November 7, 2008 / 4:31 PM / 9 years ago

Travel Postcard: 48 hours Pubbing and Clubbing in London

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore the wealth of London’s traditional and not-so-traditional drinking dens? Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors find a few good watering holes to visit on a short trip.

<p>A barmaid pulls a pint at a pub in central London, November 23, 2005. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez</p>

Friday

6:00 p.m. Start your trip with some traditional German beer and food at the Bavarian Beerhouse (+44 (0)844 330 2005) on City Road in north London. Traditional in a Hooters-meets-The-Sound-of-Music kind of way, the Beerhouse provides one of the most authentic German beer experiences London has to offer. Laid out in beer hall style, you’ll marvel at the ability of the waitresses (garbed in traditional dirndl dresses) to carry six huge steins of German beer almost as much as you’ll be amazed at your ability to finish a whole one.

8:00 p.m. A quick bus ride up to achingly trendy Upper Street in the north London enclave of Islington is your next stop. Islington Green is surrounded on all sides by drinking holes and cocktail bars. Ladybird (+44 (0)20 7359 1710) on Upper Street is a fantastic place to grab an early cocktail before seeking out one of Islington’s many music pubs.

9:00 p.m. Heading further along Upper Street, The Bull (+44 (0)20 7354 9174) is a must. A large pub with a good selection of world beers and a full menu of tapas and bar food, the snug at the back is the perfect place to work off your dinner with a quick game of Trivial Pursuit.

10:30 p.m. If you’re wearing your glad rags, then see the night out in any of the punky late night pubs that Upper Street or the adjacent Essex Road have to offer. The King’s Head Theater and Pub (+44 (0)20 7226 8561) at 115 Upper Street, in particular, offers rock and roll with a Victorian twist. With live bands and DJs, it is as libertine a place to rock the night away as any that Islington can provide. The attached playhouse aspires to showcase innovative theater, in the past hosting The Vagina Monologues and Cambridge Footlights.

Saturday

9:00 a.m. There’s no better way to kick-start a Saturday morning than to take a wander around Borough Market in Southwark. Many of the pubs surrounding the market open early in the morning. Pop in for a quick one at The Market Porter (+44 (0)20 7407 2495) (Opens 6-8.30 for the morning shift) before braving the teeming masses in one of the world’s largest food markets. But if you’re too delicate for a drink this early then try Monmouth Coffee (+44 (0)20 7940 9960) directly opposite for a fantastic cup of java. It’s terrific for people watching.

On weekdays, it is well worth getting down to Smithfield meat market in the City to take advantage of the early hours pubs which cater for the traders there who’ve been hard at work since dawn. Pubs in and around Smithfield start pulling pints as early as six in the morning and some weekday party people can be found seeing in the dawn after a night on the razzle.

11:00 a.m. A stroll through Smithfield will bring you to Borough High Street, and just across the road you’ll find The George Inn, London’s only surviving galleried coaching inn and mentioned by Dickens in “Little Dorrit.” The pub has a sprawling courtyard and a number of snug, intimate nooks.

12:00 p.m. Head into Southwark Cathedral and take in the incredible architecture. A seat of Christian worship for over 1,000 years, the mainly Gothic building and its peaceful churchyards provide a place to quietly contemplate where to grab your next beer.

12:30 p.m. The Cathedral looms over Nancy’s Steps, the stairway leading up to London Bridge where Dickens’s famous tart-with-a-heart was murdered by her lover Bill Sykes in the musical Oliver! Nearby are a number of cozy South London pubs, including the Mudlark (+44 (0)20 7940 9921) on Montague Place, whose large beer garden nestles alongside the Cathedral.

1:30 p.m. A stroll around the Cathedral brings you to The Rake (+44 (0)20 7407 0557), which claims to be the smallest pub in London and has one of the largest selection of world beers. Careful sampling of some of The Rake’s vast (and occasionally very strong) selection of Belgian beers will warm the cockles for a wander up the River Thames.

2:30 p.m. Grab some pub grub at The Old Thameside Inn (+44 (0)20 7403 4243), which provides a great starting point for a river walk. Surrounded by London’s history on all sides, from the site of Medieval prison, The Clink, to the remains of Winchester Palace, on your way you’ll pass The Golden Hinde, a replica of the famous galleon on which Sir Francis Drake sailed around the world.

4:00 p.m. Heading further up the Thames takes you past Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. In season you can take in a play. Otherwise take the opportunity to visit the Tate Modern and its huge collection of modern art. The grand Turbine Hall boasts an ever-changing series of installations.

6:00 p.m. Have a traditional pie dinner at The Black Friar (+44 (0)20 7240 8848), across Blackfriars Bridge. A wedged-shaped pub in the shadow of Blackfriars station, the interior is an Art Deco masterpiece, and the pub remains today thanks to a 1960s campaign by the late Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman to save it from demolition.

8:00 p.m. A short taxi ride brings you to Charing Cross, London’s historical center. After wandering around Trafalgar Square, head down The Strand to grab a few drinks at The Coal Hole (+44 (0)20 7379 9883), which was once used as the coal cellar for the nearby Savoy Hotel.

9:30 p.m. If life truly is a cabaret old chum, then you’d be doing yourself a disservice by missing out on CellarDoor at Zero Aldwich (+44 (0)20 7240 8848). CellarDoor is a tiny, underground cocktail bar with live entertainment, a late license and a 1920s speakeasy vibe that provides the perfect antidote to the day. Fellow drinkers range from the campest drag queen to some of the hippest people in London. The bar also houses the most exhibitionist bathrooms in town. Take a look if you don’t believe me...

11:00 p.m. The heartiest among you may still be in the mood to party, in which case a short taxi ride to Leicester square spoils you with a wealth of clubs in which to shake your booty. Leave your hang-ups and coats at the door and throw some shapes with giddy abandon.

Sunday

9:00 a.m. Recover from last night’s excesses with a spot of tea alongside some scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast at the Pavilion Tea House in Greenwich Park and then blow the cobwebs away with a bracing walk. In 1763 Samuel Johnson visited the park and commented “Is it not fine?” The park has an enormous 183 acres, and the top of the hill (where the Royal Observatory can also be found) boasts one of London’s most impressive views.

11:00 a.m. Head back into Maritime Greenwich and take a loop around Greenwich Market. The market specializes in arts and crafts, and is flanked on all sides by warm and welcoming pubs and cafes.

1:00 p.m. - If you’ve managed to walk off your light brunch, then now would be the time to grab a traditional Sunday roast in The Plume of Feathers (+44 (0)20 8858 1661), the oldest pub in Greenwich. Complete with original claygate fireplace, it features horse brasses and a pretty garden. This is a wonderful place to while away a quiet Sunday afternoon.

3:30 p.m. There’s always time for one more tipple before you leave, and the Trafalgar Tavern (+44 (0)20 8858 2909) is a sparkling place to bring the weekend to a close. Built in 1837, the year before Queen Victoria’s coronation, the tavern is a tribute to old London. If the weather is nice, sit outside by the side of the river under the watchful eyes of a statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson. Nelson died victorious at the Battle of Trafalgar, but his remains were preserved in brandy and brought back to England. Toast your own, slightly pickled, survival with a last few beers, or an early dinner.

Writing by Charlie Breslin, editing by Paul Casciato

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