Our Detailed A to Z of Bar Styles In Europe
(Nearly A-Z, anyway!)
- A business, such as an inn or tavern, where ale is sold.
A popular term to distinguish a drinking hole from being a pub or bar. Often these places fall somewhere inbetween the two, but the term in my mind still feels unnecessary and not necessarily indicative of what to expect, limiting its descriptive usefulness.
Literally, a counter from which beer is poured, however in common usage it refers to a venue, and you will see many larger bierhalles and brauhauses make space for a ‘Schenke’ (similar sounding to Szynk, a Polish term for pub), usually a small communal area next to the taps where you can get a beer served and drunk super quick. While some are a little too utilitarian, being set up for short business, they can also have real atmosphere.
Example: Aachener Brauhaus, Aachen, Germany
- A cheap tavern
Traditionally signifying homely down-to-earth venues offering port, wine, sherry, spirits, though more recently beer. Often they will provide musical performances, so you pay a cover fee on entry which covers the cost of drinks and sundry snacks.
Example: A Baiuca – Fado Vadio, Alfama, Lisbon, Portugal (full European Bar Guide review)
- A business licensed to sell alcoholic drinks for consumption on the premises, or the premises themselves; public house.
- The counter of such a premises.
- A counter, or simply a cabinet, from which alcoholic drinks are served in a private house or a hotel room.
- by extension, In combinations such as coffee bar, juice bar etc. A premises or counter serving any type of beverage.
- An establishment where alcohol and sometimes other refreshments are served.
Any drinking establishment with a bar area could reasonably be called a bar, so this is a safe term one can use fairly broadly. However once you start adding comfortable communal seating and other amenities such as food, pub is a more suitable term to use.
baras m (plural bãrai) stress pattern 1
- bar place where alcoholic beverages are sold
A reasonably catch-all term in Lithuanian for a pub or bar. Easy to remember as well.
Vienna is famous for its culinary culture and the local Beisls are a must-visit in this field. The word Beisl (or Beisel) is probably Jewish and it originates from the word Bajiss, which means house. Beisls, which evolved in the 18th century are inns offering local specialities. The style of a Beisl is like trattoria in Italy or Kneipe in Germany.
Example: Zur eisernen Zeit, Vienna, Austria
(German & Austrian)
It describes in direct literal terms what you can expect. Cavernous halls with long communal tables which specialise in churning out high volumes of easy-to-drink lager and hearty food. Associated with Bavaria for a number of reasons but there are plenty of authentic venues elsewhere.
Example: Hofbräuhaus, München, Germany
Insel meaning “island”, this term has more than a hint of refuge about it. Relatively common in Austria, especially Vienna. Not to be confused with the Bierpinsel (Beer brush) in Berlin, a piece of modern architecture.
(German & Austrian)
a bar or pub in Austria or Germany, especially one in a basement.
An underground bierhalle, in the cellar!
Example: Bar Fusser, Nuremberg, Germany
The word bierstub is an Alsatian word composed of ” beer “, meaning, of course ” beer “, and the word “stub” which designates the heated room in winter of traditional Alsatian houses.
Example: Le Schluch, Strasbourg, France
(German & Austrian)
- a room or other place (as in a German or German-style tavern) used primarily for the serving of beer
Literally beer room. These places should be small and to-the-point minimal, focused on drink. Often these days the term is used for marketing rather than any strict application of the definition, so in terms of what you can expect to find, that may differ a little. Often these places will not open until mid-late afternoon.
Example: Mogk’s Bierstube, Frankfurt, Germany
(Bosnia & Former Balkan states)
Translating to ‘Tavern’, these days any use of Birtija is more to conjure up nostalgia for times past, than being in every day usage. This is partly due to the standardised “Caffe Bar” format in the region, which itself is a result of licensing laws. If you find anything called Birtija, give it a try.
Example: Birtija, Sarajevo, Bosnia
(Spanish & Danish)
In Spanish, a Bodega is similar to an Osteria (see below) but in Danish the term is completely different, referring to dark, smokey, usually cheaper working class drinking holes. Hopefully a Dane can help me explain why they adopted this word.
Spanish Example: Bodega Bellver, Palma di Mallorca, Spain
Danish Example: Toga Vin- og Ølstue, Copenhagen, Denmark
A colloquial term for a drinks-focused establishment, routinely on the more common and working-class side. Effectively a British Isles description for a dive or pajzl (see below).
