Here are the best London pubs you don’t need to book
Bring back spontaneous mad ones at the pub
After months of being caged in the four walls of our homes, we have all been romanticising about going to our favourite bars and pubs, socializing in real-life scenarios with our friends whilst enjoying an ice-cold pint.
Zoom cocktail parties have played their part in carrying our alcoholism through Covid, however the long-awaited easing of lockdown has finally reached our doorsteps. The agony is finally over and pubs have finally reopened, but now we’re all bummed at how hard it is to find a table anywhere.
To all the unorganised students who always end up deciding at the very last minute where to spend a night out, or simply to the spontaneous ones, fellow of the unplanned and unpredicted, always on the verge of discovering new venues, this article is for you.
As most pubs currently require booking, it is a hassle to be able to find a free spot at the very last minute. However, you will be amazed at how many pubs are offering either a completely no booking or walk-in service despite the current times.
So here are the best London pubs you can walk-in easily without booking:
The Duke of Edinburgh
As warmer weather is slowly, very slowly approaching, we can all start getting excited about populating beer gardens once again, but this time in cute outfits. Summer may be taking its sweet time to appear, but during the rare good days we all need a banging beer garden to frequent, and the Duke of Edinburgh provides just that.
From the 12th April, South London’s largest beer garden, situated in Brixton, offers walk-ins for customers. As the days of warmth and sunshine in London after the summer will become a rarity, the Duke of Edinburgh is now the perfect spot to get both some Vitamin D and a nice drink.
They even have a crazy golf which is jungle themed, so if that’s not the perfect last-minute activity I have no idea what is.
The Three Crowns
The Three Crowns is a pub located in Stoke Newington you can easily show up to without a booking, especially on weekdays, where it provides a homey and cosy vibe. If you manage to make it on weekends, though, prepare for a much clubbier atmosphere.
Aside from offering a wide range of drinks and cocktails, from ciders to margaritas and palomas, food at the Crowns is a banging range of proper Thai street food, giving it a modern menu in this beautiful traditional setting that is just ready for you to indulge on.
The 45,000 square feet Italian street food market in Elephant and Castle reopened its doors on May 17th and only takes walk-ins, which means you don’t even need to try booking, and the queue is definitely worth it for the experience you get inside.
The Mercato provides a wide range of drinks and cocktails, giving it a bustling bar vibe. The star of the show, though, is the amazing global street food that you get to try, from Italian arancini or ice cream to Turkish, Indian, Lebanese or Mexican dishes.
The Red Lion
The Red Lion is a pub located in the heart of Stoke Newington that is very conscious of dietary requirements, offering a great range of vegan food and gluten-free beer.
There’s no booking required, especially during the weekdays, and the staff are super friendly so will definitely help you out to find a table. With the Euros approaching, you can take advantage of nice weather by watching the football matches in their outside garden too.
Coach and Horses
Located in Soho, Coach and Horses is one of the very few pubs in central London that does not require booking.
It is one of the most famous old-fashioned English pubs, so old-fashioned, in fact, that it has never been retouched after being built in 1850. With a solely walk-in service, Coach and Horses is the perfect location to go when in need of a last-minute spot in Central.
Pre-Covid, one of the pub’s best attractions was its karaoke nights, which are slowly making a comeback, so this is definitely one for a classic Gavin and Stacey-inspired British night out.
The Ice Wharf
The Ice Wharf is a Wetherspoons located in the heart of Camden Town, which may be an unauthentic Spoons chain, but is definitely a truckload of fun. Right on the canal and opposite Camden Market, it’s a bustling place with a lot of fun outdoor venues to feel the vibe.
And to be honest, who could say no to cheap drinks, cheap pizza and *those* halloumi fries. Now that both the indoor and outdoor seating areas are open, booking is hardly even necessary for this banger of a pub.
The Rose and Crown
As restrictions are easing The Rose and Crown is offering mostly walk-ins, and is the perfect location for people just wanting a properly traditional pub experience.
It is a Stoke Newington pub that takes pride in its refined architecture. With ciders, beers and an extended wine list, it’s also the perfect place to have a last-minute piss up.
The pub used to offer quiz nights, which are unfortunately not currently available because of Covid restrictions, but hopefully they’ll make a return soon.
According to Robert, a bartender from Ryan’s N16, this pub “makes sure that everyone is welcomed” by accepting mostly walk-ins.
