World's best bar crawls

In Athens, Greece, dancing on the tables is encouraged.Athens Tourism & Economic Development Company
/ Source:

Early to bed, early to rise: It's many a traveler's credo. Have to fit in the boat tour and those two museums, right? But despite all the sensible reasons to opt out of hard-core nightlife—the ill-advised 4 a.m. kebab, the waking up with your clothes on, the headache that pounds through your sightseeing the next day—no trip is truly complete without a good elbow-bending session at an authentic local watering hole (or three). If you do it right, you'll remember enough of the night before to know it was fun. You learned to say "cheers" in the native tongue. You finally talked with some locals. Maybe you even went home with one. We know, we know—it was a cultural experience. Read on to find our favorite bar crawls around the world, from Bollywood hangouts in Mumbai to dancing on the bar in, yes, Beirut.

For a complete slideshow of the World’s Best Bar Crawls, click here.

1. London

What's on tap: Tippling and tapping your happy feet with London's hipster set.

Why it's worth a shot: You're probably tired of hearing about how once-gritty East London is now international scenester ground zero. But for every "Nathan Barley"—British slang for the neighborhood's legions of casually employed, fashion-conscious youth—there's a Bacchanalian dance club that's way ahead of the curve. The challenge, of course, is getting in: Many are hard to find, and the big-spender shtick that lowers velvet ropes in Soho doesn't impress anyone here. The right vintage piece and a credible air of disaffection work much better.

Booze route: Grease the pre-clubbing wheels at Cargo, a Shoreditch standby with a beer garden that is—amazingly—still cool more than five years after it opened. Next up is Bethnal Green Workingmen's Club. Half Moulin Rouge, half bingo hall, it's earned a loyal following for its burlesque and polka-dot tea party theme nights. Do your homework, pack an appropriately cheeky costume, and look for the yellow-flower tag by graffiti artist Banksy outside—the ultimate hipster seal of approval. For late-night debauchery, head north to Dalston, the new hipster frontier and home to Barden's Boudoir, an unmarked club sandwiched between a kebab joint and a discount shop. The pretty, artsy young things will be dancing up a storm in the basement. Extra points if you lure one of them onto a ratty couch.

Hangover cure: A pack of cigarettes, naturally. How else are you going to keep yourself looking svelte for the next party?

Tel: 44 20 7749 7844

Bethnal Green Workingmen's Club
Tel: 44 20 7739 7170

Barden's Boudoir
Tel: 44 20 7249 9557

2. New York City

What's on tap: A crawl through the city's best Russian bars; epic amounts of vodka.

Why it's worth a shot: America's great melting pot has absorbed the drinking traditions of many a country—but few as robust as Russia's. A crawl through the Big Apple's best Slavic bars weeds out the pretentious and weak-of-liver—ordering an appletini here will get you banished to Siberia. Plan for a long, steady night of straight vodka, with enough zakuski (snacks, such as smoked meats and pickled vegetables) to keep you from toppling over.

Booze route: Start with a bowl of borscht ($6) and a couple quick nips of the clear stuff at Uncle Vanya on West 54th Street, a homey midtown café with timbered ceilings. Head a few blocks south to Russian Samovar on West 52nd Street, site of the infamous first date between Carrie Bradshaw and Aleksandr Petrovsky in "Sex and the City". A gulp of the horseradish-infused vodka should cut right through the place's musty mystique. Take your buzz across the street to the more convivial crowd at the Russian Vodka Room, a low-ceilinged piano bar with a serious list of hard-to-find vodkas, before heading downtown to Nolita's Pravda on Lafayette Street, where you can get fancy with cocktails like the Kempinsky fizz (vodka, cassis, lemon juice, ginger ale). If you need a snack, indulge in the Caspian osetra for two. But beware that it costs roughly as much as a flight to St. Petersburg ($780).

Hangover cure: Pull yourself out of bed to detox at the East Village's quirky Russian & Turkish Baths on E. 10th Street. You'll be in good, if rough hands: The masseurs have been beating heavy drinkers (and, recently, in-the-know celebrities such as Colin Farrell and Russell Simmons) back into shape with brooms since 1892. It's got saunas and a bracingly cold pool but not the cleanest locker rooms, so bring your own flip-flops.

