The best bars in Nashville run the gamut from gorgeous rooftops with 360 views to speakeasies serving craft cocktails and dive bars offering locally-brewed beer in plastic cups.
The main drag, Lower Broadway, is lined with multi-level honky-tonks, some celebrity-owned, and other live music venues.
It's worth a walk and maybe even a drink to take in the scene; however, I encourage you to explore beyond Broadway for a good time.
I've compiled a list of my favorite bars from my first few trips to Nashville, including a solo trip for July 4th and a friend's bachelor party.
In addition to a thriving bar scene, I can also attest to the city throwing a phenomenal fireworks display over the Cumberland River.
This list of Nashville's best bars is organized by neighborhood:
- Downtown Nashville (including Broadway and Printer's Alley)
- East Nashville
- Music Row
- 12 South
Acme Feed & Seed
My first bar in Nashville was Acme Feed & Seed at the corner of 1st Avenue and Broadway. I thank my friend Kristin, a Nashville native, for this recommendation.
Occupying a historic building dating to 1890, Acme Feed & Seed is a hot spot on prime real estate.
The spacious ground floor features a bar along the left side and a stage in the back for live performances.
The menu includes creative drinks like an Adderol Spritzer with blood orange vodka, Aperol, pineapple, Red Bull, and champagne float ($10).
Nashville is one of the country's most popular bachelorette party destinations. Therefore it's no surprise Bridesmaid's Tears is on the menu.
This $12 cocktail-on-tap is Tito's Vodka, grapefruit, St Germain, sage, simple syrup, lemon, and orange.
I ordered the Ole Smoky Moonshine slushee and a hot chicken sandwich, quickly devouring the latter and taking the former to the rooftop bar.
East across the river, there's Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans. To the west -- Broadway, the epicenter of Nashville nightlife.
101 Broadway, Downtown Nashville, acmefeedandseed.com
Skull's Rainbow Room
Skull's Rainbow Room is a speakeasy-style bar and jazz lounge dating back to 1948. It's located in Printer's Alley, two blocks north of Broadway.
Famous musicians to have graced their small checkerboard stage include Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Patsy Cline.
Today, new artists perform live jazz daily, starting at 7:30 p.m.
Burlesque shows happen at 11 p.m. every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Seating for them is first-come, first-serve, and there's a $20 cover charge beginning at 9 p.m.
On my first trip to Nashville, I dropped into Skull's one afternoon for a drink.
The seasonal cocktail menu offered 15 choices, all but guaranteeing there's something for everyone. Prices ranged from $13 to $17.
Lee is my last name, so I ordered the Heaven Lee with Malfy Gin (from Italy), Italicus, lemon, grapefruit, and basil.
When I returned to Nashville with friends, we reserved a table for one of the jazz shows. We spent several hours there, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
222 Printer's Alley, downtown Nashville, skullsrainbowroom.com
If you'd like to pair your drinking with physical activity, Pinewood Social offers a full-service restaurant, bar, and bowling alley.
Breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner are all served. The bowling alleys can be reserved in advance (a good idea), or you can put your name on the list upon arrival.
We closed out my friend's bachelor party at Pinewood Social on a Sunday afternoon, the perfect way to wind down a long weekend in Nashville.
I ordered one of the appetizing seasonal cocktails, The Littlest Rebel, and can also vouch for the delicious espresso martini.
You can also order craft beers, wines by the glass or bottle (including bubbly), and non-alcoholic drinks.
We put our name on the list for a bowling alley when we arrived, and the wait was a little over an hour. Not bad, but we were also there in January, Nashville's slowest month.
33 Peabody St, Nashville, pinewoodsocial.com
The Marsh House is a seafood restaurant in the Thompson Nashville Hotel.
I'd stopped in earlier one day for pastries from chef Lisa Marie White, a James Beard Award-winning chef (who no longer works there), and saw the U.S. Men's National Soccer team departing for their bus.
I returned to try a dessert that wasn't available earlier and used the opportunity to get a cocktail.
The $13 Delores is Cathead Vodka (from Mississippi), apricot, hibiscus, lime, and Peychaud's.
Whoever was responsible for the menu had a sense of humor. Another drink was named Vandelay Industries after the company George Castanza invented when filing for unemployment in Season Three of Seinfeld.
The Thompson Nashville also has a large rooftop patio that regularly features DJs.
401 11th Ave S, downtown Nashville, marshhouserestaurant.com
The Fox Bar + Cocktail Club
Following a fantastic night of live country music at the Grand Ole Opry, I stopped by The Fox Bar + Cocktail Club in East Nashville for a nightcap.
The entrance to one of the best bars in Nashville is in the back of the building facing Gallatin Pike, adjacent to Mickey's Tavern.
You know you're on the right track to this hidden bar when you spot a large painted fox head on an otherwise black brick wall.
Inside, there's a small bar to the left with a stuffed fox perched atop it, some high-top tables in the middle, and plush blue booths to the right.
It was a Tuesday night, so it wasn't too busy -- just like I like it.
The cocktail menu features an illustrated "drink key" with various glassware, ice cubes, and preparations.
You'll know what to order if you prefer your drinks swizzled instead of stirred. A dietary/allergy key will help those with such concerns navigate the options.
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Each drink is marked on a scale from "refreshing to spiritous" and "comforting to adventurous."
I like a bar that goes to such efforts to educate its patrons. It also cuts down on Q&A time with bartenders, which can slow drink service at peak hours.
As it was late and I would be heading to bed soon, I chose the Fox Daquiri, which was refreshing and comforting.
The Fox Bar's signature daiquiri is made with Appleton Reserve, Rhum Clement, El Dorado 5 Rums, lime stock, pineapple skins, sea salt, sugar, and lime oil.
Locals have the option to join the bar's Cocktail Club.
