Plastered: The Pub vs. Bar Breakdown

©Bridget Hallinan 2016

An American abroad in England seeks to see many things: Big Ben, the London Eye, Windsor Castle, and Buckingham Palace, to name a few. Tourist attractions aside, however, there’s one thing above all else that U.S. visitors flock to — the pub. Long-hailed as the pinnacle of casual drinking and delicious food, pubs are a staple for both the United Kingdom and all its tourists. Yet, while pubs are widely thought of as the British equivalent of American bars, there’s a case to be made for how different they are. Sure, they both provide alcohol, cheap food and a way to unwind for the weary worker, but the similarities end there. Bars are great go-to destinations for late nights and sloppy hookups; pubs are their more reserved cousins, closing earlier and emulating a more “friends and family” atmosphere. If you’re planning to go to England soon and want to get properly “plastered” as they say, here are three pubs you should try that represent the spectrum of British drinking, (scaled from a level of semi-American to pre-Declaration of Independence):

The Quintessential 18+

 O’Neill’s Irish Pub: Or four wild floors of fun, as I’ve come to call it. Essentially DJ’s on steroids, this “pub” (though it’s more of a club/bar, if you ask me) is a haven for American abroad students. An eight pound cover fee will get you access to a reasonably priced bar on the first floor, a dance floor on the second, a live concert on the third, and a smoking terrace on the fourth. Expect a young, albeit bold crowd — think liquid-courage driven frat boys — popular music, and an overall great time. If you happen to be in London, but crave the chaos of an American night out, look no further than O’Neill’s.

If You’re Feeling Classy

The Ninth Ward: A Cajun-style gem right in the heart of London, this pub is the perfect mix of nightlife and laid-back drinking. Known for its unique cuisine and unbeatable happy hour deals, The Ninth Ward is the place to be for great food and a great time. It’s always packed, even on the weeknights, and there’s hardly room to stand during peak time. It has all the social qualities of an American bar, but with a toned down British twist — the customers are chatty, but contained. You definitely won’t find any “ratchets” here, but you will find incredible beer, outgoing new friends, and awesome food to boot. So, if you’re searching for vibrant nightlife without the headaches of clubs (sorry, DJ’s), Ninth Ward is for you.


Chill Kid on The Block

 Betsey Trotwood: A delightfully quaint neighborhood pub right outside my doorstep. Trotwood offers standard pub fare that gets incredible reviews (from both TripAdvisor and my stomach), with a cozy, intimate atmosphere. It’s definitely not a party destination, but a bona fide British pub through and through. Expect a quiet night of drinks with friends, with a vibe akin to that of a crowded living room party — comfortable and familiar. This pub is about as far as it gets from an American bar; you won’t find any sports matches on, and if you’re the “outgoing” type of drunk, expect to be glared and “t’sked” at. But for the sake of authenticity (and for those who don’t like crazy nights of dancing), Betsey Trotwood is the ultimate pub destination.

So all in all, pubs and bars are more different than similar. But the great thing is, it doesn’t matter which one you choose — in the end, you’ll still be plastered.


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