The 9 Coolest Historic Bars Around the World

Going back to before the War of Independence, how many conversations in bars, over a beer, ale, or cider, have possibly inspired revolutions in art or in politics? When you take into account the pubs and cafes across the planet, trying to account for the number of historical dramas that unfolded after a few drinks can be overwhelming. Maybe this is why historical bars are so much fun. You can feel history, or at least imagine that you do, as you enjoy what may be the same bar stool Lord Byron, Ernest Hemmingway, or Jean Lafitte once sat on. Here is a list, by no means comprehensive, of some of the coolest historical bars to be found in the U.S., as well as London and Paris.

  1. The Green Dragon Tavern (Boston, MA)

    Established in 1654, The Green Dragon Tavern's website insists the watering hole played a decisive role in the War of Independence, as it was there that plans for the invasion of Lexington and Concorde were overheard, prompting the famous ride of Green Dragon patron Paul Revere. This isn't completely accurate, although in those days, Revere certainly did enjoy a drink or two at the tavern. John Hancock was another famous patron, his brother lived next door. Full bands play onstage now in what is one of the oldest and most popular bars in Boston.

  2. The Spaniards Inn (Hampstead, London)

    In London, there are no shortages of pubs and folks who love a good pint. The historic 16th century Spaniards Inn is mentioned in both Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers and Bram Stoker's Dracula, and served both poets Lord Byron and John Keats, who wrote "Ode to a Nightingale" while sipping a claret. Today, the pub boasts a backyard "dog-friendly beer garden" complete with a dog-wash. It's the perfect spot to read, wash your dog, and enjoy a variety of ales and ciders.

  3. Napoleon House (New Orleans, LA)

    Napoleon House, a building that includes a bar, opened up in 1797. The building's first occupant, Nicholas Girod, was mayor of New Orleans from 1812 to 1815. Being a proud French Quarter resident, Girod offered Napoleon himself refuge at the residence in 1821, a gesture that would give the establishment its name. Peeling paint, arched doorways, wood worn surfaces, and a clientele that includes artists, writers, and professional alcoholics, all give Napoleon House its justified charm and historical vibe.

  4. McSorley's Old Ale House (New York, NY)

    Many of our county's oldest bars are located in New York City. Established in 1854, located at 15 East 7th street, McSorely's Old Ale House is the city's oldest, continuously operated saloon. It also enjoys the dubious distinction of denying women entrance through its swinging doors until 1970. Abraham Lincoln visited McSorely's, as did Woody Guthrie, and John Lennon (We're not sure if Yoko Ono was allowed in or not.). Visit McSorely's, and you can try to sort out its contradictory history over a draft or two (or three).

  5. Harry's New York Bar (Paris)

    Harry's New York Bar is actually located in Paris, France. Originally located in New York City, the bar was dismantled in 1911, and brought over to Rue Daunou Paris in pieces to be rebuilt. Its famous patrons include Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Some sources say that George Gershwin composed his popular, programmatic orchestral piece "An American in Paris" on the bar's piano. The bar's interior is decorated with American memorabilia, which may or may not be of much interest to the French, but certainly helps 21st century expats feel right at home.

  6. The Green Mill (Chicago, IL)

    Located on North Broadway Avenue in Chicago, The Green Mill Jazz Club is a hotspot for hearing jazz in all of it forms, played by musicians both young and old alike. Jam sessions until dawn are not uncommon. The Green Mill was established in 1907, and was a favorite hang of gangster Al Capone, silent comedian Charlie Chaplin, and singer Frank Sinatra. During Prohibition, The Green Mill was a speakeasy, and still has a trapdoor behind the bar leading to tunnels that were used to illegally deliver alcohol.

  7. The Jury Room (Columbus, OH)

    There is a lot of history to explore throughout the city of Columbus, a major American test market that is currently enjoying a rep as a foodie's paradise. The Jury Room, located at 22 East Mound Street, was built in 1831, to serve those visiting the Courthouse across the street. It has operated continuously, even through the years of Prohibition, ever since. The building, like most of the historic bars we are listing, is haunted. Indoor lights that are turned off mysteriously come back on, and a back gate that's always locked sometimes squeaks ominously, as if someone is passing through.

  8. The Rail Pub (Savannah, GA)

    Everywhere you look in downtown Savannah, you're confronted with history. Since it opened in 1890, The Rail Pub, located at 405 West Congress Street, has operated as a boarding house and a brothel, as its location used to be Savannah's own "Red Light" district. Day laborers used to gather in Franklin Square, across the street from the pub, and wait for work on the railroad. At the end of a day, they would come to The Rail for a drink, thus inspiring its name.

  9. Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar (New Orleans, LA)

    This establishment, built between 1722-1732, is named after the privateer (i.e. "pirate"), entrepreneur (i.e. "gangster"), and sailor (i.e. again, "pirate") of the Battle of New Orleans, Jean Lafitte. Located in the French Quarter, and lit mostly by candlelight, Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop features well-priced drinks and plenty free-of-charge "old-world charm." The bar's website indicates it is "the only known watering hole that pre-dates our nation's independence." But what about the aforementioned Green Dragon Tavern which was established in 1654? The answer may be a matter of historical interpretation, best discussed and debated over a drink or two. Cheers!

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