top of page
  • Writer's pictureSteven Hansen

The World’s Most Extreme Bars and Lounges 2024

Updated: Jan 8

The annual list of the World’s 50 Best Bars was announced recently. The award winners include lush lounges and hotel bars from Mexico City to New York, Paris to Bangkok, Oslo, Dubai, and beyond. Among them London’s hallowed Connaught Bar and the delightful new Sips lounge in Barcelona which earned the coveted No. 1 position in the list.

Bars that win a standing on these annual best lists achieve such vaunted status not simply for the luscious drinks they mix, but equally for the style with which those libations are prepared and served, and the atmosphere in which they are savored.

We’re excited to see the best-of bar awards announced every year and have been lucky enough to tipple and tarry at more than a few of the five-star drinking houses. But we also enjoy discovering watering holes that have found fame for other laudable achievements besides service and innovation. Behold the Happiness Archive “-Est Bars” Roundup for 2024:



If you’re looking to get high in the highest bar in the world, take the 90-second elevator ride up to Ozone Bar.  It soars 1,608 feet in the sky, high above Hong Kong’s Victoria Bay and Hong Kong Island.

The bar-lounge is located on the 118th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, which – no surprise -- is also the highest hotel in the world. Enjoy breathtaking views while nibbling truffle fries and sipping the bar’s own Three Turtles Pilsner, flavored with mandarin zest and rose, or a Corpse Reviver No. 2, the beguiling pre-Prohibition cocktail that’s a rare find anywhere else these days.



Situated on the beach overlooking the Dead Sea, Kalia Beach Bar, a 25-minute drive from Jerusalem, is located 1,412 feet below sea level -- the lowest elevation found on earth. The bar serves typical local beach food: hummus, falafel, pizzas, salads, burgers, along with smoothies, specialty cocktails (Dead Sea Margarita), and ice-cold Goldstar Beer on tap.

As the turquoise blue Dead Sea has the highest level of salinity of any body of water, one can float around calmly as a cork without fear of sinking. The sea’s therapeutic mud is said to cure skin aliments and ease arthritis.


Sean’s Bar in Athlone, Ireland, has been recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest bar in the world. It opened in the year 900 AD by Luain Mac Luighdeach as an inn providing comfort to travelers making their way across what was then a desolate center of the country.

The town of Athlone, and its 12-century castle, eventually grew up around the inn. Whiskey served at the inn at the time was produced by monasteries nearby. One of the cheeriest bars you’ll find anywhere, Sean’s is open until 11:30 pm every day and offers its own Sean's Bar brand of blended and single malt Irish whiskeys.



In an era when corner dive bars are disappearing from neighborhoods across the country, inevitably replaced with upscale coffee chains and artisanal cocktail rooms, it’s a treat to find an authentically divey beer joint. And the divey-est of ’em all has to be Chicago’s L&L Tavern. Located at 3207 N. Clark Street, the 60+-year-old hang is appropriately dark, lit mostly by neon beer signs and dim daylight that manages to filter through the two grimy streetside windows. You’d swear you had walked into a perfectly art-directed movie set for a crummy 1950s bar. Except it’s a real place.

A customer posted on Yelp, “The ceiling's caving in. The floor tiles are broken. There's no knob or lock on the men's bathroom door. Vinyl chairs are held together with duct tape. The bar is populated by broken-down old people who look like sea captains.” A hand-scrawled sign in the window declares it “The creepiest bar in the USA.”

The L&L has had a checkered past in what at one time was the city’s dicey grunge-punk hood, and a handful of underworld and murderous barflies. But these days, the place is well-loved by bar history geeks and a growing cadre of dive bar aficionados. The current owner and barman Ken Frandsen is fun guy. The PBRs and bottled Schlitz and Hamm’s are plentiful and cheap. And L&L's long list of Irish whiskeys is one of the best anywhere. Also, likely the only bar in the world that serves Malort liqueur, a strange local concoction.

Chef and travel writer Anthony Bourdain was a fan and stopped by whenever he was in town.

Cash only. Look for the nativity scene with Mary and Joseph hoisting PBR tallboys.

Photo: Scoundrel’s Field Guide


There are scores of contenders for the smallest bar – popups not included -- from Dawson’s snug room in Dublin with its low ceilings and zero elbow room, to Key West’s Smallest Bar, a skinny two-stool tiki hut on Duval Street, to the squeezy Bar Piano in Tokyo, capacity 3, where the bar was created from the top of an actual upright piano. But based on square footage alone, the prize for the most pint-sized pub has to go to The Signal Box Inn, a former signal box house located next to the narrow-gauge Cleethorpes Light Railway line in the seaside resort town of Lincolnshire, England.

