SF Historic Bars Overview

The House of Shields - Historic Bar | Lounge in SF

San Franciscans have been belting it back and getting rowdy since the days of the Barbary Coast, a time when the city was known best for hookers and gold prospectors, and though the intervening 150+ years have seen most of the old watering holes vanish into the fog, there are still some very cool San Francisco historic bars to visit.

The Buena Vista over in tourist-riddled Fisherman’s Wharf first opened in 1916, but it really wasn’t until the 1950s that this place found its true calling. That was when owner Jack Koeppler returned from a vacation to Ireland having fallen in love with hot coffee mixed with whiskey, and shortly thereafter he introduced Irish coffee to the nation with such undeniable success that the venue now doles out some two-thousand cups of it a day.

The Saloon in North Beach is the oldest historic bar in SF, having stood in the same spot since 1861. For you history buffs, that means it survived the 1906 earthquake. Cool factoid: the only reason it survived the ensuing fires was because the whorehouse above it was a favorite of several local firemen.

Li Po Cocktail Lounge in Chinatown probably hasn’t been around long enough to be called an SF historic bar, but the space used to be an opium den way back in the day, and the ghosts of addicts are alleged to still roam the halls. In the Marina, meanwhile, Balboa Café has been serving good food and great cocktails to power brokers and preppy Marina scenesters since 1913, and certainly shows no signs of slowing down.

San Francisco is known for many things, from sixties revolutions to gay rights movements to tech bubble explosions, and San Francisco historic bars have seen it all.

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