In recent years, a buzz has formed in travelling circles surrounding secret bars in countries all around the globe.
These days people have started to take the word ‘secret’ a little too seriously, creating bars within bars and secrets within secrets. Head down an alley in Tokyo and find the smallest and most authentic Japanese drinking hole. Peek behind a bookcase in London and find an old speakeasy from the 1920s. Someone in the laundromat looking a little too overdressed? perhaps they know a secret. Swear you just saw that person step into a fridge and not come out? They also know something you don’t.
The clandestine haunts are coveted by those seeking an off-beat experience, and half the fun is just trying to figure out how to get in!
Don’t worry, we’re here to give you the keys to some of the world’s best secret bars.
27. Adults Only – Hollywood
In the corner of a strip mall in Hollywood, there’s an old video store in disguise. It seems only yesterday that many would frequent such a place to rent a film for the weekend. But no more. Adults Only has another purpose: waiting to be discovered by the most curious visitors or those with an eye for debauchery.
The entrance to the bar lies hidden behind the shelves, surrounded by adult VHS movies and saucy posters. Inside, church pews and cathedral lamps crop up in an ironic turn of events — but the drinks flow and the vibes are welcoming. As a tribute to the original setting, films are projected onto the huge wall while customers sip margaritas and dance into the night.
Location: 7065 1/2 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028
26. El Paradiso – Barcelona, Spain
This secret goes one step further than simply hiding behind a trick door. Instead it offers a speakeasy within a speakeasy! Who would have imagined in their dizziest daydreams?
El Paradiso is a pastrami shop in disguise, but it doesn’t end there. Enter the bathroom and say the secret password, then a la Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the sink pops out to reveal a hidden door, leading you into an artfully furnished room where cocktails are the height of fashion.
Location: Carrer de Rera Palau, 4, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
25. Panda & Sons – Edinburgh, Scotland
Pop into a retro barbershop on an unassuming street in Edinburgh and it’s not a haircut you’ll receive, but a drink in your hand. Try to remove a book from the fake bookcase and you’ll find the entrance to Panda & Sons prohibition-style secret bar. Drinks are simple and fun and served in a Chinese takeout box — just to add more confusion to the narrative.
Location: 79 Queen St, Edinburgh, EH2 4NF, UK
24. Bank Bar – Manila, Philippines
7-11’s are great for many things: a cup of coffee, a midnight snack, a place to pay your Asian water bill. But the storage room of this particular 7-11 in the Philippines leads to a cosy drinking den inside an old bank. If you’re pulling at locked doors and getting odd looks from the cashiers, you’re in the wrong place.
Bank Bar in Manila claims to have the widest selection of cocktails in the city, and some very bourgeoise snacks to compliment them. This is possibly the only 7-11 in the world that offers truffle french fries and ox beef blended cheeseburgers.
Location: RCBC Savings Bank Corporate Center, 26th and 25th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, Metro Manila, Philippines
23. Can You Keep a Secret – Brisbane, Australia
The clandestine bar Can You Keep A Secret is a spot that doesn’t reveal its mysteries until you step inside. Head to Woolloongabba on the south side of the river and walk down Stanley Street. On your right, you’ll spot a vintage shop glowing in invitation. Enter through what seems to be a cosy vintage boutique, and into a spacious lounge bar that spreads out through multiple rooms, each decked with retro paraphernalia.
Location: 619-621 Stanley St, Woolloongabba QLD 4102, Australia
22. Foxglove – Hong Kong
It’s not often you find yourself needing to purchase an umbrella, least likely from a shop that looks like even the cheapest option would drain your bank account. Those in the know, however, know to look for an intricate silver umbrella handle that serves as the entrance to the secret bar Foxglove. Come this far, and you could again be confused by a seemingly empty room with a floral portrait on the wall. Put your hand on the portrait and another door opens into a secret room of plush velvet furnishings and library shelves. Inside, the cocktails and hors-d’oeuvres are as elegant as the umbrella shop, with caviar and sea urchin gracing the menu.
Location: 2/F, 6 Duddell St, Central, Hong Kong
21. Gyu Bar – Niseko, Japan
One of the quirkiest entrances on the list, Gyu Bar in Niseko, the snowboarding and Skiing capital of Japan, attracts visitors to enter into an even colder climate. A fridge door in the middle of an ice cave looks out of place until you pass over its chilly threshold and find yourself in a cosy bar serving some of Japan’s rarest whiskeys.
Location: Japan, 〒044-0081 Hokkaidō, Abuta-gun, Kutchan-chō, Yamada, 167-21
20. Green Door – Berlin
If secret bars with anachronistic themes are your thing, keep an eye out for an unmarked green door in the Schonenberg quarter of Berlin. You have to ding the bell to be invited into a classy interior with retro 1970’s decor, complete with cosy couches and obsolete vintage dial telephones hanging from the walls. Once you’re inside, drinks are as simple and classy as the colourful plaid walls.
