“I went to the worst of bars hoping to get killed but all I could do was to get drunk again.”
Charles Bukowski wasn't the only notable scribe to seek solace atop a bar stool.
Whether it was finding a cure for writer’s block, succour at the bottom of a bottle or hearty laughs around a fireplace, a trip to the tap room has habitually been a surefire way to coax creativity from some of the greatest minds ever to scribble a sentence.
In fact, we'd argue that only ink has played a larger part in the crafting of classic literature than social boozing has, possibly going some way to explain why our favourite works of fiction are strewn with genuine drinking spots, many of which are still open today.
Raise a fictional glass with us as we toast ten of the best to visit…
Cerveceria - The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Plaza de Jesus, 7, Madrid, Spain
With an unwavering ability to decimate a small nation's GDP in just cocktail receipts, there was something apt to Ernest Hemingway's global bar-hopping, which, during the author's on-off stints in Spain during the fifties, saw him regularly necking drinks in Cerveceria, the same bar and restaurant he described his protagonists (ex-pats themselves) meeting at in The Sun Always Rises. Umpteen years on, the author’s regular table is still present in the right-hand corner of the premises.
The Spaniards Inn - Dracula by Bram Stoker
Spaniards Rd, Hampstead, London, UK
Swashbuckling motif and Mediterranean moniker splashed on the outer walls? You might be forgiven for thinking The Spaniards Inn featured in some sort of high-seas literary adventure; when in actual fact, the bolt-hole, first opened in 1545 and situated in landlocked North London, on the very same route once plundered by Dick Turpin, has other literary connections - firstly for appearing in Charles Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, and then, above all else, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as the tavern Van Helsing and his men retire to after attempting to stake Lucy in the graveyard. Ordering a Bloody Mary would be a good start.
The Newman Arms - 1984 by George Orwell
23 Rathbone Street, Fitzrovia, London, UK
Such was his fondness for a pint, George Orwell penned 1946 essay The Moon Under Water, cataloguing the ten attributes his dream drinking hole would need to have. As for his favourite non-imaginary boozer, look no further than London's Newman Arms, referenced in Keep the Aspidistra Flying, and even cited as Orwell's chief influence for the dilapidated pub belonging to the mistreated underclasses in dystopian masterpiece 1984. Does a cracking pie, too apparently.
Jamaica Inn – Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
Bolventor, Launceston, Cornwall, UK
Take smuggling, add some intrigue, sprinkle with literary history and you have the Jamaica Inn. The titular setting for du Maurier’s 1936 classic has such an association with the themes of her novel that it’s actually adjoined to a smugglers museum. The Inn itself offers bedrooms conveniently named after the book’s characters and also claims to be haunted - if you're into that sort of thing.
Davy Byrne’s - Ulysses by James Joyce
21 Duke St, Dublin, Ireland
If stopping at a pub for a cheese sandwich and a few sips of burgundy doesn’t sound like page-turning stuff, for shame, you’re clearly not familiar with James Joyce’s life-affirming masterwork Ulysses. Punctiliously putting even the most trivial of events during a day in the life of everyman Leopold Bloom down on paper, Joyce included a visit to Davy Byrne’s Pub, still standing today. Another local bar worth a visit is Toner’s, where legend has it that Joyce once helped W.B. Yeats prop up the bar.
The Grapes - Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
76 Narrow St, London, UK
“A tavern of dropsical appearance…impended over the water but seemed to have got into the condition of a faint-hearted diver, who has paused so long on the brink that he will never go in at all,” was how Charles Dickens beautifully described The Grapes in the opening chapter of Our Mutual Friend, a pub he first encountered as a child in 1820 while visiting his grandfather. Drooped over the banks of the Thames River in Limehouse it’s remained, but if you needed any other reason to drop in for a pint, the current landlord happens to be Sir Ian McKellen.
Le Deux Magots, Paris - Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
6 Place Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006 Paris, France
“I sat with uranists in the Duex Magots,” or so went the line in Vladimir Nabokov’s classic 1955 story Lolita, shedding some light on the polished background of aging narrator Humbert Humbert, while taking a Parisian bar already popular with great authors and thinkers of the time and cementing its legacy in literary history forever. Just as revered as it was back in the day, Le Deux Magots continues to attract the highest of Parisian high society as well as Nabokov fans hoping to better understand Humbert's tortured mind.
The Oxford Bar - The Inspector Rebus Series by Ian Rankin
8 Young St, Edinburgh, UK
Edinburgh: as renowned for its literary taverns as it is bagpipe-belting buskers. Few, mind, are as authentic as Inspector Rebus’s favoured watering hole The Oxford Bar. Compact and largely tourist-free, ‘The Ox’ is home to the quintessential Scottish punter, so don’t expect to find any of “tha’ gastro pub nonsense”. Dating back to the 19th century, it’s long been a local for Scottish cultural greats like Willie Ross and more recently Rankin himself. Go and enjoy a wee dram...or five.
Langham Hotel Bar - Sherlock Holmes Series by Arthur Conan Doyle
1C Portland Pl, London, UK
Pubs themed around Sherlock are big business right now. You only need follow the trail of marauding ‘Cumberbitches’ on the hunt for Instagram-able landmarks from a certain modern day BBC drama to figure that mystery out. To fans of Conan Doyle’s original works, however, we say take a trip to the palatial surroundings of London’s Langham Hotel, backdrop to many of the sleuth's biggest cases, including A Scandal In Bohemia and The Sign Of Four. Share a poison or two in the Artesian bar. It’s no opium den, but it’ll do.
The Admiral Benbow - Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
46 Chapel St, Penzance, UK
Famed for being namedropped in the opening scene of Treasure Island, The Benbow is a traditional maritime pub dating back to the plank-walking days of the 17th Century. True to the novel, it’s crammed with sea-inspired artefacts, much of it rescued from shipwrecked vessels across the last four centuries. Landlubbers also welcome.
(Images: Flickr, AllStar)