12 Historic Bars Every Book Nerd Needs To Visit

Channel your inner literary lush by drinking where the greats drank. posted on

1. The Eagle and Child (Oxford, England)

Flickr: irenetong / Creative Commons

Notable Patrons: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis

This University pub, which dates way back to the mid-17th century, served as the official meeting place for Tolkien, Lewis, and the rest of their writing group, called the Inklings. From 1933 to the early 1950s, the group met weekly in the Rabbit Room, the bar’s private back lounge, to distribute and critique each other’s unfinished manuscripts.

Today, the walls of the cozy Rabbit Room are decorated with bits of memorabilia, framed photos of the authors, and a signed document with a note — “The undersigned, having just partaken in your ham, have drunk to your health” — from the authors to the former owner.

2. Vesuvio Cafe (San Francisco)

Flickr: nicholaskaeser / Creative Commons

Notable Patrons: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady

This kitschy North Beach bar was the stomping grounds of some Beat generation heavy-hitters, and the alley behind it is even named after Kerouac. Sitting right across the street from the renowned City Lights Bookstore, it now serves as a monument to jazz, art, poetry, and the creative lifestyle. It also serves some pretty stiff drinks.

3. White Horse Tavern (New York City)

Flickr: katie_cat / Creative Commons

Notable Patrons: Dylan Thomas, James Baldwin, Anais Nin, Norman Mailer

The White Horse Tavern opened in 1880 and was known for being a longshoreman’s hangout until the 1950s, when Welsh poet Dylan Thomas started coming around. It is most famously (and morbidly) known as the place of Thomas’ last drink; in November of 1953, after downing eighteen shots of whiskey, he collapsed on the sidewalk and later died at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Still, the West Village tavern remained a favorite spot for the literary set, attracting writers and poets to this day.

4. El Floridita (Havana, Cuba)

Flickr: amycgx / Creative Commons

Notable Patron: Ernest Hemingway

The world fell in love with El Floridita in the 1940s, and Hemingway was right in the middle of the fervor. It was his favorite bar throughout his 20 years living in Cuba, and his drink was their signature frozen Daquiri. He helped popularize the spot and its original cocktail (the bar was also known as “La Cuna Del Daquiri,” or “The Cradle of the Daquiri”) in his writing, specifically Islands In The Stream, and the bar has returned the love. Papa Hemingway is honored today with a dedicated bar stool, bust, life-size bronze statue, and assorted memorabilia and photographs.

5. Cerveceria Alemana (Madrid, Spain)

Flickr: jafsegal / Creative Commons

Notable Patron: Ernest Hemingway

It’s no secret that Hemingway liked to drink, so it’s no surprise that he’s left a scattering of favorite bars around the world. In Spain it was Cerveceria Alemana, a 1904 beer hall that is resistant to change, and which Hemingway honored in The Sun Also RIses. Visitors can still sit at his favorite table, marble-topped and overlooking a window.

6. Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone (New Orleans)

Flickr: weeklydig / Creative Commons

Notable Patrons: Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Eudora Welty, Truman Capote

Hotel Monteleone has hosted so many writers in its history that the Friends of the Library Association designated it an official literary landmark in 1999. Its impressive guest roster has included some of the South’s most influential writers, and Truman Capote famously claimed to have actually been born in a Hotel Monteleone room. (The hotel denies it, though Capote’s mother was living there during her pregnancy.)

The hotel and lounge are historic landmarks of the French Quarter and must-sees, but visitors can expect to spend a good amount of cash when doing so.

7. Kennedy’s (Dublin, Ireland)

Notable Patrons: Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde

The literary history of Kennedy’s is especially interesting because it includes both patrons and employees. Back when it was also a grocery store, a young Wilde earned a wage stocking the shelves. Today the pub is just a pub — and a college one, at that – but visitors can enjoy a beer at the same marble bar where old friends Beckett and Joyce sat.

8. Old Town Bar and Restaurant (New York City)

Flickr: josepha / Creative Commons

Notable Patrons: Frank McCourt, Seamus Heaney, Nick Hornby, Billy Collins, Pete Hamill

This Flatiron District bar is a favorite of some of the best modern writers, and it’s got signed book jackets hanging on the walls to prove it. The writers who stop by not only drink there (Hamill wrote on the book jacket of A Drinking Life, “For the one bar that still makes me thirsty”) but also choose it as a venue for their book parties. Most of the bar’s furnishings and decor are unchanged since opening in 1892, but these days local beer, courtesy of Brooklyn Brewery, dominates the menu.

9. Les Deux Magots (Paris, France)

Flickr: roboppy / Creative Commons

Notable Patrons: Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Ernest Hemingway

Les Deux Magots was the place to be for anyone who was anyone in the early 20th-century French literary scene. The cafe was the rendezvous spot of choice for artists, writers, and intellectuals like de Beauvoir, Sartre, Camus, and — of course, because if there was drinking involved, he was there — Hemingway. Today it’s a tourist haven, which means less time for whiling away the afternoon in the wicker chairs on their sprawling terrace, but it’s still worth stopping by for a coffee or martini.

10. Red Key Tavern (Indianapolis)

Flickr: clarkmaxwell / Creative Commons

Notable Patron: Kurt Vonnegut

Die-hard Vonnegut fans will want to add this one to their next road trip. The no-nonsense bar — opened by a WWII Veteran and Prisoner of War, and decorated with model airplanes hanging from the ceiling — is rumored to have attracted Vonnegut. These claims have been disputed, but, according to some locals, he wasn’t a stranger to it. The tavern also made an appearance in Dan Wakefield’s 1970 novel Going All The Way.

11. Antico Caffe Greco (Rome, Italy)

Flickr: ladyous / Creative Commons

Notable Patrons: John Keats, Charles Dickens, Henrik Ibsen, Hans Christian Andersen, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, Maria Zambrano

Having opened in 1760, this historic landmark is Rome’s oldest bar (and Italy’s second oldest). Its reputation as a haven for writers and artists was built largely by Shelley and her contemporaries, who worked on manuscripts and swapped ideas while enjoying a cappuccino at the Caffe’s marble tables. It continues to draw some of Rome’s most influential minds today.

12. La Rotonde (Paris, France)

Flickr: cycletheghostround / Creative Commons

Notable Patrons: Gertrude Stein, T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald

This Parisian cafe was a favorite during the American ex-pat era, and its popularity is noted by frequent patron (you guessed it) Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises: “No matter what cafe in Montparnasse you ask a taxi-driver to bring you to from the right bank of the river, they always take you to the Rotonde.” That popularity has not waned, but travelers looking to visit will have to wait a few more months. The cafe closed in January for renovations, and is scheduled to reopen in March 2014.

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