Although this can and does refer to a lunch-diner, brasserie is also a more old fashioned term for a pub either offering its own beers or wanting to show off about how many other beers it has, as you will find routinely in Belgium, and often in France. Expect a café with perhaps a few more pubby touches than most.
(German & Austrian)
Either a bierhalle with a brewery attached, or out a more homely house with a brewing operation attached. At their best, expect a fine welcome, hearty food, convivial atmosphere and enormously refreshing beer.
Example: Brauhaus Sion, Cologne, Germany
Any type of pub that also brews its own beer on-site.
Example: Sheffield Tap, Sheffield, England
Brown Café/Bruin kroege
(Dutch, Belgian, Northern France)
Fondly named for their wooden interiors, the brown café is the staple pub of the Low Countries. Normally lacking any cushioned seating and simply offering a quiet egalitarian venue for a drink and a chat, the equivalent to the English or Irish pub. However, with many venues based in historic buildings you can find some incredibly quirky and characterful brown cafés – it is a loosely applied definition.
For extra money in the 19th century, people started to serve alcohol in their “woonkamer” which is Dutch for living room. Often it happened in a situation when the husband was unemployed, and his wife served the drinks. Much of the culture started from there.
If you want to know more about brown cafés, there is a lovely article by Saveur here.
Example: Au Daringman, Bruxelles, Belgium
A venue which may or may not be pub-like or bar-like enough to qualify for this site. This is where Google comes in.
(Croatia, Balkans region)
Ubiquitous, it seems to be a legal requirement for every drinking establishment in Croatia to come prefixed with the term Caffe Bar. Even the menus seem to have come off the same government-regulated printer. Unfortunately it also seems to be a legal requirement for Caffe Bars to be deathly mediocre, swaying from bland promenade cafés to generic eurodance pumping venues with little in-between. You’ll struggle to find venues where much care has gone into creating atmosphere, let alone character. They do exist however, so persevere.
Example: Caffe Bar Libertina, Dubrovnik
A simple homely community pub, with a focus on food and usually a garden terrace where folk music is performed. However this is a term that incorporates a drinking hole as well. A derivative of the Slovak/Hungarian “Krčma” (see below).
Cerveceria / Cervejaria
(Spanish / Portuguese)
A very common term found all around in Spain and Portugal, however while this title references beer (cerveza / cerveja), don’t be surprised to find the offerings restricted to one tap of standard lager and 2 or 3 bottles.
These places vary from being actual pubs with the décor and character you’d expect, to brewpubs to simple eateries with aluminium counters and simple seating, often serving tapas and cooked food from over the counter. There can be some character slices of local life to be found but the standout ones with interesting décor, events and so on are devilishly difficult to find.
Example: Cerveceria El Doble, Madrid, Spain
Universal and self-explanatory. The focus will be on drinks prepared from scratch from a range of spirits, liquors, bitters, fruits, and anything else they can think of.
More often bland, soulless, expensive and pretentious, but sometimes set in outstanding locations and with interesting decorations or concepts that make them essential to visit.
Example: Rasputin, Florence, Italy
Commonly associated with America but frequent in Europe, these place developed the name dives due to their basement situations which you dived-into. Expect a narrow but possibly quite long space with a bar close to the door and often a stage at the back of the room. There is a negative connotation these days to call a bar a ‘dive’, which is based on the seedy and rough historical reputation of many of these place, but this can be meant affectionately too.
(Northern Germany, Schleswig-Holstein)
A rural Inn.
A café bar with kitchen open in the beginning of the evening, where you can also have a meal.
German for “corner”, a common colloquial term for a neighborhood pub one can drop in for a quick drink.
Example: Eckkneipe, Berlin, Germany
(German & Austrian)
An old-fashioned and quaint format. Old-school pub restaurant, perhaps nearest to the Czech hospoda (see below). Less formal than the average restaurant and reasonably communal too.
Example: Lommerzheim, Cologne, Germany
All the rage in England and parts of the British Empire during the 1700s and 1800s, receiving lavish, ornate decoration, the legacy of which is now – in theory – carefully preserved.
In the 18th century, gin shops or ‘dram shops’ were just small shops (often originally chemist’s shops as gin originally had medicinal associations) that sold gin mostly to take away, or to drink standing up.
