Nightlife in Birmingham: Best Bars, Clubs, & More

Atomic Lounge

Courtesy of Atomic Lounge

By day, Birmingham is a family-friendly town with dozens of shady parks, quirky neighborhoods dotted with antique shops and local boutiques, and world-class museums celebrating everything from the Civil Rights movement to jazz, auto racing, and fine art. But it's also a city with a thriving nightlife, with several breweries offerings tastings and live music well in the evening in addition to intimate cocktails lounges, dive bars, and lively clubs. Five Points South and Lakeview are two neighborhoods known for their evening scene, though great rooftop bars, elegant dining rooms with outstanding wine and cocktail programs, and chill watering holes and pubs can be found throughout the city.

Whether you're looking to sample local brews on a patio, hear the next big band at a neighborhood pub, drink cocktails with rooftop views, or a dance club with the hottest DJ, Birmingham's nightlife offers something for everyone. Here's everything you need to know about going out after dark in Alabama's largest city.

large periodic table chart on the back

Courtesy of Collins Bar

Bars 

Birmingham's bar scene is varied, lively, and neighborhood-centric. Five Points South and Lakeview have long been hubs for nightlife, though great bars can be found in every pocket of the city including retro bars whipping up fancy cocktails, local breweries offering tastings and live music, and lively spots with arcade games and beers on tap. Whether it's your first stop for happy hour or final destination for a night cap, these are some of the city's go-to bars:

  • Collins Bar: This retro-cool bar in the city's loft district offers a mix of local brews and creative cocktails, plus a kitchen that stays open late on weekends serving up comfort food classics like grilled cheese and meatloaf sliders.
  • Lou's Pub and Package Store: Part liquor store, part bar, Lou's is a Lakeview mainstay, where locals linger for hours on barstools in the wood-paneled interior or on the patio in warmer months, sipping classic cocktails and taking in the occasional live music. Buy a bottle to go for an impromptu picnic at one of the city's many parks.
  • Avondale Brewing Company: Come for the cleverly named beers that celebrate its namesake historic neighborhood—like the Missy Fancy's tripel, a nod to a famous elephant that once lived at the local zoo—and stay for its concert series, which includes local bands, burlesque shows, and drag brunches.
  • Paramount Bar: Located downtown, this is the spot for good drinks and arcade games, like Tron, Skeeball, and Mario Kart. The bar menu is a mix of standard burgers, sandwiches, and other snacks, plus large salads and beer, wine, and original cocktails.
  • Carrigan's Public House: Enjoy local beer, craft cocktails, and elevated pub fare liked loaded totchos (tater tot nachos) and brats with beer cheese at this local favorite, which has locations in downtown, Lakeview, and Mountain Brook.
  • The Roof at the Redmont: Locals and visitors alike gather at this rooftop bar in the city's oldest hotel-for DJs, drinks, dancing, and panoramic views of the city.

Nightclubs

From sprawling multi-floor nightclubs to cabarets to dive bars, Birmingham's nightclub scene offer something for everyone.

  • Nana Funk's: Open until 6 a.m. on the weekends, this Lakeview club has a bit of everything: electronic dartboards, local beer tastings, DJs, and late-night dancing. On Tuesday through Friday, happy hour starts at 4 p.m., which drink specials as low as $2 for domestic beers and open pool tables.
  • Al's on 7th: This Lakeview LGBTQ+ bar is one of the city's largest. The 8,000 square foot space features an expansive outdoor patio, three bars, and a large dance floor and stage for everything from movie screenings to karaoke and drag shows.
  • The Vault Bar and Lounge: This dark and lively bank vault-themed bar regularly features live music and in-house DJs.
  • Atomic Lounge: From outrageous costumes and mid-century modern decor to exceptionally original cocktails & more, this spot never disappoints.

Live Music and Performance

Like the rest of the state of Alabama, Birmingham has a booming local music scene, having birthed icons like singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris, R&B singer Big Mama Thornton, and rock keyboardist Chuck Leavell. Hear local bands, up-and-coming artists, and big touring acts at intimate neighborhood spots and dive bars as well as larger venues throughout the city.

  • Tin Roof: This Lakeview bar has one of the city's best patios, both indoor and outdoor stages, and serves up daily drink specials and "better than bar food" like a street corn quesadilla and a Nashville-style hot chicken sandwich. At nights, regular concerts from local and performing artists and karaoke and bingo nights keep things fun. Not a night owl? Don't miss "Music & Mimosas" every Sunday, with live music kicking off at noon.
  • Oasis Bar: Just steps away from the Tin Roof, this intimate, laid-back bar is the place for a casual happy hour, round of darts, and constant rotation of live music.
  • Jazzi's On 3rd: Tucked inside the city's historic theatre district, this bar offers live jazz music from local and celebrated national artists as well as food and drinks each Friday from 6 p.m. to midnight.
  • The Nick: From punk to bluegrass, rock, and indie, this Lakeview spot has been the city's go-to spot for live music for over 30 years, hosting the likes of John Mayer, Alabama Shakes, and the Black Keys before they were household names. While there's no cover, there is a $5 annual club membership fee to enter.
  • Zydeco: Another Five Points South gem, this intimate spot hosts local and touring bands ranging from hip hop to rock, which you can enjoy while drinking a cocktail or local beer, dining on Cajun-inspired cuisine, or playing a round of pool.
  • Iron City Birmingham: With 1,200 seats, this downtown venue is part bar and grill, part entertainment venue, and hosts big-name acts throughout the year.

Festivals

Birmingham has a packed festival calendar, with events kicking off in the spring and stretching through the summer and fall months. Many of the events are free, making them ideal for visitors with families or on a budget.

In the spring, Magic City Art Connection—the city's largest outdoor arts festival takes place the last weekend in April each year and features more than 200 juried fine artists from across the country as well as dance performances, live music, art workshops for children, art installations, and cooking demonstrations. In May, the Bob Sykes BBQ & Blues Festival is held in historic downtown Bessemer and includes eight hours of music from local and touring musicians, family activities, and an artist market.

Summer brings the Taste of 4th Avenue Jazz Festival, a free event with local and national jazz and R&B acts as well as DJs, poets, and comedians and a large children's area. The Sidewalk Film Festival, which spotlights the work of independent filmmakers in a week-long event in the city's theatre district. 

Fall events include the Birmingham Greek Festival and Bluff Park Art Show in October, while each winter, downtown's Railroad Park transforms into a holiday playground, complete with twinkling lights, holiday decor, and an ice skating rink that's open from Thanksgiving Day through mid-January as part of Birmingham's Winter Wonderland. On Wednesday through Sunday evenings in November, December, and January, the Birmingham Zoo lights up with hundreds of large lanterns featuring polar bears, pandas, and other creatures as part of Glow Wild: An Animal Lantern Celebration.

Tips for Going Out in Birmingham

  • The Magic City Connector—the city's tourist transit bus—runs between Uptown and downtown Homewood until 10 p.m., which is an economical choice if turning in early and visiting spots along its route.
  • If you plan on being out late, be prepared to walk, hail a taxi, or use a ride-share service like Lyft or Uber.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and stick with your group. While Birmingham is a relatively safe city, it only takes one wrong turn to end up in a deserted area.
  • While reservations generally aren't required for most bars and nightclubs, they are recommended for large parties, special occasions, and live music events.
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