Known as the birthplace of California, San Diego shares a border with Tijuana, as well as an international metro area. With 70 miles of beautiful beaches and attractions for every age, San Diego offers plenty to do in a near-perfect climate, and nightlife is no exception.
With its hip downtown culture, laid-back coastal neighborhoods, and calm suburban life, many people choose to visit or live in San Diego because of its cultural and natural diversity. Whether you want to explore the natural landscape filled with mountains, deserts, and beaches or take in the lively downtown experience, San Diego has you covered.
When you’re done exploring or just need a break from the day, you can find a bar, from low-key to luxe, to fit any mood or occasion. Whether you want to dance indoors, lounge on a rooftop, chill in a dive, or scout out the secret entrance to a speakeasy, you can find plenty of options here. Check out my list of the best bars in San Diego below!
453 Sixth Ave #7007, San Diego, CA 92101
To enjoy both modern cocktails and beautiful views, stop at The Nolen rooftop bar and lounge in the historic downtown Gaslamp Quarter. With sweeping views of the San Diego skyline, the newly renovated bar atop the Courtyard San Diego Gaslamp Hotel offers original cocktails, and during brunch on Sunday, you can build your own mimosas.
Despite its foreboding name, my go-to is the Bermuda Doom, but you can find a drink you’ll love as well as a thoughtful bar menu at The Nolen. With just a few walk-in spots available, make a reservation so that you won’t miss your chance to enjoy a calm escape from the bustle of downtown.
777 G St, San Diego, CA 92101
A secret speakeasy tucked away in a beautiful restaurant; Noble Experiment makes for an intriguing and unique cocktail stop. Through a door hidden near a wall of kegs, you enter the exclusive room with a wall of skulls and white booths on one side facing a sleek bar. Small on space but big on atmosphere, the bartenders make you a custom cocktail after asking you some questions.
Make a reservation to thoroughly enjoy your stay. Although Noble Experiment reserves a few walk-in spots, it limits those to just an hour. Because you need more than an hour to soak in the atmosphere, reserve days or weeks in advance to relax with their strong, yet balanced, cocktails.
675 W Beech St, San Diego, CA 92101
Another uniquely hidden spot, the tiki-themed False Idol, offers an exotic oasis in the middle of San Diego’s Little Italy district downtown. You can find the entrance to this fully immersive tiki speakeasy behind a walk-in cooler in the hip gastropub Craft & Commerce.
Complete with Polynesian fire and ice elements decorating every inch, you can experience a fun and lighthearted atmosphere with rum playing a serious role in the drinks menu. Whether you want a traditional drink or want to try something unique, False Idol has it covered. With just 40 seats, make a reservation and enjoy having servers wait on you at your table rather than order at the bar.
The Grass Skirt
910 Grand Ave, San Diego, CA 92109
Taking tiki and speakeasy to a whole new level, The Grass Skirt not only offers Polynesian-inspired exotic cocktails but also surrounds you with torches, hula dancers, and giant tiki carvings. Enter through a freezer located in The Good Poke and transport yourself to another world while in Pacific Beach.
Be sure to make a reservation so you can try a variety of creative cocktails and relax in the escapism. The classic choices, like mai tai, are excellent, but to really embrace the funky vibe, try the painkiller. You can also order top-quality small plates, sized perfectly for sharing, and experience superb, attentive service.
Aero Club Bar
3365 India St, San Diego, CA 92103
With 800 different whiskeys, Aero Club Bar offers an extensive drink selection along with a fun, casual atmosphere, making it a great place to grab a drink. Located near the airport, you can find not only whiskey but also traditional cocktails and beer on tap.
Avoid passing it up based solely on its looks. Although locals lovingly call it a dive bar, most consider it the best place for whiskey and super-friendly service. Perfectly chill day or night, this place has a loyal local following who welcome anyone stepping into the bar. No need for reservations and leave your little black dress at home. This is a comfy, casual, come-as-you-are kind of place.
1503 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102
Death metal and drinks may have you imagining a dive, but Kindred serves up phenomenal cocktails and vegan food, with death metal music and a light-hearted vibe. Offering a great selection of seasonal cocktails and year-round favorites, you can always find something new to try at Kindred. I enjoy the fruity Spinal Tap all year and look forward to the vodka-laced White Noise when winter arrives.
With its gorgeous decor and a surprising amount of cat pictures adorning the bathroom walls, embrace the upbeat, eccentric atmosphere while sipping cocktails and sampling the delicious vegan fare. Located in the historic South Park district, Kindred doesn’t take reservations, so plan to enjoy a drink while you wait.
Realm Of The 52 Remedies
4805 Convoy St, San Diego, CA 92111
Another speakeasy spot, the Shanghai-inspired Realm Of The 52 Remedies in San Diego’s Convoy District, provides a unique experience in both food and drink. Hidden in the Common Theory Public House, you walk through what seems to be a futuristic apothecary into a 1920’s Shanghai parlor, complete with private booths and ornate elements of lotus and jade.
