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The Trestle Inn
Photograph: Courtesy The Trestle Inn/Meredith Edlow

The 32 best bars in Philadelphia

The best bars in Philadelphia include cocktail lounges, speakeasies, and down-and-dirty dives. Good times, guaranteed

Josh Middleton
Written by
Josh Middleton
Contributor
Time Out editors
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No matter your bar preference, you’ll find it in Philly. The City of Brotherly Love has a reputation for rowdy locals, but that just comes from the intense passion found here for all things Philly. The best bars in Philadelphia are where this manifests in its most excitable form, although the ravenous sports arenas might have something to say about that.

The best bars here cover everything from dingy neighborhood dives to the glitz and glamour of rooftop cocktails. Yes, we’re happy to stop at everything in the space between. Check out the city’s finest museums, attractions, and restaurants before sinking a tipple of three.

Best bars in Philadelphia

  • Bars
  • Avenue Of The Arts - South
  • price 2 of 4

A glowing neon sign invites guests into Writer’s Block Rehab on the stretch of nightlife hotspots along (or just off) the ever-expanding Midtown Village business corridor. Dreamed up by industrial engineer Ram Krishnan, the wordsmith-inspired cocktail lounge offers bar seating on the first and third levels, but head to the second floor “Library” for a more comfortable, lounge-type experience. The menu boasts an impressive selection of wine, beer, and creative cocktails like a turmeric pisco sour and arugula martini.

  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Avenue Of The Arts - South
  • price 1 of 4

Bob and Barbara’s Lounge has been a South Philly institution since the late ’60s. Go on a Friday or Saturday night to listen to the Hammond B-3 organ combo playing Liquor Drinking Music, or on a Thursday night to sit in the front row for Philly’s longest-running drag show. Be sure to grab a Citywide Special before the night is out. They say the legendary Philly drink—a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a shot of Jim Beam—originated here.

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  • Restaurants
  • Italian
  • East Passyunk Crossing
  • price 2 of 4

Taking over his grandfather’s members-only South Philly social club, Zeppoli chef Joey Baldino has reimagined the space into an intimate Italian-American enclave. To keep things in the family, a limited number of memberships are available at the door each evening. Once you’re in, order a well-mixed Negroni, and don’t miss the stuffed artichokes, spaghetti with crabs, and housemade spumoni.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Rittenhouse
  • price 3 of 4

Whether you prefer your scotch straight or have a hankering for an old-fashioned, the brown liquor selection at the Library Bar is top-notch. Nestled within the Rittenhouse Hotel, the Library Bar exudes the kind of quiet sexiness that you want in a luxe hotel bar experience. And yes, bibliophiles can browse the bar’s small library, so don’t be scared to show up alone for a stiff nightcap and a leisurely read by the front-room fire.

  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Center City
  • price 1 of 4

A refreshing juxtaposition from the posh-ness of nearby Rittenhouse Square, Oscar’s Tavern is a Center City staple when you want to bypass all the fancy-pants cocktail lounges and wine dens in the area for cheap beers, greasy pub grub, and friendly yet take-no-bullshit waitstaff. The joint, which opened in 1972, has an almost diner-like feel, decked out with wood-paneled walls, a lineup of stools at the bar, and a row of ripped red-vinyl booths that fill up fast when the after-work crowd rolls in. In the back, you’ll find tables, single-stall bathrooms, and a jukebox cranking nostalgic tunes. This is a Philly dive bar at its very best.

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  • Bars
  • Beer bars
  • Rittenhouse
  • price 2 of 4

According to Monk’s, the only reason you’re not a fan of beer is because you haven’t found the right one yet—so let Monk’s help you. Browse through the “Belgian Beer Bible” and choose from over 25 varieties on tap and over 200 bottles from all over the world. Pair your beer with some mussels and frites, and you’ll be sure to have a jolly good time.

