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The World’s Oldest Bars

Several years ago, prompted by another website’s relatively poor attempt to create a list of the oldest bars in America, I took their list of ten apart and created my own list of America’s Oldest Bars. That original list in the intervening years has taken on a life of it’s own, and continues to be updated as new entries are discovered by people all over the country. The current list of The Oldest Bars In America is now on a separate page and has 122 American bars on the list, all dating from before 1900, which became my arbitrary cut-off date.

Bucket List Bars, the website for a book of historic American bars, recently posted their choices for the 5 Oldest Bars in the World. Here’s their original list:

  1. Sean’s Bar; Athlone, Ireland (900 CE)
  2. The Bingley Arms; Bardsey, North Leeds, England (953 CE)
  3. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem; Nottingham, England (1189 CE)
  4. Brazen Head; Dublin, Ireland (1198 CE)
  5. Ye Olde Man & Scythe; Bolton, England (1251 CE)

This time around, I had no reason to disagree with the list, but having been working on an American version off and on for the last seven years did make me curious. So I figured I’d start doing a little research of my own and see what I might find. One thing I’m finding with my initial searches is that even more than with strictly American bars, is that how you define a bar is very important in determining whether it should be on the list. Go back far enough in history, and how we think of a bar changes quite a bit, with the earliest examples of what became known as bars being inns or taverns along well-traveled trade routes. Some were monasteries where people stopped on their journeys, and others might have been simply common gathering places. Many more may not have started as bars, and some even were things totally different from anything to do with serving alcohol, such as private homes, or buildings housing completely different businesses, even for a time. Still others had the original building destroyed and rebuilt, in some cases multiple times. Should they still be on this list? Is being a bar consistently the entire time a requirement, or should it be? Some started as bars, were converted to other uses, only to be bars again in the present.

Another problem is that record-keeping was nearly non-existent when you go back far enough, and even what records do exist are not exactly persuasive. Suffice it to say there are massive problems in compiling such a list, because no matter what is listed, some one could easily take issue with it, depending on how they decide to look at it, or define what is a bar. Is it a bar, pub (public house), ale house, beer house, inn, tavern, saloon, lounge, canteen, rathskeller, watering hole or what have you?

So for now, at least, I’ve been very loose with what belongs, and what might not, just to get things started. While some think the Cave Bar in Jordan may be the oldest, it’s hard to know. Was it really always a bar? When it first started being a gathering place for people in the first century, would we think of that as a bar? And if not, when would we start considering it to be a bar, as it undoubtedly is today? I’ve tried to restrict the list to bars that opened before 1800, though for some countries where there are a lot even for those dates, I’ve only listed the oldest examples, or ones that were for other reasons I found interesting or controversial. Some are listed with newer dates only because those were the oldest I could find for that country, and I wanted to list one, at least eventually, for most nations. And obviously, I’m using where they’re located today, and not worrying about what their geographic area’s political affiliation was when they opened, just to keep such a complicated question a little bit simpler.

As before, if you know of any others that should be on this list, please do let me know by posting a comment or sending me an e-mail. Please understand that this is the beginning of a work in progress and try to keep the astonished “how could you have missed …” shock and admonishments to a minimum. I have just one rule: don’t be a dick. I know this is a hornet’s nest, but it’s meant to be fun. This is just the starting place. My American list has grown and been whittled down countless times in the seven years I’ve maintained it, so I expect this will be no different. Please, enjoy responsibly.

