8 Legendary Literary Bars for Book Lovers

If you’re like most dyed-in-the-wool bookworms, then certain things are probably true of you. You certainly can’t picture making it all the way through a vacation (or even a weekend) without logging plenty of hours spent reading. Plus, any chance to further connect with your favorite authors is certainly welcomed with relish, including chances to walk (or drink, or eat) in their footsteps.

That said, it’s no secret that many of literature’s undisputed greats – including Ernest Hemingway, Dylan Thomas, Jack Kerouac, and countless others – loved a good drink now and again. (The unique social atmosphere a bar offers didn’t hurt, either.) If you feel similarly, then the following are bars that should be added to your literary travel bucket list immediately.

1. White Horse Tavern (New York City, New York)

When the White Horse first opened in 1880, it was most famous for being a go-to hangout for longshoremen. This continued to be the case until the mid-20th century. That’s when Dylan Thomas himself started frequenting the joint. The White Horse was even the place that served Thomas his last drink. He collapsed on the sidewalk outside after an astonishing 18 shots of whiskey and would later breathe his last at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Because of its connection to Thomas, the White Horse remains a must-see watering hole for writers, poets, and creatives of all types. Anais Nin, Norman Mailer, and James Baldwin also famously drank here.

8 Legendary Literary Bars for Book Lovers
Literary Bars for Book Lovers – White Horse Tavern

2. Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone (New Orleans, Louisiana)

The Hotel Monteleone hasn’t just hosted a few writers over the years. So many have enjoyed a drink, a meal, or good night’s sleep here that it was designated a literary landmark by the Friends of the Library Association in 1999. Patrons include some of the South’s most important writers, including, but not limited to, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, and William Faulkner.

Both the hotel and its bar are considered must-see French Quarter locations for any visitor to historic New Orleans. Just be prepared to spend a little cash, as accommodations are pricey.

3. Les Deux Magots (Paris, France)

If the literary scene of early 20th century France is an area of special interest to you, you can’t possibly call your life complete until you’ve visited Paris’s Les Deux Magots. It was considered the place to be by a wealth of writers, artists, and thinkers of the time. They include the likes of Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and – of course – Ernest Hemingway.

You may also want to stop by La Rotonde while you’re in Paris. It also saw its share of early 20th-century literary greats, including T.S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. (Hemingway predictably loved this place as well.)

4. Vesuvio Café (San Francisco, California)

San Francisco is already an incredibly popular travel destination for literature, art, and culture lovers of all stripes. However, no serious bookworm could possibly consider leaving town without enjoying a cocktail or two at the Vesuvio Café. This is a place the greats of the beat generation absolutely loved, including Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac. (The alley out back is even named after Mr. Kerouac.)

Enjoy a couple of stiff drinks while soaking up the eclectic, jazzy atmosphere inside. Then mosey across the street to the famous City Lights Bookstore to pick up your next inspiring read.

8 Legendary Literary Bars for Book Lovers
Literary Bars For Book Lovers – Vesuvio Cafe

5. The Eagle and Child (Oxford, England)

Today, the Eagle and Child is a well-loved university pub. However, during the 20th century, it saw numerous meetings between J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and the rest of their tight-knit literary circle (known as the Inklings). The group was in the habit of gathering in the pub’s Rabbit Room back lounge to discuss and critique each other’s manuscripts.

If you visit the Rabbit Room today, you’ll notice that it’s decorated with lots of memorabilia, including photographs of the authors, as well as a signed document and note to the former owner that reads: “The undersigned, having just partaken in your ham, have drunk to your health.”

6. Kennedy’s (Dublin Ireland)

When it comes to bars with a noteworthy literary connection, Kennedy’s breaks the mould. Once upon a time, it was also a grocery store that employed a young stock boy named Oscar Wilde before he’d go on to become a literary icon. Kennedy’s also was the watering hole of choice for greats like Wilde, Samuel Beckett, and the late, great James Joyce himself.

Today, it is best known to locals as a college pub, but literature buffs can still come on in to enjoy a pint. They can even sit at the very same marble bar where good friends Joyce and Beckett enjoyed their own conversations over a couple of drinks back in the day.

7. Red Key Tavern (Indianapolis, Indiana)

If you’re a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut, you will definitely want to schedule at stop at the Red Key Tavern during your next cross-country road trip. It was opened by a bona fide prisoner of war and has long been rumoured to have been a favourite hang-out of Vonnegut’s.

The Red Key is also noteworthy for being part of its own story. It is mentioned in Dan Wakefield’s 1970 novel Going All the Way.

8 Legendary Literary Bars for Book Lovers
Literary Bars for Book Lovers – Red Key Tavern

8. El Floridita (Havana, Cuba)

Naturally, there were quite a few bars around the world that Ernest Hemingway loved to frequent. However, no Hemingway fan would want to miss the chance to enjoy a cocktail at El Floridita. It was Hemingway’s very favorite bar during the two decades he spent living in Cuba. In fact, he played a huge part in popularizing the place by including it in his writings, particularly Islands in the Stream.

Planning on being in Havana and wondering what to order when you get to El Floridita? Try the signature frozen daiquiri and toast to Hemingway. (It was his favorite.) Don’t forget to check out the dedicated Hemingway bar stool, the life-size statue, and the multiple little pieces of memorabilia that call El Floridita home while you’re there as well.

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