The mixology here is pure magic, ranging from unique to time-honored creations. Although walk-ins are accepted on a space-available basis, your best bet is to make a reservation. Be sure to review the “house rules” before you go, as this enchanting spot uses these guidelines to preserve its intimate atmosphere.
4622 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116
In the historic neighborhood of University Heights, filled with craftsman-style homes and popular hotspots for lounging and dining, Madison offers an upscale, modern take on cocktails and Mediterranean fare. Located by the iconic University Heights sign, make this your stop when wanting high-quality classic cocktails as well as new favorites, such as the brandy-based Heavy Metal Drummer or the signature Stone Stairs for tequila lovers.
With walk-in availability scarce, make a reservation and dress Instagram-post-worthy, as the modern decor begs to be a backdrop. With the ambiance of the warm, cedar-planked surroundings, both your food and your cocktails play starring roles in this modern experience.
4696 30th St, San Diego, CA 92116
This highly popular cocktail bar is reminiscent of a local soda fountain and drug store, making for a fun, retro-inspired choice. Polite Provisions crafts house-made cocktails with a vintage flair, using soda pop, syrups, bitters, and plenty of dark liquors. Stick with signature drinks like the Full Windsor or the refreshing Ocean Side.
Accepting walk-ins only, you can’t make reservations at this lively cocktail bar located in University Heights. Prepare to walk in and savor a cocktail while you wait for a seat in this upbeat, apothecary-style setting. Perfect for most occasions, the noise level and communal feel may not be well-suited for an intimate date.
548 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Another San Diego speakeasy, this decidedly 1920s lounge offers an exclusive venue for beautiful cocktails and excellent live music. With a nod to The Great Gatsby, Prohibition Lounge completely immerses you in a debonair 1920s vibe. Perfect for celebrations or just an escape from daily life, you can dance the night away to live music while trying out top-notch cocktails, many focused on whiskey and gin.
Because they take walk-ins only, just enter through the secret door staged as the Law Office of Eddie O’Hare in the Gaslamp Quarter neighborhood. Be prepared for a dress code to be enforced on Fridays and Saturdays and enjoy the fun fantasy atmosphere in this secret basement speakeasy.
Altitude Sky Lounge
660 K St, San Diego, CA 92101
With views of Coronado Island, Point Loma, and Petco Park, Altitude Sky Lounge certainly lives up to its moniker. Considered an elite rooftop bar, you can enjoy top-shelf selections, an atmospheric fire pit, comfy couches, and views of a Padres game if they’re playing at home. Found atop the San Diego Marriott in Gaslamp Quarter, Altitude offers signature cocktails and a small plates menu at its award-winning sleek, modern lounge.
You have no better place to see and be seen than Altitude. Opt for the VIP Package and not only enjoy the panoramic sunset views but also get VIP bottle service, front-of-the-line access, and more. Expect a relaxed vibe, book early, and bring a sweater or jacket in case the night is breezy.
The Cordova Bar
1319 Morena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110
Warm and welcoming with a super comfy patio outside, The Cordova Bar makes for a hip, but laid-back, stop for cocktails. With drinks that look as gorgeous as they taste, spend your evening outside, soaking up the Bay Park vibes near the fire, and sip the night away with a signature cocktail, craft beer, or wine.
The Cordova Bar retains a neighborhood feel that welcomes visitors and loyal followers alike. Expect fantastic service at this comfortable, eclectic cocktail spot. In fact, the friendly, attentive service and the top-notch quality of the drinks make two compelling reasons to plan a visit.
831 Sixth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Hidden deep inside the Moxy San Diego, Room 56 envelopes itself in secrecy. That speakeasy ambiance combined with the intimate setting and incredible cocktails makes Room 56 a must-stop for date night or for anyone looking for drinks in a relaxed atmosphere. The excellent mixologists take the mystique out of the drinks menu, walking you through the division between stirred and shaken. Take their advice on what to select. You won’t be disappointed.
Make reservations for this exquisite speakeasy experience. On the website, scroll down to make a reservation by typing in the codeword, made up of the letters that appear as you scroll. I won’t ruin the fun by giving anything else away. Just be sure to read your email and follow all of the instructions for arrival.
1310 Morena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110
Sidecar Bar is cool, upbeat, and just a bit divey in all the right ways. While you listen to frequent live music, play arcade games, or get up a game of darts or pool, you can try out the excellent rotating drafts, and custom cocktails Sidecar Bar has to offer.
Fresh ingredients in the custom cocktails set this establishment apart from other bars. If you can’t decide between the Sidecar or the Penicillin, the attentive staff can definitely help you choose a cocktail that’s right for you.
Come as you are without reservations to this unpretentious, upbeat haunt found in Bay Park. Although they don’t serve food, food trucks frequent the street, and you can have food delivered to eat during your visit.
The Whiskey House
420 Third Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Sophisticated in look but casual in atmosphere, The Whiskey House features over 2,800 whiskeys. You can check out its whiskey bible online to see what they offer so you’re not overwhelmed on your first visit. Located in Gaslamp Quarter, this restaurant and bar offers more than just whiskey. With craft cocktails, international draft beer, and a selective wine list, everyone in your group can find something they like.
