By Jo Kingsley
In Nottingham, the locals follow in Robin Hood’s footsteps and take their secret hideouts seriously.
But these days, they don’t hang out in treehouses or misty forest glens – they’ve perfected the art of the hidden bar.
From a subterranean gin palace to a secret garden oasis, these are the best Nottingham bars if you’re visiting this fine Midlands city.
Best Nottingham Bars
Down a hidden alley in Hockley – Nottingham’s best area for cool bars – you’ll find this vintage drinking den. Whether you’ll get in is another story.
Ask the guard if you can pass through the mahogany ‘Enquiries’ door and push through the mounds of leather suitcases to reveal a penny-top bar full of antiques and glitter balls.
Downstairs is Drum & Basement, a neon underground bar which serves glow in the dark cocktails. Another secret entrance leads you a third bar called The Lost Caves (read on to find out more).
TIP: Don’t forget to hang a luggage tag on the wall to show you paid a visit.
Prices are around £7.50 a cocktail
The Lost Caves
The Lost Caves is technically part of Lost Property, but it’s so unique we had to give this hidden bar its own mention.
Nottingham is famous for its huge underground network of caves, which have been used as everything from criminal hideouts to breweries and air raid shelters over the years. So it seems fitting that now the locals drink down there.
Skulls and chandeliers adorn this subterranean gin palace which can also be accessed via the Mercure George Hotel, the oldest hotel in Nottingham.
They don’t take bookings and there is limited seating, but you can always have a cocktail in Lost Property while you wait.
Prices start from £6 for a G&T
Across the road from Lost Property, this iconic Nottingham bar gets its name as the entrance used to be entirely hidden behind the façade of a boiler repair shop, although they never did fix any boilers.
During lockdown, the frontage was changed to a cute coffee shop where you can actually buy a latte these days.
The bar is still there – you just have to know how to get to it. A counter at the back leads to a fairy-lit speakeasy with a cocktail list that will blow your mind.
Try the Gindependent Woman or order a Run QMC (a pun on the local hospital name) and 50p from each drink goes to Nottingham Children’s Hospital. Ethical drinking.
Prices are around £8 a cocktail
The Hockley Arts Club
A minute’s walk from Boilermaker is The Hockley Arts Club, a creative hub for food and drink, late night music and dancing in one beautiful location.
The entrance to this hidden Nottingham bar is down another secret passage, but find it and step into three floors of fun.
Stockholm on the ground floor is an independent cocktail bar in its own right open until 3am on the weekends. The Art-Deco inspired Blue Rooms on the middle floor have leather clad private booths and lots of comfy seating.
But the jewel in The Hockley Arts Club’s crown is the top floor Electric Garden, which has an ever-changing display of Japanese cherry blossom making it one of the prettiest bars in Notts.
Food comes in the form of Artisan Charcuterie boards (from £12.95) and Bottomless Afternoon Tea (£35.95pp). When it comes to the cocktails, our favourites include the Twister and the Cherry Chapstick. Spoiler alert – some come with a little surprise.
Prices start from £8.50 a cocktail
The Magic Garden
Take a short walk to Low Pavement in Nottingham’s famous Lace Market area and look for a Georgian townhouse, which is hiding a secret city centre oasis behind its doors.
The Magic Garden is an Instagrammers’ paradise with colourful neon decor inside and surprises around every corner.
Outside is a whimsical paradise where Alice in Wonderland herself would feel at home. Spot hanging parasols, Chinese lanterns and giant disco balls lurking in the flower beds.
Signature cocktails include the Absolutely Fabulous, Finding Nemo and Peanut Butter Cup. Bottomless High Tea is also available for £39.95pp – and don’t worry if it rains as the outside area has a covered roof and heaters.
Prices start from £8.45 a cocktail