Hangman's noose at the old docks, London England Historic pub tours

Self Guided Historic Pub & Beer Tour East London

Exploring historic pubs in London can be a fun and fascinating experience, especially hearing the stories about pirates. This self-guided historic London pub, food and beer walking tour takes you around east London. You will visit some of the oldest and most historically significant pubs and taverns in England, located along the London docks, which was originally known as Old London Town.

On this unique historic London pub crawl, you will get to enjoy some of the finest brews that England has to offer. Along with a wonderful line-up of classic English food that will surely tickle your taste buds. While at the same time discovering unique facts and learning about the culture. Hopefully making your experience of visiting an iconic old-time pub all the more realistic.

historical tours of england -the Shard London History

Overlooking the Thames from the Shard towards, East London

History of some of the oldest pubs in London

Back in the day, these London historic pubs played an important role in the lives of sailors, dockers, and even pirates. It was a place where they would meet, intermingle, eat and drink. Hundreds of years old, they now hold the testimony of the eras gone by.

Once a busy trading port, today East London area is relatively more peaceful with riverside restaurants and apartments. As you visit these historic pubs, you will be able to picture in your mind’s eye the lives lived and the stories told! It reminded me of the tour I have done about Jack the Ripper.

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The London Historic Pubs you will visit on the tour

This self-guided London Old Docks, historic Pub, Food & Beer Tour will take you to 5 different pubs. The Mayflower, The Prospect of Whitby, Turner’s Old Star, Captain Kidd and The Dickens Inn.  All are historically unique with great stories to tell. Some even have regular celebrities that hangout out for food and drinks, so keep your eye out.  

A great way to see some of London’s historic pubs if you don’t want to go inside them is via the water. You can book a 1-2 hour Westminster to Greenwich Thames River Cruise which goes past these historical pubs. 

wooden sign saying the flagstone floor of bar has been trodden by the widest variety of patrons over 500 years. Pewter-top bars were commonplace in the 19th century but this is one of the few that has survived 20th century modernisation and is thought to be the longest in Great Britain

A sign on the history of the floors in The Prospect of Whitby, London England

Information for the historic London pub tour

  • This London pub walk is free
  • Tour duration; This historic pub crawl London should take around 4-5 hours.
  • All the pubs are open every day, so you can do the self-guided pub tour London any time
  • Be mindful of your alcohol consumption
  • You can walk or catch public transport to get around to the old pubs. 
  • Where it starts; Mayflower Rotherhithe along the Thames, Zone 2
  • Where it finishes; The Dickens Inn Tower Hill, Zone 1

Map of Historical Pub Crawl London

1. The Mayflower

The first stop on your London historic pub tour is the famous Mayflower (once known as The Ship). It is a charming little white pub, located along River Thames in Rotherhithe. Established in 1550 it is one of the oldest pubs in London. You can learn how The Mayflower became one of the most historic pubs in England. As well as learn how it played a very important part in American history in 1620 when Captain Christopher Jones set sail.

The walls inside of the Mayflower are covered in shipping memorabilia that includes pictures and old ship parts. There is even a logbook for the ancestry of the sailors and pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower ship. From the rear of the pub, you can still see the original mooring spot of this famous ship.

London bar tours

Here you can be served English classics like bangers and mash with black pudding and gravy. While washing it down with a Scurvy Ale or one of the other Cask Ales on tap.

How to get to the Mayflower

The best way to get to the historic Mayflower pub is to catch the DLR to Shadwell from Tower Hill or Bank Station. Then change onto the London overground (Orange Line) for 2 stops to Rotherhithe in zone 2. From there it’s an easy 5 minute walk towards the Thames passing Brunel Museum. The address is 117 Rotherhithe St, London SE16 4NF.

A tugboat on the Thames - historical Pub tours London

On the balcony at The historic Mayflower Pub, Wapping London

2. The Prospect of Whitby

Built-in 1520, The Prospect of Whitby (originally known as The Pelican) is believed to be the oldest tavern on the Thames. As soon as you step inside, you will feel like you have taken a step back in time in this historic pub. The floor is the original flagstone dating back some 500 years (even with the original door trap that is now sealed off).

