Europe's best pubs and bars
When traveling, it’s no secret that hotel concierge services have long held the real keys to a city. They know where the hidden gems are, the best place to grab a steak, and of course – where the best pubs and bars are. If you could ask a concierge to name the perfect place to grab a drink in Europe, there’s a good chance the following 19 would make the cut.
- Venture underground to this speakeasy for classic cocktails inspired by the 1930’s and 40’s. Situated in a mock underground tube station, the doorman will pretend he knows nothing about the bar you’re looking for unless you convince him otherwise and tell him the “Captain” is expecting you. Reservations are smart.
- Down a small, nondescript alleyway lies one of the oldest pubs in the city, Ye Olde Mitre. Built in 1546 for the Bishops of Ely, it might well be the oldest continuously operating pub in London. If it’s beer and cider you seek, Ye Olde Mitre is where you need to be.
- Located on the infamous Fleet Street, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is well-known for its literary connections. Mark Twain, G.K. Chesterton, Charles Dickens are just a few famous literary figures known to have been regulars here. With gorgeously dark, wood-beamed ceilings, stone walls and open fireplaces, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese invites you to stay a spell, enjoy a beverage and maybe even a meat pie. We promise Sweeney Todd isn’t manning the kitchen.
- With a richly appointed wood-paneled interior, The Blue Bell prides itself in being a “proper pub, for proper people,” and with good reason: their first pint was pulled in 1798, and hasn’t stopped since.
- Hidden above a bottle shop, the House of the Trembling Madness is a hidden gem well worth the effort to find it. Walk through the shop to the ambling staircase in the back and into a medieval bar that could have been created by Gaston of Walt Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” The wooden floor creaks ominously as you walk in and hunt for a table amongst the pelt and antler adorned space.
If you want to start a fight, debate the merits of Irish and English pubs between an Irish and British citizen. I personally would call it a tie, but don’t tell either country that!
- A tavern in some form has existed on this site since the 1780s, and one glimpse of the interior backs that up. From the intricately carved Victorian woodwork to the neat mosaic marble-tiled floors this pub’s atmosphere is as great as their drinks.
- Step back in time when you walk into Ireland’s oldest pub. Dating back to 1198, and famously referenced in James Joyce’s book “Ulysses”, there is an unmistakable sense of history as the ancient, weathered stone walls seem to wrap around you – inviting you to simply relax and let the chaos of the outside world pass you by.
- Today, Budapest is a thriving, modernizing city enjoying year-over-year increases in tourism, but that wasn’t always the case. After WWII, Hungary fell into the former Eastern bloc and under Communist rule. For 50 years, the state-controlled most of the economy, but in 1989 free elections and a democratic government finally emerged. Free enterprise moved in, and entrepreneurs started to transform languishing relics left by the former regime into creative new urban uses, many as bars and pubs. Budapest does “retro-hip” in a way no other city has matched, by creating “ruin bars”. Abandoned apartment blocks, mechanic shops, department stores and more are now some of the best places in town for a drink. There are literally hundreds of ruin bars scattered throughout the city, but perennial favorites are: Szimpla Kert, Kuplung and Ellato Kert.
Biercafé Gollum (Ramsteeg 4)
- In a cozy café just off the hustle and bustle of the busy Centrum area, is the world-famous Gollem café. With over 200 beers in stock, 14 on tap, and several varieties of the hard-to-find Westvletranen, you are sure to find that perfect tasty beverage.
Consistently rated as one of the top beer countries in the world, and home to six of the eleven Trappist breweries (Westvleteren, Westmalle, Achel, Rochefort, Orval, and Chimay), Belgium has zero shortage of amazing bars and pubs – and a few surprises.
- Watch the Leie River float by when you grab a seat at the Het Waterhuis. With plenty of hard-to-find Trappist brews, this is a quaint pub made for relaxing and people watching.
- A tiki bar probably isn’t your first thought when you head to Belgium, but you don’t want to miss this gem, which has also snagged a coveted spot in the “World’s Best Bars” listings. With fresh ingredients, expertly crafted cocktails and whimsical island décor, it won’t take long to feel like you really are in the South Pacific.
- With steep stairs that open into below-ground cavernous spaces, Bruges does cellar bars as Budapest does ruin bars. Most street signage is at waist-level or lower, making the hunt part of the charm. Favorites are Bierbrasserie Cambrinus, Duvelorium, and Le Trappiste.
- Consistently rated as one of the top hotel bars in the world in the “Oscars” of cocktail competition – “Tales of the Cocktail”, the Black Angel’s Bar is a must-do while in Prague. Located in the historic stone cellar of the Hotel U Prince in the heart of Old Town, the bar evokes the feeling of stepping into a black and white movie from a long-gone era. A few notes: no pictures allowed; reservations are smart. With cut-glass decanters and glittering Bohemian crystal chandeliers catching the candlelight, you might want to class it up a bit before you enter.
The Atrium Bar, Radisson Blu Hotel
- Towering 25 meters high in the hotel lobby of the Radisson Blu is the AquaDom -a shimmering blue cylindrical aquarium. Over 110 different species of tropical fish flit through the aquarium – a flash of silvers, sunset oranges and neon blues catching the light streaming in from the hotel’s glass ceiling. Beneath the mesmerizing swirling water is the chic Atrium Bar. Lamps take the form of sea anemones, perched atop pearlescent cocktail tables. Crescent blue chairs dot the space like seashells, and the drinks here are just as perfect as the atmosphere.
- The Sion has been serving up Kölsch beer since 1318. Just like the Champagne Region of France, for a beer to be a true Kölsch, it must be brewed exclusively in and around Cologne to earn the name.
Whether you are looking for the perfectly poured pint, the best scenery, or the tastiest cocktail – these gems might just end up being the highlight of your trip!
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