Some parts of London are known by all, whether you’ve visited or not. There’s the (once) dodgy East End, the historic City of London, and areas out West made famous through pop culture – think Notting Hill, a 1999 eponymously-named film about a West London neighborhood.
Kensington is one of West London’s posh neighborhoods, and popular with visitors who are seeking iconic architecture, tree-lined streets and mews, and – of course – picturesque pubs. In fact, Kensington is one of the areas of London best known for historic and iconic pubs, though you can find great ones across all of London.
Whether you’ve seen them on Instagram or just know that Kensington is the place to go for a pint, here are some of the best pubs in Kensington worth adding to your London itinerary. From famous (and sometimes infamous) spots where everyone from the Royals to serial killers have imbibed to that one spot with literally thousands of flowers on it (The Churchill Arms), here are the pubs in Kensington to visit on your trip.
The Anglesea Arms
The Anglesea Arms is known for many of its virtues. It has great food, an extensive selection of beers, and a decent wine menu. However, Londoners love it for being one of the best Kensington pubs for socializing.
On any given day, (but especially on a Saturday late afternoon) Anglesea is the place to be for meeting people, for people watching, and for having a good laugh. As soon as the clock hits 5 o’clock, the typical characters you find in a pub start to emerge: the young Londoner who works in finance, the pretty French girl wearing a chic outfit, the Italian Cassanova with the tweed pants and an open tab, the Swedish boy boasting a mysterious air… and so on and so forth. So, if you want a good session of people-watching or to engage in lively conversations, you know the Anglesea is the place you’ve been looking for.
Photos courtesy of The Britannia
Located down a little side road just off Kensington High street, The Britannia serves the most delicious Sunday roast in the city, and for that alone has earned a spot among the best Kensington pubs.
The Britannia has been part of the London pub scene since 1834. Inside, the pub is exquisitely furnished. As with every good Victorian pub, it features mounted antlers, lots of sofas and comfy leather armchairs, and a real fireplace. Besides the Sunday roast, The Britannia has put a lot of effort into creating a delicious menu with quintessentially British produce. So no matter what you order, prepare to be delighted.
The Builders Arms
A Kensington institution, The Builders Arms is a well-known refuge for locals and tourists looking to find a place to relax after hours of walking and shopping on the High Street.
The handsome pub has a glamorous vibe to it, with the wooden bar and fancy floral arrangements on the exterior. Yet it still oozes the “friendliness” that characterizes good British pubs. It’s an excellent place to come with big groups. Builder Arms has curated a menu that leaves no customer unattended.
You can find beers, ciders, wines, cocktails, a delicious burger, or a succulent Sunday roast. In a few words, chances are that if you want something, Builders Arms has it.
The Churchill Arms
Dating back to the 19th Century, The Churchill Arms not only is one of the best pubs in Kensington but also is one of the most famous pubs in London. The pub is famous for its décor, and by décor I mean the exuberant flower bouquets that cover the building from head to toe – which costs the owners the “modest” sum of £25,000 per year.
Inside, things aren’t as floral. Instead, the décor honors the pub’s name, boasting a Churchill theme all over. On the historic side, the pub isn’t connected directly to Churchill as he wasn’t known to frequent the venue. However, Churchill’s grandparents did. Apparently, the 7th Duke of Marlborough and Lady Frances Anne Emily Vane were patrons of the pub in the 19th century.
The Devonshire Arms
The Devonshire Arms is the perfect pub to grab a quick pint. Their beer menu is nothing short of impressive. It boasts an extensive selection of the best cask ales and a collection of limited-edition craft beers on tap you won’t find anywhere else.
When it’s sunny outside, you can grab a seat in the front beer garden; if it’s pouring rain, you can sit in one of the pub’s nooks. The ambiance is lovely and the style even more, with lots of exposed brickwork, leather seating, a fireplace, and old photographs of the area.
The Duke of Clarence
Photos courtesy of The Duke of Clarence via Facebook
A Young’s pub, The Duke of Clarence is every inch of a Kensington pub. Glossy exterior, stylish interiors, a gastronomic offer that satisfies the most discerning palates, and expensive (but delicious) drinks.
