Best Pubs in Western and Central Europe (well…some of them!)
Usually, the thought of a tasty, ice cold brew at the end of a long trek is what keeps even the most intrepid traveler fueled and focused when life on the road gets a little hard going. Thankfully, pretty much everywhere you go in Europe you’re up to your waist in world-class brew, and better yet, a veritable variety of amazing venues in which to relax, unwind and meet great people while you enjoy that well-earned ale.
The Old World attracts considerable tourism through its magnificent architecture, rich history and vibrant array of culture, yet it’s drinking tradition is second to none in terms of breadth, quality and abundance. From Western Spain to Turkey, from Morocco to the crisp Baltics, every nook in Europe prides itself on its own flavors and cozy settings in which to enjoy them.
Ultimately, distilling a comprehensive Best Pubs Guide for the whole of Europe is an immense task. For your consideration and abundant drinking pleasure, I present the following brief, sample quencher which features just a few of the finest watering holes on tap:
Picture a bustling, cavernous barn hall filled with drinkers from every part of the world chanting national songs, while dancing and drinking to their hearts’ content. Picture busty froelines ferrying stein after stein to an endlessly thirsty clientele while oom-pa-pa bands in lederhosen blow Bavarian tunes on brass, fueling the night’s conviviality. If Bavaria is a beer connoisseur’s paradise, and Munich is Bavaria’s beer-drinking consciousness, then Hofbrauhaus is surely the region’s lifeblood. It is an institution providing patrons with an unforgettable experience. Beers here are plentiful and arrive in traditional one liter steins bigger than one’s head. Select from a hearty range of authentic Bavarian Weisse and dark beers, and soak it all up with some rich plates of traditional bratwurst and Hofbrauhaus sauerkraut.
80331 Munich, Germany
Ireland—Dublin—“Grogan’s Castle Lounge”
Seventies décor, well worn bar stools and threadbare sofas, a friendly crew of old timers and a magnificent pint of Guinness—this is the real Dublin. The craic is mighty at Grogan’s, a well-heralded local institution and ‘auld fella’s pub if ever there was one. Leave all pretensions at the door; Grogan’s is warts n’ all a ‘real’ pub—what you see is what you get, and as far as bar experiences go, it’ll be more unique than anywhere else in town.
15 William St South
Dublin 2, Ireland
Ireland—Dublin—“The Guinness Storehouse”
More a tourist spectacle than a pub per se, we couldn’t overlook the inspired glory the Dublin Storehouse’s amazingly fresh, creamy to perfection pint of Guinness. With stunning panoramic views, the freshness of the brew and the aesthetic experience will beat any other in Ireland, or the world for that matter. This truly is the home of the perfect pint.
St James’s Gate
Co. Dublin, Ireland
01 408 4800
By far the most frequented tourist nook in Dublin, it’s hard to miss Temple Bar, the central hub and core drinking quarter of the city. Cobblestone walkways and alleys line a lively, decorated collusion of traditional Irish pubs (or as the Irish call them, “Pubs”). It is, indeed, a bustling, jovial and wild scene, pretty much every night of the week. It’s an easy pub-crawl at Temple Bar. Take your pick of the bunch and soak up the vibe of Dublin’s historical drinking epicenter.
UK—London—“The White Horse”
Airy ceilings, Chesterfield leather sofas and a slightly upmarket Victorian feel mark this gem as one of London’s finest. Perched in the leafy neighborhood of Fulham, the “Sloany Pony,” as it is known to locals, is an institution with over eight different brews on tap, comfortable surrounds and an ever-diverse clientele. This grande old mare guarantees a tremendous night, and an even greater afternoon session. Sunday’s are big at the WH, and in summer, the outdoor burgers on the barbecue provide a delicious accompaniment to the glorious selections of traditional and organic brews.
