15. Brauerei Neder, Forchheim
#77 in our Top 100 Greatest Pubs and Bars in Europe
On our first visit to Forchheim last year we were keeping our powder dry en route to Bamberg, with only a single half litre of the amusingly-named kellerbier ‘Mauer – scheisser‘ at a high street lunch spot, but it was clear very quickly from wandering around the centre of town that we were missing out. No such mistake was made on our second visit, with the trip to Brauerei Neder the highlight…
Forchheim is blessed to boast 4 good breweries in the city boundaries, extraordinary for a town with a population of only 32,000. This cradle of traditional Franconian brewing culminates in the summer carnival Annafest, of which Brauerei Neder plays a major part. They brew a Dunkel style beer branded Schwarze Anna (Black Anna) which enjoys a supreme reputation. But outside of that, the pub (or rather Gaststätte) is so nice in its own right.
From the old fashioned entrance way with service hatch (for those in more direct need), through to the tap room, it’s an old-school pub environment inside. Unlike some brewpub operations, there is a clear community who use this place as their local, and it shows in the friendly atmosphere. You will find people happy being themselves, socialising and playing games rather than sitting in unattached groups waiting for food to arrive.
We haven’t mentioned the prices which are almost unbelievable, even for Franconia, itself an affordable region for Germany. This is the benefit of having zero distribution costs, this time passing the savings onto the consumer, unlike so many craft beer brewpubs). Yes, 2 euros 40 cents will secure a half-litre of their standard Landbier, which is as fresh and delicious as you could hope to find. That is half of what you can expect to pay in the city centres of Hamburg or Cologne – and for better beer!
Forchheim is easy to reach by train, in-between Bamberg and Nuremberg, themselves fantastic destinations, so you really have no excuse. This was one of the best bars of 2019 we discovered.
14. Salionas, Vilnius
#53 in our Top 100 Greatest Pubs and Bars in Europe
Vilnius has a handsome range of dive bars and ale pubs, but our discovery of Salionas showed the city has another string to its bow. Based in the old writer’s guild, the décor is breathtaking, and yet the bar still feels at home in the venue. The courtyard is tastefully decorated too, while the deckchair seating and bunting adds a welcome informal feel. Salionas is a wonderful choice for those into the opulent as well as the alternative. Not only one of the best bars of 2019 but highly placed in our Top 100.
13. Taverne St. Paul, Liège
#51 in our Top 100 Greatest Pubs and Bars in Europe
A Belgian brown café par excellence, this city centre pub offers all the key features that make such places so cosy and atmospheric.
Taverne St. Paul is what you would bring to your mind’s eye if someone mentioned a Belgian pub. The taproom has a reliable cast of paunchy old men leaning at the bar and holding forth, while the lounge area is as cosy as you could possibly wish for, with chunky upholstered furniture and a fireplace. Even TV screens manage not to spoil the experience. As with all these successful brown cafés, the appeal spans young, old, rich and poor.
St. Paul is not crammed with tourists like Brussels’ bars either; most, if not all you meet will be Liègeois. It’s both a damn good job though conversely, a crying shame it’s located in a messy and largely unappealing city to return to. But, to paraphrase a famous line from the film In Bruges: “…If it was somewhere good, it’d get too popular and ruin the whole thing.“
This article sets the scene magnificently, so it seems reasonable to regurgitate some trivia from it for your consumption:
“The building dates from 1663. It originally served as a postal relay, later it became a forge. There has been a tavern since 1881. In a first incarnation it bore the name Le Tonneau, after the wooden beer barrels that were piled up on the street side (the current name comes, very simply, from the church nearby). The facade is authentic and heralds from a distinct Maasland style. The interior, atmospheric and patinated, is more recent: 1952. Dark wood, mirrors, colored glass panels.”
12. Victoria Inn, Durham
#49 in our Top 100 Greatest Pubs and Bars in Europe
A local classic, we had the chance to visit Durham for the first time in many years and loved the Victoria. Find out more here in our full profile write up!
11. Opus Pistorium, Bari
#48 in our 100 Greatest Pubs and Bars in Europe
A bar serving high quality cocktails at reasonable prices in a beautiful, welcoming, yet clandestine environment. Quite simply the best bar in Bari and one of the best bars in 2019! Find out more about it here in our full profile write-up!
