Saloons, watering holes, pubs, or brasseries – no matter what you call them, there is no question that drinking establishments have played a significant role in the lives of writers. The act of writing is by virtue a solitary activity, which is perhaps why many masters of the pen flocked to bars for both intellectual and social stimulation.

From an underground pub in London to a friendly bar in Tokyo, or from a carousel bar in New Orleans to a distinguished café in Prague, here are a few favorites from around the globe that have served as inspiration for literary geniuses such as Charles Dickens, Yukio Mishima and Franz Kafka.

A couple dances in a bar
Famous Beat poets knocked back drinks inside San Francisco's Vesuvio Café © Kris Davidson / Lonely Planet

Vesuvio Café, San Francisco

This welcoming watering hole in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood is conveniently located next door to City Lights Bookstore, which was opened by Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1953. A popular hangout for members of the Beat Generation, writers Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg and Neal Cassady were regulars at Vesuvio Café. Stroll through the pedestrian-only alley next to the bar and admire the colorful murals with poetry and quotes from literature. Then, channel your inner beatnik: order a Bohemian Coffee, climb the stairs to the second floor, and claim a seat that overlooks the bar below. This is where history was made, can you dig it?

The Horse You Came In On Saloon, Baltimore

Edgar Allan Poe frequented many bars during his lifetime, but it is rumored that The Horse You Came in On Saloon is the last place that he drank before he died – a sign above the door even claims the spot as “Poe’s Last Stop.” Located in the Fell’s Point Historic District, this dive bar was founded in 1775 and is the oldest bar in Baltimore as well as the only bar in Maryland to operate before, during, and after Prohibition. It stays true to its name, with such details as barstools festooned with saddle-shaped seats.

Patrons inside Café Louvre, with its high ceilings and Parisian-style flourishes
Kafka was known to have visited Café Louvre © Veronika Primm / Lonely Planet

Café Louvre, Prague

A Parisian-style café and billiard hall in Prague, Café Louvre first opened in 1902 and quickly it became a meeting place for artists, writers and intellectuals. Among its patrons was the novelist and short-story writer Franz Kafka, who was a member of a philosophical circle that met there. Take the grand staircase up to the first floor, where you’ll be greeted by high ceilings and a luxurious interior that is reminiscent of the Belle Epoque era. Closed during the Communist regime because it was considered a “bourgeois” institution, it reopened in 1992 after the Velvet Revolution and was quickly embraced again.

Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel, New York City

One of the most iconic hotel bars in New York City, the indigo-tinted Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel was built in 1933, as Prohibition inhaled its last breath. Beloved satirist and poet Dorothy Parker co-founded the Algonquin Round Table in 1919, which became the most celebrated literary group in American literature. Parker was an unconventional woman for her time – she once said, “I like to have a martini, two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host.” Make like Parker and order her eponymous cocktail, a delicious gin concoction. (Except maybe stick with just two.)

Patrons drinking at the rotating carousel bar, decorated with lights and colorful animals
Get the spins at New Orleans' famous (and literary) Carousel Bar © Judy Bellah / Lonely Planet Images

Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone, New Orleans

The Carousel Bar inside Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans’ French Quarter was a favorite of many writers, including Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams. In fact, in 1999 it was named an official literary landmark by the Friends of the Library Association. Decorated with a carnival theme and featuring New Orleans’ only rotating bar, guests can hop on the merry-go-round as it leisurely spins around the bar every fifteen minutes. Some writers, like Eudora Welty and William Faulkner, were so enthralled with the carousel that they wove it into their stories. Enjoy live jazz music as you sip one of their signature cocktails, the Vieux Carré.

the red chairs and red marquee of La Rotonde of the Montparnasse Quarter in Paris, France
Paris’ La Rotonde still retains the gilded 1920s-era feel © kavalenkava / Shutterstock

La Rotonde, Paris

As Hemingway famously lamented in The Sun Also Rises, “No matter what café 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.” Renowned as one of Paris’ most famous brasseries during the literary ex-pat era of the 1920s, artists and writers such as Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, and F. Scott Fitzgerald lingered at La Rotonde over coffee or cocktails (sometimes both). It still maintains its bohemian appeal, with plush red velvet seating, tasseled lamps, and walls adorned with paintings from numerous artists.

Café la Habana, Mexico City

Since it opened in 1952 in the Juárez neighborhood of Mexico City, this café has hosted many revolutionaries and literary legends, including author Roberto Bolaño. He was such a fan, in fact, that he wrote about it in The Savage Detectives, changing its name to Café Quito. Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez was rumored to have drafted One Hundred Years of Solitude there, and it was also where Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara were said to have plotted the Cuban Revolution. Stepping inside, you’ll feel like you’re on a 1950s film set as you inhale the scent of coffee and chilaquiles.

A historic alleyway lined in brick, just off a modern street
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese might be out of the way, but it’s at the crossroads of literary history © Arndale / Shutterstock

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, London

Wedged in an alley off London’s Fleet Street, this subterranean pub is a step back in time. Originally built in 1538, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was reconstructed after the Great Fire of 1666. It was a favorite of Charles Dickens, who even alluded to the pub in A Tale of Two Cities. However, he wasn’t the only writer to be considered a regular there – scribes as diverse as Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and P. G. Wodehouse also set up shop there on a regular basis. Sprawling over four levels, the pub descends down narrow stairs to a series of chambers, cellars, and tunnels that you are welcome to explore.

EST!, Tokyo

Be sure to ask for EST! proprietor Akio Watanabe when you enter this dark bar in Tokyo – well in his eighties, he has served many literary greats such as Yukio Mishima, and is more than happy to chat about it. Watanabe first opened EST! in 1973 and has become something of a local celebrity since then. His energy is infectious, as he regales guests with tales of serving other famous patrons. Walk through the bar and you’ll encounter artifacts from its almost fifty-year history, such as the original telephone from when EST! first opened.

A statue of Hemingway leaning against the bar as if ordering another drink
El Flordita’s most famous patron is memorialized as a statue at the bar © Mark Read / Lonely Planet

El Floridita, Havana

First opened in 1817 as La Piña de Plata, El Floridita is well-known as one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite haunts. This bar in Cuba’s capital was most famous for its daiquiris, and Hemingway, being a cocktail connoisseur, requested his with no sugar and double the rum. This became known as the Papa Doble, their signature cocktail. Papa himself is memorialized as a life-sized statue at the bar. Have a couple of those daiquiris and you might actually believe that he is still there holding court with other members of his crew, such as Errol Flynn and Gary Cooper.

Read more:
Edgar Allan Poe’s Baltimore house is now a literary landmark
10 great literary bars in New York City
Paperback walker: a literary stroll through Paris

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