City guides

Iconic bars in Raleigh

Discover Raleigh's finest bars where unforgettable nights are made.

December 18, 2023
 min read
Last updated:
Feb 14
A view of the Raleigh skyline.
Raleigh, a city known for its vibrant nightlife and eclectic bar scene, offers a range of watering holes that are not just places to drink, but destinations in their own right. Each bar on this list tells a story, creates an atmosphere, and serves up experiences that are as unique and diverse as Raleigh itself. Let's dive into the heart of Raleigh's night scene and explore these iconic spots.

Boxcar Bar + Arcade

Boxcar Bar + Arcade isn't just a bar; it's a portal to the past, brimming with the energy of a modern-day hangout. With its walls lined with classic arcade games, pinball machines, and skeeball, it's a place where you can relive the joys of your youth. The bar offers an extensive selection of craft beers and spirits, complementing the vibrant, playful ambiance. What sets Boxcar apart is its ability to bring people together, whether they're competing in a friendly game of Pac-Man or enjoying a local brew. It's a space where laughter and cheers are the norm, and every visit feels like a celebration.

The Raleigh Times

The Raleigh Times Bar, housed in the historic former home of the city's newspaper, is a blend of past and present. Its walls, adorned with clippings and photos from the newspaper, offer patrons a glimpse into Raleigh's rich history. The bar is renowned for its extensive beer selection, featuring local and international brews, and a menu that boasts an array of delicious pub fare. The rooftop patio provides a picturesque view of downtown Raleigh, making it an ideal spot for a relaxed evening. The Raleigh Times Bar isn't just a place to grab a drink; it's a living piece of the city's history, offering a unique experience with every visit.


Descending into FOUNDATION feels like entering a hidden world. This underground bar, with its exposed brick walls and warm, dim lighting, creates an ambiance that's both mysterious and inviting. FOUNDATION's dedication to using local ingredients is evident in its cocktails, each a testament to the creativity and skill of the bartenders. The menu changes seasonally, ensuring fresh and innovative drinks. The intimate setting, combined with the bar's commitment to quality, makes it a favorite among those who appreciate a well-crafted cocktail. It's a place where the hustle of the city fades away, leaving you in a peaceful cocoon of relaxation and enjoyment.

Trophy Brewing and Taproom

Trophy Brewing and Taproom is a testament to Raleigh's thriving craft beer scene. Known for its small-batch, experimental brews, Trophy is a place where beer is treated with reverence. The taproom, with its lively and friendly atmosphere, invites patrons to not only enjoy their drinks but also learn about the brewing process. The bar's decor, adorned with quirky and artistic touches, reflects the creativity that goes into each brew. With a rotating selection of beers, each visit offers something new to explore. Trophy isn't just a brewery; it's a gathering place for those who share a love for quality, craft beer.

The Green Light

The Green Light, hidden behind a bookshelf in a historic building, offers an intimate speakeasy experience that whispers of mystery and exclusivity. Once inside, guests are treated to a dimly lit, cozy ambiance that feels both private and inviting. The bar specializes in crafting exquisite prohibition-era cocktails, with a focus on precision and flavor. The staff, known for their knowledge and passion, enhance the experience, making each visit uniquely personal. The Green Light is more than just a bar; it's a secret retreat from the modern world, offering an escape into a time of clandestine elegance and charm.

Watts & Ward

Watts & Ward takes its inspiration from the speakeasies of the Prohibition era, offering an experience that's steeped in history yet thoroughly modern. Hidden beneath the streets of Raleigh, this bar captivates with its rustic charm and an air of secrecy. Its sprawling interior, with book-lined walls and cozy nooks, provides the perfect setting for sipping on expertly crafted cocktails. The menu is a mix of classic and contemporary, ensuring that there's something for every palate. Watts & Ward is more than a bar; it's a journey back in time, offering a glimpse into a world of clandestine gatherings and timeless allure.

Oak City Amaretto

Oak City Amaretto is a unique gem in Raleigh, dedicated to showcasing the versatility of amaretto through an innovative cocktail menu. This specialty bar, the first of its kind, offers a warm, inviting atmosphere where patrons can explore a wide range of amaretto-based drinks, from classic concoctions to contemporary mixes. The decor, with its nods to Italian heritage and the nutty richness of amaretto, complements the experience. Oak City Amaretto is a testament to the creativity of Raleigh's bar scene, offering a niche yet delightful exploration of one of the world's most beloved liqueurs.

Person Street Bar

Person Street Bar is the epitome of a classic neighborhood bar, where simplicity and quality reign supreme. This welcoming spot is known for its relaxed vibe and friendly staff, making everyone feel like a regular. The focus here is on crafting straightforward, yet superb drinks, from well-executed classics to refreshing original creations. The bar's interior, with its unpretentious charm and comfortable seating, invites patrons to stay awhile, engage in good conversation, and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere. Person Street Bar is a reminder that sometimes, the best nights are those spent in good company, with a great drink in hand.


Bittersweet offers a unique twist in Raleigh's bar scene, expertly blending the worlds of desserts, cocktails, and coffee. This chic bar is a haven for those with a sweet tooth, serving up an array of delectable treats that are as visually appealing as they are delicious. The cocktail menu is equally impressive, featuring inventive drinks that complement the desserts. The ambiance is cozy and stylish, perfect for intimate gatherings or a solo treat. Bittersweet is more than just a bar; it's a celebration of indulgence, where every sip and bite is a delightful experience.

The Haymaker

The Haymaker is a fusion of elegance and accessibility, offering an upscale experience without the pretense. This bar stands out with its stylish décor, which combines contemporary design with vintage touches, creating a chic yet comfortable setting. The cocktail menu is a showcase of creativity, featuring both classic and avant-garde concoctions made with high-quality ingredients. The Haymaker is the ideal spot for those seeking a sophisticated night out, where the drinks are as thoughtfully crafted as the atmosphere. It's a place that proves elegance can be approachable and fun can be refined. Raleigh's bar scene is a tapestry of stories, flavors, and experiences. From the nostalgic echoes of arcade games to the sophisticated notes of a jazz bar, each establishment on this list offers more than just a drink; they offer a gateway to an unforgettable Raleigh night. Whether you're a local or a visitor, these bars are sure to leave a lasting impression, proving that Raleigh's charm extends well into the night.
*Prices fluctuate based on season and day of the week.

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