10. The Grove Inn, Huddersfield
#43 in our 100 Greatest Pubs and Bars in Europe
A cult beer pub for many years, this was our first visit to The Grove. There is more to it than the available tap options (which are manifold), with quirky décor, occasional live music and a lively community environment that even sat among the beer tickers still feels like a treasured neighbourhood corner boozer. Shall we say it? Go on then…it’s a ‘Grovey’ kind of love.
9. Keimling, Fürth
#42 in our Top 100 Greatest Pubs and Bars in Europe
Germany does a great line in beer halls and brew houses, but in between these and the smokey kneipen of Berlin, it is oddly short on traditional cosy pubs. Keimling was a terrific find as it offers a distinctly German experience but with the qualities of an olde English pub. This was one of the best bars of 2019 that we discovered on our travels.
Find out more about Keimling here in our full profile write up!
8. Domkeller, Aachen
#31 in our Top 100 Greatest Pubs and Bars in Europe
A central pub which hasn’t sold itself out is a fine thing indeed, and Domkeller in Aachen certainly hasn’t – it is a shining star. Cosy, friendly and sparkling with life, you could barely ask for a better option on a winter’s evening than being holed up in here.
Find out more here in our full profile write up! It is one of the best bars of 2019.
7. Fox & Goose, Hebden Bridge
Currently ranked #28 in our 100 Greatest Pubs and Bars in Europe
Despite several visits to Hebden Bridge, this community-owned venture (the first in West Yorkshire) somehow passed me by. This year we righted that wrong, and discovered a pub which fundamentally understands its assets and the needs and wants of its customers. Unpretentious yet versatile and thoroughly likeable, the Fox & Goose is made of a series of small rooms with communal seating, along with a garden terrace unintuitively located up a set of stairs, by consequence the steep slope the building is situated on.
A carefully chosen range of beers at fair prices, and some decent snacks set the basis for a lovely afternoon or evening. This place was almost as impressive as the Robin Hood Inn at nearby Cragg Vale, operating in a similar niche. The execution is so impressive it makes you wonder why more pubs can’t be like this.
6. Mleczarnia , Kraków
#23 in our 100 Greatest Pubs and Bars in Europe
Just when you thought there couldn’t be another atmospheric antiquey bar in Kraków, Mleczarnia appeared on our radar. I could barely believe we had walked past it so many times!
Bars like Singer, Eszeweria, Once Upon A Time and Alchemia are also inspired by the remaining traces of olde world Kazimierz, each designed to transport you to the golden age of the Jewish quarter. Sit on rickety furniture and sip your drink by candlelight surrounded by lamps, vintage photography and gilded frames crammed into every available piece of space going. You are surrounded by ghosts of the past.
The bar also operates a kiosk in a courtyard directly opposite, leading to some al fresco drinking opportunities, making it a much more versatile venue than may be immediately apparent. The comings and goings on a warm evening create a heady social atmosphere, and the most obvious impression is that everyone is having an extremely good time.
#21 in our 100 Greatest Pubs and Bars in Europe
We are always partial to a communist nostalgia bar (thinking of Proletaryat in Poznan, for example), but this special Romanian bar goes one step further by incorporating a museum in the basement to communist consumerism.
Our first visit was only this November and it was one of the best bars in 2019. You can read all about it here in our full profile write-up!
4. Chata Pod Rysmi, Mt. Rysy
#14 in our 100 Greatest Pubs and Bars in Europe
A mountain refuge accessible only on foot (via some chains and ladders too) Chata Pod Rysmi has its beer, vodka and other “essential” supplies delivered by volunteers on foot. There may be no electricity or plumbing, but the end effect in the afternoon and evening is, to all intents and purposes, a bar, with those staying the night sat in the common room drinking and chatting, as you would normally do.
A once in a lifetime experience, and a 10/10 venue, we wrote all about it in October here, in our full profile write up!