1-3 Parsons Green,
Nestled in the guts of the action in edgy Camden, Dublin Castle is a classic olde English watering hole and is well known as the spiritual home of local two-tone upstarts. With oversized portraits and signed photos of the band lining the interior, Dublin Castle is essentially their spiritual home, but all are welcome to revel in the glory. Offering a hearty selection of brews, the Dublin Castle is straight-up pub charm with a cozy vibe, a smattering of history and the perfect, cloistered setting for a good night’s worth of English drinking. The pub also operates as a band venue, with a rear band room, so be sure to check out local listing guides for current gigs and concerts.
Czech Republic—Cesky Krumlov—“Horror Bar”
In the quaint, foggy, medieval town of Cesky Krumlov, there lurks an underground cavern on a bed of stone, adorned with bluestone stairs and very little natural light. Folks, this is the Horror Bar—a gothic drinking dungeon fit for humans and the walking dead alike. One can enjoy Halloween all year round with an ample regime of local Pilsners at very little cost, blood red shots in test tubes and the deathly green concoction “Becherovka” that is guaranteed to leave a dent in the morning. Use caution when thanking the bar staff, as even the humblest nod of the head here seems to translate to “another round, please.” There’s nothing horrible about drinking at the Horror Bar.
Czech Republic—Prague—“Tiki Taky Bar”
In a city brimming with outstanding pubs and incredibly affordable beer prices, it’s inherently difficult to choose the best from the best. This quaint little expat bar, however, certainly sticks out from the rest. You’ll swear you’ve landed in Hawaii circa 1967. This place is a charming nook adorned with bamboo interior, tiki motifs, colorful décor and friendly staff. With a 5 am closing time, cheap, tasty fruit cocktails, and smooth lounge tunes, Tiki Taky is a completely incongruent drinking experience against the Old Bloc feel of the backstreets of Prague 3.
Praha 3, Žižkov
Scotland—Edinburgh—“The Nicol Edwards”
Arguably the most haunted venue of all Edinburgh if not the most famous, this underground cavern is extremely popular with locals and students for it’s handsome drink prices and curiously spooky vibe. Shady, claustrophobic and connected to an underground network of medieval vaults that lurk beneath the street level, the Nicol prides itself on its somewhat dank, dingy reputation. But it’s all a part of the experience, with several hidden nooks, vault crannies and a downstairs bar with live music, the cloistered vibe here satisfies, keeping spines tingling, hairs on end, and pint glasses ever full to the brim.
35 Niddry St
Edinburgh EH1 1LG
Spain—Barcelona—El Raval District
The Spanish know good cerveza, good wine and good times. Ultimately, there are just too many excellent hole-in-the-wall bars, pubs and cafes to mention in Barcelona, but for a good cluster of options in a concentrated nook, check out the lively multicultural El Raval district adjacent La Ramblas. Smooth, chilled out sunset sessions, communal cervezas in the wee hours in cloistered tapas bars, El Raval provides a vibrant hub of nightly excitement that buzzes with action.
Belgium—Brussels—”Au Bon Vieux Temps”
Positioned neatly a good distance from the tourist buzz of the Belgian capital’s many bars and brasseries, Au Bon Vieux Temps is a favorite with locals and visitors in the know. Showcasing a modest yet ample selection of Trappist brews and infused beers, if not the extensive list of hundreds present in some other Belgian venues, the staff is warm and attentive, dedicated to fine brew and providing a relaxed atmosphere. A former monastery in the 1600’s, this really is a pub for locals that features a gorgeous old-style bar with tons of charm.
Impasse St. Nicholas 4,
off Rue Marché Aux Herbes 12
Belgium—Bruges—”‘t Brugs Beertje”
A Bruges (in Dutch it is Brugge) specialty beer house since 1983, ‘t Brugs Beertje is a big attraction for tourists passing through, with it’s over 300 different beer selections, a charming, centuries old setting, and sincere dedication to a truly memorable drinking experience. Not far from the main town square, ‘t Brugs Beertje knows how to pour an excellent beer, with humble, helpful service, a regularly rotating draft beer roster and a thoughtful selection of pub snacks.
Written by Cam Hassard for EuropeUpClose.com