Beauty is an impossible thing to define – it’s subjective and distinctly personal.
Trying to identify a short list of beautiful bars was not only an incredibly enjoyable task, but also a daunting one. Who am I to name the world’s most beautiful bar, when you know and I know that even the dingiest of dive bars has its own unique beauty. That said, some bars are undeniably stunning – rooms that transport you to another time and another place. Rooms that are lush and opulent; every detail carefully considered. And, almost magically, all that eye candy can make your libation taste just that much better.
1. Beaufort Bar – Savoy Bar – London
The Savoy Hotel is legendary in the cocktail world thanks to The Savoy Cocktail Book written in 1930 by Harry Craddock. The American Bar often gets the ink, but the real gem is the Beaufort Bar, headed by bartender Chris Moore. The dark and sexy space occupies the hotel’s historic burlesque stage; loveseats nestle into curved niches lined with gold leaf. Cocktails are served with theatrical flair, garnished table side, and you can still catch a live burlesque show if your timing is right.
2. Long Bar – Raffles Hotel – Singapore
The Long Bar is a well-trodden destination for those on cocktail pilgrimages, as it is considered to be the birthplace of the Singapore Sling. The historic colonial-style hotel has two gorgeous spaces to enjoy your libations. The indoor bar welcomes with dark wood panels, a carved wood back bar, and depression-era, tropical ceiling fans inspired by Malayan plantations. Outside, the exterior courtyard is light and airy, covered with soaring porticos to keep the sun at bay and your cocktail chilled.
3. Bar Dandolo – Hotel Danieli – Venice
“Spritz” culture – the ethereal combination of Aperol and bubbles — dominates in Venice, and most take to the piazzas to enjoy cocktail hour. Just around the corner from the Piazza San Marco is Hotel Danieli, once a private palace from the 14th century and now Venice’s most famous five-star hotel. The Byzantine gothic-style hotel has a storied history and has housed cultural icons from past and present, including Proust, Goethe, Charles Dickens, Peggy Guggenheim, and Steven Spielberg. Suites can go for upwards of 12,000 euros a night, but for significantly less you can enjoy a cocktail at the Bar Dandolo. Settle at one of the bar’s romantic tables flanked by Murano glass windows, or lounge in the grand light-filled sitting room under massive chandeliers and historical frescoes.
4. American Bar – Vienna
Vienna’s American Bar, designed by Adolf Loos in 1930, is an art deco gem and nighttime hot spot. The tiny bar is carefully designed to make it seem significantly bigger than it actually is – mirrors and wood paneling create the illusion of a greater room beyond, and lush materials such as green leather, bespoke hexagon tables, book-matched wood veneer, and onyx make the tiny bar feel rich and welcoming.
5. The Artesian – The Langham Hotel – London
The Artesian is one of London’s most creative and progressive bars, named “The World’s Best Bar” for the third year by Drinks International. Many have swooned over the bar’s gilded pineapples and Langham Coladas, but rarely do you hear about how unbelievably gorgeous the bar itself is. The bar was designed by David Collins and is inspired by Victorian cabinets of curiosities. There is a Pagoda Bar framing the main bar; lavender leather chairs, gold detailing, inset bezel-cut mirrors, and grand chandeliers reminiscent of bird cages.
6. Sky Bar – Tokyo
Bill Murray’s performance in “Lost in Translation” made the Sky Bar a desired destination for many cocktail loving travelers. But the bar isn’t all about the view of Tokyo’s skyline – the clean lines epitomize Japanese design — simple, well made, and exquisitely detailed.
7. Sazerac Bar – New Orleans
A trip to New Orleans is incomplete without a visit to the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel. The bar is a gorgeous oval room surrounded by painted murals by Paul Ninas and dark African walnut paneling. Niche lights gently illuminate the domed ceiling of the room casting a romantic glow over patrons, highlighted with the bar’s signature red-hued Sazerac cocktails, often considered to be the first mixed drink.
8. Union Restaurant – Basel
The Swiss restaurant designed by Aurélie Blanchard is fully clad in copper. Copper light fixtures hang above copper bar tops surrounded by walls covered in copper panels. The shimmering bar showcases the beauty of the raw material and the discipline of Swiss minimalistic detailing.
9. Hotel Jerome Bar – Aspen
The Hotel Jerome dates to the 1880s and is a highlight of any visit to the historic mining town turned chic ski destination, Aspen, Colorado. Most people visit the J-Bar, a favorite haunt of Hunter S. Thompson, but just inside is the newly renovated Living Room where one can sip a perfectly stirred martini under mounted bison heads, antique trophies, and other artifacts of the American West.
10. Fumoir Bar – Claridges – London
Hidden inside London’s Art Deco Hotel Claridges is a sexy low lit bar designed by Thierry Despont. Original Lalique etched glass panels hide the entry from the hotel’s shimmering passageways, the back bar is lined with mirrors surrounded in back lit glass, and cut crystal light fixtures illuminate the architecture of the wood paneled ceiling. A favorite of Dita Von Teese, the bar seats just twelve patrons at a time, making the Fumoir’s classic cocktails extra tempting.
11. Pump Room Bar – Public Hotel – Chicago
The Pump Room in Jean-Georges’ restaurant at Chicago’s acclaimed Public Hotel is tucked away inside concealing a minimal yet opulent bar. Sweeping curves lined with gold leaf create a romantic and radiant niche for the bar that has a minimal display for bottles and glassware.
12. Salon de Ning – Peninsula Hotel – Hong Kong
The underground lounge at the Peninsula Hotel is dark and seductive – a hidden speakeasy inspired by Shanghai in the 1930s. The bar is dedicated to a fictional Shanghai socialite, Madame Ning, a worldly character. Patrons are invited sip cocktails in “her” dressing room, in a Swiss Chalet, or an African Safari Tent. Each room transports patrons to another world, each just as lush and decadent as the last.
13. Voodoo Rooms – Edinburgh
Once known as the Cafe Royal Bistro Bar, the Voodoo Rooms have been meticulously restored. Original architectural details of the historic Edinburgh pub remain, but have been given new life with touches of black and gold, black leather banquettes, and black marble bar tops. The pub was originally built in 1862, in a decadent Rococo-style. Arches are lined with ferns of gold and the ceiling is a dazzling display of classic architectural molding. Pop in for a cocktail or a bite, but don’t forget to wipe the drool off your chin.
14. Bar 228 – Hotel Le Meurice – Paris
Bar 228 in Paris is another old glamorous bar tucked away in the Hotel Le Meurice, once frequented by Salvador Dalí. The classic space is adorned with Rococo paintings hung upon wood paneled walls decorated with gold moldings; leather arm chairs and low lit lamps set a romantic scene. The bar itself is stunning, a delicate glass cabinet offers crystal decanters filled with rare spirits for sipping.
15. Campbell Apartment – Grand Central Station – New York
The Campbell Apartment is one of New York’s great hidden treasures, a step back in time to savor a cocktail before catching a train. The lounge was once the private office of New York tycoon John W. Campbell. The space was inspired by 13th century palaces in Florence. The bar has a mahogany balcony, leather seating, hand painted ceilings, stained glass windows that soar to the ceiling, and Campbell’s steel safe tucked into the enormous fireplace, exactly where he left it.