Uncle Vanya
Tel: 212 262 0542

Russian Samovar
Tel: 212 757 0168

Russian Vodka Room
Tel: 212 307 5835

Tel: 212 226 4696

Russian & Turkish Baths
Tel: 212 473 8806

3. Beirut

What's on tap: A surprisingly hip bar district in a survivor city.

Why it's worth a shot: Given all of the strife in Beirut's recent past, you'd be forgiven for assuming it's not a great party town. But the one-time "Paris of the Middle East" remains, despite political tensions, a bastion of liberality. And though Islam forbids the use of alcohol, the notion of a stress-relieving cocktail is embraced in Gemmayzeh, an old neighborhood that made it through Lebanon's 15-year civil war remarkably intact and is now full of artsy, shoebox-size boîtes.

Booze route: Start at the tiny, Torino Express at 253 Rue Gouraud, a former picture-framing shop so committed to partying that it remained open during Israel's bombardment of the city in 2006. Drink a toast to that survivor mentality before heading a few doors down Gouraud Street to Dragonfly, an Art Deco hole-in-the-wall where barmen in aprons and shirtsleeves mix a mean caipirinha. Next, follow the neon-red sign to Bar Louie, a grottolike space where the live jazz music will help you tap into the vibe of the raucous old Beirut. End your night in the rollback-roofed bar above French restaurant Centrale, a stylishly gritty space with excellent views, assuming you can still see straight, of the city's pockmarked skyline.

Hangover cure: Don't go to bed without a late-night shawarma and a sloppy game of backgammon at the historic Gemmayzeh Café, also known as the Glass Café by locals.

Torino Express
No phone

Tel: 961 1 561 112

Bar Louie
Tel: 961 1 575 877

Tel: 961 1 575 858

Gemmayzeh Café
Tel: 961 1 580 817

4. Tokyo

What's on tap: Kitschy, off-key fun in the karaoke capital of the world.

Why it's worth a shot: Tokyo is full of places where you can drunkenly sing your heart out to pop classics. Two tips: The Japanese are well aware that this form of entertainment is more fun to perform than to listen to, so private-room rentals are the norm. Also, the entrance fee typically includes one or more drinks.

Booze route: One place where you can share your slurred version of "Livin' on a Prayer" with a larger audience is gaijin-friendly Smash Hits, which claims to be the world's largest English-language karaoke stage bar. For an only-in-Japan experience, book the Jacuzzi Room at Shakura, an upscale karaoke lounge in Roppongi, where your botched high notes get muffled by the jets of the hot tub you're lounging in. It might be too much fun for one evening, but Festa, also in Roppongi, has a costume closet full of stewardess uniforms and anime-character outfits that you're free to don before singing. Don't feel bad about passing out at the open-all-night Shibuya flagship of karaoke megachain Shidax: Wasted locals often rent one of the 130 rooms for a nap before catching a morning train home.

Hangover cure: Around the time you're belting out your last encore, the world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market is opening up—as are the sushi joints that line its entrance. Give the vocal chords a break with some green tea and the freshest sushi you've ever tasted.

Smash Hits
Tel: 81 3 3444 0432

Tel: 81 3 3401 5711

Tel: 81 3 5570 1500


5. Portland, Oregon

What's on tap: An endless variety of handcrafted beers that will give you an appreciation of the art of brewing—or at least something to talk about between slugs.

Why it's worth a shot: Portland has more microbreweries per capita than any city in the United States, and brewpubs (bars that make beer on-site) are essential to the local way of life. Think of Paris café culture with less attitude—assuming you don't try to order a Bud Lite.

Booze route: Start out with a homemade pretzel and a glass of award-winning Mirror Pond Pale Ale at the Deschutes Brewery & Public House, which occupies a former auto-body shop on N.W. 11th Avenue in the Pearl District. (Manly men will appreciate the chainsaw art and abundant Scottish plaids.) You can light up a cigar in the detention room at on N.E. 33rd Avenue, a converted 1915 elementary school, and catch live music acts in the old gym. But if you want to hang with local beer geeks—who'd consider those places too mainstream—head to Hopworks Urban Brewery on SE Powell Powell Boulevard, an "eco-brewpub" where the organic beers have more of the West Coast's trademark hoppy bite. Green Dragon, in the same trendy Southeast neighborhood, keeps nearly 20 beers on tap. Chances are you haven't heard of more than one or two of them, but the bartenders will be happy to explain the difference between a brown ale and a chocolate stout.

