The 12 Days Of Christmas Pub Crawl

By M@ Last edited 8 months ago

Last Updated 09 November 2023

The 12 Days Of Christmas Pub Crawl

Could this be the ultimate London pub crawl? A boozy journey through the 12 days of Christmas. Can any readers manage to reach all 12 in one day?

The Partridge, Bromley

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me... a partridge in a pear tree

Two options here. Londoners of a deep-south persuasion can try The Partridge on High Street, Bromley — a handsome redbrick Fuller's pub favoured by younger drinkers. For a more adult affair, head to The Pear Tree, 14 Margravine Road, Hammersmith. Phone ahead for this popular gastropub — we turned up a few years ago, only to find the venue closed for a private Christmas do.

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me... two turtle doves

We have no hesitation here in recommending The Dove in Hammersmith, voted by Londonist readers as one of the best pubs on the River Thames. The cosy wooden interior and roaring fire are perfect for a sharp winter's evening, but be sure to check out the riverside terrace, too. To make it a pair of birds, head along to The Dove on Broadway Market, Hackney. The popular boozer has a sequence of small rooms and spaces to explore, and a fine selection of European beers.

The Dove in Hammersmith.

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me... three French hens

There are plenty of Cocks around town, but not so many pubbish hens, and certainly no French ones. However, you can get into Gallic spirit by visiting The French House in Soho, where the limited selection of beers is served in half-pint measures, just to be awkward. Stick to the wine. Then it's on to the Hen and Chickens Theatre Bar in Highbury, a small but cosy option with its own fringe theatre.

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... four colly birds

A 'colly bird' is an arcane way of saying 'blackbird'. It just so happens that there's a very prominent Blackbird pub on Earls Court Road, run by Fuller's. Nothing remarkable about it, but certainly a sound enough pub to sink a pint.

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... FIVE GOLD RINGS

Let's suppose for a moment that your true love got you five tickets to visit a boxing ring, rather than a quintet of finger jewellery. In that case, The Ring on Blackfriars Road makes perfect sense. It gets its name from a famous sporting arena also known as The Ring, which stood across the road in the first half of the 20th century. The pub is a decent little place, no doubt packed with staff from Transport for London, who today occupy the vast Palestra Building on the site of the boxing ring.

A photo of The Ring sporting venue, signed by boxers of the day, which we found in a random pub in Gillingham.

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... six geese a-laying

Have a gander at Old Tom's Bar in Leadenhall Market. This foodie basement joint is named after the market's famous Victorian goose, who somehow managed to evade slaughter, living on in the market for 37 years. The bar is decorated in genuine 19th century tiles, which Old Tom might have seen with his own anserine eyes. Old Tom's is closed at weekends, so an alternative Goose can be found over in Fulham.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me... seven swans a-swimming

A number of Swans to select from, if not quite seven. Perhaps the most prominent is the first-floor pub at the Globe, which serves lovely food and also doubles as the unofficial toilets for the nearby Rose Theatre. There's also a brash Swan in Hammersmith, and a riverside Swan in Bayswater (albeit beside the buried River Westbourne).

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... eight maids a-milking

There was a Milkbar in Soho, and the famous Blue Eyed Maid on Borough High Street, but both of these have now closed. The best we can now recommend is the source of most milk: The Old Red Cow in Smithfield. It's a tiny but well-stocked pub... though we're not sure if it actually sells glasses of milk.

The Swan, Bankside

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me... nine ladies dancing

Lots of pubs are named after Lords, not so many for Ladies. You could chase the dancing by going for a tipple in the Royal Opera House bars. An expensive option, though, we fear. Alternatively, try the Lady Ottoline in Clerkenwell, or the Lady Mildmay on Newington Green.

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me... ten Lords a-leaping

Plenty of Lords about town. Choose among Lord Abercornway in Liverpool Street, Lord Clyde in Borough, Lord Nelson on the Isle of Dogs, Lord Northbrook in Lewisham, Lord Palmerston in Dartmouth Park, Lord Raglan in St Paul's, Lord Stanley near Camden Town and the Lord's Tavern beside the famous cricket ground, in which players are occasionally seen to leap. The House of Lords also has its own bar, if you know the right people, but it's not particularly conducive to a festive pub crawl.

Not much evidence of leaping.

On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me... 11 pipers playing

If, for ladies dancing, you opted for the Royal Opera House, it is but a mere jeté to reach The Crusting Pipe. This subterranean bar is in the basement of the market complex, from where you'll probably hear brass bands and carol singers while you sup. They also did a pretty neat afternoon tea last time we were there.

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me... 12 drummers drumming

We previously pointed you towards The Drum in Leyton, which was among the first pubs in the Wetherspoon chain to open. Sadly, it's also among the first to close. But no matter — instead head to one of London's many pubs with live music. You've earned a bit of entertainment after this epic pub crawl.

All images by M@. See our Best Pubs in London website for more ideas.

This article is an updated rewrite of an 2010 version, which included contributions and research by Rachel Holdsworth and Ben Norum. We've since updated it again to sadly remove a number of now-closed pubs.