Are you looking to go to the best bars in Madison, WI? Our complete guide can help you find the best spots in the city. Don’t miss out! 

Attention all Badgers! Madison, Wisconsin, isn’t just about cheese curds and lakes; it can be a drinker’s paradise. So, if you’re looking for the best bars where you can unwind after a long week of lectures, exams, and everything else that comes with student life, I’ve got you covered.

It’s time to stop wasting time at sub-par bars and lame pubs. If you want to get the most out of your student experience, you need to know where to spend your hard-earned cash. Not only will I point out the best spots, but I’m going to divide them into practical categories so you can find the exact type of bar you need to make the most out of your student experience!

So, grab your fake ID (just kidding, *wink-wink*) because it’s time to discover the best watering holes in the city!

The Best Bars for Partying and Wild Nights With the Boys

The Kollege Klub – An Icon Since 1953

This historic college-town-style watering hole has everything you need if you’re looking for a big night of heavy drinking. On the right night, this place is lit. Cheap drinks, loud music, and a student-friendly vibe = pretty much everything you and the boys need to get wild.

It can get pretty busy, especially if there’s a big game during the day, but it definitely should be on any student’s list.

The Wisco – Great Food, Cold Beer

The Wisco has served as a classic dive bar for students and locals alike since 1989. If you’re a beer drinker, they have plenty of micro and macro beers on tap, plus a fully equipped bar if you’re looking for something a little bit stiffer than beer. They also serve a good burger if you want to line your stomach before getting lost in the sauce.

Plus, this bar has some fun features if you’re looking for a memorable night with the boys. Volleyball, pool, karaoke, and plenty of live music can make for a memorable night (if you don’t drink your face off and forget it).

Remember, it’s cash only, so you’ll want to hit an ATM before you go.

Best Bars for Hooking Up:

State Street Brats – Surprisingly Good Hunting Grounds

You might think I’m crazy, but this is a surprisingly good bar to check out if your Tinder game has been lacking. Not only is it a must-go spot for students, so you’ll meet plenty of potential partners your own age, but it’s actually a really fun spot to chill if you strike out.

This unique bar might be better known for its beer, bratwurst, and cheese curds, but the atmosphere also lends well to mingling and finding a new “study buddy.” There are also plenty of opportunities for easy ice-breaking moments if you’re on the shy side. Challenge someone you fancy to a game of pool, or just strike up a conversation. It’s far from an intimidating environment.

Best Bars for Food and Classic Pub Grub

The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co. – Great Food and a Lively Atmosphere 

While it may be a chain, The Great Dane is still a great place that offers everything you’d ever want if you have a craving for classic pub food and good beer. They regularly change the roster of craft beers they have on tap, which is huge news for fans of craft beer.

On the food front, the pub eats are fire. From classics, like burgers and fries, to more modern culinary options, they’ve got you covered. They even have vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options if you’re looking to cater to a larger group.

After you’re done stuffing your face, have some fun by exploring the beer garden or shooting some pool.

Best Bars to Drown Your Sorrows

• Brocach Irish Pub – A Wee Bit of Ireland in Madison

Nobody knows how to cure sadness with a good pub quite like the Irish. Whether you’re dealing with a tough breakup, want to forget some poor grades, or just want a dimly lit, friendly pub to enjoy, Brocach has exactly what you need. With plenty of rustic charm, you don’t want to miss out.

The Coopers Tavern – The Perfect Quiet Spot to Tip a Few

Another good spot to unwind in the Madison area when you’re not at your best is The Coopers Tavern. With dim lighting, light music, and friendly bartenders who have heard it all, it’s the perfect quiet corner to grab a pint and sort out your problems. Plus, they have great food and an impressive beer menu.

Best Family-Friendly Sports Bar

Jordan’s Big 10 Pub – Watch the Game and Crush Some Beer

Whether you’re a sports fan looking for a place to spend game day, or you’re just looking for a family-friendly spot where you can take your folks, Jordan’s is a football-themed sports tavern that has a great menu, approachable atmosphere, and plenty of student-friendly drink specials.

They have a huge beer menu, so you don’t have to worry if your pops wouldn’t touch craft beer with a 10-foot pole. During the day, it’s definitely got that parent-friendly vibe, but don’t let that fool you, it can get pretty wild at night. In fact, it regularly ranks as one of the best college bars in the state (the drink and food specials definitely help)!

Final Words 

Madison, Wisconsin, definitely boasts an impressive bar scene (300+)! Whether you’re in the mood to chill, dance, or look for a date, you’ll find what you need if you’re willing to explore.

With that said, you still should be careful on a night out. Never drink and drive, avoid confrontations (I know, sometimes easier said than done), and avoid creeps. If you have a bit of street smarts, it’s a great student town for drinking and bar hopping!

So, scrounge up some cash and throw on some clean clothes. Remember, college is about making memories, as well as nights you can barely remember. Cheers!


  • Chris Kane

    Chris Kane is a military veteran and former business owner currently living in the Des Moines, Iowa, metro. Chris is an inveterate entrepreneur and avid web developer who is not shy about sharing his opinions.