In the late 1820s the first ‘Gin Palaces’ were built, Thompson and Fearon’s in Holborn and Weller’s in Old Street, London. They were based on the new fashionable shops being built at the time, fitted out at great expense and lit by gas lights. They were thought to be vulgar at the time, although hugely popular. Charles Dickens described them as “perfectly dazzling when contrasted with the darkness and dirt we have just left“
Whether you like Gin or not, these places are often fabulous to sit in.
Now a nationally protected trademark, the Gostilna is a stereotype of a welcoming country inn, with hearty cooking, enormous portions and folk traditions. You will often find a separate pub-room for locals popping in for a drink, while the guests dine separately.
Hospoda / Hospůdka
The universally understood Czech word for pub, also a catch-all term to describe pretty much any public establishment serving beer that isn’t a café or restaurant. Known as ‘gospoda’ in Poland which, funnily enough, is the Serbian term for a gentleman.
Example: Krkonošská Hospůdka, Prague, Czechia
A colloquial description for an inn offering some form of comfort and shelter from the outside of some sort. Best used to describe ‘traveller’s rest’ type places, especially those with rooms. You won’t see this used on signage very often.
If you can tell me the true difference between Hospoda and Hostinec , I’d like to know. Whatever difference used to exist is now blurred. It seems to now be merely to distinguish a business for marketing purposes.
Example: Hostinec U Vodoucha, Prague, Czechia
A fairly broad term for a pub offering rooms, usually located on important travelling stops. ‘Coaching Inns’ broke up long journeys made on horseback, but these had a nostalgic revival in the mid-20th Century with the advent of the motor car. Now an Inn is most likely associated with country cooking or those enormous ex-coaching inns that have been turned into open plan ‘day out’ family pubs with children’s play areas. The former function of offering accommodation is far from guaranteed at Inns nowadays.
Kapileió / καπηλειό
The Greek term for ‘tavern’, amusingly similar in my mind to Chapel.
A room or establishment where alcoholic drinks are served over a counter. So, that narrows it down.
See Kocsma/Krčma below
An amusing description of a rough pub in Hungarian, translating as “knife-thrower”. Universally understood and likely to raise a smile if you bring it up with a Hungarian.
If you want to learn more about the rich history behind the term, I recommend spending time to read This (.pdf download)
Kneipe / Knajpe
Small, bar-like pubs, traditionally focused on offering tap-dispensed beer and often consumed while standing/leaning. However these days you will find these cosy, often smokey and down-to-earth. Don’t be surprised to find sports screens and pumping eurodance.
The term is a shortening of the term kneipschenke, which already existed in the 18th century. These were rooms that were so narrow that the guests had to sit together.
Traditional Hungarian pub or ‘kitchen’ with basic food served around communal tables. Generally down-to-earth but unfortunately dying out in droves, along with the case of 60-somethings that inhabit them.
Example: Jazz Kocsma, Szeged, Hungary
Kra / Kro
(Icelandic / Danish)
Meaning not just pub but ‘quiet corner’. Whether that turns out in practice when the beer starts flowing would be up to an Icelander to tell you.
Difficult to distinguish between Krčma and Hospoda these days, but Krčma is a more direct indication that the establishment will serve cooked food (90% of hospudky do this anyway) and therefore there is a certain extra onus on the place to do this well.
Example: Krčma u Parašutistů, Prague, Czechia
A derivative of Kroege (see below)
Kruchma / Кручма
A derivative of Koscma/Krčma (see above)
Low Countries term for a café, but don’t expect coffee to be the primary concern. These places are often small, minimalist in style and focused on simple beer drinking. Don’t be surprised to see retired folk tucking into their first beer early in the morning.
(See Brown Café above)
Example: In De Reisduif, Bruges, Belgium
A Latvian term for a pub or bar, reasonably catch-all as this seems to apply to modern theme bars just as much as old-man venues.
Club and coffee house? In my experience of going in venues with this description, it is an awfully long way of saying ‘Bar’, though there is perhaps an expectation for a venue with this name to open later and stay open later.