You can definitely pair good food with your drinks at The Whiskey House. It makes its own sausages and offers fresh-ground burgers and charcuterie in addition to its well-rounded lunch and dinner menu. Make reservations for parties over 6, and feel free to dress casually.
Seven Grand San Diego
3054 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104
With its dark wood interiors and over 700 whiskies and local craft beer, Seven Grand provides more than just a sophisticated ambiance and extensive drink menu. The Whiskey Society and its unique program call Seven Grand home. Members of this society get a deeper dive into whiskey, tastings, and experiments, although you don’t have to be a member to enjoy the amazing drinks Seven Grand has on its menu.
This stylish whiskey bar in North Park has live music and pool tables, and while crowded on the weekends, it has plenty of spots to hang out. So, get the Old Fashioned and sip away. Whether you want a spirited weekend night, drinks after a long day’s work, or a private whiskey tasting with a group, Seven Grand has you covered.
Tivoli Bar and Grill
505 Sixth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Open since 1885, Tivoli Bar and Grill reigns as the oldest bar in Gaslamp. Well worth the stop for its history and neighborhood dive atmosphere, you can join the list of notable patrons, such as Wyatt Earp, and grab a satisfying basket of wings with your beer or ask the friendly, attentive barback to suggest something more unique.
First opened as a saloon, the Tivoli Bar and Grill tries to maintain both its historical character and the family history of the owners. You can order at the original wooden bar and even check out the saloon’s first silver cash register that sits on display. Ask them to explain the pictures and paintings if you’re interested in the rich history of this unique place.
The Tipsy Crow
770 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
Occupying the oldest building in Gaslamp, the Tipsy Crow houses plenty of history and three levels of fun, food, and fabulous drinks. This versatile venue, located in the historic Spencer-Ogden Building, uses all three of its levels so you can lounge in lush surroundings, dine in a laid-back atmosphere, take in a comedy show, listen to live music, or dance.
Overlooking the busiest corner in Gaslamp Quarter, it’s not just San Diego’s longest-standing bar, The Tipsy Crow is also San Diego’s home for Patriots Football. Whether it’s game day or not, this bar is frequently packed, which is a testament to its popularity and fun-filled atmosphere. Just be sure to check the dress code online before you set out. They enforce it after 9 pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
618 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
If you want an upbeat night filled with music, dancing, and specialty cocktails, check out Henry’s Pub in Gaslamp Quarter. A great place to party while watching football, performing karaoke, or dancing. It offers Sunday brunch, game-day specials, and every day specials to round out the already extensive food and drink menu.
From delicious, sustainably sourced food choices to the welcoming atmosphere for locals and visitors, Henry’s Pub makes for a great spot to spend the evening with friends or celebrate with a group. The attentive staff, high-quality TVs for watching football, and the beautifully made cocktails are just a few reasons to check it out.
804 Market St, San Diego, CA 92101
A cheery hangout whose atmosphere crosses friendly comfort with speakeasy-style, Bootlegger maintains a sophisticated but relaxed vibe while giving a nod to the 1920s. Located in the downtown warehouse district, East Village, this spot offers floor-to-ceiling views, comfort food, craft cocktails, and quality entertainment.
The extensive menu elevates classic comfort food, such as fried deviled eggs, and you can ask your server for a great suggestion from the drink menu. I would recommend the Coconut Dreams, but you must get Pirates in the Pool if you’re a rum lover. Fun and relaxed with knowledgeable servers, come here for drinks and a quick bite, Sunday brunch, or hang out all night with cocktails after dinner.
536 Market Street between 5th & 6th St, San Diego, CA 92101
If bars had an astrological sign, Side Bar in Gaslamp Quarter would be a total Gemini. This boutique bar and lounge styles itself after a New York nightclub, offering an airy but cozy lounge that transforms into a vivid nightclub in the evening. Soft and sophisticated, the lounge serves as a posh spot to wind down from the day, but the attitude reveals itself when the lounge undergoes its glam transformation at night.
Expect an LED wall, light shows, and champagne shows to accompany the DJ as the party gets started. Dazzling decor, sexy service, and attitude without arrogance give this spot its over-the-top atmosphere. If you want to party and love bottle service, put on your dancing shoes and head for Side Bar.
San Diego is a city to be enjoyed from dusk to dawn and beyond. Whether you call San Diego home or simply want to visit, its naturally diverse landscape filled with historic hamlets and nighttime hotspots makes San Diego a must-visit city. With the sunset views from rooftop lounges and the secretive fun of intimate speakeasies, San Diego offers a diverse, unique nightlife.
Did we leave a bar out of this list? Make sure you leave us a comment, and we’ll check it out!
Best Bars in San Diego
- The Nolen
- Noble Experiment
- False Idol
- The Grass Skirt
- Aero Club Bar
- Realm Of The 52 Remedies
- Polite Provisions
- Prohibition Lounge
- Altitude Sky Lounge
- The Cordova Bar
- Room 56
- Sidecar Bar
- The Whiskey House
- Seven Grand San Diego
- Tivoli Bar and Grill
- The Tipsy Crow
- Henry’s Pub
- Side Bar