There’s nothing quite like sipping a pint at your local watering hole, but then again, that can get a bit stale. With mixologists coming out of the woodwork and more adventurous cocktail concoctions lining the menus, it makes perfect sense that pubs are beginning to go above and beyond the string of rickety bar stools and kitschy license plates. In fact, there are some spots that have redefined cocktail hour with some jaw-dropping architectural endeavors, and a few atmospheric hooks. Check out these eight extraordinary bars that promise an effervescent evening in an unforgettable setting.
Absolut Ice Bar, Quebec, Canada
Venture into the great white north for a drink at Quebec City’s renowned Ice Bar, carved into the seasonal Hôtel de Glace – North America’s only ice hotel. “Cozy” and “icy” are two adjectives that don’t normally go together, but the private little alcoves lined with fur and finished with glassy ice tables are just that. A few dancing fires, lanterns, and the requisite hollowed ice glassware top off the ethereal atmosphere.
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Hotel Edelweiss, Murren, Switzerland
The town of Murren is tucked into the Swiss Alps, a peaceful haven of breathtaking views and mountain air. If you’re passing through town, be sure to stop at the garden terrace of Hotel Edelweiss for a drink or a meal: the small patio soars high above the valley below, offering a panoramic view of the alpine landscape that’s at its best when the sun begins to set.
Museum HR Giger Bar, Gruyeres, Switzerland
If you’re a fan of the movie Alien, you should probably make your way to the HR Giger Bar in Gruyere, a creation of the Swiss artist modeled after his legendary set and character designs in that quintessential sci-fi film. The room sprawls out under stretches of vertebrae, trimmed with strange and grisly skeletal furniture. It’s a pseudo-industrial metal carcass, as if Ripley’s ship and the alien had mated. Very strange, indeed.
Ozone Bar, Hong Kong, China
Ever wondered what your favorite drink tastes like 1600 feet in the air? Well, pretty similar, but with a definite splash of adrenaline. Visitors to Hong Kong’s famous Ozone Bar, on the 118th floor of the Ritz Carlton, enjoy innovative cocktails and some of the city’s best local tapas while looking out over the world below. If a window seat is a bit much for you, pull up a bar stool and enjoy the colorful ambiance.
Sky Bar, Bangkok, Thailand
Since it featured in The Hangover Part 2, the Sky Bar is no longer a secret, but certainly still worth a visit. Bangkok’s best rooftop bar is also exceptionally classy and serene – the perfect ambiance for a warm evening over the bustling city below. The cityscape and bar atmosphere are equally engaging, so you’ll have no problem lingering over a “poptail” (the bar’s signature mix of Popsicle and cocktail) or a Hangovertini, which was originally concocted for the cast of the movie while they were filming on location.
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Sunland Baobab, Limpopo, South Africa
Treehouses are so passé – why not create a cozy room inside the trunk instead? The gigantic baobab tree on a mango farm in Sunland (in fact, the largest baobab in the world) is home to a quaint little pub, with a cluster of tables and bark walls dotted with dartboards. The tree is 6,000 years old and still standing tall, but like any other baobab tree, naturally hollowed out after its 1,000th birthday.
Alux Caverna Lounge, Mexico
The world’s largest cave bar and certainly one of the most atmospheric watering holes around, this stony tavern uses the natural curvature of the rock and well-placed lighting to accentuate the natural beauty – and isolation – of the setting. It’s a great place for a pre-dinner cocktail, or else stretch out your evening with drinks, dinner, and dessert in the network of underground rooms.
NASA Pub, Bangalore, India
The NASA bar gives you quirky submarine decoration coupled with a predilection for lasers. You’ll enjoy your drinks under a neon blue glow, in the rounded hull – which can fill up fast in the evenings. Revelers lounge in booths that line the walls, and dance amid the neon ribbons of light as the night goes on. It’s a delightfully spacey, albeit slightly claustrophobic, experience.
The downside to these sorts of experimental bars? There concept may prove to be too out there to keep them afloat, so be sure to check the opening hours – and business status – before heading to the place.