This post lists 10 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.
54 Pearl Street at the corner of Broad Street, Financial District
Built in 1719, the tavern was purchased by Samuel Fraunces in 1762. It's been operating ever since!
It’s one of the oldest surviving buildings in Manhattan and also one of the most important.
The tavern played a major role in American history, as it served as the headquarters for General George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
It was also the venue of peace negotiations with the British.
In the video below, our guide Renee explains the historical significance of this tavern.
Serving 200 whiskeys, 30 craft beers and ciders, and delicious food, Fraunces Tavern will satisfy hungry history buffs.
2) Ear Inn
(Est. 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.
After Brown's passing, in the mid-800s the townhouse was converted into a tavern that catered to sailors. It was a speakeasy during Prohibition.
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, giving it a name and erecting a sign prove problematic to the owners.
They 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.
15 East 7th Street in the East Village
Perhaps McSorley's biggest claim to fame (besides being open so long) is the roster of customers which includes three United States presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and Teddy Roosevelt.
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.
The owners say that no piece of memorabilia has been removed since 1920, however, plenty has been added.
One has to wonder if the sawdust on the floor hasn't been removed for years either!
If McSorley's is famous for so many reasons, it is also infamous. It was the last ‘men only’ pubs. It was finally forced to allow women patrons by court order in 1970.
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’.
176 Mulberry St. at Broome St. in Little Italy
Right in the heart of Little Italy, this low-key bar has been used as a filming location for Donnie Brasco, The Sopranos, Law & Order, and many other 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 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.
567 Hudson St. at West 11th St. in the West Village
The White Horse has a long list of famous patrons including Dylan Thomas, Jim Morrison, Hunter S. Thompson, and Jack Kerouac who, according to legend, 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.
129 E 18th St at the corner of Irving Place in Gramercy Park.
Pete's is another contender for the title of New York City’s oldest continually operating bar.
You might believe so when you see the inside! It looks like it hasn't changed much since it first opened.
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 the Gramercy Park District.
7) Old Town Bar
45 E 18th Street between Park Ave. & Broadway in the Flatiron District
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, a marble and mahogany bar, lamp lighting, and tiled floors.
Most notably, it featured in the opening credits of Late Night with David Letterman, when the show was on NBC from 1982 to 1993.
Read about the beautiful Flatiron Building for which the neighborhood took its name.
915 3rd Ave. at the corner of 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.
It was a favorite spot for a cocktail on the show Mad Men. Its hamburgers 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.
Read about all the things there are to do in Midtown Manhattan (besides having a beer here!)
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 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.
It's a grand place for fine dining in an extravagant old-world setting.
Learn more about what else there is to see in Hell's Kitchen.
627 Ninth Ave. at the corner of West 44th St. in Hell’s Kitchen
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!