Top Ten Literary Watering Holes

Many writers have used bars, pubs, or cafes as temporary or even permanent offices. Some remain haunts of writers, while others are merely haunted by their ghosts.
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10) Winding Stair Bookshop & Café, Dublin, Ireland
Scale a battered wooden staircase above one of Dublin's most eclectic bookstores, an honest-to-goodness venue that has been a favorite haunt of Irish writers and artists since the 1970s. Sit down in the café to enjoy a good read, views over Ha'penny Bridge and the River Liffey, and the company of like-minded literati.

Planning: Enjoy superb, unfussy Irish classics, such as seafood chowder and boiled Irish bacon collar.

9) Dylan's Bar, Black Lion Hotel, New Quay, Wales
As much memorial as drinking establishment, Dylan Thomas's favorite pub groans with photographs, mementos, and books related to Wales's most celebrated bard. New Quay may have been the inspiration for the fictional town of Llareggub in Thomas's "Under Milk Wood."

Planning: The New Quay tourist office can provide information on the Dylan Thomas Trail.

8) Cheshire Cheese, London, England
If walls could talk, this pub would be in a bidding war for its memoirs. Fleet Street, on which it lies, was long the home of much of Britain's national press, and its finest scribes were renowned for their lengthy liquid lunches here. But its literary associations are much older, as it was rebuilt just after the Great Fire of London (1666) and occupies the site of a much older hostelry. Past patrons include Charles Dickens, Voltaire, Mark Twain, and local resident Dr. Samuel Johnson.

Planning: Try the excellent Sam Smith's real ales and traditional food, such as fish and chips, and steak and ale pie.

7) Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour, Edinburgh, Scotland
Pub crawls have rarely been more educational than this much acclaimed tour. Professional actors guide you through the history of Scottish literature from R.L. Stevenson to J.K. Rowling in the setting of a series of the city's taverns.

Planning: The two-hour walking tours start at 7:30 p.m., daily from May through September and less frequently the rest of the year. There is also a shorter bus tour in summer.

6) Gran Café de Gijón, Chueca, Madrid, Spain
Journalists, writers, artists, and actors—including Federico García Lorca and Rubén Darío—have kept up the creative buzz at this traditional belle-epoque café ever since it opened in 1888. While enjoying coffee or a drink, you can watch the world go by through the large windows or soak up the sun on the cafe's terrace.

Planning: The meat-heavy menu features Spanish and international dishes. Reservations are necessary for dinner.

This Top 10 List is just one item on the menu in FOOD JOURNEYS OF A LIFETIME: 500 Extraordinary Places to Eat Around the Globe. This beautiful new book from National Geographic presents hundreds of delicious destinations—spotlighting specialties and ingredients, markets, seasonal delights, great food towns, kitchen secrets, ultimate luxuries, and the best in desserts, wine, beer, and more.

Published: 12 Jan 2010 | Last Updated: 9 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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