There is a rear deck that overlooks the former execution docks, complete with replica gallows and loads of interesting memorabilia.

We sat for our 2nd classic British meal Fish and chips with mushy peas, washed down with a craft ale. The first thing that comes to my mind is the phrase ‘If these walls could talk” they would tell you a story. 

How to get to the Prospect of Whitby

The closest station to the Prospect of Whitby is Wapping overground zone 2. To get here from the Mayflower, just jump back onto the London overground (Orange Line) to Wapping, one-stop.

When you come out of the station turn left and walk about 5-10 minutes along Wapping Wall, a heritage protected street, before arriving at The Prospect of Whitby along the Thames. The Address is 57 Wapping Wall, London E1W 3SH

Food and Drinks tour London historic pub tour England

Fish & Chips at The Prospect of Whitby, London’s oldest pub

3. Turner’s Old Star

Next up on your historic London pub crawl is Turner’s Old Star, 10 minutes walk from the Prospect of Whitby. Turner’s Old Star looks exactly how you would picture a traditional English pub to look, with a pool table and darts. It is one of the last remaining traditional East End pubs independently owned.

It was renamed after Joseph Turner a famous English artist, who frequently visited the dock’s waterways. Today Turner’s Old Star is used in movies like Legend starring Tom Hardy. Look around at all the photos on the walls and see how many celebrities you can name.

Turner’s Old Star serves wholesome British food like pies, I had homemade steak pie which was delicious. They also have a large selection of cask ales  and an English favourite London Pride, as well as ciders.

How to get to the Turners Old Star

Turner’s Old Star is located in Wapping and is the only pub that is not on the Thames. If you are coming from the station it is only a 5 minutes walk. The Turner’s Old Star address is 14 Watts St, London E1W 2QG

The bar at Turner's Old Star London

The beers on tap at Turner’s Old Star a traditional English Pub in London

4. Captain Kidd

Less than 5 minute walk from Turner’s Old Star is Captain Kidd Pub, a Grade II listed building formerly used as a coffee warehouse. The pub was named after a 17th-century pirate William Kidd, who was executed in 1697 nearby at the execution Dock.

Captain Kidd is part of London pub groups and it has its own labelled beer and snacks. It is also more spacious, has a huge beer garden and is more modern than the other historical pubs on the tour. Here instead of an English classic meal, enjoy a classic pub snack like the ‘hairy snack’. If you want to try something other than a lager or ale, I suggest trying Samuel Smith’s Porter. 

How to get to the Turners Old Star

Captain Kidd pub is located on the Thames and is the closest pub to Wapping overground station. This is why it has been chosen as the last pub on the beer tour in Wapping. You come out of the station and turn left for a few minutes. Captain Kidd address is 108 Wapping High St, London E1W 2NE

A pint of porter on the stone wall along the Thames

A porter at Captain Kidd along the Thames, London pub tour

5. The Dickens Inn

What better way to end the London beer tour than at one of my favourite pubs, The Dickens Inn. Located in St Katherines Dock 5 minutes walk from the Tower of London. The Dickens Inn is an 18th-century three-storey warehouse completely covered in beautiful flowers. It certainly stands out in between all the modern buildings in the area. 

It has a long and intriguing history intertwined with Charles Dickens and East London heritage. When you look at the slant on the roofline, it is higher on one side than the other. Each of the different levels serves different food.

Finish off at The Dickens Inn with a delicious Cheese platter, dedicated to English cheese such as stilton and cheddar. Pair it with either a Symonds cider or a local ale. A great way to end the London historic pub tour eating and drinking your way around.

How to get to the Dickens Inn

The closed train station to the Dickens Inn is Tower Hill tube stop and Tower Gateway both only a 5-10 minutes walk away in zone 1. It is the closest pub heading back into the city of London and the reason why I chose it last on the pub crawl. 

