The 10 Oldest Bars in the World
OFF MENU IS SPONSORED BY EMPEROR NORTON’S BOOZELAND THE TENDERLOIN’S NEWEST HISTORIC DIVE. HAPPY HOUR NOON – 7PM
It’s difficult to gauge how much of history was driven by alcohol, let’s look at the places that facilitated them, the (presumably) dingy and dark locales, where people imbibed and made important decisions which shaped the world we live in now (while completely shnockered). We’ve already covered the oldest bars in America…now, let’s take it even further back. Do you like history, witchcraft, and booze? Well, this is the article for you.
10 – Herberg Vlissinghe – 1515 – Bruges, Belgium
(500 years ago)Photo Credit: LimoWreck through Wikimedia Commons
Like most Flemish words, I have no idea how to pronounce this, so I am just insisting on saying it Hurrrburrrrg Vlssnghgdkt. Finally the world had a place where they could enjoy delicious Belgian beer. Additionally, Baroque Peter Paul Rubens supposedly pulled the ultimate dick move and painted a coin on the table to get out of paying, because servers can totally afford to pay out of pocket for your drinking habits.
SOME PERSPECTIVE: In 1515, Machiavelli had written his book The Prince a couple years earlier, thereby gracing the world with the super fancy word “Machiavellian” (your homework for the day: go out into the world and try to use that to describe something cute like a toddler or a butterfly). A couple years later, Martin Luther would post his flyers in a church and change some things about religion which I guess are important.
9 – Al Brindisi – 1435AD – Ferrara, Italy
(580 years ago)Photo Credit: F Devlenthal through Flickr
This is the oldest osteria in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records, which means it technically also serves food – but with food comes wine! Opened in 1435, the eatery could have however existed since 1100. The word brindisi is the Italian noun for ‘cheers’, meaning that there’s a 90% chance that the TV show was inspired by happenings here. Also, its history is so cool that who cares. In fact, Copernicus lived above the establishment and drank there, proving that one must not only drink in the name of history, but in the name of SCIENCE!
SOME PERSPECTIVE: In 1435, the Incas more or less ruled Peru and Sweden’s Parliament met for the first time, thereby having a very blonde meeting.
8 – Zum Franziskaner – est. 1421AD – Stockholm, Sweden
(594 years ago)Photo Credit: Holger Ellgaard through Wikimedia Commons
Other than being old as hell, to be perfectly honest there’s not an insane amount of interesting things to say about Zum Franziskaner. It was founded by German monks who were inexplicably in Sweden, and is essentially a reproduction Germany brew house opened in Sweden, proving that mediocre imitation stands the test of time forever.
SOME PERSPECTIVE: In 1421, Brunelleschi had one year earlier begun to build the Duomo in Florence, which may not mean much to you, but I’m from Florence and it’s my article so there. Also, only 7 years later, Joan of Arc would be burned at the stake for not being a good actress (Milla Jovovich would later suffer the same fate).
7 – Kyteler’s Inn – 1324AD – Kilkenny, Ireland
(691 years ago)Photo Credit: Steven Roy Edwards via Compfight cc
On their website, Kyteler’s Inn offers a place of merriment, for birthday parties, family gatherings, and bar mitzvas (just kidding, ‘cause Ireland). Dame Alice Kyteler, the founder, was a 14th century lady who married four times and accumulated endless riches until some catholic men got pissed and accused her of witchcraft. She was not only the first woman accused of witchcraft in Ireland, she was moreover the first witch accused of lying with her Incubus (a word which means demon, not that one band whose poster you kiss every night). They even gave her incubus a name: Robin Artisson, which is extra sinister you guys. Anyways, Lady Kyteler was able to flee Ireland before being burned alive, thereby leaving her servant Petronilla (yes, seriously) to be flogged and immolated. Whoops.
SOME PERSPECTIVE: In 1324, Italy is clawing its way out of the Middle Ages and prancing into the Renaissance (disclaimer – the Middle Ages weren’t as bad as everyone thinks and the Renaissance wasn’t as good). The Aztecs in Mexico establish the city of Tenochitlan, and according to the internet, people were using the small cannon (as opposed to the medium-sized one). To give extra perspective, only 23 years later, some sailor rats would bring the Black Plague to Europe and kill everyone.
6 – Brauhaus Sion – 1318AD – Cologne, Germany
(697 years ago)Photo Credit: Eoghan OLionnain via Compfight cc
Brauhaus means brew house, and in the past it was used to brew medebier (which appears to be some old-ass form of mead, aka honey beer). The specialty now is Kölsch beer, which to be called such can be brewed only around Cologne. The brew house was destroyed during WW2 and rebuilt in 1951. Also, if you drink a beer there on a full moon, Bill Murray will actually make it his business to fly there and greet you wearing only a sheet-toga and with a stuffed parakeet on his shoulder.
Edit: Yeah, ok, that last part is a lie but I was trying to make it more interesting. This because I love you, dear reader (but not more than I love Bill Murray).
SOME PERSPECTIVE: In 1318, the world was a different place, and the now bellicose and impartial Swiss were making peace with someone – the Habsburgs. Just kidding, everything was the same. Also, The Divine Comedy was being written, ergo the books that defined our concept of hell as we know it as we know it.