2905B Gallatin Pike, East Nashville, thefoxnashville.com
I squeezed in a quick trip to Dino's Bar in East Nashville between a mid-afternoon rain and the Fourth of July fireworks.
This greasy spoon was featured on one of my favorite episodes of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations; however, I didn't know that then.
I prioritized Dino's after the bartender at Husk Nashville recommended it while I was devouring their incredible cheeseburger for lunch earlier in the week.
Dino's, thankfully, saw it fit to be open on a national holiday, while quite a few other great places I'd hoped to visit were closed.
A shot with a cheap beer cost $7; the liquor options included rye, tequila, gin, vodka, mezcal, fernet, rum, and others.
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Some great food options included cheeseburgers, grilled cheeses, hot chicken, fish and chips, and Frito pie.
I'd already eaten dinner while taking shelter in a honky-tonk on Broadway during the rain showers, so I went with a TN draft beer ($5) and the strawberry shortcake ice cream sandwich ($5).
I realize an odd combo, but Dino's is a dive bar, not a place anyone would look at you weird for ordering ice cream with your cold beer.
I soaked up the atmosphere and my beer before heading downtown for one more stop before the fireworks.
411 Gallatin Ave, Nashville, dinosnashville.com
A block north of Dino's is Chopper, a "robot-fueled tiki bar" with an extensive menu. Opened in 2019, this East Nashville bar is serving drinks that are fire.
Literally, on fire. The popular Robo Zombie features Jamaican rum and cinnamon on fire. Whether you're inside or enjoying the outdoor seating, it's a show.
I drank the more subdued but equally interesting Milk Punch XIV, a clarified milk punch with basil-infused gin, mozzarella water, cantaloupe, lemon, and dry vermouth.
Maiz de la Vida, an award-winning Mexican food truck, serves tacos streetside. The food truck and the bar were recently featured on a Nashville episode of Somebody Feed Phil (Netflix).
1100 B Stratton Ave, Nashville, choppertiki.com
The Patterson House
The Patterson House is an intimate, speakeasy-style bar that helped pave the way for craft cocktails in Nashville when it opened in 2009.
Seating at this four-sided bar, and the surrounding tables, is first-come, first-serve. And they'll only let you in if there's a seat available.
Knowing it's a popular spot, I arrived at 4:30 p.m., about a half-hour after they opened. While waiting for friends tcomeve, I sat at the bar.
The bartender assisting me had recently spent a year living in Austin and working at Whisler's, one of my favorite East Austin bars. Small world, I thought!
The cocktail menu at Patterson House is organized by spirit, and the bartenders are happy to answer your questions and make recommendations.
I tried two cocktails, the Care Package with Hayman's Old Tom Gin and the fruitier Lady Stardust with 1876 Vodka, pineapple, Select Aperitivo, Grenadine, blackberry, vanilla, and raspberry.
When my friend's arrived, I moved to the table behind me, which the hostess was kind enough to hold for me until they arrived.
We ordered another round, and everyone gave their thumbs-up on the cocktail bar I'd picked to kick off our Friday night in Music City.
The highly-acclaimed Catbird Seat restaurant is located on the second floor.
1711 Division St, Nashville, thepattersonnashville.com
If you're looking for a one-of-a-kind bar experience, head to Old Glory, a five-minute ride southwest of downtown near the campus of Vanderbilt.
Opened in March 2016 by sisters Alexis and Britt Soler, Old Glory is a speakeasy housed in an old boiler room, complete with a smokestack.
The industrial space offers plenty of seating options, from the bar to booths and a little second-floor balcony overlooking the room.
The 60-foot high ceiling allows for plenty of sunlight, illuminating details like the colored tile work at the smokestack's base.
Old Glory is more than just a remarkable space. The craft cocktails deliver on taste and creativity.
I ordered the Second Base, featuring many of my favorite flavors -- Ford's gin, lavender, cucumber, Thai basil, Aperol, and lime.
The Asia-inspired 5-6-7-8 is made with vodka, roasted green tea, lemongrass, wasabi, citrus, and sake.
Choose Nature's Call with mezcal, celery, parsley, honey, yellow chartreuse, and smoked salt for a Mexican drink.
At $13 apiece, the drinks are expensive by Nashville bar standards, but it's worth it for the atmosphere.
1200 Villa Pl #103, Nashville, instagram.com/oldglorynashville
A fun side trip while in Nashville is a Jack Daniel's Distillery tour to Lynchburg, TN.
I was back in time for happy hour, which I enjoyed at Bastion in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood, a few minutes' drive south of the city center.
The bar's name is inspired by Bastian, the lead character in The Neverending Story, one of my favorite childhood movies. It was my kind of place.
The whitewashed walls lightened the rustic but spacious interior.
Eclectic furniture and an air hockey game fill the floor, while art and murals add visual interest. The bar is full of vinyl records.
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After perusing the menu and talking to one of the bartenders, I ordered the $11 cocktail du jour -- a red, white, and blue mixed drink reminiscent of firecracker popsicles.
I wished I had more time to hang out, but I still needed to get dinner before attending a U.S. men's national soccer match at Nissan Stadium.
Bastion is part of Strategic Hospitality, a family-owned company that runs Patterson House and Catbird Seat.
434 Houston St STE 110, South Nashville, bastionnashville.com
I want to shout out to Josephine, an American restaurant in South Nashville by Andy Little, a two-time semifinalist for a James Beard Award.
The wrap-around bar was the perfect place to enjoy dinner in Nashville, which began with a pretty Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka cocktail.
Josephine also offers an award-winning wine list, beer, and non-alcoholic options.
If you're looking for a place to celebrate a special occasion, I highly recommend drinks and dinner at Josephine.
2316 12th Ave S, South Nashville, josephineon12th.com