The Insiders Guide To The Best San Francisco Bars

There's no doubt about it — San Francisco bars are legendary. From the Top of the Mark lounge at the Mark Hopkins Hotel to Tosca in North Beach, there's a bar to suit your budget and taste in decor. Funky and fun, SF bars and lounges are a great way to catch up with the latest people watching and learn all about the city's favorite cocktails.

The Starlight Room is like stepping back in time, you almost feel like you might bump into Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. While at Vesuvio you feel like you might rub elbows with Jack Kerouac. We've put together some old favorites with a few new ones to liven up your SF little black book.

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Favorite San Francisco Bars

Bix

A SF Travelers Guide Favorite

Bix

Hidden in a romantic back alley, Bix is a like a sophisticated speakeasy, supper club and elegant saloon rolled into one.

You feel like you are in the center of sophistication as you watch the well-dressed bartenders stand behind the curved bar expertly mixing cocktails. The room is 1920s elegance with a swooping staircase, mahogany wood and fluted columns. Since it opened in 1988, BIX has also offered the best of Bay Area jazz with live music nightly.

  • 56 Gold Street (between Montgomery & Sansome)
  • Website

Bourbon and Branch

Bourbon and Branch

In 1923, during Prohibition, John J. Russell used his connections to bootleggers to operate a bar under the guise of JJ Russell's Cigar Shop. Few cigars were sold and the speakeasy managed to escape the government Prohibition Agents.

Today Bourbon and Branch is located at the same address, and it continues the speakeasy, Prohibition theme. Their abundant bourbon selection includes Noah's Mill, Buffalo Trace and Rittenhouse 21 Year.

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Classic San Francisco Bars

Top Of The Mark

Top Of The Mark

Famous for its sparkling views of the Golden Gate Bridge and its 100 Martini Menu, the Top of the Mark is a landmark San Francisco bar & lounge. You hop on the elevator at the luxurious Mark Hopkins Hotel and zoom up to the 19th floor where you share the same space as Brad Pitt and Elizabeth Taylor. But not at the same time.

Pied Piper Bar & Grill

Pied Piper Bar and Grill

For more than a hundred years the Pied Piper Bar & Grill has been a favorite San Francisco watering hole. It's also been named as one of the World's Seven Greatest Bars. The Pied Piper Bar & Grill is found at The Palace Hotel, a beaux art gem that was built in 1875, destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, and then rebuilt to even greater splendor.

Eclectic San Francisco Bars

Tosca

Tosca

At Tosca the specialty is a blend of Ghirardelli chocolate, steamed milk and a shot of brandy aptly named the "house cappuccino". The newest song on the jukebox is Patsy Cline's hit Crazy, from 1961. This is the place for a good old-fashioned drink, nothing fancy. And it's been that way for almost 100 years!

Vesuvio

North Beach Pub Crawl

This offbeat North Beach bar, founded in 1948, is decorated with an eclectic collection of memorabilia. Throughout the 1950s Vesuvio was frequented by Beat writers and artists, including Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Neal Cassady. Other counter-cultural icons also drank here — including the two Dylans, Bob & Thomas! But, not at the same time.

Vesuvio is on the route of a walking tour we like — the North Beach Pub Crawl — where you take a guided, drinking tour of this and other North Beach haunts.

The Starlight Room

Sir Francis Drake Hotel

Sitting at 21 floors above the Sir Francis Drake Hotel is the legendary Harry Denton's Starlight Room (now called simply The Starlight Room.) This sky-high lounge is now managed by Michael Pagan, of Studio 54 nightclub fame. Don't miss his famous Sunday's A Drag Brunch. Expect old world glamour and old fashion charm at this signature San Francisco bar and lounge.

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