London’s best pub gardens

The Capital boasts a host of welcoming watering holes, blessed with stunning outside spaces that are perfect for a summer social.

30 April, 2024

As London basks in the first glint of sunshine, its splendid beer gardens come into their own. From sun-soaked sanctums perfect for a rendezvous, to riverside retreats where you can kick back and unwind, we’ve found the best al fresco pub spots for fun and feasting with friends.

The Sun of Camberwell, SE5

Best for: hearty hospitality

It’s entirely fitting that The Sun of Camberwell’s welcoming mantra is ‘serving delicious food and real ale with a smile’, as this is typical of this south east London neighbourhood’s village-like character that’s brimming with community spirit.

Just a short walk from Camberwell Green, the pub began life as The Sun in the 1700s. Today, this neighbourhood favourite boasts a shabby chic interior featuring a homely mix of rustic furniture, games, and a quirky parlour room.

The same amiable atmosphere spills out into the hip hangout patio at the back, featuring rows of picnic tables perfectly placed for basking in the sun.

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London’s best pub gardens - The Sun of Camberwell, SE5 - Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward

The Four Thieves, SW11

Best for: fun and games

A former Victorian music hall, The Four Thieves is now a playful entertainment emporium that houses a host of fun and games.

In the heart of Battersea, a few minutes walk from Clapham Junction, this pub has everything you need for a summer shindig, including a retro 80s-style arcade and a remote-controlled raceway track.

Inside, the zany décor honours its music hall past, and beyond the amusements of the pleasure palace within, lies the pub’s magical sun trap garden with vintage seating, quirky artwork, fairground-style lighting and canopies entwined with scented lavender.

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London’s best pub gardens - The Four Thieves, SW11 - Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward

The Albion, N1

Best for: family festivities

Tucked between Islington’s handsome Georgian terraces, The Albion is an exquisite historic pub, which harks right back to those Georgian times.  

French windows open to a bright and spacious English country garden-style space with a mix of tables and seating.

An ancient wisteria winds around pretty pergolas, its colourful canopy of lilac blooms throwing dappled shade and sunlight onto the tables below.

Punters enjoy the pub’s cool, calm, laid back atmosphere. Its gastropub menu offers sharing elements, and the outdoor charcoal grill is fired up in the evening. The pub is particularly renowned for its popular Sunday roast selection.

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London's best pub gardens - The Albion, N1 - Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward

The Spaniard’s Inn, NW3

Best for: authenticity and atmosphere

With a history dating back to 1585, the iconic Grade II listed Spaniard’s Inn on the edge of Hampstead Heath has been graced by a host of notable characters.

Novelist Charles Dickens immortalised the inn in The Pickwick Papers. And it even gets a mention in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Its lovingly-preserved interior with period panelling, wooden beams and an open fire is filled with cosy corners and romantic nooks.

But come the summer, the pub’s peaceful garden sets a sunnier tone. With space for 400, there’s a spot to suit everyone among the ivy-clad walls, fairy-lit huts and outdoor bar – all illuminated by the glint of traditional copper lanterns.

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London's best pub gardens - The Spaniard’s Inn, NW3 - Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward

The Boater’s Inn, KT2

Best for: river views and rendezvous

Boasting a beautifully idyllic setting on the river’s edge in Kingston Upon Thames, The Boater’s Inn lets you watch life on the water bob by as you wile away a lazy summer’s day under the dappled shade of a covered outdoor terrace.

A former club room built in the 60s, it’s now a laid-back, peaceful pub that seems a far cry from the bustle of Kingston town centre.

Inside, the smart, pavilion-style venue is food-focused and offers a gastro version of pub grub favourites.

Set on a raised area that backs directly on to Canbury Gardens, the Al fresco summer dining tables have a plum Thameside vantage point. Next to this is a relaxed beer garden with plenty of tables and outdoor heaters that let you comfortably sip past sunset and into the fairy light-filled night.

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London's best pub gardens - The Boater’s Inn, KT2 - Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward

The Rosendale, SE21

Best for: child’s play

Originally a Victorian coaching inn, The Rosendale gastropub set among West Dulwich’s leafy avenues has everything you need for a family day out.

