Despite the current turmoil surrounding Brexit, British tourism reached its highest levels ever last year with over 40 million foreign visitors flocking to the country. London remains the biggest draw for overseas tourist with a large percentage of the £26.9 billion tourism revenues being spent in the capital.
Buckingham Palace, the House of Parliament and London Bridge are amongst the most visited attractions in London. But away from the traditional tourism hotspots there is a growing bar scene that visitors HAVE to check out.
If beer, wine, craft spirits and quirky bars are your thing then this guide is perfect for you. Join us on our tour of the quirkiest bars in London.
Alcotraz – Prison Cocktail Bar
Where? 212 Brick Lane, Shoreditch
Nearest Station – Shoreditch High Street
Brick Lane is home to some of the most prestigious legal firms in the country which makes the location of this bar strikingly apt. Inspired by the infamous Alcatraz Island Penitentiary off the coast of San Francisco, this bar is the perfect blend of entertainment and alcohol.
Tickets range from £30 to £50 and can be purchased online prior to visiting with discounts being available for larger groups. Guests are provided with orange jumpsuits on arrival and instructed to help notorious bootlegger Clyde Cassidy smuggle alcohol into the prison/bar.
The frighteningly realistic prison cells will be the setting for you and your friend to drink some of the best cocktails in London. There’s no set list of drinks as they change every night depending on the theme, but one thing is for sure, you’ll never forget your night at Alcotraz!
(Enjoy your bootleg cocktail in an authentic prison cell before leaving a free person at the end of the evening.)
The White Horse
Where? 45 Rupert Street, Soho
Nearest Station – Piccadilly Circus
Speak to any northerner in the UK and the one thing they’re guaranteed to complain about in London is the ‘price of ale’. In most of London’s trendy hipster bars you’ll be very lucky to pay less than £6 for a standard pint of lager.
Fortunately there are one or two places that you can visit in the capital where the drink is cheap(ish) without taking away from the atmosphere. The White Horse in Soho is one of a handful of Sam Smith brewery owned pubs in London.
The Yorkshire based brewery have been producing their award-winning beers and spirits since the 1800s. Sam Smith’s brewing experience and expertise is on show with every one of their beers which are bursting with flavour and character.
If you’re new to the UK and are unfamiliar with the traditional British style pub you have to visit the White Horse.
Camden Town Brewery
Where? Wilkins Street Mews, Camden
Nearest Station – Kentish Town West
Camden Town brewery were one of the first independent British breweries to get on board with the craft beer revolution. You’ll find their brewery just under the railway arches in Camden where you can pay for a guided brewery tour or simply enjoy a few ales in the bar.
Hells Lager is the most well-known drink produced by Camden Town Brewery and it is refreshingly different to mainstream lagers. Bursting with crisp citrus flavours that mask a slightly higher ABV than most it really is a great beer.
In the brewery bar you’ll find a whole host of bearded men sniffing their beers to identify the specific hop used to make it, making it a great place to sit and play hipster bar bingo!
(Camden Town Brewery tours are well-known for being, erm, interesting…)
Victorian Bath House
Where? Bishopsgate Churchyard, Liverpool Street
Nearest Station – Liverpool Street
North American visitors to London are often dazzled and enchanted by the mixture of quaint medieval architecture and its grandiose modern counterpart. The Victorian Bath House in Liverpool Street is perhaps the best example of this in the London bar scene.
As the name suggests it is located in a grade II listed building that formally housed a bath house in the Victorian era. Dimly lit and neatly hidden away, the bar is a major attraction for both foreign and local punters.
A tailor made cocktail menu featuring some historic London favourites will satiate your desire for quality drinks. Further to that you can enjoy some of the best food in the city brought to you by acclaimed chefs Alan Lucas and Caroline Gardiner.
Where? 459 King’s Road, Chelsea
Nearest Station – Sloane Square
The British mathematician Alan Turing was the inspirational mind behind the Turing machine. A device that helped to crack the German Enigma code in the Second World War, something that has been credited with winning the war for the Allied Forces.
This fantastically imagined bar pays homage to Turing and his Bletchley Park colleagues as guests are invited to use their powers of deduction in a series of fiendish games. Although walk-ins are available it’s best to book in advance and for a group to fully enjoy the immersive experience of The Bletchley.
The drinks list is distinctly reminiscent of the time period that it pays homage to with a host of London brewed gins on offer to patrons. Once you have booked you’ll be provided with a password which you must utter on arrival.
Once in, you and your team will be presented with a number of conundrums to solve as your night progresses. Can you crack the code and win the war? Or are you just going to get pleasantly merry on some solid craft gins?
(Adept code-breakers might find themselves feeling slightly tipsy at The Bletchley in Chelsea.)
Other noteworthy bars
Barge East, Hackney Wick –This bar is located on a 114-year-old Dutch cargo barge. Free to hire for private groups or available for walk-ins, you’re guaranteed a distinctly unique evening.
The Blind Pig, Soho – This enchanting speakeasy is hidden above Jason Atherton’s sumptuous restaurant Social Eating House. The Blind Pig mixes cosy drinking with fun and games.
Lyaness, South Bank – In its previous guise as Dandelyan, this bar was once voted the best cocktail bar in the world. Step inside and enjoy the unique, public transport-inspired décor of this awesome venue.