You can either walk here from Captain Kidd which is less than 15 minutes or you can catch the train. It really depends on how much you have had to drink or if you are tired of walking! The Dickens Inn address is Marble Quay, St Katharine’s Way, Tower Hill, London E1W 1UH

The entrance at The Dickens Inn, St Katherine's dock

The Dickens Inn is one of the best historical pubs in London

Points of interest on London historic pubs tour

  • Walk through the oldest tunnel in the world under the Thames, which was once considered the eighth wonder of the world
  • Stop at Tobacco Dock, to see a replica of one of the trading ships from the West Indies that remains permanently docked. It is hard to believe that originally this area was as large as 40 football fields.
  • Interact with locals who will tell you their own version of tales about pirates and thieves.
  • Walking along Wapping Wall, a heritage protected street that was once a bustling hub of pubs and warehouses. It looks really cool how all the old cranes are still in place, as part of the street decor.

Biking Beer Tour

This can be easily changed into a biking beer tour if you don’t feel like walking and you want to try something different. You can hire one of the Santander Cycles which is managed by Transport of London to use for the bike beer tour.

Pick the bike up from Garnet Street, Shadwell located near all the historical London pubs. You can either pick up and drop off the bike in the same spot in Shadwell. Or you can pick the bike up at Shadwell at the start of the bike beer tour and then drop it off at St. Katharine’s Way when you finish.

Traditional Bangers and Mash on a London historic pub tour

Traditional English meal Bangers & Mash at The Mayflower a London historic pub

Top Tips

  • Don’t eat beforehand, as these self-guided historic London pubs walking tour suggest plenty of traditional English food to try.
  • If you don’t have an Oyster card for public transport, don’t worry as you can use your contactless card.
  • Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes as there is a lot of walking.
  • If you do not want to drink beer, then you can have a small cider or soft drink. 
  • How about taking a guided day tour from London to Stonehenge, Windsor and Bath
  • Not the type of place you would take children for obvious reasons

Where to start and finish the London historic pub and food tour

Start the London historic walks tour from the Mayflower pub in Rotherhithe making your way through Wapping in East London towards London. Before finishing off at The Dickens Inn in St Katharine’s Way just 5 mins walk to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.

London historic walks along the Thames East London

Walking along the River Thames on visiting the London historic pubs

Other Historical places in England

You might be interested in reading these other articles on Historical places in England. All are great options for a day out in London. 

Enjoy your free self-guided historic London pub, food and beer walking tour. I think it is one of the best historic pub crawls in London, as you get to learn something new, visit hidden gems and drink beer.

Additionally, be mindful of your alcohol consumption and consider using alternative modes of transportation if needed. How about booking a River Thames Hop-On Hop-Off Sightseeing Cruise, which lasts for 24 hours?

If you liked this article on English History, please pin it for later!

Best Historical Beer Tour East London England  Self Guided London historic pub tour England

Disclaimer: All views are my own based on my own experience. Please note that there are affiliate advertising program links in the article. If you click on them I may receive a small fee. 

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61 thoughts on “Self Guided Historic Pub & Beer Tour East London

  1. Lisa says:

    I used to work in this area so I know it very well! The Prospect of Whitby and Captain Kidd are my favourites, they’re so traditional and rustic inside. Nice to see the Sam Smith glass of ale, it brings back good memories!

  2. Ashley Smith says:

    This tour looks awesome! One of (if my not #1) favorite things about London was experiencing all the pubs. I love the atmosphere (and food!) and all these places you’ve mentioned are so adorable! The Mayflower is probably my favorite. 🙂

  3. Natalie says:

    That noose! Reminds me of the kids’ spelling game called ‘hangman’. I have been to London several times but have never seen a lovely pub overflowing with flowers and that is so high on my list. What a pretty spot! I think I would have to just stare at it for a while. 🙂

  4. Isabel Leong says:

    I visited parts of London before but never really saw it the way you did. I did hear of Eating Europe Food Tours before but did not really sign up for it. Would love to give some of your suggestions a try! 🙂

  5. Jean says:

    This looks like such a delicious tour! I love the idea of visiting numerous pubs and learning about their history!! I wish I had gone on a tour like this when I was last in london. Rather then stumbling around trying to find a decent pub!

