Did London invent the pub crawl?

A pub crawl (also called a bar tour, bar crawl or bar hopping) is when one or more people drink in multiple pubs or bars in a single night, normally walking or busing to each one between drinking.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term (including variations of “beer crawl” and “bohemian death march”) has been in use since the late 19th century.  Though we cannot find where it first started, we suspect it was in the pub capital of the world, London.

The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English defines ‘pub crawl’ as both a noun and a verb, with the noun (dating from 1915) being defined as “a drinking session that moves from one licensed premises to the next, and so on”, and the verb (1937) meaning “to move in a group from one drinking establishment to the next, drinking at each.” The term is a combination of “pub (a public house, licensed for the sale of alcohol) and a less-and-less figurative sense of crawl”.

World’s Greatest Pub Crawl

Perhaps not surprisingly it is the Australians that hold the Guinness world record for the biggest pub crawl.  An annual event held in Maryborough, Queensland, where in June 2009 some 4,700 people attended. 

It is now called the worlds’ greatest pub fest and perhaps falls out of the category of being a pub crawl.  Thankfully, The London Pub Crawl Company limits crawls to 10 people or less.

Oddly there is another traditional pub crawl in London held by Australia’s neighbouring Kiwi’s (New Zealanders) on Waitangi Day who target pubs along the route of the circle line.

The largest student bar crawl in the world, known as ‘Seven Legged,’ is held each year in Nottingham, England. In 2009, 6,750 students took part.  The event requires a team of seven, six of these team members are tied together in a similar fashion to a three legged race at school. The seventh member acts as the ‘runner’ buying the teams drinks at each of the seven bars which they attend. All teams must have their own fancy dress code. At the end of the evening the teams end up in a final destination.

The Adelaide University Engineering Society (AUES) holds an annual pub crawl attracting students from all over South Australia. In 2010 they sold 2,000 “The Grogfather” t-shirts. This is the largest known pub crawl in the world where all participants wear the same shirt. The pub crawl visted 17 pubs in 2010 and was stretched over nearly 10 hours (much shorter for some.)

In Wollongong, Australia, a Santa Claus Crawl occurs each December to raise donations of children’s toys for local charities. The Santa Claus Pub Crawl 2007 dressed in Santa Claus costumes thronging roads and pubs.[7] In 2009, the pub crawl set a new attendance record, with between 2,500 to 3,000 Santa Clauses, elves, and other costumed revelers joining the annual event, raising around A$15,000 in cash and A$40–50,000 in donated toys for the Salvation Army, and making the event now the largest of its type in the world. In 2010 the event attracted over 4,000 people growing steadily through social media.

Here are two other pub crawls in the world we’d recommend you check out:

  • The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl – this amazing literary pub crawl kicks-off with the guide singing Waxie Dargle, and roping in as many of the crew they can muster (before any ales are sampled – a mighty feat!). Two superb friends of mine went on this in the late 1990s and loved it.  The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl has been operating since 1987 and comes highly recommend.
  • Thirsty Swagman – if partaking in any of our FREE London pub crawls or guided London pub walking tours wasn’t enough, you could always go on a round-the-world pub crawl with the crew at  Thirsty Swagman (all 3 star and above accommodation).
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