I studied in London from September 2015 until November 2016 and have lived here before, but one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that this is a proper drinking city. But it is also an expensive one. Visiting all of the nightlife can leave your bank account wanting. Whether you’re a student studying in London or just a tourist with a student-like budget, this guide hopes to point you in the right directions for drinking in this amazing city without robbing you of all your pounds!
Drinking with Your Mates
There’s nothing like a great night out with your mates. The stories, the banter, the wonderful feeling of knowing it’s not your turn to buy a round for a few more pints at least, these are the reasons we love drinking with friends. Some bars and pubs lend themselves to it better than others, here are a few of my personal favourites.
The Holborn Whippet – Holborn
Located conveniently by the Holborn Tube stop, The Holborn Whippet is a crowd pleaser. Due to its popularity, it can get pretty busy. Even with the large number of people however, the sheer amount of beautiful beers on tap alone allows you to overlook any crowded night. This coupled with a knowledgeable bar staff makes for a great place to sit or stand, talk with friends, or talk with the staff about beer -or really anything-. They also have a nice mid-range Scottish Whisky selection for a fairly reasonable price (about £5 a pop), just be sure not to ask for ice in them!
Their kitchen is also amazing. While they may not serve Chicago Style Pizza -the best kind of pizza-, their kitchen churns out some of the tastiest pizzas outside of the US and Italy that I’ve come across.
It is moderately priced, I haven’t seen Siren Soundwave -such a good IPA- for anything less than 6 pounds, but here it’s a fiver for a pint! Their beers rotate frequently and you’re unlikely to see the same thing twice.
BrewDog – Camden Town
Right off the Camden Town stop on the Northern Line, this vibrant pub is one of the flagships for the brewery that helped launch Europe into the craft beer age. BrewDog Camden is a two floor punk tap room, with interesting and unique beers on rotation. Though this is a bit pricier, it will be cheaper per ml to drink BrewDog’s brew than any guest beers they have on tap.
With board games, punk music playing, and comfortable seating, this pub provides an excellent atmosphere for having a couple with your mates. The staff is often quirky and fun. This place is very popular on the weekends so I’d suggest getting there early if possible!
Drinking with Your Dates
Though London may not be as romantic as Paris or Rome (or Chicago!!!), it is still a great city to see with your better half or while trying to find that special someone. Whether it’s a first date or just spending the evening with your better half, these pubs are perfect for getting your date on.
Gordon’s Wine Bar – Charing Cross
Not so far from the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square is this tucked away gem. Gordon’s Wine Bar is a brilliant place for wines with a history to match its unique decor. This old bar has ample room to sit outside, but where you really want to get a place is in the candlelit cellar. The underground structure was used as a bomb shelter during the Battle of Britain, and legend has it that they still doled out the wine while Jerry doled out the ordinance. Essentially, it’s where people went to get bombed, in both senses of the word.
The low lighting, the candles in wine bottles, and the fact you can only buy wine by the bottle make for a great time with your date, and you can impress them with your knowledge of the bar. It also has a cheese counter where you can purchase cheeses paired to your wine selections, or whatever cheese you feel you’d like.
This is a bit more expensive than your average public house, but that’s mostly because you have to buy entire bottles of wine -which per glass end up being pretty cheap!-. When you’re in the cellar you can hear the rumbling of the nearby underground station Charing Cross.
Cahoots! – Soho
Cahoots in Soho is a speakeasy “Keeping the Spirit of the Blitz Alive” in a disused underground tube stop. Swing, Doo Wop, and Jazz music provides a sexy night out. The friendly staff feel like they belong in the woodwork of this pub, keeping in character of a WWII bomb shelter serving cocktails to forget about the world above. This place is particularly fun when you and your date choose to dress similarly to the feel of the bar. Victory rolls, tweed, flapper dresses, suspenders and penny loafers all fit in well here.
The cocktail menu is an old newspaper with different stories and adverts describing the drinks available. “All hot and buttered” is one of the most delicious things to drink, it comes warm in a hip flask.
If you’re lucky, you’ll be seated in the old tube carriage where the comfortable seats hug you as dearly as you’ll hug your date when you -let’s be real about this boozy place- stumble up the stairs.
For those of you who have played Bioshock, this bar has a very similar feel to that of Rapture, though that may just be the opinion of myself and my date when we went there. You’ll have to decide for yourselves! Go! And be sure to ask for the “Captain.”
Drinking with Yourself
Let’s face it, sometimes you need time to unwind and decompress by yourself. Here are a few pubs you can practice the Art of Drinking Alone (in Public).
The Volunteer – Baker Street
With comfortable couches, generous portions of chips, and ambient lighting The Volunteer on Baker Street -the same block as the fictional Sherlock Holmes- is a great place to escape from your Mates, Dates, and other stresses of this social life. Post up on the bar or on a table with a good book or your notebook and take in the soul of this old, proper pub.
Their Fish ‘n Chips are delicious, with a jaunty crew running the place. Once you’ve had a few here, if there’s still on your mind that you’d like cleared it is just a two minute walk from the southern tip of Regent’s Park.
The Euston Tap – Euston
The Euston Tap is housed in the old cloisters leading to the roundabout in Euston Station. Beer enthusiasts rejoice, this is the best pub in London for drinking good beer -great sours on tap usually!- alone. Its location by one of the busiest train stations in London means that you’ll never be bored by people watching either inside or outside this pub. A constantly rotating tap also means you’ll never be bored by the selection of beers on tap as well! I like to go here after a long day of classes and work on my dissertation to unwind with a nice pint -or a few!- while playing some chess online or just writing in my journal.
Not Just for Students!
While this post mostly focuses on student budgets, all of these pubs are fantastic even when you’re not a student or on a budget. All it means is you can have more of the delicious beverages available!