‘A marvellous spot to give into temptation’: readers’ favourite literary bars, pubs and cafes | Bars, pubs and clubs

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Memories of Hemingway, Spain

Café Iruña in Pamplona, Spain was a favourite of Hemingway when he visited the city for the annual running of the bulls. With high ceilings and wooden panelling, the bar-restaurant evokes bygone days and you can almost imagine Hemingway writing in a corner, particularly as there is a lifesize statue of the novelist in one room. Choose a seat outside and watch friends and families enjoy their evening stroll on Plaza del Castillo.


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Nautical adventures, Bristol

Photograph: James Osmond Photography/Alamy

The Llandoger Trow on King Street is an old pirate tavern in which Robert Louis Stevenson used to drink: it became the inspiration for the Admiral Benbow in Treasure Island. Not only that, it was supposedly here that Daniel Defoe Alexander Selkirk, who had spent over four years as a castaway on a Pacific island (Más a Tierra) after choosing to leave a ship he thought was unseaworthy. He became the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe.

In a Viennese whirl

Interior of Cafe Sperl
Photograph: Rolf Adlercreutz/Alamy

Cafè Sperl in Vienna was among cafes at the heart of the Austrian literary and cultural scene in the late 19th and most of the 20th century and is in a fabulous building with an amazing interior. We stumbled across it while hunting for some sachertorte (chocolate cake). We didn’t find that but were very happy with what we did find. It appears as a regular hangout in the BBC series Vienna Blood and was featured in the 1994 movie Before Sunrise and 2011’s A Dangerous Method with Michael Fassbender.
Gabriella Herrick

Flamboyant and futurist, Milan

Savini cafe, Milan.
Photograph: Tony French/Alamy

Want to see and be seen in the centre of Milan? Grab a seat on the terrace of the Savini cafe-restaurant, inside Italy’s oldest shopping centre, the grand, glass-ceilinged Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This elegant spot has attracted attention-seeking Italians since it opened in 1867, not least two of Italy’s most important literary figures of the turn of the last century: flamboyant poet and playwright Gabriele D’Annunzio and the extravagant founder of the futurist avant garde literary movement, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Take your time sipping an aperitivo (they costs €19, so make it last!) and watch the comings and goings in “Milan’s sitting room”.
Selena Day

Pastoral pub, Cotswolds

Woolpack, Laurie Lee’s pub
Photograph: Paul Murphy

The Woolpack sits in a fold of the misty green Slad valley. Laurie Lee walked out from here, early one midsummer morning. His soft-spoken lilt still quivers on the breeze. He rests now in the nearby churchyard, drawn into the warmth of the pastoral, backlit scene below. This is no shrine to Lee though, just a well-appointed inn with fine Uley’s ale on tap, a good kitchen and views to die for. But there’s no sign of Rosie.
Paul Murphy

Gin palace gem, Belfast

Crown Liquor Saloon
Photograph: Arpad Benedek/Alamy

My favourite pub in Belfast is the Crown Liquor Saloon. It is a superb example of a Victorian gin palace, with gas lamps, snugs, ornate tiles, stained glass and plenty of history. In 1978, Sir John Betjeman was among those who persuaded the National Trust to buy the pub and restore its unique features. It made an appearance in 1947 film noir The Odd Man Out, starring James Mason.
Ellen McHugh

Winning tip: Faustian pact, Leipzig

Mephisto cafe, Leipzig, Germany.
Photograph: Tony French/Alamy

If it’s “more than earthly meat and drink” you’re after, look no further than Leipzig’s Mephisto bar. Inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, patrons may enjoy a cognac and slice of apfelkuchen against a backdrop of flickering lights, rolling thunder and cackling, devilish screams. It’s above the Auerbachs Keller, the first place Mephistopheles takes Faust on their travels, and a marvellous spot to give into temptation.
Kitty Winslet

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