After being in Oxford for three weeks, I’ve observed that someone can learn just as much history being in pubs as they can in museums. Pubs across Oxford usually date back to at the latest the 1300s. They were founded out of necessity for housing travelers, and they were the perfect meeting locations. In most of the places I’ve visited, finding a pub is like finding a Starbucks in an airport, you can’t walk 30 feet without seeing at least two. However, unlike Starbucks, each pub is different and tells a unique story.
One of my favorite pubs I had to pleasure of visiting was the Turf Tavern. This pub is located down the sketchiest alleyway around the corner from the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford. Tucked down a winding alley that most people would have to turn sideways to shimmy down, Turf Tavern claims to be one of the oldest pubs in Oxford dating back to the 1200s. It’s claim to fame is, first, the walk snaking back to the open air garden, second, being the bar that was famous for housing the Harry Potter cast when they filmed at Oxford, and third, being the bar where Bill Clinton famously “Did not inhale,” when smoking marijuana as a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford (this one is especially funny because the bar had a large sign marking the table where he sat). Purely the atmosphere of the pub was amazing. You walk in through this doorway no higher than five and a half feet and have to constantly duck while you’re in this building. It’s dark and quiet, but you can tell that it’s kept the same environment since it’s creation almost 800 years ago.
Another fantastic Tavern we had the glory of visiting was in Dublin, Ireland. The Brazen Head is the oldest pub in Ireland and again, had an amazing atmosphere with rich history. The pub claimed to have been built in 1198 and has consistently housed brilliant thinkers and writers as well as other famous people too. The pub was a favorite of Jonathan Swift, who was the Dean at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, James Joyce visited this pub as he worked on his novels, Garth Brooks claimed it was his favorite place in Ireland and frequently played at their tiny venue. Photos line the walls of famous visitors from Will Ferrell to Macklemore. This pub is deceivingly large. When you walk through the first entryway, which is simply an arch in a wall, you are greeted with a massive outdoor seating area in a beautiful courtyard. You snake through the crowd to one of three separate indoor rooms. Each room is lined with dark wood tables and chairs and has corner booths perfect for a quiet meeting.
Regardless of all the museums I’ve visited, I’ve discovered that there really is history everywhere and a pub is no exception.