Ready for a sip of history? Welcome to the ultimate guide to NYC’s oldest bars, where stories linger in the air and old-world charm meets modern vibrancy. These hidden gems have hosted legends, witnessed history, and continue to pour pints today. If you’re craving a taste of authentic NYC, or just seeking unique pit-stops for your next city trip, these timeless taverns are a must-visit. Embark on a journey of discovery, nostalgia, and amazing drinks. Read on and let’s raise a glass to the bars that have been keeping New Yorkers’ spirits high for centuries!
The 15 Oldest Bars in New York City
01 Bemelmans Bar (1947)
This upscale bar in the Carlyle Hotel is known for its murals painted by Ludwig Bemelmans, the author of the Madeline children’s books.
Bemelman’s Bar is our favourite spot on the Upper East Side and already several times after a visit to Central Park our first stop to let our legs rest for a while. If you can also enjoy a delicious drink in a wonderful atmosphere, it hardly gets better.
02 King Cole Bar (1932)
The St. Regis Hotel’s refurbished King Cole Bar, originally established in 1932, continues to preserve a hint of vintage New York. This notable venue, once graced by the presence of Salvador Dalí, Marilyn Monroe, and John Lennon, maintains its iconic allure. This bar in the St. Regis Hotel is where the Bloody Mary cocktail was allegedly introduced to America.
03 The Stonewall Inn (1930)
The Stonewall Inn located in the West Village/Greenwich Village neighborhood in NYC is a gay bar and recreational tavern. But, it’s just not an ordinary bar. The place is a National Historic Landmark and was the site of the 1969 riots that focused on the relationship between the police and the LGBTQ community. This jump-started the gay rights movement that we see today and has made a lasting impact.
04 The Campbell (1923)
The Campbell, located in Grand Central Terminal on Vanderbilt Avenue, is a meticulously restored New York landmark by Gerber Group and Ingrao Inc. Respecting its Jazz Age heritage, the renovation combines historic architecture and modern design for an elegant yet welcoming ambience.
The venue, originally John W. Campbell’s 1923 office and reception hall, retains key Florentine-inspired elements like its 25-foot hand-painted ceilings, grand stone fireplace, and Campbell’s personal steel safe.
05 Old Town Bar (1892)
The Old Bar is the epitome of New York and hosts a diverse crowd. This location has been around since 1892, so its name lives up to its promise.
The bar is best known for its burgers and for not having a website to this day! By the way: In the seating area on the first floor, you can watch the orders being transported from the kitchen upstairs through a dumbwaiter!
06 P.J. Clarks (1884)
You must visit P.J. Clarke’s, a time-honored bar and restaurant in NYC that’s rich in history and teeming with character. It’s not every day you get to hang out where Buddy Holly famously proposed to his bride-to-be after knowing her for just five hours, right?
And if you’re a burger aficionado, you can’t miss the chance to sink your teeth into what Nat King Cole dubbed “The Cadillac of burgers!” The juicy bacon cheeseburger here is a gastronomic delight that’s stuck around, much like the stories that echo within these walls. P.J. Clarke’s became a coveted spot in the post-Prohibition era. It was Frank Sinatra’s regular haunt where he often claimed Table #20 until closing time, and Johnny Mercer even penned “One for My Baby” on a humble bar napkin here.
The place is as genuine as they come, and despite P.J. Clarke himself passing away in 1948 and the restaurant being sold to the Lavezzos, his neighbors, the joint hasn’t lost an ounce of its original charm. So, whether it’s the historical allure, the famous burgers, or the chance to sit where Sinatra once did that tempts you, P.J. Clarke’s is a must-visit spot when you’re in the Big Apple.
07 White Horse Tavern (1880)
Built in 1880 and still operating today is the White Horse Tavern which became popular because writers, poets and artists such as Dylan Thomas made this bar their go-to spot. It is said that Dylan Thomas had his last drink at White Horse Tavern before dying at the Chelsea Hotel.
Even today, portraits of Thomas hang in the restaurant and reminds everyone of their famous guest. This bar is one of the oldest in New York and has physically survived the changing times over the years.
08 Landmark Tavern (1868)
The Landmark Tavern is a historic NYC pub that first opened in 1868. This Irish pub was once a favorite of many famous writers, actors, and politicians, at one time even serving as a speakeasy. The current owner has kept the original charm of the building while also adding some of his own touches, like the large mahogany bar and stained glass windows. Make sure to stop in and enjoy its historic charm with local favorites like the chicken rollatelli.
