While the speakeasy trend may come and go, the allure of a well-kept secret never dies. Ever since bars modeled after covert, Prohibition-era cocktail destinations started popping up everywhere, they’ve tried to one-up each other. Not just with über-elaborate admission procedures, but also with the frequently fantastical amenities you can find inside. From a private club behind a stadium scoreboard to an alien-inspired watering hole, these are the most lavish, eccentric speakeasy-style bars across the globe.
The 16 Craziest Speakeasies Around the World
San Francisco, California
This speakeasy hidden inside the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park makes box seats look absolutely pedestrian. You can actually spot the bar if you squint hard enough—it’s behind the outfield scoreboard. Accessed through what appears to be an electrical closet door, the Gotham Club is a members-only venue, featuring a full bar, bowling alley, arcade, billiards room, and naturally, baseball-shaped ice. Convince your closest Giants fan to sign up so you can come along. You know, in case the game is getting a little slow.
San Francisco, California
Located down a staircase in the back of the Barrel Room wine bar in San Francisco’s Financial District, the Hogshead Reserve’s novel and supremely cool contribution to the speakeasy genre is a bank vault that you can drink in. It features two other rooms, including one with a fireplace, but really, it’s all about pretending you’re a cast member of Inside Man, except drinking a Negroni.
San Francisco, California
Even Silicon Valley high-rollers might have trouble getting into Ipswitch, a speakeasy from the team behind Bourbon & Branch. You enter through a floorboard in Russel’s Room, a private section of Bourbon & Branch’s main bar. Plan on having a reservation or a well-connected friend to access the subterranean stock of booze: There are literally only two seats.
Los Angeles, California
Sunset Boulevard, winding its way across LA, holds many untold sights, but one of its more exciting detours is this bar found through a doorway in an adult video store tucked behind a Burger King. If that sounds, well, suspicious, don’t worry: The space conjures old Hollywood glamour with vintage movie posters, stained glass, a billiards room and screenings of cult films. If you’ve ever dreamed of living like the stars of Boogie Nights, welcome to your new haunt.
Los Angeles, California
Lock & Key stays true to its name by making Los Angelenos work to get into the Koreatown joint. It’s situated on a seemingly random block behind a red door next to Original Ramen Burger. Past that, there’s a series of knobs and keys to toy with, but (hopefully) a host will help you out, allowing you into the well-appointed bar with its white marble and green leather banquettes.
San Diego, California
The trendy bar inside the Gaslamp Quarter's neighborhood restaurant may not be a secret, but you still have to jump through hoops to enjoy it. Making reservations at least several days ahead is recommended. A stack of kegs near the bathroom at Neighborhood is actually the door to the pristine, yet eerie Noble Experiment, which is decorated with gilded skulls. Put your fate in the hands of the bartenders, who will make something just right for the occasion.
Garage earns points for originality. The Austin speakeasy leaves even locals confused with its entrance located inside a parking garage. An old valet ticketing office gives way to the bar, which serves top-tier cocktails in a modern space with impressive metal work. The 15-seat space was built with efficiency in mind, so you can get your fancy libation with minimal effort.
New York, New York
PDT, aka Please Don’t Tell, opened in 2007 and helped usher in the speakeasy revolution. It’s come far from its clandestine roots, but a night at the bar still evokes a kind of magic. Patrons first enter a hot dog spot in New York’s East Village, Crif Dogs, and slip through a payphone booth. The tiny bar, under the guidance of mixology master Jim Meehan, is hard to get into during peak times, but early on a weeknight, it’s a surprisingly comforting escape. Basically anything the bartenders are slinging is worth drinking.
Brooklyn, New York
The word “speakeasy” connotes masked luxury, but some smart bar owners are bucking the trend. Case in point: this pinball-centric hangout in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint, which you have to enter via a lone dryer in the back of a typical laundromat. Sunshine has warmed the hearts of Brooklynites looking for hard-to-find pinball games, with beer and wine to make the experience just a bit more fun.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is renowned for its nightlife, so it’s no surprise that the Argentine metropolis has found a unique way into the speakeasy craze. A florist selling wine in the Retiro neighborhood disguises Florería Atlántico, which is found behind a refrigerator door and down a staircase. The basement is decorated with sea monsters that give everything a surrealist edge. But the convivial space offers well-executed cocktails, small plates and boisterous conversations lingering late into the night.
Many city dwellers would more likely pay not to go into a public restroom, but Ladies & Gentlemen is attempting a makeover. The bar has replaced an old underground bathroom (or loo, if you prefer) in Kentish Town. The menu veers toward gin, but Americans will feel right at home with a rotating selection of Boilermakers, also known as a shot of whiskey with a beer chaser.
El Paradiso in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter outdoes other venues’ trap doors and phone booths with a refrigerator door in the back of a pastrami shop. Say “Buster,” and you’re granted entrance to a tunnel which leads to an exclusive cocktail den, where you can order the popular Great Gatsby, a mix of whiskey, amaro, piped vanilla and chocolate tobacco. Emerge to eat a smoked meat sandwich, and you’ll feel like you really did visit paradise.
Montmartre is a tourist hotspot in the City of Lights, but good luck navigating your way to this genuinely one-of-a-kind bar inside the Particulier Montmartre hotel. Non-guests must convince their way down a private street and through various intercoms and buzzers just to enjoy the scene. But the cinematic design, brought to life by famed architect Louis Benech, and cocktails in a secret garden make every step worth it.
This museum, showcasing works of the legendary artist behind the sick monster creations in the Alien movies, doesn’t exactly scream Swiss serenity. All the better for imbibers looking for something truly off the beaten path. A bar found through an alcove entrance next to the museum offers libations in a cavernous horror show made up of alien-like spines. Bring your own Ellen Ripley for protection.
The umbrella shop facade of Foxglove advertises that it’s been around since 1868, which is simply a lie. Past a passageway in the shop, you have to press down on just the right umbrella to get to the spacious cocktail bar, with drinks influenced by tastes from all over the globe.
Getting dressed up to go to 7-Eleven sounds like the start of a grim joke, but it could actually make for a perfect night in Manila, where Bank Bar is found behind an unmarked door in the chain store. Though it doesn’t seem to be related to banking at all, the bar serves top-shelf liquor and cocktails for any taste, alongside avant-garde art and a crowd that will make you feel instantly less cool.