Hangover cure: The baristas at Coffeehouse Northwest on West Burnside Boulevard treat every espresso they make as if it were a work of art, but it's worth the wait. For a quicker fix, head to Stumptown Coffee Roasters, in the über-hip Ace Hotel—no need to fix your bedhead.

Deschutes Brewery & Public House
Tel: 503 296 4906

McMenamins Kennedy School
Tel: 888 249 3983

Hopworks Urban Brewery
Tel: 503 232 4677

Green Dragon
Tel: 503 517 0606

Coffeehouse Northwest
Tel: 503 248 2133

6. Shanghai

What's on tap: A toast to the city's riotous 1930s heyday in the French Concession's throwback bars.

Hopworks Urban Brewery in Portland, OregonTim Labarge / Tim LaBarge 2008

Why it's worth a shot:
Pre-Communist was a heady cocktail of showgirls, gangsters, opium fiends, and exiled aristocrats. Today, a surprising number of historic buildings in the old French Concession, the former nightlife hub, have been reborn as watering holes that offer a look at how the city once partied (well, with the exception of the opium fiends).

Booze route: Segue from afternoon tea to gin and tonics at the Ruijin Hotel, a renovated 1920s estate of a British newspaper owner where the bar is modeled on a Silk Route caravansary. Then hit , the one-time residence of a sybaritic Shanghai mob boss—his private stage, where he once had Peking Opera stars perform, still sits in the lobby. But now the party centers on the rooftop bar and its (ahem) killer views of the French Concession. Your last stop is Cotton's, an expat favorite housed in a 1927 villa. The labyrinthine mansion has plenty of nooks and crannies. Order up a spicy Chairman Mao shot (the recipe's a secret) and conk out in front of one of four fireplaces with your new best friend.

Hangover cure: Banish the aftereffects of that Chairman Mao with several rounds of dim sum at Bao Luo, a locals' joint known for its crab and pork meatballs.

Ruijin Hotel
Tel: 86 21 6472 5222

Mansion Hotel
Tel: 86 21 5403 9888

Tel: 86 21 6433 7995

Bao Luo
Tel: 86 21 5403 7239

7. Athens

What's on tap: A nightlife tradition where dancing on the tables is encouraged.

Why it's worth a shot: Athenians love their nightclubs, but the traditional music venues known as bouzoukia are where they really let their hair down. The cramped, smoky venues of yore have evolved into posh cabarets where Greece's biggest pop stars perform, but some customs die hard: By the end of the show, most of the audience members are dancing on their chairs or onstage.

Booze route: Warm up with some afternoon rebetika (blues with origins in Asia Minor) at Stoa Athanaton, a bouzoukia in the Central Market. See the early show so you can avoid the crowds, then take a short walk south to the rejuvenated bar district of Psirri, which is packed with spots for mezes (appetizers) and drinks. For the night's main event, book a table with bottle service at Rex or Romeo, two of the big-time bouzoukia. Look sharp, and don't worry about showing up until around midnight. Then let the mix of jangly ballads, dance music, and booze cast its spell. Once upon a time, the audience would have shown its appreciation for good music by hurling plates on the floor. These days, you're expected to buy carnations and throw them onstage.

Hangover cure: Hit up a gyro joint or (the more fashionable option) a crêpe stand before stumbling back to your hotel.

Stoa Athanaton
Tel: 30 210 321 4362

Tel: 30 210 381 4591

Tel: 30 210 894 5345

8. Oxford, England

What's on tap: Collegiate binge-drinking made classy by historical context.

Why it's worth a shot: Home to Britain's oldest university, Oxford is a bastion of archaic rituals—including, of course, getting soused (see post-exam celebration at right). Just thinking about the stories that live within the city's centuries-old drinking establishments—born long before the likes of Thomas Hardy and Graham Greene became regulars—is enough to make your head spin. (If anyone asks, you can say that's what did it.)

