Humankind has been getting merry since time immemorial. The Babylonians worshipped a wine goddess as far back as 2,700 B.C., the Romans quaffed sweet white wine to their heart’s content and Christian monks revolutionized beer-brewing in the Middle Ages. Today, there’s no better place to enjoy your favorite tipple than at a bar or pub. Here are some of the world’s oldest bars for you to visit, which have been welcoming patrons for centuries.
Sean’s Bar (Athlone, Ireland)
Way back in A.D. 900, when Athlone stood at the site of a huge ford, a local man opened a waterside inn. Now called Sean’s Bar, it holds the Guinness World Records title of being "The Oldest Pub in Ireland." The Brazen Head might contest this, but that’s a different story. Low lighting, a roaring fire, sawdust on the floor and bands playing folk music make it feel very much like an Irish pub. If the bar area gets too crowded for your liking you can take your Guinness or dram of the pub’s signature whiskey out to the riverside courtyard.
Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem (Nottingham, England)
Named after its use as a resting stop for Crusaders on route to Jerusalem, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem has been serving guests since 1189. Just as impressive as its 800-year existence is that the higgledy-piggledy pub rests against the same rock that Nottingham Castle stands upon. There’s plenty of curiosities to discover while here, such as drinking in rooms carved out of ancient caverns. Additional caverns in the basement are thought to be part of the castle’s old brewery. Women would often visit the pub to sit in a chair thought to boost fertility. Also, keep an eye out for an encased model ship, said to bring death upon anyone that cleaned it.
The Brazen Head (Dublin, Ireland)
There’s no shortage of watering holes in Dublin, but it’s The Brazen Head that lures history buffs. According to legend, an inn and coach house has stood at this spot since 1198 and Robin Hood once drank here. Irish literary greats Jonathan Swift, James Joyce and Brendan Behan were regular visitors, as was singer-songwriter Van Morrison. With wooden furnishings, walls covered in memorabilia and hospitable bartenders serving gallons of Guinness, this is as authentically Irish as you’ll find. Live music sessions every evening enhances the craic and fun-living atmosphere.
Hofbräuhaus München (Munich, Germany)
It is Oktoberfest every day of the year at Hofbräuhaus München, a late-16th century beerhall and brewery established by Duke Maximilian I of Bavaria. Eight individual rooms, such as the Biergarten and Wappensaal, where kings and dukes once dined, offer different vibes. The main Schwemme room has a bandstand, where musicians liven things up with performances of typical Bavarian song and dance. Join punters dressed in typical Bavarian attire at the communal tables to sip on steins of crisp beer. There’s plenty of Bavarian fare, such as roast pork and wurst, to help soak up the booze.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar (New Orleans, U.S.A.)
Although young when compared to its European counterparts, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar is still closing in on an impressive 300 years of operation. This makes it among the oldest bars in the U.S.A. and one with an intriguing history. Notorious pirate brothers Jean and Pierre Lafitte once coordinated their smuggling raids from here, calling it a blacksmith shop to keep the authorities at bay. The ramshackle brick building with wooden doors seems little changed from those days and is an icon of New Orleans. Stop by for a quick beer on your way along Bourbon Street and drink in the lively buccaneering ambience.