For when a pint in a local pub just isn’t enough, here are ten of the best ‘destination bars’. These places are attractions in their own right either for their sense of history, unique setting or simply having a real wow factor…
May Fair Hotel, London, England
Dress in your best for a night at the glamorous bar of the May Fair Hotel. Over 40 cocktails are served in an atmosphere of chic sophistication that’s classy but surprisingly relaxed; leather walls, modern open fires and low purple sofas are cool but comfy. If you’re feeling flush, try the luxurious May Fair Martini (made with Richard Hennessey cognac, vanilla infused sugar, almond essence, black cherry essence and Moet & Chandon).
Galvin at Windows, London, England
Relax and drink in the unsurpassed views of the London skyline at this bar on the 28th floor of the London Hilton on Park Lane. From up here, the River Thames dances a silvery ribbon though the city, and is particularly hypnotic at sunset with an expertly mixed gin and tonic in hand. If anything can tear your away from the view, it’ll be the food in the Michelin-starred restaurant and celebrity manager Fred Sirieix who has the mystical power of knowing exactly what you want without you uttering a word...
Bar Four, Hard Days Night Hotel, Liverpool, England
Fancy a Honey Can't Buy Me Love or Rocky Raspberry Racoon? You’ll find these and other Fab Four themed cocktails at the bar of the Beatles-inspired Hard Days Night Hotel in Liverpool. You might think this all might be a bit kitsch, but the wood panelled walls, luxury leather arm chairs and Italian marble are pure class. Look out for the large artworks by Paul Ygartua who attended Liverpool Art College with John Lennon.
St Pancras International Station Champagne Bar, London, England
Sip on a glass of bubbly under the vast sweeping roof of St Pancras Station, London’s beautifully restored neo-gothic masterpiece. The Champagne Bar is the longest in Europe and has over 20 styles of Champagne to enjoy. See the trains pull in and out with drink in hand and admire one of the great marvels of the Victorian age.
No Sign Wine Bar, Swansea, Wales
A must for fans of Dylan Thomas, the No Sign Wine Bar was a favourite with the poet who used to drink here in the 1930s. It appears as the ‘Wine Vaults’ in his story The Followers and retains much of its period charm. As well as a vast selection of wines it also serves excellent ale.
Crown Bar, Belfast, Northern Ireland
A veritable palace among pubs, the Crown Bar is one of the original Victorian ‘Gin Palaces’ - pubs decorated in lavish style where ordinary folk could experience some real luxury. So special, in fact, is the Crown Bar that in 1978 it was purchased by the National Trust so it could be preserved for future generations. Look out for the jewel-like etched and stained glass, elaborate mosaic floors and the antique bell system once used for alerting staff.
Cloud 23, Manchester, England
Soaring above Manchester, this upmarket bar on the 23rd floor of the Hilton Manchester Deansgate Hotel is all about the views. Order a classic cocktail and press your nose against one of the floor-to-ceiling windows for an unrivalled panorama over the city to the Pennines beyond.
Bar Ten, Glasgow, Scotland
Fitted out by Ben Kelly, designer of Manchester’s legendary Hacienda nightclub, in 1991, the original Glasgow style bar continues to be one of the coolest in the city. After the Hacienda closed in 1997, Bar Ten is one of the only places you can get a taste of Kelly’s timeless designs for nightlife spaces. The slick interior with black marble, tubular steel and industrial details is as cool and satisfying as the drinks.
Café Royal, Edinburgh, Scotland
Opened in 1863, Edinburgh’s Café Royal is a listed bar and restaurant whose period features make drinking here a treat. Sup a whisky and enjoy an oyster or two amid elaborate Victorian plasterwork, stained glass and unique Doulton ceramic murals which depict scenes from science and industry.
Gordons Wine Bar, London, England
London’s oldest wine bar was established in 1890 and, as you descend the stairs into its cellar-like interior, you’d be forgiven for thinking time hadn’t really moved on. Enjoy a glass of wine or two in this wonderful old building, home at one time to Samuel Pepys and later Rudyard Kipling. Flickering candles and wooden walls covered in historical newspaper cuttings and faded memorabilia add to the antique atmosphere.
St Pancras image by tompagenet