Best bars in Rome
With its modish decor, neon lights and talented cocktail team, Drink Kong has quickly become the talk of the town since it first opened last year. Helmed by Patrick Pistolesi, one of the city's leading barmen, the 300-square-foot-space spans four rooms inspired by ‘80s arcade games. Sleek and sexy, the carefully-crafted lighting enhances the mood and the mixologists serve excellent drinks based on your preference for sweet, dry or bitter drinks. Drink Kong also features a Japanese omakase room that is reserved for private tastings and master classes.
Of all the wine bars in Rome, Il Goccetto just might be the best. The interior is atmospheric, with painted wooden ceilings, hanging medieval chandeliers and bottles of vino stacked floor to ceiling. Opened in 1983 by Anna and Sergio when they were merely 20 years old, the pair took a series of sommelier courses to learn the craft and has since built a spot that stocks around 800 different Italian labels along with some French varietals. Take your pick from 30 different options by the glass and order some savory treats from the counter for a pre-dinner aperitivo.
There is no shortage of pilgrims making their way through Rome en route to the Vatican, but serious drinkers prefer to worship at the temple of Jerry Thomas. Dimly lit and hazy with cigarette smoke, The Jerry Thomas Project set off the city’s speakeasy craze and has easily remained at the top of Rome’s growing list of members-only watering holes. Gaining entrance to the incredibly popular private bar requires a €5 membership fee, a quick look at their website to find the daily password and an advanced booking. The over-the-top admission procedures are reflective of the atmosphere, where the booze is custom, vodka is banned and presentation is just as important as quality ingredients.
Salotto 42 is a celebrated bar with some of the best curb appeal in Rome. Set within Piazza di Pietra right off of the busy Via del Corso, it looks out onto the neatly lined columns of the 2nd century Temple of Hardian, making for a unique Roman cocktail experience. For 15 years, travellers and locals have flocked to this “book bar” for carefully-crafted cocktails, a homey atmosphere and a fashionable crowd. Salotto 42 is part of the “World’s Best Bars” roundup and is buzzing at every hour of the day. It’s also a nice spot to enjoy a morning coffee or afternoon tea in the heart of Rome.
Bursting with vintage sofas and original artwork, Black Market in Monti feels like walking into your much cooler friend’s awesome basement apartment. The bar is perfectly at home in the trendy neighbourhood but manages to avoid feeling artificial or pretentious. Instead, the labyrinth of rooms and mix of furnishings make for an intimate setting for a few drinks and conversation. The space also often hosts live music acts so it’s a great place to stop by for an intimate concert. The menu of beer, wine and classic cocktails is adequate, but the cozy atmosphere and eclectic music performances are really what make this one of the city’s best places to drink.
Easily the most picturesque rooftop bar in Rome, Terrazza Borromini is located on top of the Eitch Borromini Hotel, right behind Piazza Navona, so it benefits from a privileged position that boasts some of the best views of the city. Although the service is lacking, it’s a very popular place for celebrations, so be sure to book your table in advance, especially during the summer months. It goes without saying that drinks are pricey, but keep in mind that you’re paying for the unrivalled views of the city. If you stick to wine, it’s worth ordering by the bottle.
Stravinskij Bar within Hotel de Russie is a veritable oasis in the heart of Rome. Set within an outdoor patio in the centre of the hotel, it’s a chic place to enjoy a spritz, Bellini or signature cocktails like the Stravinskij house punch, with fresh seasonal fruit and champagne, or the Stravinskij bloody Mary with a secret spicy mix. If you snag a table up on the terraced garden, you can enjoy your drink with a side of cultural heritage: few people know that this part of the garden used to be the historic vineyard of Villa Borghese.
Mercerie, which looks out onto the evocative ruins of Largo Argentina, has an enviable position in the heart of Rome. This petite bar and stylish restaurant has become well-known for its “high street food,” an idea conceived by Michelin-starred chef Igles Corelli. You’ll find miniature lasagnas, savory buttons and tiny cannoli that are equally as flavourful, if not more-so, than their larger counterparts. Mercerie is also worth a stop for its excellent cocktails, which truly push the boundaries of creativity, including a raspberry potion that changes colour from blue to pink while you drink.