Barely 8 x 8 feet inside, the Signal Box offers eight craft beers on tap -- ales, lagers, and bitters --  plus whisky shots and G&Ts, wines, and 20 different hard ciders. Six customers can fit inside the cozy establishment which features lively music, a dart board (eek!). and an outdoor patio that’s about 10 times bigger than the pub itself.

Photo: Steve Hill/Caters News




Making a date to meet a friend for drinks at Humble Baron may be easier said than done. The bar, you see, is the longest one in the world at 518 feet long, with 202 bar stools (only a small portion of it is pictured above). It curves and bends and wends its way all around the cavernous interior of the building which is the equivalent of one-and-a-half football fields in length. Perhaps you'll need to ask one of the 17 bartenders to help you find your friend in this massive bar!

Humble Baron opened early last year at the Nearest Green Distillery in Shelbyville, Tennessee, about an hour’s drive south of Nashville. It has quickly become a highly popular noshing, drinking and live music venue.

Humble Baron’s bar program was crafted in partnership with Gin & Luck, the hospitality company behind renowned cocktail institution Death & Co. Hence its innovative roster of reasonably priced cocktails. A stellar creation is the Queen’s Gambit, made with Uncle Nearest 1856 Bourbon, pineapple, lemon, sorrel, and Hella Apple Blossom Bitters.

Humble Baron has unseated the Beer Barrel Saloon in Put-In-Bay, Ohio, for the world record longest bar by more than 100 feet. Beer Barrel held that title for almost 25 years. 

Photo: Humble Baron




The most isolated human settlement on earth is Tristan Da Cunha, a volcanic island in the South Atlantic Ocean, approximately 1,700 miles from Cape Town, South Africa. Edinburgh of the Seven Seas is the only town on the 38-square mile island. It has no airport or deep-water harbor, no hotels, and no Wi-Fi. But there is a post office/cafe, a general store, 245 friendly residents, an island administrator, and a bar. The Albatross Bar is the world’s most remote taproom.

Because it takes six to seven days’ travel (weather depending) via a fishing boat or freighter out of Cape Town, you’ll be ready to hoist a few cold ones once you arrive! Only 12 ships stop here each year, and an application must be made in advance by anyone who wishes to visit.

At the Albatross, which shares space inside the community's meeting hall, you’ll find friendly islanders, a full selection of wine, beer, and spirits, plus a list of cheap South African beers, and samples of local brews, depending on the day. Local lobster pie is a favorite nosh. Hours are variable, but always open when a passenger ship arrives. Pool tables provide some friendly competition with locals.

Photo: Kelly Green



The friendliest city in the world in 2023, according to Conde Nast Traveller, is Calgary. Lauded for its perfect combination of nature and urban living – the beautiful Rocky Mountains, Lake Louise, and Banff National Park being nearby – and for having a welcoming, multi-cultural community, it’s surely home to the world’s friendliest bar.

Using a combination of Google and Yelp reviews as our locator, we homed in on Betty Lou’s Library as the best-loved joint in the world’s friendliest city, boasting an average 4.5 stars out of 1,034 reviews as of December 2023.

Finding your way into this Prohibition-style speakeasy, hidden within the historic Devenish Building in the city’s Lower Mount Royal neighborhood, involves locating an antique phone at the bottom of a stairway. Once the correct password is given, guests enter the snug library lounge through a bookcase.

The menu features a small selection of delectable tapas for sharing. Literary inspired cocktail fare includes the Anais Nin (rye, spiced rum, pumpkin spiced chai tea, lemon, egg white), Great Gatsby (bartender’s choice; market price), Jane Eyre Lemonade (vodka, cranberry juice, raspberry syrup, Black Fox Liqueur), and five different Hemingway-themed old fashioneds.  

Burlesque and jazz performances infuse the comfy space with a perfectly pitched retro mood. Yelper Gyn A. gives it five stars: “…Coolest gin joint in town. The staff are welcoming and friendly, the vibe is intimate and cozy, and the drinks are FANTASTIC!!!”



About an hour out of Reykjavik, Iceland, a sleek structure hovers above an unworldly looking landscape. The ION Adventure Hotel in Selfoss could easily pass for a lunar spaceport.

Instead of scientists and banks of computer panels inside, you’ll find a friendly staff tending this cozy and stylish 45-room hotel located in the rugged Golden Circle area of Iceland, where geysers, waterfalls, glaciers, and moss fields dominate the landscape.

