As a city that bloomed during the industrial revolution, it’s no surprise that Derby has plenty of vintage watering holes favouring real ale and craft beers. A Midlands mecca for beer, Derby has no fewer than 16 CAMRA-approved pubs.
The oldest of these is Ye Olde Dolphin Inne, in Queen Street, said to date back to 1530. A Grade II listed building, the pub is full of 16th century features including low ceilings, wooden beams and etched lead windows and pays homage to the main features of a good pub, namely good food and even better beer. The pub is also reputedly haunted, so if you see Dick Turpin or Bonnie Prince Billy wandering past, it might not just be the beer talking.
Another traditional pub with a long history, Seven Stars is a welcoming establishment that dates back to 1680. With two main rooms, including a back room with a darts board, and a raised patio at the front for summer pints, it prides itself on its real ales – although with a minute cellar, they can only host four hand-pulled pints at any one time. That said, keep an eye out for their regular beer festivals throughout the year when they import bottled beer from around the world.
Moving forward in time again, The Friary is a Grade II listed Victorian-era building that started life as a hotel. Now converted into a popular pub, it’s a modern space boasting a wide range of beers, wines and spirits as well as a strong food menu including dozens of vegetarian and gluten-free options – oh, and 2-for-1 deals on all desserts. If there’s live sport on, it’ll be shown on their various screens while they also host regular karaoke nights. It’s also the perfect pre-drinking spot for Popworld, the shamelessly cheesy nightclub that’s just next door and open until 3am every night apart from Tuesday and Thursday.
A real ale pub that doubles up as one of the city’s best live music spots, The Flowerpot has long been a favourite amongst Derby drinkers. Open daily and just around the corner from the cathedral, the pub regularly puts on live music including plenty of cover bands as well as touring national bands and local acts. Expect live music every Friday and Saturday night from around 9.30pm and on some weekday nights as well. And make sure to come hungry as the Nepalese menu is as delicious as it is unexpected.
Another modern take on a pub is the Blessington Carriage on Chapel Street. With a strong rock and indie soundtrack, the pub is open until 2am every weekend serving an impressive range of cider, lager, real ales and spirits along with a burger-friendly food menu. They’ve got plenty of modern entertainment options as well, including a pool table, darts board and – for the retro gamers out there – a Sega Megadrive.
While Derby’s pub scene is a mix of the old and the new, the city’s bar scene is an altogether more modern affair.
Taking its inspiration from American dive bars, The Brooklyn Social is a dim, neon-lit backstreet bar spread over three floors. Busy at weekends, the Social specialises in a strong burger menu, quality cocktails (try the Derby Julep, a mix of whisky-infused Earl Grey tea, peach and mint) and imported beers. With cool design touches throughout mixing street art, vintage furniture and a working photo booth, the bar is the right side of hipster and well worth checking out.
Just a short stumble from there is The Distillery in Friar Gate, a cool two-level bar that takes its spirits very seriously indeed. Head upstairs to the whisky and cocktail lounge, home to Derby’s most extensive collection of Scottish malts, or try their impressive range of cask ales and beers. The food is divided into sharing plates, mains and burgers, but the bar – and its impressive bartenders – are the real draw here.
If you prefer your spirits from a little further afield, then head over the road to Revolución de Cuba in The Strand. The chain bar is one of the busiest in Derby, and with good reason – the Cuban-inspired menu is packed full of rich flavours while the cocktails are poured with precision. The bottomless brunch every Sunday is outrageously good value too, with unlimited food and drink for the entire session.
Another popular chain bar is the Pitcher and Piano, also in Friar Gate. As you’d expect, they offer fine wine, a good selection of beer and a refined atmosphere. Sit on the heated terrace or sprawl on their leather sofas inside with a glass of red or one of their well-honed collection of beers, or up the ante and go for one of their signature cocktails (we can recommend their Rum Royale concoction).
If you’d like to venture out a bit later, The Blue Note is a truly historic bar and club now into its fourth decade. During its 80s peak, the club hosted names like Bo Diddley, The Human League and UB40, while it’s now a popular late-night drinking den open every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday with a playlist focused on commercial dance music and pop.
Whether you want to sample Derby's vibrant nightlife, or explore some of the East Midland's top attractions, there are several well-located Derby hotels for you to choose from, all within a couple of miles of the city centre.
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