Location: Winterfeldtstraße 50, 10781 Berlin, Germany
19. Operation Dagger – Singapore
Operation Dagger lies behind the facade of an Oxwell & Co. Head down to the basement and keep your eye out for an inconspicuous entrance. The decor is elegant, clean, and minimal, other than the ceiling which is decked with a thousand lightbulbs. The drinks are intricate and the flavour combinations certainly unique, carefully curated by the mixologists. The bar specializes in mead, and infused spirits made in-house are brewed to perfection. Mint flavours are a particular favourite.
Location: 7 Ann Siang Hill, #B1-01, Singapore 069791
18. The Ipswitch – San Francisco
You’ll have to dance around the creaky floorboards to discover the entrence to this secret bar. Head into Bourbon and Branch, and make your way through into a secret chamber named the Russels Room. In this room, the trapdoor in the floor doesn’t lead to the brig of a pirate ship, but to an old, hidden speakeasy from the Prohibition era.
It’s a secret that still needs to be kept quiet these days. The swanky, low lit Ipswitch bar is a cosy space to enjoy with a small group of friends and still does its original 1920s name proud.
Location: 501 Jones St, San Francisco, CA 94102
17. Bar La Trastienda – Granada, Spain
Looking to create the perfect charcuterie? End up at La Trastienda for your fine wines, cured meats and aged cheeses and you might stay a little longer than expected. Originally a grocery store in business since 1836, the owner decided to provide his customers with local wines and cheeses while they waited. It’s now a fully-fledged wine bar offering exquisite snacks.
Location: Plaza de Cuchilleros, 11, 18009 Granada, Spain
16. Trillby & Chadwick – Helsinki, Finland
This bar might be in Helsinki, but it’s modeled after a 1920s London Detective agency. Look out for the blacked out windows in the pink panelled wall on an otherwise plain street. Announce your arrival through the antique telephone and you’ll be led to a moody lounge bar. Drinks come with adventurous ingredients such as avocado, popcorn, and aquafaba (chickpea protein similar to egg white). The popular bar is promoted by word of mouth and photos of the inside are not allowed to help the secret stay relatively well kept.
Location: Katariinankatu, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
15. Blue Room – Los Angeles
The Blue Room was once frequented by the likes of Walt Disney, Will Rogers, and Clark Gabel. Hidden inside the Los Angeles Athletic Club, the Blue Room has officially been operating since 1912. Decked out with old English paraphernalia like tennis racquets and bowler hats, the bar is open only to members and hotel guests, though they host public tasting events from time to time.
Location: 431 W 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014
14. The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town – London
The Prohibition-style speakeasy bars in London are some of the best-kept secrets in the city. Inside The Breakfast Club cafe in the town of Spitalfields, a fridge door hides a thrilling secret. It takes a magic password to turn the fridge into a bar (tell the bartender you have an appointment with the mayor). The door miraculously turns into a dimly lit basement serving great cocktails and the ambiguously named Disco Fries.
Location: 12-16 Artillery Ln, London, E1 7LS, UK
13. Noble Experiment – San Diego
Patrons with bursting bladders are more inclined to stumble upon this hidden haunt. A door that could easily be confused for the bathroom in The Neighbourhood restaurant in San Diego’s Gaslamp district leads to Noble Experiment. Classic cocktails are in demand here and they come strong. The bizarre decor includes a wall of golden skulls.
Location: 777 G St, San Diego, CA 92101
12. Safe House – Milwaukee
Spies and regular patrons are welcome at Safe House in Milwaukee — although getting inside takes some extra effort. Head down an alleyway near the river and look for an unmarked red entrance with a plain buzzer. The secret password must be given to gain entrance to the hideaway within. If you can’t crack the code, you can take your chance at an array of clearance tests to prove you’re not an undesirable to gain entry. The magician bar is a fan favourite. If it’s your birthday, request the interrogation room for that extra special spy-themed experience.
Location: 779 N Front St, Milwaukee, WI 53202
11. Mendeleev Bar – Moscow
A craving for noodles regularly turns into a night of drinking and amusement at Mendeleev. Inside a shop named Lucky Noodles in Moscow, there’s a curtain that envelops you and brings you out of your noodle craving stupor and into an unexpected bar. The cavernous room is built of exquisite stone archways and decked with hot air balloon chandeliers. The bartenders specialize in absinthe-based cocktails and serve every drink with a flair. DJs play into the night and jazz concerts are a regular scheduled on weekdays.