Dating back to 1862, the pub was bought by Geronimo in 2009. That same year the pub was refurbished but kept a part-timbered interior and its arched stucco frontage with Corinthian columns. Despite being frequented by London socialites, the venue takes pride in being the best pub in South Kensington for live sport, with 5 big screens that show all the action from the Premier league.
The Elephant and Castle
Photos courtesy of The Elephant and Castle
Nestled between Holland Park and Kensington Gardens, The Elephant and Castle is filled with locals who crave a pint after spending an afternoon in the nearby parks. Its good selection of drinks, quality food, and pleasant outdoor seating area are a few reasons this is a great pub to visit.
It also has an interesting past. The pub has been tending to customers with the same care since 1760. Where the name derives from is a bit of an enigma. One possibility is that the name Elephant and Castle may derive from a connection to Catherine of Aragon, whose title of ‘Infanta de Castilla y Aragon’ could have been anglicized. Another alternative is that it may be linked to the Cutlers’ company of the City of London whose emblem is a war elephant with a howdah on its back.
The Goat Tavern
Stylistically speaking, The Goat Tavern‘s décor is not as interesting as half the other old London pubs. But what it lacks in style, it makes up for in history.
The Goat Tavern is the oldest remaining pub on Kensington High Street, dating back to 1695. Although it’s just a rumor, there used to be tunnels connecting Kensington Palace to The Goat Tavern that Royals regularly used to visit the pub incognito – how cool is this?
The Hour Glass
Photos courtesy of The Hour Glass via Instagram
If the previous pub catered to beer lovers, The Hour Glass caters to foodies. Located on Brompton Road, The Hour Glass is one of the best pubs in Kensington if you’re looking for top-notch British cuisine.
It’s not by mere coincidence, though. The pub’s owners are Luke Mackay and David Turcan, who also run Brompton Food Market. So you can rest assured that you’re going to get a seasonal menu made with the best local produce. The dining room is also up to the task, with an open kitchen, a wall lined with dark paneled woods, and views over Brompton Road.
The King’s Arms
Speaking of football matches, The King’s Arms is the definition of a football pub, with multiple screens and a “lads menu” full of burgers and sharers. If that’s what you’re after, it fits the bill perfectly. King’s Arms used to be a Finch’s pub back in the 80s, after it was bought by Young’s. Recently, the pub has had a makeover which has given it a more modern look, though it still has the feel of a classic pub.
The Scarsdale Tavern
Photos courtesy of The Scarsdale Tavern
When it comes to hospitality, nothing compares to The Scarsdale Tavern. Set right in the heart of Kensington, The Scarsdale Tavern is what Londoners would call “a neighborhood pub”. It is lovely inside and out, featuring a stunning front garden decorated with floral arrangements.
The staff is amazing and creates a genuine atmosphere that makes you feel like part of the family even on your first visit. The menu follows the same path, offering fancy dining options without compromising simplicity.
The Stanhope Arms
Photos courtesy of The Stanhope Arms via Facebook
Dating back to 1835, The Stanhope Arms is one of the best Kensington pubs if you want to fully experience the traditional British atmosphere.
Everything here oozes Britishness. The pub’s green facade is utterly British. The pub’s regular customers are fond of British cuisine. The menu is filled with British staples, from the traditional Fish and Chips, meat pies, tasty Yorkshire puddings, and good cheesecakes. The drinks are quintessentially British, too, with gin cocktails at the forefront. And, of course, they offer a stunning variety of real ales from Britain’s best breweries.
Photos courtesy of The Windsor Castle via Instagram
The Windsor Castle’s stunning Victorian interior is what makes this lovely pub one of the best pubs in Kensington. The interior is a delight, featuring dark wood-paneled walls and hardwood flooring that create a perfect cozy atmosphere.
In 2013, the pub underwent a renovation and built a beer garden so visitors can enjoy a pint outside on a sunny summer day. Last but not least, the pub’s menu doesn’t disappoint. There’s a great choice of meals and an interesting selection of locally crafted beers. If you’re not sure what to order, get the Butternut Squash Risotto. You won’t regret it.
Have any questions about these best pubs in Kensington, or have you visited others I should add? Let me know in the comments!