You’ll be pleased to hear that pubs in London don’t charge entry – although one problem with pubs is that they very often close at 11pm. However, licensing laws in the UK changed a few years ago, so some venues do now have extended opening hours although pubs would normally only stay open till midnight or 1am – and that may only be on a few days of the week (i.e. the weekend). Some bars do charge entry, but this is most likely the case if they are late-night ones (i.e. open until 2/3am), and they usually only charge after a certain time (say, 10pm) on the most popular nights of the week – Fridays and Saturdays.
Drinks don’t really tend to be all that cheap – a pint of beer can even be as much as £4 these days in some places, whilst a glass of wine can be around £5/£6. If you’re really after some cheap drinks, try heading out to places earlier on in the evening, where they may be having a happy hour (offering 2-4-1 on drinks or similar).
One of the top cheap pub tips that any Londoner knows is that Samuel Smith’s pubs tend to be cheaper than many other places – and, more often than not, they’re pretty nice pubs! They only serve their own-brewed drinks (lagers, ales, stouts and more besides) rather than any brand-name drinks, though that is no drawback whatsoever as they’re all robust choices to sample.
Three chain pubs that tend to be cheaper than the rest are Wetherspoons, Yates or Walkabout (the Australian themed chain of bars). All of these places are considered – how shall I say it? – a bit naff, and the more discerning Londoner wouldn’t really go to any of these places by choice. But they do serve cheap drinks and have lots of special offers (on food, too) so beggars can’t be choosers, eh? And seeing as this website aims to help travellers with a cheap London experience, we can’t not include them here!
For particular Wetherspoons worth trying, head to The Moon Under Water (28 Leicester Square, WC2) which is huge and bang in the centre of town; the The Sir John Oldcastle (29-35 Farringdon Road, EC1) or The Metropolitan Bar (Marylebone Road, W1 – next to Baker Street station). In fairness to the Wetherspoons chain, they do have a very good selection of beers!
All Bar One are another chain that are somewhere between a pub and bar, and describe themselves as “stylish city bars”. If that hasn’t put you off, do give them a try – they seemed to have upped their game somewhat recently, and offer pretty decent food and a great selection of drinks. Rather pleasingly, prices are displayed very prominently meaning you can always be sure of going for the cheapest pint, glass of wine and so on!
As mentioned, Walkabout are an Australian chain of pubs, so you’ll get a lot of expats there. They do good food deals too (standard pub grub) and often have bands and other events happening, and there’s very often a rather exuberant atmosphere. It’s not really London Budget’s kind of scene – but if they have special deals on sometimes, who are we to argue?
Recommended Pubs and Bars in London
Here’s some of London Budget’s favourites:
5A Ravey Street, EC2A 4QW
Underground: Old Street
Unfortunately for us cocktail-loving Londoners, there’s few places in the city where you can get expertly made drinks at low prices. Which means when we do go to a cocktail bar, we must make sure it’s one that serves supremely well crafted drinks! Where better to go, then, than to Casita – a tiny little bar, tucked away behind Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch. This place always seems to have a fab atmosphere, and a good selection of tunes playing. (Not sure who’s picked the playlist – but kudos to them.) The small interior just means that you feel like you’re in some kind of secret drinking den, and you’ll likely make friends with everyone else inside, so it doesn’t matter if you starting bumping into them. With most cocktails priced at £8, it’s not too bad compared to other similar bars that are nearby – especially given the quality here. The tequila con verdita is something of a speciality here – you get a shot of tequila with a verdita accompanient. Unlike sangrita, which is tomato based, the shot of verdita is green and made from coriander and mint. It’s…interesting!
1 Randolph Street, NW1 0SS
Overground: Camden Road or Underground: Camden Town
There’s many highlights to this large pub that’s slightly in the back end of nowhere in Camden. Visit in summer and you can enjoy either the seating area out the front, or the small but pretty patio garden at the back. In winter, the large central bar room must certainly appeal. A big draw to surely everybody is the fact that this place offers up a bewildering number of different gins!
170 Uxbridge Road, W12 8AA
Underground: Shepherd’s Bush/Shepherd’s Bush Market
You might find yourself in this part of West London and develop a bit of a panic at the lack of suitable places to get a drink. If so, head straight here. A great lively pub with a cool decor and a good selection of drinks; there’s a large area at the back and even another room on the first floor for when things really get rammed. Open until 2am on Fridays and Saturdays, so a good late night choice for this part of town.
The Garden Gate
14 South End Road, NW3 2QE
Overground: Hampstead Heath
If you’ve spent the afternoon wandering around nearby Hampstead Heath, come here for a post walk pint and a meal. There’s a large garden that must be one of the best pub gardens in the capital, which hosts BBQs on the weekends in summer. The interior is super-cosy for colder weather, and the Sunday roasts are a must. Friendly service too.
Gordon’s Wine Bar
47 Villiers Street, WC2N 6NE
A London institution, this place claims it was “established 1890” and as you clamber down into the cavern like bar, you’ll probably believe that. There’s wine, wine and more wine with a very respectable selection – wines are offered by the glass, half bottle and bottle. It’s a great budget place, because even the cheapest options – if you choose to share a bottle with a friend – are very decent. There’s an outside area for the warmer days, although the bar itself is a must for anyone on a relatively lively night out with friends…or even a date!
78-79 Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8AR
Underground: Chalk Farm
At the northern tip of the whole Camden area of insanity lies Joe’s which may look a little rowdy-not-in-a-good-way from the outside, but is all oh-hey-wow-this-place-is-neat once you’re inside. Decently priced drinks, including their slightly unusual cocktail offerings; there’s hotdogs if your stomach gets-a-growling. Happy hour is 5pm to 7pm; really rather pleasingly, this place is open until 3am every day, so it’s a great option for some late night revelry. The retro music doesn’t quite do it for me, but that’s the only drawback.
90 Gloucester Avenue, NW1 8HX
Underground: Chalk Farm
A light and airy central space means this place is a great weekend venue, as they open up all the windows on those breezy summer days. There’s limited outside space, but seeing as this place is down a quiet road (and next to a cul de sac), spilling out onto the pavement isn’t too bad an option. Some great dishes are on offer, but most unusually (for a pub!) is there pizza menu – well worth trying something from there; I especially enjoyed the Turkish pizza (tomato, mozzarella, lamb, chilli, pinenuts, feta, coriander & red onion). Rumoured to be a celebrity haunt…if that’s your kind of thing.
The Princess of Shoreditch
76 Paul Street, EC2A 4NE
Underground: Old Street
A gorgeous gastropub that has a beautifully kitted out interior – even the loos are bloomin’ fancy! A decent sized main room, there’s also plenty of opportunity for hanging out the front as the pub is on a quiet Shoreditch side street. Food and drinks are averagely priced, for London, but this place is certainly worth a visit for its top quality food (amazing double dipped chips!), and good drinks selection. And to top it all off, the bar staff are supremely friendly!
3 Kingly Street, W1B 5PB
Just behind Regent Street, this bar…with two floors (!)…is a go-to place for many a twenty-something year old, whether it’s a night out with friends, girls’ drinks or even a date! Supremely laid-back, there’s sometimes a DJ playing on the ground floor, whilst the basement has a tiki theme. Cocktails a little on the pricey side, unfortunately.