A widely-used central European term for a neighbourhood/corner pub, most likely serving lunch. N.B – this is now a brand name for a nostalgia-chic Czech diner franchise (which is already becoming mediocre and not-so-good value)
Example: Wenkers am Markt, Dortmund, Germany
Meyhane / Mejhana / Mejhandžinica
Meaning house of wine and is composed of two Persian words: mey (wine) and khāneh (house). A meyhane used to serve mainly wine alongside meze until the late 19th century when rakia established itself as the quasi-official national drink of Bulgaria. In Serbia, the word is considered archaic, while in Bulgaria it refers to a restaurant with traditional food, decoration and music.
A tavern or wine shop in Italy. Staffed by a mescitore.
A one-room pub format attempting to revive a time before mobile phones, fruit machines, thumping music and so on. Some have taken on an overly Luddite attitude which even extends to banning swearing. However, the format is very effective in its simplicity, and when done well genuinely redolent of old-time pub going and similar to brown cafés that can be visited in Belgium, Netherlands and Northern France.
Example: Stumble Inn, Scarborough, England
A drink-focused bar where food is merely to compliment what you are drinking. These can be ancient places with hams hung on wooden beams and food prepared behind the bar itself. Due to market demands these are becoming ever more food-focused and restaurant-like, but there are some that retain the atmosphere of a pub, albeit in a more low-key way.
A Czech term for a dive. Expect these to be based in the half-basements of old Czech buildings where you can still see street level through the windows. Smokey, usually small, down to earth and raw, pajzl is often used just as much as a term of endearment as an insult.
Example: U Drevona, Prague, Czechia
A guesthouse with a bar and pub room, their version of an inn.
Not sure of the stylistic difference between this and a Czech pivnice, but you will see this word in Slovakia A LOT. It may denote a brewery or a taproom specialising in one particular brewery’s wares.
Pivnice / Pivnica
Pivnices are often located in cellars or rooms with curved ceilings and there are many featuring the name that sport that distinctive look. These are food-focused, arguably casual pub-restaurants and rely on being busy to generate atmosphere. However, pivnice, which contains ‘pivni’ (beers) is still routinely used simply to refer to simple pubs focused on drinking.
Pivnica, is a common word in the Balkans for a bar focusing on beer, which can be anything from a grand bierhalle to a generic Caffe Bar.
Example: Pivnice U Rudolfina, Prague, Czechia
(Ukraine, Moldova, Russia)
A vodka-belt term for a beer-focused pub. Often very old fashioned and working class. Definitely the most glam-sounding term, though!
A newer term, Pivoteka are often similar to micro-pubs in format, one room, or bar area + side room in format, and the focus is minimalistic, all about the latest tapped beers. These can be pretty good – friendly and communal, or they can be cold and soulless if they go for the craft-beer look.
Example: Pivoteka Illegal, Prague, Czechia
A dying breed of pub-bars (a nostalgic and sad tale can be read about them here) The Presszó, aka Eszpresszó is a link between the Iron Curtain days and the modern era. Rent has forced working class people, and the businesses they frequented out to the fringes, and so these places are clinging on, or having to change their appearance and prices to survive.
Example: Terv Presszó, Budapest, Hungary
A ‘tasting house’, a highfalutin term for what are usually down-to-earth homely venues. The tasting will often refer to the Dutch liquor jenever, but includes pubs or cafes which offer a range of beers too. In my experience most pubs starting with this title are likely to be of interest.
паб / Pab
A Cyrillic translation of pub, and routinely used to describe pubs across most East and South East Slavic nations, covering a fairly broad range of informal pub/restaurant.
Example: Pab47, Lviv, Ukraine
Perhaps the ultimate catch all term for a communal space for people to drink and socialise, but generally not an appropriate word to describe a ‘bar’, where the focus is on the bar area and more on drinks preparation.
The full original term for pub. Self-explanatory, however worth noting that its origins were for families to invite people around to their house and offer their cooking and refreshments.
Yet another Czech pub term beginning with P, putyka denotes a ‘greasy spoon’ type establishment. Colloquially, “boozer” is a reasonably synonym. Down-to-earth (that’s sometimes putting it mildly), raw and ungentrified, however even this concept has started to take on hipster-leanings and been brought into line with the various all-dress and no-knickers modern pub formats where the quintessential elements of pubgoing have been forgotten.
