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Warren Tavern, Charlestown
Photograph: Sarah BentivegnaWarren Tavern

Oldest Bars in Boston: 10 Historic Spots for Drinks and Fun Times

Enjoy a tipple at these historic bars and take in some history, too

Olivia Vanni
Written by
Linda Laban
&
Olivia Vanni
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It’s not surprising that one of the America’s oldest settlements boasts some of the countrys oldest bars. A handful of Boston’s historic taverns played host to Colonial gatherings that helped organize The Revolution, while others stand in defiance to the rapid development surrounding them. All have a cool vibe and stories to tell. Some of these hangouts also rank among the best Irish pubs and best dive bars in Boston. If youre looking for something a little fancier and more modern, check out our list of the best cocktail bars in Boston.

RECOMMENDED: See the full list of the best bars in Boston

Oldest bars in Boston

  • Bars
  • Charlestown
  • price 2 of 4

The Warren Tavern has been in its current location on Pleasant Street (near the Bunker Hill Monument) since 1780, making it the oldest tavern in Massachusetts. When it was built, it supposedly replaced a nearby tavern burned down by the British troops either during the Battle of Bunker Hill or another Revolutionary War skirmish. The tavern was named after Dr. Joseph Warren, a Patriot leader who was killed in action during that famous, aforementioned battle that took place in Charlestown. Back in the day, this watering hole hosted prominent American patrons like Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, so stopping by here for a beer is basically a history lesson.

  • Bars
  • Quincy Market
  • price 2 of 4

The Bell in Hand is charmingly named after its original owner’s trade, a retired Boston town crier named James Wilson, who opened the pub in 1795. Its current location, however, is not the first, serving as this tavern's home only since 1844. It's believed that, despite its move from Elm Street to where it now stands on Union Street, the Bell in Hand still uses the original, physical bar dating back to 1795. Some skeptics might wonder if the spot’s claim as the oldest tavern in America could be the result of too many strong ales.

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  • Restaurants
  • South End

JJ Foley’s is a true Boston icon, opening its doors in 1909 and establishing itself as a South End institution well before the neighborhood became the bustling slice of gentrification that it is today. Since its start, this family-run pub has kept it classic, pouring pints of Guinness and other draft beers from behind its dark wooden bar, and serving straight comfort food with a smile. Now, let’s not get confused with this historic watering hole: We’re talking about the original location on East Berkeley Street. The bar has a Downtown Crossing outpost that’s popular in its own right, attracting packs of office-goers who want to wash away the memories of workday throughout the week. If you mix up the two, Bostonians will surely let you know.

  • Bars
  • Quincy Market

The original Green Dragon Tavern may have been built in 1654, but it was torn down in the 1850s. The current Green Dragon, on Marshall Street, is part of a small local chain of bars and dates only to 1993. Who can blame them for co-opting the history of the name as part of its own story, when the original tavern is almost certainly the spot where Paul Revere set out for his midnight ride on April 18, 1775, to warn the militias at Lexington and Concord that the British troops were on their way to take their weapons stash. That’s certainly something worthy of a toast.

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  • Bars
  • Hotel bars
  • Back Bay
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Originally called the Copley Café, which opened in 1912 alongside the hotel, this Fairmont Copley Plaza bar has undergone several transformations over the years. The Copley Café became the Merry-Go-Round Bar in 1934, complete with a merry-go-round; in 1978, it was simply The Plaza Bar and Dining Room; then, in 1996, it became The Oak Room and racked up considerable standing among Boston’s Back Bay set. In 2011, the Oak Room was gutted, leaving a familiar feeling for its fans while becoming a bright, shimmering bar and lounge that befits the hotel’s jazz age birth.

  • Hotels
  • Downtown
  • price 3 of 4

Quite a few taverns around the city can likely boast Paul Revere having drank there, but few can say the same about Charles Dickens. The Last Hurrah is located inside the Omni Parker House hotel, which itself dates to 1855, and claims the much-traveled British author as a reveler and a guest. It was here that Dickens first read his magnificent novel, A Christmas Carol, in America. The then-Parker House Hotel had become a gathering place for transcendentalists and writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Their Saturday Club salons counted Henry David Thoreau, Henry James and Dickens as guests. Today, The Last Hurrah has the feel of a gentlemen’s club, but its walls tell a more modern story as a place of political movers and shakers. Still, alongside an impressive whiskey menu, there’s the Dickens Punch to enjoy.

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  • Restaurants
  • Seafood
  • Quincy Market
  • price 3 of 4

Surrounded by cobbled narrow streets near Faneuil Hall, Union Oyster House feels like a step back in time. It is located in a building that dates to the early 1700s and is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Union Oyster House dates to 1826 when it opened as the Atwood & Bacon Oyster House. As such, it lays bona fide claim as the oldest restaurant in Boston, and among the oldest in the United States. Though now more a restaurant than a bar, you can still stop in for a drink. What better footsteps to follow than one of the Union Oyster House’s regular customers, Statesman Daniel Webster, a New Hampshire native who lived nearby, and was said to eat 36 oysters a day, always washed down with brandy and water.

  • Restaurants
  • American
  • South Boston

Amrheins claims lineage back to 1890, making it a cornerstone of South Boston for over a century. Its owners boast that their taproom has the oldest hand carved bar in America, and it's where the first draft beer pump in Boston was installed. That may be true, but the daily business of this grand old bar is to still serve drinks and food to an ever-changing clientele. As West Broadway undergoes massive development, including to the building in which Amrheins sits, one can only hope this bastion of old Southie does not disappear in a cloud of gentrification.

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  • Bars
  • Sports Bars
  • Fenway/Kenmore
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At fifty years old and counting, the Cask ’n Flagon has weathered all of the drastic changes surrounding it on Lansdowne Street. Clubs and pubs have come and gone—even Fenway Park across the street has been slicked up and expanded—but the Cask remains a stoic, no-frills grand master. Before this bar opened in 1969, the building was a Ford dealership. Though it’s a solid, year-round neighborhood drinking and dining spot, it turns into a complete madhouse on game days during baseball season. And in that, the Cask has a secure place in Boston’s history.

  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Chinatown
  • price 1 of 4

While Boston’s rich Colonial past has left it with some truly ancient watering holes, the city also boats a few relics from its own unique Mid-Century history. The Tam is a prime example, having first opened its doors sometime during the 1940s, thriving as a beloved townie bar ever since. After briefly shutting its doors and changing ownership in 2018, The Tam re-opened, ready to once again sling inexpensive, no-nonsense beverages in an area where such a thing is a real rarity.

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