Best bars in Rome
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 member’s only watering holes. Gaining entrance to the incredibly popular private bar requires a €5 membership fee, a quick look at their website to learn 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. The speakeasy executes each cocktail with totally unique homemade cordials and a keen attention to detail that keeps the tables perpetually full.
“Hole in the wall” would be a generous description for this galley-like craft beer bar in Rome’s popular Trastevere neighbourhood. The complicated name (shortened to “makke” for regulars) essentially translates to: “but what did you come here to do?!” Obviously, 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 with 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 predominately Italian, with other international microbrews occasionally sneaking into the rotation.
By day, 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 only slightly-overpriced drinks make it a trendy option in an otherwise tourist heavy area. Previously, the party spilled out onto the street, but now outdoor tables hem the crowd in slightly. Even though the free-for-all patio space has been reigned in, Bar del Fico remains a reliable watering hole for locals just a few minutes from Piazza Navona. 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 have one of the best selections of natural wine 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 mescal-based mixed drinks. There is no need to drink it all on an empty stomach—Litro’s small but refined menu has everything from salmon sashimi to butter and anchovy bruschetta, as well as seasonal salads and sandwiches. Because the location is a bit outside of central Rome, the bar tends to have low-key locals only vibe that is ideal for lingering over a bottle of wine.
White subway tiles, factory windows and a long zinc bar lead the way into the contemporary interior of Caffè Propaganda. The cool design matches an equally enviable address—the bar is literally around the corner from the Colosseum. The bistro-style drinking and dining spot has redesigned its menu multiple times, most recently around the concept of ‘avant-garde.’ A super duo of mixologists create drinks that really do push beyond expectations, including the signature Il Calippo: a milky concoction with mint, Haitian rum and the cafe’s very own secret recipe cherry cola. The cocktail list is full of similarly surprising combinations, so this hip bar is not the place to pop in for a standard pint. It is, however, great for a fancy nightcap after indulging in bite-sized tortellini filled with carbonara sauce and mini sliders from Propaganda’s main dining area.
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 coffee shop than cocktail lounge, and has long been one of Rome’s most popular bohemian hangouts. The drinking joint is a real gem thanks to its outdoor seating and dirt cheap booze, the combination of which 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.
Bursting with vintage sofas and original artwork, BlackMarket in Monti feels like walking into your much cooler friend’s awesome basement apartment. The bar is perfectly at home in the increasingly trendy neighbourhood, but manages to avoid feeling artificial or pretentious. Instead, the multiple rooms and mix of furnishings make for an intimate setting for a few drinks and conversation. The space also often hosts temporary exhibits and is one of the best bars in the area to catch a live show. The menu of beer, wine and typical cocktails is adequate, but the cosy atmosphere and eclectic music performances are really what make this one of the city’s best places to drink.
Family owned and operated since 1929, the Bulzoni wine shop has been a fixture in the Parioli neighbourhood for decades. It began life as a wholesale outlet for wine and olive oil, but is now where Rome’s chic come drink. The founder’s grandsons recently oversaw a full remodel of the space, which they updated to include a kitchen so they could turn out classic Roman dishes to pair with the vino. Intimate and atmospheric, the quiet and stylish enoteca has more than 1,000 bottles for sale, as well as wine by the glass. The wine list is one of the most extensive and impressive in the city—making this bar a must-stop for serious oenophiles.
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. Necci 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 favorite 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.
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. Once you get a drink, that is. The cocktails are so meticulously prepared that it can sometimes feel like time has slowed down while you watch each individual mint leaf be ripped into your mojito; though your patience is always rewarded with the chance to sip the night away in a picturesque Roman setting. Besides, you can always opt for a beer to make the wait at the bar slightly less painful.
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.