09 Julius’ (1864)
Julius’ is a bar that has a lot of history. This structure has been welcoming folks since 1840, first as a grocery store and then as a bar in 1864. It was built in 1826 on Amos Street (West 10th) and Factory Street (Waverly Place) and is is one of the oldest gay bars in New York City.
10 Pete’s Tavern (1864)
Pete’s Tavern is America’s oldest continuously running bar and restaurant, nestled in Gramercy Park. This historical gem has been serving patrons since 1864, despite its many changes. Originally a ‘grocery and grog store’ in the Portman Hotel, it transitioned to ‘Healy’s Café’ in 1899 before finally becoming Pete’s Tavern in 1922. The 40-foot rosewood bar, decorative back bar, tin ceiling, and tile floor are all original, dating back to 1864. Even the bar room booths and overhead cabinets are from the restaurant’s inception. A fun fact: renowned author O. Henry, who lived nearby, wrote “The Gift of the Magi” in one of their booths in 1903.
11 McSorley’s Old Ale House (1854)
McSorley’s Old Ale House is a true legend. The pub is the oldest in town (opened in 1854) and best of all, not much has changed since then. Old wooden floors covered with sawdust, old newspaper articles and a bartender like from a Hollywood movie make McSorley’s a very relaxed place.
12 Fanelli Cafe (1847)
Located in the historic SoHo district of New York City, Fanelli Cafe is one of the city’s oldest bars, situated opposite The Mercer hotel. It has has been serving customers for over a century!
The property at 94 Prince Street, where Fanelli Cafe currently resides, first appeared in the city’s tax assessment records in 1846. In 1847, Herman Gerken leased the wooden building on the site and opened a grocery store. By 1857, Gerken replaced it with a five-story brick building that still exists.
The SoHo area underwent significant changes in the mid-19th century, transitioning from a residential neighborhood to a district lined with fashionable hotels, upscale stores, and brothels. Post-1870, the district became a hub for wholesale trade, featuring cast iron warehouses characteristic of today’s SoHo, an acronym for “south of Houston Street.”
13 Neir’s Tavern (1829)
Neir’s Tavern, a historic bar over 190 years old, is located in Queens, New York City. Despite Prohibition, it has almost always been in operation, maintaining its original location in Woodhaven. The bar, known for hosting child performer Mae West in its Wild West-inspired ballroom, also gained fame as a filming site for Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” and the 2013 film “Tower Heist”.
14 Ear Inn (1817)
Housed in the circa-1770 James Brown House, the Ear Inn is among NYC’s oldest active bars. Constructed for Brown, an African assistant to George Washington during the Revolutionary War, it was originally a high-end townhouse near Washington’s estate and the bustling Hudson River shoreline.
After Brown’s passing, the property transitioned into a drinking establishment, serving sailors home-brewed beer and corn whiskey during the 1800s. Despite the city’s rapid development and Prohibition, the building remained a constant in the food and drink industry. The upstairs apartment served multiple purposes – from a boarding house to a brothel – but the ground floor stayed dedicated to serving patrons.
Post-Prohibition, the bar, initially unnamed, gained popularity as a sailor’s clubhouse, earning the nickname “The Green Door.” In the late ’70s, current owners Martin Sheridan and Richard “Rip” Hayman dubbed it The Ear Inn, cleverly altering the existing neon “BAR” sign to bypass Landmark Commission reviews. Thus, a modern legend was born.
15 Fraunces Tavern (1762)
You must visit Fraunces Tavern in NYC! Steeped in history, it’s been serving pints since 1762. This classic watering hole has hosted American patriots like George Washington and continues to charm with its colonial-era ambience. Perfect for history buffs or anyone seeking a unique, authentic NYC experience!
What is the oldest bar in New York City?
The Ear Inn, established in 1817, proudly holds the title of the oldest bar in New York City. Located in the charming neighborhood of SoHo, this historic gem exudes an irresistible charm. Step inside and be transported back in time with its cozy atmosphere, friendly staff, and a delightful selection of drinks. Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply looking for a memorable night out, the Ear Inn promises an authentic experience steeped in New York’s rich past.
What is the second oldest bar in New York City?
The Fanelli Cafe, a beloved institution nestled in the heart of New York City since 1847, making it the second oldest bar in the city. With its warm and inviting atmosphere, friendly staff, and a menu featuring delicious fare and refreshing beverages, Fanelli Cafe is a must-visit destination for locals and visitors alike.
What is the oldest tavern in New York?
As for the oldest tavern in New York, Fraunces Tavern holds that distinction. It was built in 1719 and has played a significant role in American history, being the site of George Washington’s farewell to his officers in 1783.
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