Booze route: A ride on a gondola-like punt boat along the River Cherwell, drink in hand, is a time-honored Oxford tradition. After polishing off the Pimm's and lemonade you brought aboard, moor your boat for a pint outside the Victoria Arms on Mill Lane, a prime day-drinking spot. Zigzag back to the boathouse and then head to The Bear on Alfred Street, a 13th-century tavern with Bilbo Baggins proportions and a famous necktie collection. There are plenty of options for your next stop(s): The Turf, a popular biergarten where a young Bill Clinton famously "did not inhale"; the tradition-minded Rose & Crown, which fines cell phone users; The Crown Inn, where Shakespeare once seduced the proprietress; or the Eagle and Child, where C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien once lurked in the shadowy nooks. Most pubs close around 11 p.m. For after-hours fun, try to sneak into a college "bop," or party, where a student ID is generally not required. Follow posted flyers, and don't enter through main gates, which are guarded by porters. Remember: Your drunkenness will be more convincing than your bad English accent.

Hangover cure: Before you pass out, stumble to the kebab vans that line St. Giles or St. Aldate's streets to coat your stomach with a chip butty, a baguette filled with cheesy french fries.

Victoria Arms
Tel: 44 1865 241 382

The Bear
Tel: 44 1865 728 164

The Turf
Tel: 44 1865 243 235

Rose & Crown
Tel: 44 1865 510 551

The Crown
Tel: 44 1865 256 047

Eagle and Child
Tel: 44 1865 302 925

9. British Virgin Islands

What's on tap: A sun-drenched drinking tour that barely requires you to get off your boat.

Why it's worth a shot: The British Virgin Islands are a relatively untouched paradise of white-sand beaches, clear blue sea, and relatively few roads. Sounds like a pretty lousy place for a bar crawl. But when you learn that the island of has seven beach bars for its 200 residents, and that sailing between watering holes is a national pastime, you start to get a different picture. Then you get a boat—and a designated skipper.

Booze route: You'll have to swim to shore to get to the Soggy Dollar, hence the name, so it's best to make it your first stop. Located in White Bay on Jost's southern coast, it's the birthplace of the painkiller—basically, a piña colada with a dash of orange juice—and the laid-back proprietors are known to let guests serve themselves at the bar and pay later. Sail one bay over to an open-air beach bar in Great Harbour that serves fiery homemade rum. Foxy himself composes impromptu calypso tunes poking fun at drunken guests; in turn, they often leave behind tees and bathing suits that are later fastened to the ceiling. Head southwest and drop anchor at a schooner moored off nearby Norman Island. A 2006 accident put an end to the once-common nude dives off the poop deck; but it's only made body shots more popular.

Hangover cure: Foxy's opens at 9:30 a.m., so head on back, settle into a hammock, and order a hair-of-the-dog cocktail like the Purple Passion (rum with passionfruit, guava syrup, and OJ).

Soggy Dollar
Tel: 284 495 9888

Tel: 284 495 9258

Willy T's
Tel: 284 496 8603

10. Mumbai

What's on tap: Rubbing elbows with the Bollywood crowd on the city's spangled club circuit.

Why it's worth a shot: Anyone who envisions India as a nation of puritanical strivers has another thing coming at Mumbai's nightclubs, where the whiskey flows freely and Pilates-toned women are at ease in tank tops and tight jeans. The capital of India's massive entertainment industry, balmy Bombay lures wannabe stars and starlets from all over the country; it's like L.A., New York City, and Miami rolled into one (and more populous than all three combined). Downtown has its share of posh clubs, but the movie stars and jeunesse dorée generally stick to the ritzy enclave of Bandra.