The sustainably built, award-winning hotel offers a true getaway from the workaday world with amenities like a meditative spa, sauna, outdoor thermal soak pool, and local diving and horseback riding tours. The ION’s Silfra restaurant serves local seasonal “new Nordic” cuisine (Arctic char ceviche, grilled lamb with thyme sauce and grapes, roasted carrots with pistachios, squash, and smoked cheese).

The accompanying Northern Lights Bar occupies the end of the building and is faced with dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows that provide stunning views of the wild landscape and IMAX+-like views of the dazzling aurora borealis displays when they burst forth in the skies outside. (Best times of year for this are September-April, weather permitting.) But even if you aren’t lucky enough to catch this atmospheric lightshow, nighttime star-viewing from the bar is beyond spectacular.

The bar serves expertly crafted cocktails, and an array of beers, liqueurs, and spirits from Iceland’s many microbreweries. Bar food includes burgers, fries, artichokes, and Icelandic doughnuts ordered off the restaurant menu.

Photos (here and header):



The quietest bar in the world has been a popular hang in the loudest city on earth for the past 15 years. New York City’s Burp Castle is a calm and soothing haven, a so-called “temple of beer worshippers.” There’s only one commandment that rules this venerable East Village sanctum: customers must not speak above a whisper. This is not a place for obnoxious partiers, over-excited sports hounds (there are no TVs here), or large groups. If an imbiber becomes too voluble and breaks the whisper rule, they will be shushed by the bartender, and often other customers, too.

Sonorous orchestral music and smooth jazz riffs play softly in the background, setting the thoughtful mood.

Burp’s is a beer bar, and its reasonably priced tap list is Belgian-beer heavy with a dozen or so brands that change often. But Irish stouts and British ales and ciders are poured regularly, too. There’s also an extensive bottle list. No nibbles on the menu, but Burp’s “monks” serve free pomme frites on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday afternoons. The small but charming taproom’s walls are beautifully painted with faux religious scenes, starring angels, saints, and hilariously carousing monks.

“It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a drink at a slower pace" where you “enjoy your time in the now,” as one Yelp fan put it. “Come to read your book, work on brainstorming for your novel, bring your introverted partner or a romantic date for those who are friends with the libraries.”

About the whisper rule -- a former Burp’s bartender posted this explanation: “We shush so you can hear each other or hear yourself think. You nerds, scientists, artists, writers, engineers, lovers, foodies, drinkers, sweet-talking pretty things, makers, doers, thinkers, you all have so much to say to each other. You’re not angry -- so you shouldn’t have to yell. This is a quiet neighborhood bar. Yelling would make your throat sore, and then the beer wouldn’t taste its best.”

The name Burp Castle, while appropriate as it is a sometimes-unavoidable effect of drinking beer, is also funny because if one were to burp loudly here, they would likely be shushed by the management.

Photo: Christian Rodriguez



The kookiest (and most Instagrammable) bar on the planet is an immersive cocktail venue that transports you to another planet altogether. At San Diego’s Mothership, the theme is spacey. According to the bar’s backstory, at some point in the retro-future, this starship crash landed on a lush, tropical planet. The crew decided to remain there on “permanent vacation,” turning the craft into a leisure lounge, and live off the bountiful flora and intoxicating spirits they find there.

No detail has been overlooked in the design and execution of this spaceship fantasy, from the tech-manual style cocktail and food menu to the constellation ceiling complete with shooting stars, to the otherworldly bathrooms, and even the bar tabs which are labeled “Damage Report.”

The comfy room is dark and glowy with splashes of neon lighting, rock crystal lamps, blinking electronic wall gadgetry seemingly running on the ship’s emergency power, and Star Trek-style banquettes paired with rattan woven chairs, a la Gilligan’s Island.

The mostly rum-based, tiki-ish cocktails are reasonable and highly inventive with names and flavor combinations that are, frankly, out of this world. Try the Nostromo’s Stowaway made with coconut water rum, Nicaraguan rum, black sesame infused crème de cacao, sweet vermouth, orange, tangerine, lemon, walnut infused grenadine, coconut cream and ginger bitters. It is rated “Cruising Speed,” mildest level on the menu’s clever cocktail strength scale. The Self-Destruct Sequence is served in a space lab beaker and contains absinthe and three rums. Mothership’s food offerings are tapas-type vegan snacks that are small portioned but delectable.

The custom-designed glassware and crew uniforms are available for purchase.

From the instant Mothership “landed” in 2022, it became a fan favorite drinking destination. Lines form outside daily, so try to plan your visit ahead of time and make reservations.

Photo: Yelp


Share this post with cocktail lovers and brew enthusiasts!

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page