3. Le Pot Au Lait, Liège
#11 in our Top 100 Greatest Pubs and Bars In Europe
When writing our criteria we defined a 10/10 pub as “a venue worth justifying a trip to the place in and of itself”. Liège is a fantastic example where that’s true, as while it enjoys a healthy collection of decent pubs, the standout, Le Pot Au Lait is unique – as much an interactive work of art as it is a bar.
We are big fans of bars that go beyond what’s expected. Le Pot Au Lait is one such place exploding with creativity and ambition.
Think of the fairytale fancy of El Bosc Des Les Fades, blended with the atmospheric courtyard of a Hungarian ruin bar and the rabbit hole curio of a Brussels impasse bar.
The decor is verdant, psychedelic, and at times macabre, taking major inspiration from the surrealist movement. It’s truly original, though quite alike Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna, you’ll need to watch your step as the floor in the courtyard is deliberately rendered uneven – not a helpful combination with drunkenness, to say the least!
You wouldn’t tell by looking, but the place is already 30 years old (allowing it to genuinely make a claim to be a trend-setter, not trend-follower) and was spawned from a series of previous cafés which it has built upon in its style and format.
The bar is located in the building itself, surrounded by tables in a central area, which successfully adds to the communal and friendly feel. Although a place like this naturally attracts youngsters, the crowd is genuinely mixed, with some middle class couples and people of various backgrounds also enjoying the environment out on the terrace.
Drinks are pretty reasonably priced considering all this – Liège is a working city rather than a tourist city, and it shows with the quality of drinks you can buy at a fair price. A nice selection too – while this is almost guaranteed in Belgium, the choices on tap are a little different and they have some seasonal rotations too.
As you might imagine, this all adds up to one hell of a terrific bar. The good thing being so detached from signs of the outside world (thematically and architecturally) is it works well as a venue to visit during the day, while becoming truly fantastic during the evenings. If you ask your mate if they fancy one in Le Pot, they’ll find it hard to turn down.
Better still, with closing times stretching until the early hours of the morning (except for relatively sedate midnight closing on Sundays), the experience can become a thoroughly consuming one. We’re delighted to squeeze Le Pot Au Lait into our Top 10!
2. Roncsbár, Debrecen
#10 in our Top 100 Greatest Pubs and Bars in Europe.
The best ruin bar outside Budapest, this place deserves its 10/10 award, so good that it is near the top of Debrecen’s cultural attractions despite being ‘only a bar’. Wonderful design, this versatile and atmospheric venue offers a little something for everyone.
We wrote about Roncsbár in February and the review quickly became our most visited! You can read it here.
1.Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, London
#7 in our 100 Greatest Pubs and Bars in Europe.
Unlike the more obscure bars above, there is nothing unknown about this famous Dickensian boozer on Fleet Street. There are 3,189 live Google reviews at the time of writing, which is a very high turnover of feedback for a pub. There is a reason this is the case.
While far too many ‘historic pubs’ in London have been inelegantly taken over by chain bars, with their chain branding fecklessly retrofitted into the creakier surroundings, Sam Smiths, for all its faults, knows better than that.
The entrance and ground floor bar area possesses such an atmosphere it can fairly be described as one of the ultimate preserved English taverns, with a roaring fire and candle lit tables, and a sense of coming and going which fits in with the busy city atmosphere. In fact, the lack of natural light seems to be one of the more appealing aspects about it with people seeking out company and good times in the gloom.
The building itself is a Grade II listed public house and was rebuilt shortly after the great fire of London, though there has been a tavern at the site since 1538, with the cellars reportedly even older than that, belonging to a 13th century Carmelite monastery.
The numerous literary connections to The Cheshire Cheese make sense given the Fleet Street location (not to mention the fact that writers are often the best people to ask about good pubs!)
Unlike many historic pubs where the details may as well be read out from pages in a book, this pub still lives and breathes the years gone by making the experience itself as valuable as the bare facts and figures. This is a rarity in London and indeed the country in general.
Undoubtedly this adds to the experience. While the various subterranean levels are adequate and enjoyable, the core enjoyment is the wander up the alley and the entrance to the bar area and taproom, before – hopefully – finding a seat with your friends for the evening. Good luck with that task.
Such an impression was made on this author that we now hold the place in among our top 10 bars in Europe, one of the best bars of 2019 and a deserved 10/10 score is applied. Visit at once.