Top bars in San Francisco

Best bars in San Francisco

When it comes to bars, San Francisco knows how to deliver. You can choose elegant, rooftop affairs where the views are as good as the drinks, or no-frills establishments where you’re likely to make a new pal or two as you share a long-benched table with them in a bustling beer garden. Some bars also pay homage to legendary musicians and even buildings, so you feel a real immersion into the culture and legacy of this northern Californian city. Break up the sightseeing with a quick respite or wind down for the day in a lively bar; the choice is yours in The Golden City.

  1. Li Po Cocktail Lounge
  2. The Alembic
  3. The Beehive
  4. Jolene’s
  5. Marianne’s
  6. Trick Dog
  7. Zeitgeist
  8. Comstock Saloon

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. Li Po Cocktail Lounge

The long-established Li Po Cocktail Lounge has been running since 1937, a popular ‘dive bar’ that’s just about one of the best bars in San Francisco. It’s held onto its ‘30s flair with its wraparound bar, red leather-backed booths and traditional Chinese decor in the form of lanterns and golden Buddha statues. In fact, it’s so good that it’s been featured in plenty of ‘Top Ten’ lists; swing by and discover your own reason to fall in love with the place.

Vibe: Traditional Chinese meets dive bar.

Area: Chinatown

2. The Alembic

The Alembic is a craft cocktail bar that whips up some pretty inventive concoctions and are served in equally creative settings, too. Their house cocktails include Lonely Hearts Club (with tequila) and the slightly more upbeat-sounding Night Market (with gin).

Vibe: Understated decor.

Area: Upper Haight

3. The Beehive

Head back to the swinging ‘60s at the Beehive and let your inner free spirit come out to play. With aptly named cocktails of the era, like Hound Dog and Flower Child, you can even dig into savoury fondues, sliders and bite-sized snacks. The food and drinks are presented as nicely as the bar itself, set in a spacious setting that isn’t garish at all, considering the theme.

Vibe: Swingin’ ‘60s.

Area: Mission District

4. Jolene’s

Big on the LGBTQ+ scene is Jolene’s, a corner-block venue offering a pool table, dance floor and restaurant that makes for a great spot for weekend brunchin’ as much as it is a chance to get down and boogie. And, self-describing itself as San Francisco’s ‘Queer Hot Spot’, you can be sure it’s going to be a whole lotta fun down at Jolene’s.

Vibe: LGBTQ+ community

Area: Mission District

5. Marianne’s

Named after the legendary Marianne Faithfull, Marianne’s is both cosy and eclectic, and makes for one of the most unique bars in San Francisco. There are private booths, a lounge and bar areas to choose from, as well as small plates that round off your perfect night here. If you want to feel like a rock’n’roll star with a touch of glamour, this is the place to come: think purple walls, dim lighting and vintage leather. Rock and roll’s not dead, man.

Vibe: VIP rockstars.

Area: Tenderloin

6. Trick Dog

Trick Dog is one of those San Francisco bars that gets straight to it: with its dark wood interior and minimal decor, this is because the focus is on the crafted drinks, where dedicated bartenders serve up unique artisan concoctions. Spanning a ground floor and a mezzanine level, Trick Dog regularly changes their drink (and food) menus, so no two visits are likely to be the same. The Mission District is a great place to base yourself if you’re looking at San Francisco holidays, as this is where a great deal of the bars and nightlife scene can be found.

Vibe: Quality over style.

Area: Mission District

7. Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist is the place to go to if you’re looking for somewhere to stop off during the day. It’s home to one of the city’s few beer gardens, with outdoor seating hemmed in by wacky art murals on the walls. It’s a low-key, informal place with reasonable drink prices; if rock music is your thing, then you’ll feel right at home.

Vibe: Hipsters

Area: Mission District

8. Comstock Saloon

This prohibition-style bar pays tribute to what the building originally started life as in 1907, as the Andromeda Saloon. Opened in 2010, the Comstock Saloon nods to this bygone era with its Victorian decor: think wraparound corner bars, high-backed booths and vintage bottles lining the glass cabinets. To get a true sense of this nugget of American history and feel for the history of the building, order the of-the-time appropriate food and drinks.

Vibe: Prohibition

Area: Chinatown

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