The Oldest Bars in the World

  1. Cave Bar; Wadi Musa, Petra, Jordan (c. 1st century BCE)
  2. The Old Ferryboat Inn; Holywell, Cambridgeshire, England (560 CE)
  3. Ye Olde Fighting Cocks; St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England (c. 793 CE) [ Wikipedia ] [Note: A sign on the pub also states that the building was originally a monastery, then a Medieval Pigeon house, before being rebuilt in 1600 after the flood of 1599]
  4. St. Peter Stiftskeller; Salzburg, Austria (803 CE) [considered oldest restaurant in Europe]
  5. Sean’s Bar; Athlone, Ireland (900 CE)
  6. The Porch House; Stow-on-the-Wold, England (947 CE) [Note: Considered an Inn, rather than a bar]
  7. The Bingley Arms; Bardsey, North Leeds, England (953 CE; at least once source claims 905 CE)
  8. The Royal Standard of England; Beaconsfield, England (1086)
  9. The Skirrid Inn; Abergavenny, Wales (1110)
  10. Zum Riesen; Miltenberg, Germany (est. c. 1150; other sources say 1314 or 1411) [ Wikipedia ]
  11. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem; Nottingham, England (1189) [ Wikipedia ]
  12. Brazen Head; Dublin, Ireland (1198)
  13. La Reserve de Quasimodo; Paris, France (c. 1200s)
  14. The White Hart Inn; London, England (1216)
  15. Café Den Turk; Ghent, Belgium (1228)
  16. Ye Olde Salutation Inn; Nottingham, England (1240) [ Wikipedia ]
  17. Adam and Eve; Norwich, England (1241 or 1249)
  18. The Bear Inn; Oxford, England (1242)
  19. Ye Olde Man & Scythe; Bolton, England (1251) [ Wikipedia ]
  20. Piwnica Swidnicka; Wroclaw, Poland (1275)
  21. Bratwursthäusle Nürnberg; Nürnberg, Germany (1313)
  22. Brauhaus Sion; Cologne, Germany (1318)
  23. Kyteler’s Inn; Kilkenny, Ireland (1324)
  24. Haus zum Rüden Zürich; Zurich, Switzerland (1348)
  25. Zum Weinberg; Wismar, Germany (1354)
  26. The Sheep Heid Inn; Edinburgh, Scotland (1360)
  27. De Draak; Bergen op Zoom, The Netherlands (c. 1397)
  28. Old Ferry Boat; Holywell, St. Ives, England (c. 1400)
  29. Zum Franziskaner; Stockholm, Sweden (1421)
  30. The Red Lion (f.k.a. Hopping Hall); Westminster, London, England (c. 1434; current pub dates to 1733, remodeled in 1896)
  31. Al Brindisi; Ferrara, Italy (1435)
  32. The Bell; Nottingham, England (1437)
  33. Zice Gastuz; Loce, Slovenia (1467)
  34. De Waag; Doesburg, The Netherlands (1478)
  35. U Fleku; Prague, Czech Republic (1499)
  36. The Nags Head; Burntwood, England (c. 16th century)
  37. Herberg Vlissinghe; Bruges, Belgium (1515)
  38. The Prospect of Whitby (f.k.a. the Devil’s Tavern); Wapping, London, England (1520)
  39. Sternbräu; Salzburg, Austria (1542)
  40. Ye Olde Mitre Tavern; Holborn, England (1546)
  41. The Mayflower; Rotherhithe Village, London, England (1550)
  42. Quinten Matsijs; Antwerp, Belgium (1565)
  43. Na Slamniku; Prague, Czech Republic (1570)
  44. The Grapes; Limehouse, London, England (1583)
  45. Spaniards Inn; Hampstead, London, England (1585)
  46. Hofbräuhaus; Munich, Germany (1589)
  47. Seven Stars; Holborn, London, England (1602; though more likely 1680)
  48. Café Karpershoek; Amsterdam, The Netherlands (1606)
  49. Hatchet Inn; Bristol, England (1606)
  50. Anchor Bankside; Southwark, London, England (c. 1665; rebuilt after fires in 1750 & 1876)
  51. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese; London, England (1667)
  52. Ye Olde Watling; London, England (1668)
  53. El Rinconcillo; Seville, Spain (1670)
  54. Ye Olde Bell Tavern; London, England (1670)
  55. White Horse Tavern; Newport, Rhode Island, USA (1673)
  56. The George Inn; Southwark, London, England (1677)
  57. The Clachan Inn; Drymen, Scotland (1734)
  58. The Split Crow; Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (1749) [Note: The bar has moved a couple of times & also changed names, so depending on definitions may not count as Canada’s oldest]
  59. Antico Caffe Greco; Rome, Italy (1760)
  60. L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel; Montreal, Quebec, Canada (1769)
  61. Lamb & Flag; Covent Garden, London, England (1772)
  62. Olde Angel Inn; Niagra-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (1789)
  63. Prince George Hotel; Kingston, Ontario, Canada (c. 1809; though more likely 1820)
  64. Mitre Tavern; Melbourne, Australia (1835)
  65. Kamiya Bar; Tokyo, Japan (1880) [billed as oldest Western-style bar]
  66. Bar Luiz; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1887)
  67. Hussong’s Cantina; Ensenada, Baja, Mexico (1892) [ Wikipedia ]

The Cave Bar in Petra, Jordan. The world’s oldest bar? Or not.

Sean’s Bar in Atholone, Ireland, may have a better case, dating from 900 CE.

Then there’s the Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, which looks promising until you discover that it was originally a monastery, then was used as a Medieval Pigeon house, before being rebuilt in 1600 after being destroyed in the flood of 1599.

And while Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is probably not, as is claimed on the side of the building, “The Oldest Inn In England,” I love the way it looks. It just has the I’m-really-old look that you want in an ancient bar.

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