The bar’s youthful and modern aesthetic allows Ryan’s N16 to rarely go unnoticed in the midst of the many old-fashioned English pubs located in Stoke Newington. Pre-lockdown it used to offer a lot of events in their outdoor garden with live DJ music too, which will hopefully return for pub renditions of club bangers.
Ryan’s N16 will do private hires after June 21st hits, with celebrations of all sorts taking place in their downstairs basement, so is also the perfect spot to celebrate all the missed birthday parties during lockdown.
Sugar Cane Clapham
Looking to dodge the miserable May rain with an exotic location to spend your night out with friends? Manifest escaping London’s gloominess and flying directly to Fiji or Hawaii at the Sugar Cane cocktail bar.
It is a one-of-a-kind bar that you will hardly find elsewhere in London – it’s inspired by South Pacific islands and Tiki decor, and was opened 20 years ago when the owner, after going to the first Tiki bar ever built in London, got the inspiration to create his own.
The Tiki style is predominant in the decorations, food and cocktails, and in pre-Covid times, Tiki drummers and dancers provided groovy entertainment for the insta story.
Sugar Cane reopened on 17th May and now offers a lot of space for walk-ins.
Eataly is the perfect Liverpool Street spot for that adventurous niche of customers ready to experience two floors and three restaurants’ worth of exquisite Italian food.
Whether you’re a nostalgic Italian or a very bored student day-dreaming about going on Continental holidays, get back to evenings spent in the company of your friends whilst sipping Campari, Negroni or Aperol spritz. Eataly very recently opened, and offers walk-ins at their famous outdoor restaurant “la Terrazza”, which brings a very European pub vibe.
The Faltering Fullback
The Faltering Fullback, otherwise known as the hidden gem of Finsbury Park, is a one-of-a-kind Irish pub that doesn’t take any bookings. The bottom half of the building is entirely covered in green leaves, giving it a gorgeously insta-worthy exterior to match the charm of the inside.
The pub offers live acoustic music performed on Thursdays by local artists, and on Sundays a jam of typical Irish folk music and 60 or 70s classics. Your favourite drink, a nice group of friends and some live Irish music – sounds like a perfect equation, right?
Swift Bar Soho
An unpredicted night out without booking in the midst of Soho sounds like an overly complicated combination, and one you don’t want to get stuck drinking corner-shop wine in a park for if all the pubs are full.
Luckily, Swift Bar in Soho is generously helping out us young people in avoiding this situation. As restrictions are easing the bar is currently leaving heated tables available outside to walk-ins for customers to take advantage of, and it is a swanky place indeed to end up last-minute.
Hackney Wick’s Crate Brewery offers a lot of walk-in space on their canal site, which provides a perfect street art and indie backdrop for your homemade craft beer obsession. Apparently they do “banging pizzas”, a customer tells us, describing it as “hipster” and a “very cool place to socialise.”
The Auld Shillelagh
The Auld Shillelagh describe themselves to be “The most authentic Irish pub in the world outside Ireland”, and offer walk-ins during the week for folks interested in being immersed into Irish culture.
A pretty modest place from the outside but big on the inside, with traditional pub decor and a massive outdoor beer garden, this Stoke Newington pub has heaters, which we know is an absolute yes for the cold London days.
With Gaelic music provided and, according to them, the best Guinness served in London, The Auld appears to be the perfect location to go back to those Irish roots and get absolutely hammered with some old people.
Bank of Friendship
A small independent pub located In Highbury, Bank of Friendship offers an entirely no-booking service. It’s the perfect location for those unplanned summer evenings, with a lovely outdoor garden, homemade craft beer, and a varied list of gin cocktails.
It’s strictly over 21 only, which sucks for you fledgling students out there, but means it has a calmer and “grown-up” atmosphere about it, especially with their live music events and open-mic nights.
For the real wine lovers, Passione Vino is described by Financial Times as “a true wine wonderland”. Located in Shoreditch, Passione Vino is a small independent canteen that specialises in selling the best Italian artisanal wines, of course paired with cheese and cured meat charcuterie boards.
The bar offers walk-ins for customers to freely enjoy a taste of Italian wine, however weekends can get pretty busy in this small space, so we’d recommend a classy weekday alter-ego night pretending you’re in Sicily on a beach and sipping wine.
The wars will soon be over, but these venues will definitely guarantee some revolutionary pub nights after our awful winter lockdown experience and before things are back to normal.