Discover the Worlds Most Unique Bars

By Madeline Carter | Published on  

If you’re in pursuit of extraordinary nightlife experiences and you appreciate a good thematic atmosphere, then this is for you. I’ve explored countless bars around the world, from the urban streets of Tokyo to the pristine waters of the Maldives. But there are a few that genuinely stand out, bars that offer an experience so unique and compelling that they’re more than just a place to grab a drink. They’ve become destinations themselves.

In the vibrant city of Tokyo, where eccentric themed bars abound, The Lockup holds a special place. Picture this: you’re willingly spending time in a prison-themed bar and restaurant. Throughout the night, you might even witness a monster show. A word of caution though, it can be a little scary, so perhaps it’s best to save this thrilling experience for an adults-only night out.

On your next trip to the Maldives, don’t miss a visit to an incredible offshore club, aptly named for its unique position about 20 feet below the ocean’s surface. Imagine being surrounded by panoramic views of a vibrant reef and its diverse sea life, all while sipping on a cocktail. Interestingly, this bar was constructed on land and later submerged into its current position—an engineering marvel, wouldn’t you agree?

Next, let’s move to Berlin, where the Monkey Bar awaits. While the name might conjure images of a jungle-themed adult playground, this bar gets a bit more literal. Overlooking a zoo from its location on the 10th floor of the 25-hours hotel, you get a breathtaking view of the monkey exhibit below. Unfortunately, no monkeys serve drinks, but the view and the chic space have earned it the title of Europe’s best hotel bar.

Speaking of monkeys, at Kayabukiya Tavern in Utsunomiya, Japan, you can be served by our primate friends themselves. To show your appreciation, it’s customary to tip them with boiled soybeans. Rest assured that the establishment complies with Japanese law: the monkeys work for only two hours a day, ensuring their welfare.

Venture to California’s Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, where a pirate ship-themed bar awaits. The meticulous attention to detail and ambiance, coupled with their award-winning tiki-style drinks, makes it a must-visit spot. Despite the heavy thematic influences, the quality of their cocktails is never compromised.

Take a spin at the Carousel Bar and Lounge in New Orleans. Housed in the Hotel Montlillon, this bar offers a unique experience by letting you enjoy your drinks while sitting on a working carousel. With only room for 25 patrons, be prepared for a wait—but trust me, it’s worth it.

In Romania, the Submarine Pub pays tribute to the Victorian worlds of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells with its richly detailed steampunk decor. It’s both a drinking spot and a curio museum. Sipping your drinks under the watchful gaze of a monocled moose head or an old-timey blimp creates an experience like no other.

If you’re a fan of the movie Alien, the H.R. Giger Bar in Cruyère, Switzerland, will seem eerily familiar. It’s styled with biomechanical decor, an homage to its namesake artist who was part of the design and special effects team for Alien. The bar is an immersive experience akin to stepping onto a sci-fi film set.

In Playa del Carmen, Mexico, you’ll find Alux, a lounge restaurant nestled within a cave. The restaurant’s ambiance, paired with incredible cuisine, creates a truly unique dining experience. And no, despite its prehistoric setting, they don’t only serve a caveman diet.

Lastly, we journey to Stockholm, Sweden, to the Ice Bar by Ice Hotel, a remarkable bar built entirely from ice harvested from the Torn River. Dress warmly, as even the glasses you drink from are made of ice.

I invite you to explore these fascinating destinations, where you can expect more than a great drink—they offer an experience, a story, a unique memory to take back home.

At the end of the day, the essence of travel, exploration, and adventure is about stepping out of our comfort zones to experience the new and unfamiliar, whether it’s through tasting different foods, soaking in breathtaking landscapes, or immersing ourselves in a foreign culture. The world is brimming with unique, exciting experiences waiting to be discovered, and the bars I’ve shared here are testaments to that.

Every bar on this list offers an intoxicating blend of atmosphere, creativity, and unforgettable charm. These aren’t merely places to grab a drink; they’re venues that elevate a simple evening out into an extraordinary journey, each transporting you to a world that’s delightfully different and beautifully peculiar. From Tokyo’s spine-tingling Lockup to the dreamy underwater haven in the Maldives, the panoramic Monkey Bar in Berlin, or the literally chilling Ice Bar in Stockholm—each destination presents an exciting twist to the typical night out.

But let’s not forget, it’s not only the themes that make these establishments noteworthy. It’s also about the dedication to their craft—the deliciously creative cocktails, the remarkable service, and the meticulous attention to detail—that makes each of them a worthwhile destination in their own right. Whether it’s being served by monkeys in a Japanese tavern or sipping on tiki-style drinks in a pirate ship replica, the excellence and inventiveness they offer in terms of refreshments add a significant layer to the overall experience.

Moreover, these bars also serve as perfect conversation starters. Imagine the stories you’d have to tell after a night in a bar where the decorations are eerily reminiscent of the movie Alien, or after dining in a restaurant nestled within an enchanting cave. Your memories from these places would undoubtedly provide great anecdotes for years to come.

Embarking on a journey to any of these unique bars is indeed a testament to the human spirit’s creativity and a love for shared stories and experiences. These aren’t just watering holes—they’re gateways to different worlds, a mesh of the fantastical and the realistic, adding a touch of magic to our otherwise mundane lives. So, as you map out your future travels, consider leaving space for these extraordinary places where adventure and enjoyment intertwine with your drink order. These unique bars, each with its own charm, promise not just an exciting detour from the usual tourist track, but also an unparalleled experience that will surely make your trip unforgettable. Safe travels and cheers to new adventures!

While most of these bars welcome a variety of patrons, some like The Lockup in Tokyo might be better suited for an adults-only audience due to its potentially frightening monster show. Always check the bar’s theme and atmosphere beforehand to ensure it’s suitable for your party.

Given the popularity and uniqueness of these bars, it can be beneficial to make reservations where possible, especially for smaller venues like the Carousel Bar in New Orleans, which only has room for 25 customers at a time.

The ideal time to visit these bars can vary greatly. For instance, the Monkey Bar in Berlin offers a particularly good daytime view of the zoo below, while the underwater club in the Maldives is enchanting at any time. I recommend researching each bar individually for the best visiting times.

While some bars focus mainly on their drink offerings, many, such as the Alux in Mexico and the Lockup in Tokyo, also operate as restaurants, offering unique culinary experiences that complement their distinct atmospheres.

Many of these bars, recognizing that not all guests consume alcohol, typically provide a range of non-alcoholic beverages. At the end of the day, these establishments are about more than just drinks—they’re about offering an unforgettable experience, whether you’re sipping on a cocktail or a mocktail.

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