5 – Ye Olde Man & Scythe – 1251AD – Bolton, England
(764 years ago)Image provided via Facebook
Ye Olde Man and Scythe is named after the Pilkington family crest. This crest, by the way, depicts a merry, colorfully-clad young (better known as, in medieval times, old as shit) fellow. Personally, if a badly drawn version of Richard Simmons in a helmet came to herald my own death, rather than a skeleton cloaked in black, I would surrender immediately. Incidentally, as the story goes, the pub is also famous for its stoop having been the execution block for the beheading of the Earl of Derby due to his involvement in the Bolton Massacre, which led to the deaths of est. 1600 people. But wait! The Earl of Derby (also known as Lord Strange, which is incidentally the name of my ferret which I have just now decided to adopt) was beheaded in front of the establishment because he had dined there that night. The chair he supposedly sat on has been preserved and was actually usable until, allegedly, one of the members of The Who damaged it by being cool and destroying property for reasons of rock and roll. Now it’s in a glass case; this is why we can’t have nice things.
SOME PERSPECTIVE: In 1215AD, Genghis Khan had just invaded China (in 1214). Yes, one guy invaded our major producer of plastic beach toys. Which means that he fought against communism. Which means that Genghis Khan is America’s friend? Pope Innocent III takes the stage again to give a speech that effectively incited all religious zealots to kill people.
4 – The Brazen Head – est. 1198AD – Dublin, Ireland
(817 years ago)Photo Credit: Janine in Berlin via Compfight cc
While Sean’s Bar is officially the oldest bar in Europe, the Brazen Head is actually listed as the oldest bar in Ireland. This is thanks to the foundations it’s built on, which was a coach house built dating back to the 12th century (although it’s not clear whether that foundation still exists or not). This may be a bitter rivalry for the owners, but for you it just means one more place to drink in the name of history. James Joyce and Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) have drunk here, and the pub is renowned for its live music (such as, appropriately, the Dubliners).
SOME PERSPECTIVE: In 1198AD, the Holy Roman Empire was still alive and well (although not for long). Pope Innocent III also became Pope, which was totally a sorrow worth drowning in a vat of toxic, medieval alcohol because he was a strong opponent of heresy and totally a power-hungry dick. Imagine drinking at a bar and being worried that if you said anything remotely unchristian sounding, you could be killed!
3 – Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem – est. 1189AD – Nottingham, England
(826 years ago)Photo Credit: woodytyke via Compfight cc
This is where it gets a bit confusing, as Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, holding what is perhaps the most ancient and crusade-y sounding name of all time, claims to be the oldest bar in England. However, its claims can’t exactly be supported (as its earliest records date back to the 17th century) and other taverns dispute this, such as Ye Olde Salutation Inn and The Bell Inn. What makes this pub more credible is that it’s built on the side of caves that were used as brew houses for Nottingham Castle; theoretically, us plebes would hang out somewhere and drink the runoff of what wasn’t good enough for royalty. Except that apparently Richard Lionhart (yes, this guy) apparently drank here, too. Talk about gentrification. Also, it has a tiny ship on the wall which is haunted.
SOME PERSPECTIVE: In 1189AD, Richard Lionheart became king, and proceeded to go off to the Third Crusade and leave his country in the hands of some farm animals, according to Disney.
2 – The Bingley Arms – 953 AD – North Leeds, England
(1,062 years ago)Image provided via Facebook
The Bingley Arms officially opened in 953AD, but it MAY have opened only 5 years after Sean’s Bar, in 905AD. The world may never know whether this was a collective zeitgeist of binge drinking or simply a hot new trend sweeping the then-triple-digit world. Originally named Priests Inn, it then changed its name to what sounds like your fantasy of winning that pinball tournament (yeah right). However, its original name was more appropriate, as it claims to have been a haven for persecuted priests (which must have set, like, the best mood ever).
SOME PERSPECTIVE: In 953AD, not a ton was going on. However, in 950AD, New Zealand was discovered by the Maori, thereby setting in motion a series of events which would lead to Americans in 2015 still not knowing anything about the country other than as the land of hobbits, mountains, and Flight of the Conchords.
1 – Sean’s Bar – 900AD – Athlone, Ireland
(1,115 years ago)Photo Credit: Ynys Éire via Compfight cc
To everyone’s surprise, the noble history of most writers’ day jobs begins in a land that some Americans know only for its alcohol and its diabetes inducing cereal (which we created and then blamed on them). Here, we also find evidence that your name is old and is so almost-2000-years-ago. The bar’s origins are based not only on archeological evidence but on records kept throughout the years. The Guinness Book of World Records, in fact, pegs Sean’s Bar as the oldest bar in Europe. Is it also the oldest bar in the world? There’s only one way to find out! You must travel to Ireland on a soul seeking trip and drink until all the mysteries of the universe are revealed to you through your liver. It’s probably pretty legit, though, because Boy George owned it at one point. End of story.
SOME PERSPECTIVE: In 900AD, the Mayans were still around (enjoying their Post Classical period, to be exact), and the Vikings had discovered Greenland; also, algebra had been invented about 50 years prior by Arabic scholars.