  • Restaurants
  • Contemporary American
  • Rittenhouse
  • price 2 of 4

When Chad Williams and his wife Hanna took over this beloved Rittenhouse institution, Philadelphia foodies were curious, to say the least. After an elegant revamp of the two-story space and a complete menu redux, the bar is as bustling as ever, and Williams’ refined take on American fare has won legions of fast fans among critics and locals alike.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Fishtown
  • price 2 of 4

Exposed brick walls juxtaposed with modern finishings characterize this hip distilling company housed in a former factory in Fishtown. The claim to fame here is that Philadelphia Distilling is the first post-Prohibition distillery in this city. They’re behind creations such as Bluecoat American Dry Gin, Vieux Carré Absinthe, and Penn 1681 Vodka—all of which can be found in state liquor stores and in many of the best bars in Philadelphia. Or you can just sidle up to the bar at Philadelphia Distilling and have one of their mixologists whip you up a cocktail in the very place where these spirits were born. 

  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Greater Philadelphia
  • price 1 of 4

Dirty Franks, which opened in November 1933 (just a month before Prohibition was repealed), is the dive bar to end all dive bars. Join the classic Philly bar scene in this low-ceilinged, raucous joint, which is also a stop on a Mural Arts Philadelphia walking tour—thanks to its illustrated outdoor wall full of well-known Franks such as Sinatra, Avalon, and even Aretha Franklin.

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  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • Greater Philadelphia
  • price 2 of 4

In a narrow alleyway off of 13th Street in the Gayborhood lies this gem that’s just loaded with character. You’ll see that as soon as you walk in the door, as you look over the dimly lit dining room decorated with vintage artwork—mostly of the female-focused, soft-porn variety—frilly lamps and even taxidermy fish. Grab a table for dinner or sit around the bar for a selection of beer—available on draft or in a bottle or can—wine and cocktails. The food menu features upscale bar fare that ranges from skirt steak and shrimp scampi to chicken wings and burgers. Upstairs, a performance space hosts a variety of shows throughout the month—from burlesque and drag shows to dance parties presided over by a solid lineup of local DJs.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Center City
  • price 2 of 4

The main level of Double Knot functions as a cozy café, but Philly’s sushi connoisseurs know to expect more than coffee and pastries at this Midtown Village outpost. Downstairs, a dimly lit dining room serves a Japanese menu with sushi, sashimi, meaty entrees, and creative sides. Behind the bar, unique cocktails incorporate Japanese components like yuzu, Japanese plums, and cherry blossoms.

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  • Bars
  • Greater Philadelphia
  • price 2 of 4

You’d never suspect the city’s best rooftop view exists on top of a former high school in a quiet Southeast Philadelphia neighborhood, but lo and behold, Bok Bar offers just that. The drinks menu is small but impressive, with a food menu for snacking. The rooftop is also, by way of being atop a school building, enormous. Mosey over if you just need a place to enjoy a beer and breathe.

  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Bella Vista
  • price 1 of 4

Way back in 1938, proprietor Anthony “Ray” Capozzoli greeted everyone who crossed the threshold of Ray’s with a booming “Happy Birthday!”—hence the current moniker. Take your birthday shot (complete with a candle tucked into a clever holder) at the long oak bar and enjoy live music, including a popular open mic night on the first and third Tuesday of each month and karaoke every Friday.

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  • Bars
  • Fishtown
  • price 2 of 4

It's Oktoberfest all year round at Frankford Hall, where you can munch on Bavarian pretzels and bratwurst while browsing through a huge selection of German and American beers on tap, bottles, cans, and beer cocktails (yes, beer sangria is a thing). Sit inside among the exposed brick and open windows or gather out back with a bunch of friends at the long wooden tables.

  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • Center City
  • price 2 of 4

A stalwart bar, music club, and restaurant just off the always-busy 13th Street corridor, Time hosts live local musicians every night it’s open, their jazz/rock/experimental sounds floating out onto Sansom Street through big picture windows that open onto the sidewalk. There’s also an under-the-radar second-floor lounge that hosts DJs and unorthodox bookings like poetry and erotic fiction readings.

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  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • Callowhill
  • price 2 of 4

The Trestle Inn hosts go-go shows straight out of the 1960s and 70s. Open Thursday through Saturday, this watering hole has been a haven for a colorful assortment of patrons ranging from circus performers to traveling salesmen for more than one hundred years. If you can’t choose between the seemingly unlimited selection of whiskey and rye, opt for a flight and sample several varieties.

  • Restaurants
  • Gastropubs
  • Northern Liberties
  • price 2 of 4

For locally produced draft beers served up in a simple and friendly atmosphere, head to Standard Tap in Northern Liberties. There are at least 20 beers on tap every day, and although the décor of this tri-level space (which includes a rooftop deck) is simple, the offerings keep customers coming back.