Rom kocsma/Ruin Bars
Bars that have inhabited derelict buildings and not fully refurbished them, instead offering the surroundings as a sort of museum to wander around. Strewn with grafitti and DIY décor, these tend to be individual in character. Most provide a wide range of amenities in order to fill the space. An idea that apparently originated on the east-bank of Budapest, Hungary.
Example: Szimpla Kert, Budapest, Hungary
An alternative name for a bar room, traditionally a space within a wider pub rather than a pub itself. Saloons generally offer more comfort in terms of the seating, or serving to partition different groups of people. Synonymous with Western films.
A simple communal area of a bierhalle or tavern (usually the cellar vault) which serves as the main congregation area for drinking, as opposed to dining. The word itself loosely translates to both ‘inundation’ and ‘sink’, partly nodding the head to the hordes that descend to drink beer, also potentially a reference to the large volumes of beer tapped and poured. Schwemme is a colloquial term and perhaps intended to be used pejoratively – seeing as this was traditionally this was an area for the working classes – before adopting a more fond recognition and sentimental quality these days (possibly because the levels of hygiene are better).
Be aware in Nord-Rhine Westphalia, Schwemme is synonymous with Ausschenk, a small tap room area, dedicated to drinking typically distributing Kolsch or Altbier from the barrel.
A síbín was originally an illicit bar or club where excisable alcoholic beverages were sold without a licence. The term has spread far from its origins in Ireland across the Commonwealth nations. Pubs attempting to revive the atmosphere of a shebeen are well worth seeking out.
An establishment to smoke shisha and drink tea. Not things we are overly concerned about here, but it has novelty value if you fancy socialising without alcohol.
A brewery taproom, sometimes to sample and take away the wares of the brewery, other times with seating + food. “Sör” refers to beer.
Example: Gyertyános Sörház, Debrecen, Hungary
A common thrown-around term for a bar or pub in Hungary. Actual appearance, style and atmosphere may vary wildly.
Example: Clock söröző, Budapest, Hungary
(English / American)
Referring to prohibition-era bars in the US, speakeasies became clandestine locations to drink and – inevitably – partake in lots of other illegal activities without fear of arrest. However, since the ending of prohibition, bars are now set up in the style of the time, often substituting exclusivety for the genuinely anti-establishment.
Example: Nightjar, London, England
A colloquial abbreviation of Estaminet, meaning tavern consisting of a bar and public rooms that serves light meals, but isn’t focused primarily on food.
A taproom or saloon, these days normally used to denote a focus towards the quality of tapped offerings, be that beer, kvass or cider.
Example: Szynkarnia, Wroclaw, Poland
A bit like Ale House (see above), this is largely a marketing term to let you know that, shock horror, this drinking hole offers drinks on tap, but isn’t a yuck-disgusting-spit-hack PUB, how awful and common! Generally a term adopted by establishments pretending to be something but not actually curious or bothered enough to actually do properly.
See above – but smaller.
Pubs often converted from workshops/sheds/small barns, but nowadays this is simply another word that has travelled with us down the years and had its meaning bent and hewn to mean whatever you like, within reason. Want to call your craft-ale venue in a 1970s shopping arcade a tavern? Go right ahead. Being purist about it, my idea of a tavern is a multi-storey pub with exposed beams, a central bar area and table service. Don’t assume you’ll be getting that.
Hawaiian-themed cocktail bars inspired by beachside drinking. Amazingly, rather than simply being another theme pub they are spoken of in such specific terms I feel obliged to include this as a specific thing.
Example: Kona Kai, London, England
Czech word for tap, referring plainly to a tap room. This may be smaller and simpler in style to a traditional Czech pub and will predominantly focus on tapped beer.
Example: Výčep Na Stojáka, Brno, Czechia
Wódki i Piwa bar
Usually a small venue with a young crowd. Knock back a vodka and stand around with your friends supping your beer. As you’d expect, these places are loud and energetic, while the emphasis is often not on the décor.
A word for tap but a valid colloquial reference to a pub or kiosk serving beer vom fass, or on tap.
A term for a family enterprise who make use of municipal brewing facilities to make their own beer, and then invite families in their town to their house. Zoigl means ‘star’, and the star (which is identical to the Star of David) is hung outside their house at times of the month where they are open for business. Outside of a few villages in Northern Franconia near the Czech border who partly keep the tradition alive for the sake of novelty, this type of pub is dead. If you are interested I strongly recommend trying to visit.