12 Oldest Bars in New York

This post lists 12 historic bars in New York City that are worth a visit including the oldest bars, former speakeasies, the hangouts and haunts of authors, artists and mobsters. 

Also, be sure to check out our guide to drinking in New York City and pub crawls.

 


1) Fraunces Tavern (1762)

54 Pearl St, Battery Park (corner of Broad Street)

Operating since 1762, there’s great food, over 200 whiskeys, and 30 craft beers and ciders.

 

Fraunces Tavern Historic New York Bar Tour

 

The building itself is an essential part of American Revolution history, as it served as the headquarters for George Washington, and the venue of peace negotiations with the British.

It’s also one of the oldest surviving buildings in Manhattan.

Read more about this historic landmark and about other things to see in Lower Manhattan.


2) Bridge Cafe (1794)

279 Water St, Financial District (corner of Dover St, below Brooklyn Bridge)

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy literally put this place under by submerging it in several feet of water.

The site of countless bars and restaurants over the decades, the building dates from 1794 and is New York City’s oldest with a commercial wood frame. 


3) Mulberry Street Bar (1908)

176 Mulberry St. at Broome St. in Little Italy

Right in the heart of Little Italy, this low key bar has been as a filming location for Donnie Brasco, The Sopranos, Law & Order and most movies that feature the mafia in NYC.

Still very similar inside and out as to when it was first opened, of special note is the original pressed tin roof.

Keep one eye open and trained on your fellow patrons, as more than a few still appear to have mob connections, or at least dress the part.

Check out our self-guided tour of the surrounding neighborhood to learn about more things to see in Manhattan’s Little Italy.


4) Ear Inn (c. late 1700s)

326 Spring St. between Greenwich St & Washington St in SoHo.

The Ear Inn is located in one of the last remaining federal style townhouses in New York.

The townhouse was built in the late 18th century by an African-American businessman and revolutionary war veteran named James Brown.

In the mid-1800s it was converted into a tavern, then became a speakeasy during Prohibition in the early 1900s. 

For decades it was the bar with no name, and known as ‘The Green Door’ with the motto ‘known from coast to coast’.

As the building has been heritage listed, actually giving it a name and erecting a sign was always going to prove problematic.

So the owners settled on ‘Ear Inn’ as the name only required some slight modifications to the neon ‘BAR’ sign. 

If you stop by the Ear Inn, be sure to look at our post on things to do in SoHo.


5) Chumleys (1922)

86 Bedford St. between Barrow St & Grove St. in Greenwich Village

What started out as a speakeasy in 1922 quickly became a preferred hangout for writers, poets, journalists, and activists, including members of the Beat Generation.

Inside are the trap doors and secret stairs which provided much of its allure, and countless American novels were written (or partly written) within its unstable walls including books by Will Cather, William Faulkner, and John Steinbeck.  

Check out our self-guided tour of the West Village to learn more about this neighborhood.


6) White Horse Tavern (1880)

Located at 567 Hudson St at West 11th St. this is another Village bar that has a long list of famous patrons including Dylan Thomas, Jim Morrison, Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson, and Jack Kerouac, who legend has it, was booted out much more than once.

Originally a bar for longshoremen, the bohemians and artists took over in the mid-1900s.

It’s a great place to have a dram and reminisce about the creative types who were inspired and undone by that exact tipple.

Check out our self-guided tour of the West Village to learn more about this neighborhood.


7) McSorley’s Old Ale House (1854)

Located at 15 East 7th Street in the East Village, this bar is true that no piece of memorabilia has been removed since 1920, however, plenty has been added.

Consider the walls akin to a slowly growing onion, that’s constantly drenched with ale of which two are available, the dark and the light.

One of the last ‘men only’ pubs, it was finally forced to allow in women patrons by court order in 1970, which explains in part why the male amenities are glorious, and the women’s far less so.

Always packed with tourists, it still manages to somewhat accurately recreate what it was like to down a few ales in ‘Ye Olde New York’.  

Read our full post on McSorley’s Old Ale House and be sure to read about more things to see in the East Village.


8) Pete’s Tavern (1864)

Located at 129 E 18th St at the corner of Irving Place in Gramercy

Another contender for the title of New York City’s oldest continually operating bar. You might believe so when you see the inside of Pete’s looks much as it did when it first opened in 1864. 

It has an intricately carved bar, eccentric and plenty of beers to choose from, but be sure to try Pete’s specialty brew, the 1864 Ale.

Check out our self-guided tour of the area to learn about more things to see in Gramercy Park.


9) Old Town Bar (1892)

45 E 18th St. between Park Ave & Broadway in Gramercy

Also in Gramercy, the Old Town Bar does do what it says on the tin, as it is a very old bar with an original interior that includes carved surfaces galore, a marble and mahogany bar, lamp lightning and tiled floors all faithful to a time when most men wore suits, and none were of the ‘track’ variety.

Most notably, it featured in the opening credits of Late Night with David Letterman, when the show was on NBC from 1982 to 1993.  

Learn about more things to see in Gramercy Park.


10) P.J. Clarke’s (1884)

915 3rd Ave. at the corner East 55th St. in Midtown Manhattan

This brick bar has also remained virtually unchanged, with human leg bones over the door, supposedly an Irish good luck charm, and Skippy the dog by the bar, retaining the same post he held while alive.

A legendary haunt of Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy, Nat King Cole, Buddy Holly, and countless others, characters from Mad Men frequently P.J. Clarke’s and its burgers are world-renowned.

On a side note, have you ever wondered what happens if an owner refuses to sell to a developer?

Known as a ‘holdout’ P.J. Clarke’s is one of the most famous, and the bar has very nearly but not quite been consumed by the surrounding 47-story skyscraper.


11) Landmark Tavern (1868)

626 11th Ave. at the corner of West 46th St. in Hell’s Kitchen.

Originally an Irish waterfront saloon, the river may have moved as land has been reclaimed, but the bar hasn’t and it’s another of the those in the longest continual operation in New York.

Prohibition forced liquor sales to move from the ground floor up to the third floor but forced no disruption in service.

Also known for its extravagant old world interior and fine dining, the surrounding streets of Hell’s Kitchen are much safer than they once were, and still retain plenty of charm so well worth a wander, especially after a few drinks to get you kickstarted.


12) Rudy’s Bar and Grill (1919)

627 Ninth Ave. at the corner of West 44th St.

Rudy’s is an NYC institution serving great value pitchers of beer, drink specials and free hotdogs. It opened as a speakeasy in 1919 and was been frequented by artists and gangsters alike including Norman Mailer, Al Capone, Drew Barrymore, and Paul McCartney.

Where other bars on this list opted for wood carved interiors, Rudy’s prefers split vinyl booths held together with gaffer tape. Look for the six-foot-tall pig at the door.

Learn more about what else there is to see in Hell’s Kitchen.


 

About the author

Born and raised just across the Hudson River in NJ, Stephen became a licensed NYC tour guide in 2010 and has led and organized thousands of tours since then.

He has researched and written dozens of articles with insider NYC tips, and created a podcast, titled "NYC Travel Tips & Hacks".