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Heading to London? Skip the Hotel and Stay at a Pub

By Sara Lieberman

Feb 26, 2020

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Don’t hail a cab—just head upstairs to a sweet room of your own after last call at these five London pubs.

Photo by Veerie Evens, courtesy of the Buxton

Don’t hail a cab—just head upstairs to a sweet room of your own after last call at these five London pubs.

Put down your pint and head upstairs to find comfortable beds, cool designs, and maybe a cozy fireplace or reading nook. Could pubs with rooms be the perfect alternative to big chain hotels?

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It’s last call in London and you’ve just taken the final sip of your pint. Do you a) hail one of those charming black cabs? b) Get the last tube to your hotel? Or c) walk upstairs to bed? The answer you may want to consider, fellow traveler, is option c. You’re at a public house, after all. It has rooms to rent.

Dating back to the late Middle Ages, coaching inns served weary travelers who journeyed English roads by horse or stagecoach. Travelers would stop, tie up their horses, have a drink (ale was a safer choice than water), a bite to eat, and a quick slumber before continuing on their way. 

“Then the railways came,” says Dr. Paul Jennings, historian and author of The Local: a History of the English Pub. “They were quicker [so travelers] no longer needed to stay en route. These older coaching inns disappeared or became public houses, ordinary places serving drinks.” Even so, many local pubs kept their beds to provide overnight options for those who needed it. 

A handful of London pubs are coming back around to the pub-with-rooms approach by opening or sprucing up guest rooms as a comfortable alternative to Airbnb or a full-service hotel. 

“We are genuinely able to provide something very different,” says Nico Treguer, co-owner of the Culpeper and the Buxton, two pubs offering overnight stays in London’s East End. “People staying with us belong to the neighborhood. They don’t feel like tourists.”

So instead of staying at an anonymous hotel, get to know a neighborhood by staying upstairs at one of these cool local pubs. Cheers!

The Hero of Maida, Maida Vale, W9

Located on a quiet street in the tony Maida Vale neighborhood, this pub debuted its new guests rooms in September 2019. Those who stay needn’t worry about noise from the bar below: The five rooms are three flights up, and each looks out either onto rooftops or over Shirland Road. They’re furnished with king-size beds and down pillows, flatscreen TVs, and bathrooms stocked with shower amenities from Britain’s essential oil–based brand Bramley. (A nice fit: Bramley was founded in 2009 to supply toiletries for overnight guests at a country pub in Wiltshire.) While breakfast is not included in the nightly rate, some of the tasty à la carte items include sautéed field mushrooms and shallots on sourdough, and an all-day Sunday roast so good you’d be smart to book ahead. Hot tip: Save room for the sticky toffee pudding. 

The five upstairs rooms at the Culpeper provide a comfortable place to land in the East End.

The Culpeper, Aldgate, E1

In nice weather, the locals at this corner gastropub often spill out onto the sidewalk of Commercial Street, Guinness pint in hand. Sashay past them and head inside: One flight up from the bustling bar, you’ll find a light-filled, brick-walled restaurant serving dishes like pan-fried duck breast with poached pear. Climb another flight to find comfort and calm in one of the five spacious guest rooms. The decor of each blends old and new elements like fireplaces and wooden headboards as well as Moroccan poufs and standing wardrobes. Make-your-own-coffee kits mean you can mosey to breakfast (included in the nightly rate) once you’re good and caffeinated. The morning meal on offer ranges from simple fresh pastries from the Bread Station in London Fields to something more substantial like poached eggs served with harissa and a dollop of mint yogurt. The Culpeper also hosts guided stargazing, book parties, and terrarium workshops at its rooftop garden where many of the herbs used in the kitchen are grown. Other evening events held next to the rooftop firepits include tastings featuring the delicious wares of local businesses, such as cider maker Maison Sassy and cheesemonger Mons.

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The sunny rooms and curated library of must-read books at the Buxton mean you may want to linger longer.

The Buxton, Brick Lane, E1

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Just a short walk from its sister spot the Culpeper, the Buxton, a gastropub with a street-level narrow bar topped by three floors of guest rooms, opened in May 2019. The 15 rooms are on the small side, but good designs—space-saving sliding doors and Rothko-esque prints on the walls—make them both efficient and Instagram-friendly. Continental breakfast is included in the room rate, and you may want to go back upstairs afterwards to linger a little. A partnership with bookshop Libreria enables guests to curl up with a curated selection of books beside their in-room, nonworking (but still cute) fireplace. Come happy hour, there’s more than beer to drink: Down at the marble-topped bar, clever cocktails include an Ivy Gimlet Royale made with vodka, elderflower, mint, lime, and prosecco.

An attention to cozy details and a great craft beer selection make the Hayden a Notting Hill destination for overnights.

The Hayden, Notting Hill, W2

Channel the character Julia Roberts played in the 1999 movie named for this neighborhood and head west to picturesque Notting Hill. She may have snagged the bookseller played by Hugh Grant, but you can have a happy ending, too. A local pub, the Hayden, sets visitors up for a chic stay, complete with bathrobes and slippers for lazy lie-ins. The eight en suite rooms, spread across three upper floors, were refurbished last November with whitewashed wood furnishings, charming wallpaper, tufted headboards, and comfy Posturepedic beds nattily dressed with houndstooth wool throws. You can reach the rooms through the bar, but there’s also a separate street entrance, too, in case you don’t make it back before last call. That said, you may want to get home in time to enjoy a drink downstairs: The gastropub, with leather booths and tin ceilings, offers loads of offbeat brews like Tailgate peanut butter milk stout and the Grafton Grappler, a craft lager.

The Dog & Fox, Wimbledon, SW26

As you may guess, the further from Central London you go, the more space you get. Combine roomy digs with nearby tennis and you have a great reason to stay in the London ’burbs. Not only is this pub—which dates back to the 1800s—planning to unveil a massive refurbishment of its 28 rooms this spring, but it’s also a 10-minute walk to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, where international racquet magic happens every June. At the Dog & Fox, you can expect four-poster beds and plaid carpet to tickle your toes upon stepping out of a roll-top double bathtub. Not dreamy enough for you? There are also sunlit reading nooks with views over Wimbledon Village. Dogs are welcome and provided their own bed and kibble bowl. Breakfast is extra, but who can resist Cajun beans on toast with smoked back bacon?

>>Next: The Best Bookshops in London

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