Behind the imposing, double-fronted facade is all heritage elegance – from the original Royal Doulton tiles to the painted panelling and vaulted ceilings.

The outside space is considerable: a heated winter garden, a summer garden with sun-trap patio and a play area.

Ever mindful of families visiting with children – there’s a pram parking pit stop, baby changing facilities, colouring books and a ‘fast and fresh’ kids’ menu.

In the year-round front garden, you can enjoy a bite and a brew with friends and watch the hustle and bustle of the Rosendale Road from the shade of extra-large parasols surrounded by bay and cypress trees.

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London's best pub gardens - The Rosendale, SE21 - Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward

The Arnos Arms, N11

Best for: punter participation

A stone’s throw from New Southgate overground and Arnos Grove Underground, The Arnos Arms is a bohemian, creative social hub where any occasion is cause for celebration.

Participation is positively encouraged – the clientele enjoy a packed schedule of parties that spill from the quirky interior out into two ample beer gardens.

In the summer, past events have included National Prosecco Day, wine tastings and a summer crafts fair.

If you fancy spectating, pick a sunny spot among the picnic tables, palm trees and parasols and enjoy the craft beer, cocktails, free popcorn and games from afar.

Inside, the stunning interior is a vintage Aladdin’s Cave of bare brick, diner-style banquettes, leather covered sofas and chairs, a pin ball machine and games for all ages.

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London's best pub gardens - The Arnos Arms, N11 - Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward

The Leather Bottle, SW17

Best for: balmy brunching

Having recently celebrated its reopening after an impressive renovation, the historic Leather Bottle in Earlsfield offers a huge, stunner of a garden, where you can tuck into a full English, accompanied by a cheeky breakfast cocktail and a healthy dose of south west London sunshine.

The pub has been at the heart of the community since 1721. Fast forward 300 plus years and it has enjoyed a substantial refurbishment that has restored many of the original period features.

Inside, you'll find a library-style dark paneling, chubby Chesterfield sofas, traditional rugs, and glass lanterns. The 450-capacity outdoor space is a summer showstopper. Out front, wind down with a twilight tipple on the beautifully-lit patio. And head out back for the ultimate party space where you’ll find row upon row of picnic tables, an outdoor barbecue and bar, shepherd’s style huts and a party deck under the magical glow of string lights.

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London's best pub gardens - The Leather Bottle, SW17 - Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward

The Drayton Court Hotel, W13

Best for: summer festivities

With all the fun of a village fete, the Drayton Court Hotel in Ealing has cornered the market in incredible, festival-style events.

The pub features a roster of al fresco mixers in its self-proclaimed ‘biggest beer garden in London’, including a gin festival, beer festival, major rugby, football screenings, and a summer firework show.

One of the oldest hotels in Ealing, this grand Victorian building opened in 1894 as a residential hotel.

The huge space also features a covered ‘Aperol Lounge’, an Aperol Bike that cycles your serve to your table, giant garden games, a wood-fired pizza oven, barbecue, and a pop-up bar from Siren Brewery.

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London's best pub gardens - The Drayton Court Hotel, W13 - Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward

The Dolphin, SE26

Best for: grown up gatherings

The sign inside The Dolphin reads: ‘This is a garden for the enjoyment of grown ups. Children are welcome, but must be accompanied and seated at all times.’

And indeed, The Dolphin’s landscaped garden that perfectly suits the pub’s mock-Tudor exterior is a quiet and discreet hideaway with a chilled-out, tranquil atmosphere.

It’s thought The Dolphin has been on this site in Sydenham since at least 1733. Today, there’s a cheery atmosphere where locals gather for a chat and a pint among the refectory-style panelling, comfy Chesterfield armchairs and welcoming vintage lighting.

Outside is a manicured masterpiece. Tables are set among geometric grassy gardens, circular topiary hedges and gravel paths edged by apple trees.

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London's best pub gardens - The Dolphin, SE26 - Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward

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