Where to watch the Grand National in London

David Ellis
The mane event: watch the Aintree races in a London pub this weekend: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Since its inception in 1839, the Grand National has been one of Britain's most watched horse races, with around half a billion people around the world tuning in each year.

The race starts at 5.15pm this Saturday April 8 and there's no better way to enjoy it – if you can't be at Aintree – than spending an afternoon in a London pub pretending to know the difference between furlongs and banderas.

Unsurprisingly, plenty of places across the capital will be showing the race, and your best bet is just to ring your local and ask. Still, the spots below are special for their ties to the sport, and because you're all but guaranteed they'll be packed to the rafters with cheering fans having unbridled fun.

Royal Exchange

This Irish run spot is a proper racing pub: it's not especially flashy, but it's a good, honest place where you'll find the real enthusiasts sipping on a pint, and the bar will be running a sweepstake. The food is the comforting kind, champagne is cheap (so if you've backed a winner, you needn't splash out too much) and the staff are welcoming. Even when the racing isn't on, you'll find yourself coming back.

Find it: 26 Sale Place, W2 1PU, 020 7402 4368

The Coach and Horses, Soho

This West End institution is well known for two of its most famous patrons, Peter O'Toole and racing writer/Spectator columnist Jeffrey Bernard, who both often watched races religiously in this well-loved Soho pub. It's not the biggest place, but it's hard to beat for atmosphere. The race will be on the screen, but don't worry if you don't win, the drinks are reasonable and you can lift your spirits with a sing-along at the piano. Unusually for such a beautifully battered but straightforward old boozer, the Coach and Horses serves a full compliment of vegan and vegetarian options. Read our guide to London's best vegetarian restaurants.

Find it: 29 Greek Street, W1D 5DH, 020 7437 5920

No long faces: if The Running Horse win their outside bet, punters all get a glass of champagne on the house

The Running Horse, Mayfair

Airing the National has quickly become a tradition for this upmarket spot, which will be showing all the races throughout the day on its full HD projector, and upstairs at its cocktail bar, The Running Horse Club – once known as The Whip. They're already fully booked, but its worth ringing incase anyone cancels: they have a range of boozy packages going. Be sure to try a bowl of Jockey's Whips (chips, bright spark), and wash them down with one of their Glenfarclas Juleps, a riff of the traditional Kentucky Derby cocktail. The pub – Mayfair's oldest, incidentally – isn't running a sweepstake, but it does place an outside bet. Get praying they win; everyone gets a glass of champagne on the house if they do.

Find it: 50 Davies Street, W1K 5JE, therunninghorsemayfair.co.uk

The Sydney Arms, Chelsea

A thoroughbred racing pub – its owners run horses, and the place is linked to Channel 4 Racing presenter Emma Spencer – this privately owned pub-brasserie even has its own racing club. Our tip is to spend the day outside on the terrace, where, weather permitting, screens will be set up. If the rain does come, there'll be plenty of screens indoors to choose from. Keep an ear out for tips: plenty of horse-owners and insiders drink here.

Find it: 70 Sydney Street, SW3 6NJ, sydneyarmschelsea.com

The Sporting Page, Chelsea

Expect to be pressed up side by side with all the other screaming punters in this cosy Chelsea pub that will be screening the Aintree action on its screens. Go for cask ales (there are always a few on tap), good solid pub grub and, if you're lucky, the bar's own Grand National sweepstake. Get down early for a seat.

Find it: 6 Camera Place, SW10 0BH, foodandfuel.co.uk

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