Booze route: Start at celeb favorite Olive Bar & Kitchen; a heavy hitter like Bollywood star Aamir Khan is more likely to be there on a weeknight, while the after-dinner scene is liveliest on Thursdays. The same goes for Balinese-inspired Zenzi, on nearby Waterfield Road, where with enough swagger (and rupees for bottle service) you might be able to stake out a corner couch. The beats are heavier at Poison, a recently opened club co-owned by It-boy DJ Aqeel that reportedly has a strict anti-sari door policy (traditional clothes are considered provincial among club kids). Step away from the fabulousness of it all at Hawaiian Shack, a bamboo-accented lounge with an '80s soundtrack and cheaper drinks. The younger crowd is heavy with film-industry types—before the night is out, you may even be able to talk your way into a walk-on role.

Hangover cure: Post-drinking stomachs wary of curry would do well to hit the waffle station at TTaxi's Western-style brunch of Cuffe Parade.

Olive Bar & Kitchen
Tel: 91 22 26 058 228

Tel: 91 22 56 430 670

Tel: 91 22 26 423 006

Hawaiian Shack
Tel: 91 22 2605 8753

Tel: 91 22 2218 4904

11. Madrid

What's on tap: Vino and tapas, in one of Spain's most buzzing wine-bar districts.

Why it's worth a shot: After a couple of hours studying the somber Goyas and Velazquezes at the Prado, revive with food and drink in La Latina, a traditionally working-class neighborhood that's now the refuge of artists and immigrants. On the twisting thoroughfare of Calle Cava Baja in particular, tiny tapeos (tapas bars) are cheek by jowl—and no, that's not a pork pun.

Booze route: Walk west from the La Latina subway stop to Juana La Loca, on Plaza Puerto de Moros, and have the waiter suggest a wine to go with the bar's much-loved pinchos (mini-slices of bread with a dab of something, often fish, on top). It's "Solo Vino Espanol," as the sign says, at Tempranillo, where the list of more than 100 Spanish bottlings will get you well beyond the typical Riojas and Ribera del Dueros. Those politicians who didn't have to wait for a table—as you will—are likely friends with the owner, a former staff member in the Spanish senate. Less than a minute in the direction of Plaza Mayor, on the same street, is Casa Lucas, a bright-orange space with tiled walls and a rotating list of wines by the glass. By this point you'll have spent three hours in three bars, and been on foot for a total of about ten minutes. Blame La Latina's layout if the wine starts to get to your head.

Hangover cure: Madrid's answer to the doughnut—shaming of the doughnut, really—is the churro con chocolate, a sugared tube of deep-fried dough dipped in dark chocolate. Your best bet in La Latina is Chocolat Bar, a hole-in-the-wall on Calle Santa Maria.

Juana La Loca
Tel: 34 913 640 525

Tel: 34 913 641 532

Casa Lucas
Tel: 34 913 650 804

Chocolat Bar
Tel: 34 914 294 565

12. Epcot Center, Orlando, Florida

What's on tap: An around-the-world bar crawl, squeezed into a single afternoon.

Why it's worth a shot: Epcot's World Showcase is one of the few places in the Disney Empire that serves booze. And the accompanying gift shops provide silly hats and overpriced costumes perfect for cultural cliché photo ops.

Booze route: You should be able to hit all seven countries in just a few hours—it's a small world, after all. Ask for a plastic cup at each one to keep things moving. Make your way clockwise around the lagoon, starting with a margarita at the Mexico pavilion. Drop in for a beer outside the Germany pavilion, then decide whether you're up for one of Disney's wildest rides, the Italy kiosk's answer to a margarita: Limoncello, grappa, and margarita mix. (Something tells us the prosecco sells much better.) The Sam Adams draft you can grab at the American Adventure pavilion's Fife & Drum Tavern should last you until Japan, where there's a sake-tasting station hidden inside the Mitsukoshi department store. Gulp, nod approvingly, and down a coup de Champagne in France before the grand finale: the United Kingdom's Rose & Crown Pub, the circuit's only real concession to serious drinkers. (Speaking of, where's Russia?) No Mickey-Mousing here: Do the $10 "Imperial Sampler" of beer, followed by a single malt flight. Stick around; this is the best spot on the lagoon for watching the nightly fireworks show—just don't go peeling your clothes off and jumping in afterward.

Hangover cure: The Happiest Place on Earth can be the most miserable one when you're fighting a hangover. Room service was invented for situations like this.

Disney's Epcot Center
Tel: 407 824 4321