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  • Nightlife
  • Nightlife
  • Newbold
  • price 1 of 4

The Dolphin’s glowing neon-lit wall is highly Instagrammable, but chances are you’re here for the low-key South Philly dive bar vibe—at least until the DJs come in. The Dolphin is open Wednesdays through Saturdays only.

  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Greater Philadelphia
  • price 1 of 4

This funky bar—spacious and complete with graffiti and lots of makeshift seating—is a must for beer lovers. Catch cheap drafts with a lax vibe and billiards, to boot. Cocktails are inventive, and the food menu is heavy on veggie and vegan fare, like a vegan pickle fried chicken sandwich and even a vegan Philly cheesesteak.

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  • Bars
  • Dive bars
  • Washington Square
  • price 1 of 4

Situated on a quiet alley off Walnut Street, the Bike Stop is the Gayborhood’s horny, chaps-wearing older brother. Porn blaring on big screens welcomes guests into the gay leather bar’s punky main floor as leather-clad dudes mingle in dark corners of the room. Upstairs, the crowd congregates around a pool table for games and more drinks from a bar selling beer and cheap cocktails. 

  • Bars
  • Beer bars
  • Bella Vista
  • price 2 of 4

The TVs are up high for easy viewing, and there are always drink specials during Flyers games, but this converted auto body shop is not mainly a sports bar. People come to party, shoot pool, play skeeball and drink beer. Lots of it. They’ve got more than 300 kinds of beer, all in cans, lined up in fridges behind the bar. And if you don’t like whatever fancy new food cart has rolled into the Garage on a given day, Pat’s and Geno’s are right outside the door.

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  • Bars
  • Northern Liberties
  • price 2 of 4

Situated on busy 2nd Street in Northern Liberties, Bourbon and Branch offers a restaurant downstairs and an adorable upstairs bar with live music and a vast selection of whiskey, beer and inventive mixed drinks.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Washington Square
  • price 2 of 4

What Knock lacks in a lively atmosphere, it makes up for with an intrepid team of bartenders who put heart and soul into their classic cocktail creations. The Makers Manhattan is a particular winner, a lightly spicy, booze-forward concoction that finds balance with just the right amount of sweet vermouth. Abutting the bar area is a fine dining area serving a mix of pub grub and upscale New American fare. Grab a table outside when it’s warm to enjoy some prime people-watching from behind your shades.

  • Music
  • Fishtown
  • price 2 of 4

An instantly recognizable beacon situated at one of the busiest intersections in the city, Johnny Brenda’s has become synonymous with the slow-and-steady growth of Fishtown as a citywide commercial and artistic draw. Partners Paul Kimport and William Reed, owners of the nearby Standard Tap, took over the longstanding neighborhood bar in 2003, infusing new life into the space. Up front still has that comfy tavern vibe, with local draft beers and billiards. But the rest of the space offers multiple options, from a small dining room in the back to the balcony-equipped music venue upstairs that’s championed by local and touring artists for its intimate layout.

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  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • Gayborhood
  • price 2 of 4

Tavern on Camac, situated on a quiet cobblestoned side street in the Gayborhood, is most known for its sleek piano lounge, which draws seasoned songbirds and—and the occasional theater major from the nearby University of the Arts—for hours of boozy showtune sing-alongs. But you don’t have to have pipes like Judy to have fun here. The upstairs dance floor, compact as it may be, is a particular favorite on weekends for nightlifers looking for an alternative to the meat market that is Woody’s. 

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Callowhill
  • price 2 of 4

Temporarily closed

Other than the ornate iron door, there’s no sign that lets you know that this speakeasy-type bar exists in the middle of Chinatown. Ring the bell and ask to be let in, but ensure you’re dressed appropriately. It’s cash-only, and there are no cell phones allowed inside, but rumor has it they serve the best Pisco sour in town.

  • Bars
  • Pubs
  • Fairmount
  • price 2 of 4

If you’re looking for a friendly neighborhood bar, stop into the Bishop’s Collar, where they serve “salvation by the pint” by way of a good beer selection, a hip crowd, and lots of regulars. Find a seat on one of the church pews, old Veterans Stadium chairs, or outdoor tables lining the sidewalk.

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