10 of the Best Gin Palaces

Far from its beginnings in the bawdy backstreets of London, today gin is the tipple of many a discerning drinker.

Our relationship with this most English of drinks goes back to the 17th century. And much as the drink has evolved, so have the places associated with it.

Gin was once so popular that we even built palaces to drink it in, in all of its juniper-scented glory. And although none of the original gin palaces survive, their design inspired later Victorian pubs, even after gin had fallen from favour. Their ornate mirrors, mouldings, etched glass and gilding inspired the late 19th-century style, the heyday of urban pub building.

Here’s where to quaff your highballs in authentic surroundings.

1. The Philharmonic Dining Rooms,  Liverpool

The Philharmonic Dining Rooms, Liverpool. From the Historic England Archive. Date of photo: 1990. AA011157 © Crown copyright. Historic England
The Philharmonic Dining Rooms, Liverpool. From the Historic England Archive. Date of photo: 1990. AA011157 © Crown copyright. Historic England

Look out for stone sculpture of musicians and musical instruments amid the rich copper and glass interior.

A perk for the gents: the toilets survive in their original decorative design.

2. The Tottenham, Oxford Street, London

The Tottenham, Oxford Street. Originally taken for The Survey of London. Date of photo: 2014. © Historic England, Chris Redgrave
The Tottenham, Oxford Street. Originally taken for The Survey of London. Date of photo: 2014. © Historic England, Chris Redgrave

When the Tottenham was built it was located a few doors down from the Oxford Street Music Hall and there is something of the palace of varieties about its interior.

One of the best-preserved pubs in London.

3. Argyll Arms, Oxford Circus, London

The Argyll Arms, Oxford Circus. Date of photo: 2015 © Historic England
The Argyll Arms, Oxford Circus. Date of photo: 2015 © Historic England

Although only a stone’s throw from Oxford Circus, parts of this pub are little changed from Victorian times.

Particularly impressive are the large mirrors which miraculously survived the blitz.

4. Barton Arms, Birmingham

The Vines, Liverpool. From the Historic England Archive. Date of photo: 2003. AA040505 © Historic England
The Barton Arms, Birmingham

The best example of its kind in Birmingham, the Barton Arms retains a complete suite of Public Bar, Saloon-Smoke Rooms, Club Room, Committee Room and Billiard Hall.

5. Punch Tavern, Fleet Street, London

The Punch Tavern, Fleet Street. From the Historic England Archive. Date of photo: 1986. DD000819 Historic England
The Punch Tavern, Fleet Street. From the Historic England Archive. Date of photo: 1986. DD000819 © Historic England

A barrel vaulted skylight will greet you at the entrance, leading you to a bar with much of the original design.

The previous building on the site was renamed the “Punch Tavern” in the late 1840s because of its association with Punch Magazine which had its offices at that end of Fleet Street.

6. The Vines, Liverpool

The Vines, Liverpool. From the Historic England Archive. Date of photo: 2003 AA040505 ©Historic England
The Vines, Liverpool. From the Historic England Archive. Date of photo: 2003 AA040505 © Historic England

Known locally as ‘the Big House’, this much loved local landmark has a glazed cupola, original bar fittings and two fire places.

7. Bakers Vaults, Stockport

Bakers Vaults, Stockport © Gerald England
Bakers Vaults, Stockport © Gerald England

Previously known as the George and Dragon, the Bakers Vault was built around 1775 and rebuilt in the gin palace style in 1861.

It reopened in July 2014 after a seven month closure and it is hoped that the revitalised pub will bring much needed regeneration to the market area of Stockport.

8. Viaduct Tavern, Holborn, London

Viaduct Tavern, Holborn Viaduct. Date of photo: 2015 © Historic England
Viaduct Tavern, Holborn Viaduct. Date of photo: 2015 © Historic England

The fine pub interiors include a wall of alternating mirrors and fine paintings of Pre-Raphaelite style women set in marble and alabaster architraves.

9. The Salisbury, Harringay, London

The Salisbury, Harringey © Danny Robinson
The Salisbury, Harringey © Danny Robinson

Magnificently elaborate, the entrances have ornate wrought-iron screens and elaborately tiled lobbies and mosaics.

The large room at the front was at one time a concert room. Sip your G&T in the large billiard room beneath the vine painted glass roof.

10. The Princess Louise, Holborn, London

The Princess Louise, Holborn. Date of Photo: 2015 © Historic England

A rich example of a Victorian public house interior.

Gents should also spend a penny in the basement WC to see some of the original tiled walls and fittings.

What have we missed? Let us know your favourite gin palaces in the comments below.

Further reading:

16 responses to 10 of the Best Gin Palaces

  1. Adam says:

    The canary gin bar in Bath. Such a wonderful place, New style gin bar

  2. Ellen says:

    Ah The Salisbury, happy days drinking there as a student. I wondered why I was drawn to drink gin there and now I know why.

  3. redandblackmanthinks says:

    Eye-wateringly beautiful places.

  4. helen says:

    To find out how gin is distilled, Laverstoke Mill is well worth a visit.

  5. Stan Keaton says:

    The Warrington in Maida Vale is a beauty, as was Crockers Folly which is now a restaurant

    • Ron Scott says:

      Crockers Folly is a great palace. Been there many times, used to have quiz nights and music on Sunday evenings and a great selection of beers and ciders when owned by Vaux Breweries.

  6. Malcolm Redfellow says:

    The Blackfriar in Queen Victoria Street is a teeny too late (1905?) to count; but it took the genre to new excesses — and you’ve got the Phil at Number One, to nobly represent the Nicholson’s chain.

    I’d give an honourable mention to the Queen’s in Crouch End: not quite as OTT as some on that Top Ten list, but still a functioning local boozer, with decent foddering.

  7. Malcolm Redfellow says:

    were this not “Historic England”, I’d not omit the Crown Liquor Saloon, also a Nicholson’s, in Belfast.

  8. Dokka Chapman says:

    Choosing The Barton Arms over Jekyll n Hyde in B’ham is unforgivable.

  9. Chris Mapey says:

    Shame you missed The Angel in Woodbridge off the list…

    270 different gins served in a Grade II* listed building dating from 1678, and a traceable history back to 1153…

  10. Eddie Stachelski says:

    Try the Plymouth Gin Distillery tour… Proper gin!

  11. Penny says:

    I’d like to recommend the Spread Eagle in Wandworth – it was glorious the last time I went in a few years ago…

  12. artculturetourism says:

    Absolutely love this feature and the comments back, thank you! I’ll have to research what’s good to highlight in Nottinghamshire…!

  13. Cliff says:

    I think the Tottenham has changed it’s name to The Flying Horse.

Leave a Reply

Pingbacks & Trackbacks

  1. […] Usually, I am quite fine with finding reasons to tipple. First tulip? Of course! Last tulip? Even better! But I generally do no think of this in global terms. I don’t imagine millions of tipplers all honoring the same goddess of the day. But, I hear that Saturday is “world gin day”. […]