’ and a sports area inside showing current matches, good to catch up on the football scores.
(Directions to next pub: exit the front entrance. Turn left. Proceed 100m along Wilfred Street. The pub is on the corner of Wilfred Street and Palace Street)
The Cask and Glass (#8)
‘Journey’s end’ is one off the smallest pubs in London. No tourists here. Although you’ll hear some American accents belonging to those who work for Google across the road. It has a great atmosphere and the bar staff will happily chat away with you. This is technically the ‘Queen’s Local’ measured from her front door.