15 cool and quirky bars in London

For a night out with a twist, go off the beaten track and find the coolest and quirkiest bars in London.
The 1920s Chicago-inspired bar, complete with red velvet bar stools and retro lampshades, at Barts in London.
Barts brings 1920s Chicago to 21st-century London. Image courtesy of Inception Group.

When darkness falls across the city, find yourself a quirky basement bar, secret drinking hole or themed boozer in London.

1. Cahoots

Don your best vintage outfit and step back in time at Cahoots, a charming 1940s-themed bar in Soho. This former bunker has been transformed into an Underground station bar, complete with trains and sandbags. Sip on dazzling cocktails as you soak up the atmosphere of post-war Britain, accompanied by jazz, swing, rock ‘n’ roll, electro-swing and vintage discs.

2. Draughts

More into good old-school board games? Grab your mates, order a round of drinks with hearty snacks and choose from an impressive collection of board games at Draughts. Monopoly? Check. Trivial Pursuit? Check. Cluedo? Check. With more than 1,000 games to choose from and three locations in Waterloo, Hackney and Dalston, this gamers haven will keep you coming back. 

3. First Aid Box

getting my drip 💉

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Pick up your prescription at the First Aid Box in Herne Hill, where creative "healing" tipples are served in quirky vessels, from IV drips to medical beakers. The ingredients list of the "cure-all" cocktails are just what the doctor ordered – a bit of thirst aid if you will! For something a little less healthy, sneak into the backroom speakeasy, where heady fumes and tangy cocktails are the order of the day.

4. The Schoolhouse

Take a trip down memory lane back to your school days at Battersea's The Schoolhouse. With staff in school uniform, a confiscated list of craft beers and cocktails concocted in the science lab, this themed London bar has plenty of nostalgia. Go for a bottomless brunch or dinner, or simply sit back with a few beers with friends (and no fear that the headmaster will take them away!).

5. Doctor Kluger's Olde Towne Tavern

Head down a corridor at Canary Wharf's The Breakfast Club and you'll find Doctor Kluger's Olde Towne Tavern, a secret London bar worth seeking out. With sofas you can sink into, lamps that look like they came from grandma's front room and giant disco balls hanging from the ceiling, the eclectic vibe here is ideal for hiding away from the busy streets with a cocktail or two.

6. Flight Club

Looking for some friendly competition for your next evening out? Look no further than Flight Club in Shoreditch and Bloomsbury. Banish any thoughts of an old, musty pub with darts pros ruling the roost. At this darts club, anyone can play, whatever their ability. Plus, the interactive dart board and screen means there's no tricky maths to do. Even if you’re not a darts fan, come for the great pizzas, slushies and cocktails.

7. The Last Tuesday Society

Ever shared a drink with a lion? No? Well now's your chance. Join Leonora, the full-sized taxidermy lioness, at her booth for a drink or two, and that's just the beginning of the weird and wonderful adventures of The Last Tuesday Society. Choose from the absinthe-inspired cocktail list (there are plenty of other choices too) before venturing downstairs to Viktor Wynd's Museum of Curiosities to discover the strange, exotic, shocking and sometimes macabre collections within.

8. The Bletchley

Inspired by the old code-breaking headquarters, The Bletchley uses its own decipher techniques to create bespoke cocktails matched to your personality. Just input data into its machines, such as scents and colours that appeal to you, and let its code-breaking team work its magic. Using a combination of Enigma techniques and Sherlock deduction principles, your top-secret recipes will be handed to you along with your drinks. They'll be your little secret.

9. The Attendant

Sit back, relax and watch exciting food and drinks being created in the unique underground surroundings of the former Victorian gents lavatory, The Attendant. Inspired by its past, the bar’s original porcelain urinals are now used as coffee benches, complete with green seating to match the Victorian tiling.

10. Barts

Can you keep a secret? Travel back in time as Barts brings 1920s Chicago to 21st-century London. Ring the bell, offer the secret password and step inside to sample a riot of cocktails and quirky cartoon decor. Choose from an extensive list of illicit cocktails enjoyed by the lawbreakers of London and keep your eyes peeled for secret cocktail menus hidden within works of literature.

11. Evans & Peel Pharmacy

From the team behind the Evans & Peel Detective Agency, The Pharmacy is now taking prescription requests in Chiswick. Say the right thing to the pharmacist and the windows will turn opaque to avoid prying eyes while you're handed your prescription and ushered through the back door to the hidden bar within. Imbibe on plenty of "healing" cocktails and sharing plates – we're sure you'll be feeling as right as rain by the time you leave.

12. Four Quarters

Gather your friends for a Mario Kart tournament or binge on your favourite arcade game, from Pac Man to Street Fighter, at this old-school video game-dedicated bar in Peckham, or their Hackney Wick branch. Exchange your British change for American quarters and enjoy craft beers, creative cocktails and hearty American dishes between pinball rounds.

13. Little Nan's Bar

Always thought your grandmother's front room would make a great bar? Perhaps not, but luckily for us, Tristan Scutt did. Inspired by his gran, Little Nan's Bar is like walking back in time to the 1980s, when sickly sweet cocktails adorned with mini umbrellas were still novel, Princess Diana was the rising star in our hearts, and fancy teapots were all the rage (except here, they're filled with something a little stronger than tea). Visit their Deptford home, or their second Catford branch and live it up like Nana Pat.

14. The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town

We are here to see the Mayor🗝

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Ask to see The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town at this ordinary looking cafe in the City of London and an entrance down to the bar will provide a very unique experience (we won’t ruin the surprise). Find a darkened room with luscious cocktails, beers and bar snacks. When you’re done, don’t forget to leave through the secret exit. Be in the know and impress your friends with tales from this secret bar.

15. WC - Wine & Charcuterie

Sample fine wine and cheese in the underground Victorian setting of WC - Wine & Charcuterie. Located underneath Clapham Common Station, this former Victorian lavatory has preserved the original wall tiles and floor mosaics from its past, and cubicle doors have been laid flat and turned into tables. Choose from an extensive wine list and accompany your drink with a delectable selection of cheese and meat from around the UK and Europe.

Keen to discover even more quirky hangouts? Check out our guide to quirky London: find odd exhibits at unusual museums, seek out secret spots or enjoy a meal with a difference at London's quirky restaurants.