Location: Petrovka Ulitsa, 20/1, Moskva, Russia, 127051
10. Please Don’t Tell – New York
Sneak over to the phone booth at the back of Crif Dogs hotdog bar and press the secret buzzer to get inside Please Don’t Tell. Order a crafted cocktail to perfectly compliment your hotdog in the dark and comfy bar. Hotdog lovers that are none the wiser leave with no idea what they’re missing, as the drinks are said to be even better than the food.
Location: 113 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10009
9. Franklin Bar – Philadelphia
Reputation precedes at the Franklin Bar. The unmarked door gives nothing away, expect perhaps whispers of an old myth about a mortgage and investment company, once a booze laundering front run by Philly gangster Max “Boo Boo” Hoff. The bar still runs today with more of a romantic and relaxed setting. The Franklin attracts a crowd who covet a finely crafted drink, and the mixologists are experts in their craft. Upstairs you’ll find another secret bar with a tiki theme and classic tropical cocktails.
Location: 112 S 18th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
8. The Croft Institute – Melbourne, Australia
The Croft Institute is a bar found down a graffiti decked alleyway. Graffiti and street art are all over the city of Melbourne, so it’s hard to know where to look from this simple description. But head to Chinatown, and if you find yourself surrounded by wall art… you may just have found the Croft Institute. The science-themed bar serves its drinks through syringes in a range of vibrant colours. The first floor is decorated with bottles and vials and memorabilia from a disused hospital. The second floor resembles a gymnasium and DJs regularly play on the grassy turf.
Location: 21 Croft Alley, Melbourne VIC 3000, Australia
7. Sunshine Laundromat and Pinball – New York
Laundry night just got a lot more fun in New York’s Sunshine Laundromat.
The laundromat with a room full of pinball machines makes waiting for your clothes to dry all the more fun. But try to stick your whites in the machine at the back of the room and you’ll fall headfirst into a bar that serves a relaxed atmosphere, beer, wine and pizza.
Location: 860 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222
6. Williams & Graham – Denver
Frequent enough secret bars and you may start to automatically check behind every bookcase and library shelf you encounter. Apparently bookshop owners were the least plausible suspect drinkers in the 20s.
A bookcase in a small bookshop in Denver snaps open to reveal this cosy wood-clad tiki bar. The menu lists the stories behind every cocktail and the smokey monkey comes with a quirky graphic of a monkey smoking a cigarette etched into the foam.
Location: 3160 Tejon St, Denver, CO 80211
5. Little Red Door – Paris
The name gives this bar away, and when you come across the little red door that sticks out on the street in Paris you’ve found the right place. But surprisingly, you actually head through the stripy door on the left to get inside. Creatively-named cocktails come extra pretty topped with delicate dried flowers and ice that looks like it was chiselled fresh from a glacier.
Location: 60 Rue Charlot, 75003 Paris, France
4. The Garrett (West) – New York
Settle a craving for a Five Guys burger and a delicious beverage at the Garrett in New York. Head up the staircase to the behind the scenes speakeasy serving fabulous cocktails with a view of Greenwich Village. The burgers at the red brick Five Guys are also extra special, with flavours you won’t find anywhere else, like mustard seeds, sriracha, and a Five Guys special spice blend.
Location: 296 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014, USA
3. Wodka Tonic – Tokyo
It’s not hard for a lot of bars in Tokyo to be classed as secret. Many can be found by venturing into underground car parks or zipping up to the top floor of a high rise tower. Contrary to the name, Wodka Tonic is actually a whiskey bar found by walking up some steps into a nondescript building. Over 1,000 types of whiskey are on offer with interesting dishes such as deep-fried pasta, and late night donburi beef bowls infused with whiskey and served until 4 am.
Location: Japan, 〒106-0031 Tōkyō-to, Minato-ku, Nishiazabu, 2 Chome−25−11
2. The Washhouse – Manchester, UK
Laundromats should be entered with a sceptical eye these days, as another laundry room has popped up which actually contains a secret bar. Is it a washing machine? Is it a secret door to the realms of hedonism?
The latter holds the key to the Washhouse in Manchester, a relaxed bar with comfy leather furnishings and cocktails straight out of a sweet shop. Everything comes topped with whipped cream, popping candy, lollipops, or all of them and more. The staff will mix you the perfect sweet drink — but don’t ask them to do your washing.
Location: 19 Shudehill, Manchester, M4 2AF, UK
1. Spirito – Rome
Spirito is hidden behind an innocuous door in Premiata Panineria al Pigneto sandwich shop in the heart of Rome. Once inside, the casino theme takes over and you’re encouraged to trade betting chips for drinks and laughs in this funky drinking parlour. Blackjack and roulette tables stand in for table mats and the Italian inspired mixology is as good as the food.
Location: Via Fanfulla da Lodi, 53, 00176 Roma RM, Italy