Some readers might give pause to Travel + Leisure publishing stories about dive bars, but we’re the kind of globetrotters who relish the full range of experiences on a trip, from top-of-the-line luxury to truly authentic. We enjoy the high-end cocktail bars just as easily as a trusty neighborhood joint where you’re guaranteed a decent whiskey with a soda back.
A fine drink can be the cornerstone of a good trip made better, and it can happen anywhere: the perfect airport bar to wait out an unexpected layover or delay, the ultimate rooftop bar for enjoying a killer view from above, a pool- or ocean-side swim-up bar so you’re never thirsty, even when you’re surrounded by water.
We regularly cover trends in bars and nightlife, scouting on our trips to keep tabs on individual city scenes, which hotels have the best bars and clubs, even the annual events in the industry that rank the world’s best bars.
In light of that, it seemed time to take a look at dive bars. As much as people like to argue who makes the best Manhattan or negroni, thay also like to debate what constitutes a proper dive bar. Global bar culture has taught us that a dive doesn’t necessarily mean dirty or dilapidated—sometimes, a city’s best dives are generally spotless, manned by a longtime owner, wonderfully cozy, and a bit lost in time.
A dive can mean a classic, long-lasting watering hole that’s hosted regulars and visitors for such a consistent amount of time that it’s an iconic spot known for affordable drinks in a relaxed environment. In some cities, having an outdoor patio or games like pool and darts is mandatory; in others, graffiti, daily specials, and surly bartenders are.
Just like with other types of bars and cocktail dens, dives have a range, and we celebrate the full spectrum. So read on for our picks in these 10 cities, noting when to go, what to order, and why they’re famous.