    • melbtravel says:

      I live in London and I always struggle to find a tour that I can learn something new about the city. This is definitely a great tour, I loved walking around all the different pubs and learning something at the same time.

  6. Aditi Shukla says:

    Admiring Thames from a vantage point would be just perfect. The replica on Tobacco Dock is really interesting. Moreover, I wish I could walk along Wapping Wall as I love exploring a city on foot. Cheers!!

    • melbtravel says:

      There is more to just admiring the views, all the learning that you get along the way on this tour is great. Meeting locals and hearing their stories was very cool

  7. Natasha Haley says:

    I absolutely love these little bars. The balcony on the Mayflower looks like a perfect place to spend a few hours. The fish and chips looks delicious. I love all of the history behind the tour too, it makes it all the more interesting

    • melbtravel says:

      All these pubs were great and so different to the norm corp places that we have in central London. I never knew that they had so much history behind them.

  8. Abigail Sinsona says:

    There is nothing more classic than Fish & Chips in London. I love that and would love to sample those as they look so yummy. I love the ambiance too – it definitely adds to the dining experience.

  9. Amber Smith says:

    I live in london and never heard of this before. What a cool tour, I definitely keen to check this out myself. BTW the Mayflower looks like my favourite

  10. Kerry-Anne Wells says:

    I have been to London a couple of times & I am always looking for new tours to do. I love history and beer and this sounds perfect to do next time I’m in town.

  11. Jenny Finney says:

    The flowers cascading on the walls of the Mayflower and The Dickens Inn are so breathtaking and so vibrant! I love visiting places that has a historical story to them and love the rustic look of these places. This would be my type of tour!

  12. kathy says:

    Wow sounds like a great tour. Especially as it involves food and drink. I need to see more of London and hopefully will do when I get home in a month or so. This is something I would love to do. I think my favourite photo of a pub has to be your favourite too, The Dickens Inn. How beautiful!

  13. Daphne says:

    It must have been amazing to participate in this historic beer tour. Nice to hear that the pubs were so different from each other. The Dickens Inn looks amazing! Would love to visit this pub one day!

  14. jhilmil says:

    Interesting, this seems to be a great tour and lovely pub to have some fav drinks and relax. Dicken’s Inn seems to be lovely, shall try out when in London!

  15. Taylor || The Millennial Sprinkle says:

    Wow this trip looks incredible! Especially that food, omg!!! Hahaha, no but really, I would love to travel here. I’ve never been to London, but it’s on my list! Thanks for letting me live vicariously through you!

    xo, Taylor

  16. Candy says:

    This historic pub tour sounds like so much fun! I love doing food tours and learning a bit of history in-between makes it so much better 🙂 That home made meat pie looks so so yummy and I’m sure it goes so well with the tasty brew.

  17. Ola says:

    I’ve never been to London but I do have plans to travel there in the future. This food tour sounds like something that’s right up my alley.

  18. Paige W says:

    I’ve never even heard of this part of London. I’m visiting for the first time in May and I’m so excited! I’ve saved this for future reference. I love the idea of visiting where the Mayflower took off. I also find it interesting that it was known as ‘the ship’. Prospect of Whitby looks so charming. I’ll be going there as well!

  19. Danielle Desir says:

    This is most definitely my sort of guided tour! I especially love the Mayflower and had no idea that it’s one of the oldest bars in London! The views out back are excellent and I’d love to finally try black pudding!

    • melbtravel says:

      I highly recommend the tour, it is such a lot of fun and you learn so much. I never really knew the history about the Mayflower until I was there either. You will have to let me know how you go with the black pudding, still not sure I want to try it 🙂

  20. Susan R says:

    This sounds like a really interesting tour. Funnily enough I live by the oldest Saxon dock in London

  21. Nina says:

    I feel like this is a very quintessential London thing to do. London has been calling my name and I think I’ll try to get back there for a week at some point this fall.

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