Although it lies only steps from Piazza Navona, Bar del Fico remains one of the locals’ favourite spots to enjoy a drink at any time of the day. During daylight hours, this quintessential Roman bar is filled with both old men playing chess and laptop-toting hipsters. After the sun sets, the space seamlessly transitions into a popular cocktail stop with strong drinks and lots of outdoor seating. The lively crowd and radio-friendly tunes make it a trendy option in an otherwise tourist-heavy area. Stick to the Italian cocktails (think spritz or negroni) and enjoy the parade of Rome’s cool crowd.
Situated above Trastevere in a residential area called Monteverde, Litro is the perfect place for classy day drinking. The bar is also open at night but is clearly at its best during the afternoon and early evening, when warm Roman light fills the cool dining room and relaxed outdoor patio. Not only does Litro offer one of the best selections of natural wines in the city, the bar also boasts a fantastic cocktail menu with classics such as a flawless Hugo (elderflower cordial, prosecco and mint), as well as an extensive list of mezcal-based mixed drinks. There is no need to drink it all on an empty stomach: Litro’s small but refined menu features everything from salmon sashimi to butter and anchovy bruschetta, seasonal salads and sandwiches. Because the location is a bit outside of central Rome, the bar tends to boast a low-key locals-only vibe that is ideal for lingering over a bottle of wine.
Located next to a university on the edge of Trastevere, Freni e Frizioni is perpetually overflowing with a young and thirsty crowd. The name means “brakes and clutches” and pays homage to the space’s history as a mechanic shop. The interior is now a contemporary mix of poured concrete and massive chandeliers, but most people choose to take advantage of Freni e Frizioni’s private piazza to drink outside near the river. Do as the Romans do by ordering one of these classic drinks: a spritz (Aperol with prosecco), an Americano (Campari with vermouth) or a negroni (Campari, gin and vermouth) and enjoy an abundant aperitivo of flavourful grains, couscous and pastas that can easily count as a casual and delicious dinner.
This hole-in-the-wall craft beer bar located in the popular Trastevere neighbourhood is one of the city’s legendary haunts. The name translates to “but what did you come here to do?!” and the answer is, obviously, that you came to drink the most discerning selection of craft beer in the city. The tiny pub is narrow and popular, so you’re likely to see bearded beer aficionados spilling out of the door with pint glasses in hand. But what Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà lacks in space, it makes up for in major beer credentials and a laid-back vibe that makes you want to lean up against the wall outside with another round. The selection changes regularly and features craft breweries that are predominantly Italian, with international microbrews occasionally sneaking into the rotation.
Club Derriere is the speakeasy club tucked within the back of the popular Osteria delle Coppelle, making the venue a great day-to-night place for all your drinking and dining needs. Open until late, you can enter the club through a hidden closet in the back of the restaurant or through a secret doorway on a tiny street near the Pantheon. Expect hip indie music, vintage sofas and an array of excellent drinks, from wine and beer to cocktails. This is one of Rome’s more laid-back speakeasies and is a spacious watering hole so you don’t need to fret about getting inside: it welcomes all visitors.
Situated just around the corner from Trastevere's main square, Bar San Calisto’s patio tables are full nearly every hour of the day. The dive-y bar is more retro coffeeshop than cocktail lounge and has long been one of Rome’s most popular bohemian hangouts. The combination of outdoor seating and dirt-cheap booze makes for great people watching. Some of the regulars look a little worse for wear, but the crowd is rounded out with a good mix of students and local intellectuals, most of whom choose to nurse large bottles of €3 Peroni while arguing over soccer predictions.
The working class Pigneto neighbourhood is now the go-to destination for a night out in Rome. Craft beer bars and speakeasies have moved in, but old school Necci remains the best place to enjoy a drink in the area. The spot first opened as a gelato shop in 1924 but has slowly evolved into an all-around neighbourhood hangout at any hour of the day or night. The café was once a favourite haunt of Italian film director Pier Paolo Pasolini and continues to attract an equally artistic crowd today. Keeping with its plebian roots, the iconic bar still only charges €5 for an aperol spritz. Opt for the Italian aperitif or a glass of sparkling wine out of the shaded gravel terrace during summer.
Don’t forget to snap some photos
Crumbling ruins, terracotta walls and cobblestones for days – a walk through Rome can feel like stepping onto a movie set. The picture-perfect city almost feels like it was made for Instagram, because there is a photo-worthy spot (and a selfie stick seller) around practically every corner. Just be sure to put your phone down while Vespa-ing.