The World’s Best Literary Bars

Writers and bars go together like gin and tonic, and there must be at least 5,000 bars around the world boasting that ‘Hemingway Drank Here.’ And he probably did. It’s a link that goes back at least to the days of Shakespeare, who in the 17th century very likely visited two London pubs that still exist, The George and The Anchor. It isn’t always a happy link, as in the case of Dylan Thomas who died after a drinking session at the White Horse Tavern in New York. Mostly, though, writers like bars because writing is a lonely business and bars provide company, conversation, and characters.

Here’s Chilled’s choice of some of the most famous literary bars in the world:

LONDON

It’s hard to find a pub in London that doesn’t have a connection with one or more famous authors, but some of the more interesting and historic include:

The George

The George was rebuilt in 1676 after a fire, though there’s been an inn on the site since at least 1475. It’s now the only remaining galleried inn in London. At one time all inns had galleries, which are thought to be how theaters like Shakespeare’s Globe developed. Shakespeare probably visited The George, as his Globe theater was nearby. Charles Dickens visited when it was a coffee house, and The George appears in Little Dorrit. Samuel Pepys was another literary visitor.

George Southwark London

George Southwark London

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

This ancient pub also appears in a Dickens novel, in this case A Tale of Two Cities. It was rebuilt in 1666 after the Great Fire of London, but it’s known there was a pub here since 1538. It’s on Fleet Street, once the home of the British newspaper industry, so the Cheshire Cheese has seen thousands of journalists in its warren of bars. Other writers who have enjoyed a drink here include Samuel Pepys, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Voltaire, Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde.

Museum Tavern

Its proximity to the British Museum made this an appealing option for authors after a day’s research in the museum’s Reading Rooms. The present building dates from about 1855, though its history goes back much further, and writers who enjoyed a pint here include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, JB Priestley, and Karl Marx.

Museum Tavern

Museum Tavern


OXFORD

The Eagle and Child

Without the Eagle and Child in England’s Oxford, there might have been no Lord of the Rings. The pub goes back at least to the middle of the 17th century, when it was home to the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (whose official home is now 11 Downing Street in London). It is where a group of writers who called themselves The Inklings used to meet, to encourage each other and promote the writing of fantasy fiction. Its most notable members were C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Eagle and Child

Eagle and Child


DUBLIN

Davy Byrne’s

Authors in Dublin seem to have spent more time in pubs than actually writing. Brendan Behan in particular seems to have spent time in almost every pub in the city, including McDaid’s and Neary’s. Davy Byrne’s takes first place, though, as it appears in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses, as well as in his short story ‘Counterparts’.

Davy Byrnes

Davy Byrnes

Davy Byrnes

Davy Byrnes


KEY WEST

Sloppy Joe’s

It’s hard to find a bar in Key West where the Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway didn’t drink, but Sloppy Joe’s is probably the one with which he’s most associated. It’s where they hold the annual Hemingway Lookalike Contest, and Hemingway even helped them come up with the name, from a bar in Havana also called Sloppy Joe’s. So it seems a shame to point out that the bar you can visit today isn’t the one Hemingway frequented. In his day Sloppy Joe’s was located down the street and is now called Captain Tony’s Saloon. Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams also drank there.

Sloppy Joe's Night Crowd

Sloppy Joe’s Night Crowd

Sloppy Joe's

Sloppy Joe’s


NEW YORK

Kettle of Fish

The Kettle of Fish is in Greenwich Village close to the Gaslight Café, and was popular with artists playing there. Its customers have included Bob Dylan, Hunter S. Thompson (who drank there with Johnny Depp), Andy Warhol, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg. It also appears in the Coen Brothers’ movie Inside Llewyn Davis.

Kettle of Fish

Kettle of Fish

Pete’s Tavern

Established in 1864, this is one of several New York bars that claim to be the oldest continuously-operating restaurant and bar in the city. Its main literary connection is with the short story writer O. Henry, who lived right round the corner at 55 Irving Place. You’ll also spot Pete’s Tavern in movies and TV series, including Seinfeld and Sex in the City.

White Horse Tavern

Manhattan’s White Horse Tavern is best known as the bar where Welsh poet Dylan Thomas had his last drink, although it’s been a hang-out for numerous writers since the 1950s. These include Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, Anais Nin, James Baldwin, Bob Dylan, and Jack Kerouac. It would make quite a party if they’d all been there at the same time.


PARIS

Paris is another place where the ghost of Hemingway seems to haunt every bar. Indeed, he even has a bar named after him, Hemingway’s Bar at the Ritz, though the hotel is currently closed for refurbishment. Two cafés close to each other on the Left Bank also attracted both French and American writers. The Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots operated as the unofficial offices for many authors, long before Starbuck’s came along. These included Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir. They were popular with artists like Picasso, too; Hemingway was also a regular at La Closerie des Lilas.

Cafe de Flore

Cafe de Flore

La Closerie des Lilas

La Closerie des Lilas

La Closerie des Lilas

La Closerie des Lilas


HAVANA

La Bodeguita and El Floridita

No prizes for guessing that Hemingway also drank in these two Havana bars, during the time he lived in Cuba. He had a different drink preference in each, though. He thought that La Bodeguita made the best mojitos and El Floridita the best daiquiris. Sounds like the makings of a good night out!

Havana Bar

Havana Bar

Photo Courtesy of Donna Dailey
Havana Bar

Havana Bar

Photo Courtesy of Donna Dailey

Addresses

The George

75-77 Borough High Street
London SE1 1NH

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

145 Fleet St
London EC4A 2BU

Museum Tavern

49 Great Russell St
London WC1B 3BA

The Eagle and Child

49 St. Giles
Oxford OX1 3LU

Davy Byrne’s

21 Duke St.
Dublin

Sloppy Joe’s

201 Duval St.
Key West, FL 33040

Kettle of Fish

59 Christopher St.
New York, NY 10014

White Horse Tavern

567 Hudson St.
New York, NY 10014

Pete’s Tavern

129 E 18th St.
New York, NY 10003

Café de Flore

172 boulevard Saint Germain
75006 Paris

Closerie des Lilas

171 Boulevard du Montparnasse
75006 Paris

Les Deux Magots

6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés
75006 Paris

La Bodeguita, Empedrado

Havana, Cuba

El Floridita

Obispo No. 557 esq. a Monserrate
Havana 10100, Cuba