London’s best riverside pubs

Tower Bridge on a sunny day in LondonIn London the only thing better than drinking a cold beer on a summer’s day is drinking a cold beer on a summer’s day by the River Thames – relaxing with your mates as boats lazily chug past, debating who should get the next round.

In a city of more than 7000 pubs, many of London’s best watering holes can be found along the river’s edge – as I found out last summer when I purchased a book of London’s best riverside pubs and then proceeded to work my way through it at an alarming pace.

You could now say I’m a bit of an expert on the subject of riverside pubs in London – you might also say I’m a borderline alcoholic. Either way, whether you fancy a quick pint or some quintessentially British pub grub, this is my guide to some of London’s best waterside watering holes.

The Ship, Wandsworth

One of West London’s best-known riverside pubs is always a fun and happening place on a sunny day, which is surprising given its odd location along a fairly industrial part of the Thames.

Nevertheless, The Ship is lovely inside and decent out with heaps of seating – always an issue, as pubs fill up fast on a sunny day in London – flashy food and a barbecue sizzling away when the weather is decent. Popular with London-based Aussies, Kiwis and Saffas as well as locals, you’ll need to get to The Ship early to get a spot right on the river.

The Ship in Wandsworth is among the best of London's riverside pubs
© Copyright Derek Harper and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence

Ye White Hart, Barnes

Arguably Ye White Hart is the perfect riverside pub – it’s situated at a particularly lovely part of the Thames, it has a great atmosphere and it’s a handsome old building with an excellent out-door seating area.

It’s a shame, then, that it’s just so very far away from central London.

This three-storied pub is worth the journey, however, as it has not one but two river-facing balconies from which to sit and admire the river and plenty more picnic tables on the river bank itself. Inside, this grand old building has been modernised without losing any of its charming old-school flavour.

Pitcher and Piano, Richmond

My absolute favourite place in London is Richmond, which happens to boast more than its fair share of fantastic riverside pubs. Coincidence? Probably not.

What makes this West London pub special is not so much the fact that it’s just another Pitcher and Piano, a popular chain of British bars, but that it’s located at the top of a grassy bank overlooking a particularly lovely part of the River Thames.

Here you will literally be able to watch boats float past as tourists soon get tired of rowing the boats they’ve hired nearby and throw down their oars.

The Tamesis Dock is a pub on an old barge in LondonTamesis Dock, Vauxhall

As a general rule to live life by, it’s always better to drink on a boat on a river than it is to drink at a pub alongside a river. You can imagine my delight, then, when I discovered this floating pub on a scruffy old barge in Vauxhall.

Now, the Tamesis Dock isn’t a particularly nice looking boat; frankly, it’s a bit of an eyesore. What it is, however, is an extremely quirky place for a pint of lager. And, if you’re a traveller in London looking for more than just a tour of the pubs, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are within walking distance.

The Narrow, Limehouse

The only East London riverside pub to make this short-list happens to be owned by foul-mouthed celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay – although you can’t imagine he spends a lot of time here, what with his television career and all that.

The Narrow is a remarkably normal gastro pub with no Michelin stars to speak of, located along a fairly busy stretch of the Thames. The food is excellent, of course, and it’s much flashier than your average London pub.

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About Simon Petersen 285 Articles
Travel blogger, journalist, sports and movie fiend. Chronicling the life and times of a Kiwi at home and abroad.

17 Comments

  1. Great post idea and coming at a perfect time: spring! Well almost. I love pubs on the river, I dono why-but it makes such a difference to my drinking experience. I’ve been wanting to visit Richmond since we moved here, so I think a stop at Pitcher and Piano might be in order. Cheers!

  2. I’ll have to check these out next time I’m in town. I’m not especially familiar with London, but I always head towards South Bank. Thanks for the insight!

  3. Wow, I have yet to visit those pubs. Have you been to the Anchor Bankside…its a historical pub for where Samuel Johnson wrote about the Great Fire of London! Ive got time and a health liver to destroy so will check them out

  4. Cheers for the good list. I haven’t explored enough of the river side pubs yet. My favorite so far is my old local pub the Prospect of Whitby in Shadwell. It’s supposed to be one of the oldest river side pubs on Thames . They have a hanging noose outside over the river!

    • I can’t believe they have a hanging noose! Sounds like something I have to see for myself, while enjoying a nice pint of course

    • Back in the 17th century “Hanging” Judge Jeffreys lived nearby, the pub was his local, so a noose hangs by a window commemorating his custom. According to legend, criminals would be tied up to the posts at low tide and left there to drown when the tide came in.

  5. The Queen Mary was always my favourite place for a beer or 100 Pimms, just on the water near Embankment…
    Little Venice pubs would also be a recommendation from me, a very cute area of town.

    I am almost…..almost….tempted to return to test out your list! Love a good pub hunt in London town!

    • So many great London pubs, so little time… I think I might make this a semi-regular feature considering there are just so many other great pubs that I could’ve mentioned!

  6. This is an awesome post! I think Tamesis dock is where James Morrison shot his epic live song of Man in the Mirror.

    I love this post as usual Simon!

    cheers!

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