Top 100 Bars In Europe 2019 – Part 2

…back to Part 1: 100-81

…forward to 60-41

80. The Wellington – Sheffield, UK – 8.5/10

A beautiful traditional public house that extracts the very best from the past: cabin-like wood paneled décor at the bar, fireplace, homely upholstered bench seating, a community atmosphere in the lounge, fair value – with the best elements of pub going in the present: an excellent selection of well-kept, well-poured beers – and clean toilets. Even better, the tram stops directly outside. The ‘local’ rarely gets better than this.

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79. Ibolya Söröző – Debrecen, Hungary – 8.5/10

While aspects like décor and quality of drinks are important, there’s nothing better than being in a pub in full flow, and perfect working order. This super-popular Debrecen pub combines exceptional value (albeit for various shades of average lager) with the atmosphere of a friendly young crowd. This place used to be known as a késdobáló (or ‘Knife thrower’) to signify its rough nature, but these days that’s often an affectionate term. Simple décor that has avoided becoming too towny, and plenty of pub games to keep people occupied, Ibolya has an intrinsic understanding of its audience’s wants and needs, which is more than you can say for most. Most people are looking for a Base Camp where they can always go for a drink and a catch up come rain or shine; this is a shining example of one.

78. Hostinec Klasterni Pivnice (a.k.a U Prasivka/Šumavan) – Prague, Czechia – 8.5/10

This ‘Fourth Grade’ pub opens at 9.30am and closes at 9.30, a hangover from when bin men used to come off their shift and need to down a pint or three and when Socialist restrictions meant many pubs closed early in the evening. Not much has changed in this legitimate throwback pajzl since the revolution, including its basement level prices (relative to the local competition anyway) and bizarre closing time, the only time I have been kicked out after last orders in broad daylight. However, U Prasivky’s team are keen for the place to survive past the imminent deaths of their grizzled stamgasty and have sought to attract a new young clientele with a weekly guest craft beer and – of course – those prices. So far, the survival plan is working well. Prague has changed so much that you can’t even call this ‘real Prague’ anymore – real Prague is something else now – but it is a true reflection of times past, and a real old-school pub. You won’t find TheCultureTrip or Instagram crowd recommending this one, but the experience in this pub, if you like it or don’t, is more of a link to Czechia’s past than having shots foisted on you at U Fleku.

 

 

77. Brauerei Neder – Forchheim, Germany – 8.5/10

Forccheim is exceptionally fortunate to boast 4 good breweries in the city boundaries, extraordinary for a town with a population of 32,000. This cradle of traditional brewing culminates in the summer carnival Annafest, of which Brauerei Neder plays a major part, brewing a Dunkel style known as Schwarze Anna (Black Anna) which enjoys a supreme reputation. But quite outside of that, the pub (or rather Gaststätte) is so nice too, from the old fashioned entrance way with service hatch through to the tap room, to the 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, people happy being themselves, rather than sitting formally waiting for food to arrive. We haven’t mentioned the prices which are almost unbelievable, even for Franconia, a fairly affordable region for Germany. This is the benefit of zero distribution costs (the savings of which are passed onto the consumer unlike so many craft beer brewpubs). 2 euros 30 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 in between Bamberg and Nuremberg, themselves fantastic destinations, so you really have no excuse.

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76. The Mayflower – London, UK – 8.5/10

A Thames-side pub with a superbly atmospheric set of candle-lit rooms. As afternoon slides into evening you will feel as though there isn’t anywhere else in the world you’d rather be. There is also a riverside terrace and conservatory with a view of the Thames, if that’s more your sort of thing.

75. Jalla Jalla – Ljubljana, Slovenia – 8.5/10

After the Slovenians kicked out the Yugoslavian Army, the barracks were abandoned and turned into a commune. Today, things are a little more commercialised, but Metelkova (as it is named) offers a haven for street art, illicit substances and existential musings. Among the clubs which occupy the larger buildings, there is a central courtyard bar, Jalla Jalla, serving cheap beer and local firewater. Speaking of fire, the venue narrowly missed out on being destroyed after it was set ablaze in 2018. This is an altogether unique experience. Be warned: you won’t know whether to laugh or cry when you see the toilet facilities.

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74. Oldsmobil – Kraków, Poland – 8.5/10

A.K.A ‘The Dog In The Fog’, this pub aims for a freeway Motel style restaurant decor, but whether accident or by design it ends up achieving something greater than the sum of its parts. Small lamp-lit leather bench seats and rich red hues end up casting a brooding atmosphere for a night out, which in Kraków tend to stretch on and on into the early morning! This effect joins Oldsmobil onto a whole host of other antiquey out-of-time venues in the city that give the city a distinct character in the evenings.

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73. Brudenell Social Club – Leeds, UK – 8.5/10

This cult venue in the suburbs of Leeds mixes the styling and interests of the average working man’s club with two stages, beer garden, kitchen and games venue. There are more amenities and events than you can shake a pool cue, microphone, poetry book or slice of pizza at, and for good measure they recently opened a second stage. Although the march of gentrification (and need to repay investments) may be adversely affecting the prices, you will find reasonable value by Leeds’ standards, and several local products. The Brude is an all-round Good Egg too, supporting progressive causes and giving the neighbourhood of Hyde Park a true base. As you’d expect, it’s hugely popular as a result with people travelling in from other cities especially.

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72. Fogas Ház és Kert – Budapest, Hungary – 8.5/10

After the untimely closure of Instant, one of Budapest’s most impressive ruin bars, there was pressure on the nearby Fogas Ház (translating as the Tooth House – ie. Dentists) to step into the breach. Cue a dramatic expansion, it has become one of the most sprawling and diverse ‘party venues’ (their phrase, not mine) you could hope to visit. You will never be able to spend enough time in each section on a single evening, each one offering a distinct theme and style, while the list of amenities and events is far too long to reel off in a review such as this. It’s nice simply wandering around taking it all in. We recommend going later in the evening as it can be too cavernous when quiet. For those nostalgic for the Instant days, its iconic wide-eyed owl can now be found overlooking the roof terrace.

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71. A L’Imaige Nostre Dame – Brussels, Belgium – 8.5/10

One of central Brussels’ many impasse pubs, you could walk past it a dozen times without knowing. I always love the journey down the rabbit hole impasses, not knowing what may be lurking at the end – this one is even better because it’s a rare example where one pub looks out onto another (in this case the historic Au Bon Vieux Temps) giving both sets of punters a shared experience, and reinforcement of their choice of activity. The pub itself is traditional – chunky wooden fixtures and furnishings – small, and cosy, offering the typical menu of strong, delicious Belgian ale. They really ought to bring back the meat and cheese boards which helped soak up the alcohol.

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70. Staminee De Garre – Brugge, Belgium – 8.5/10

Quietly sequestered away off one of Brugge’s main streets, you will only arrive here if on purpose or as a consequence of remarkable good luck. A 3-storey medieval house tucked down an alleyway joined up by a rickety staircase, each room offering seating space for a drink and a chat. This is one of those creaky venues where the floor isn’t exactly level. De Garre’s house beer is a delicious, but formidable 11% Tripel served with a small bowl of Gouda cheese. You rarely find this on tap elsewhere, only in 750ml bottles, so this exclusivity adds to the draw of the place. On the ground floor the atmosphere is a little bit too genteel, as Belgian cafés can be, but exposed brick, wooden beams and racks of ancient jenever bottles add character, so as day turns to evening the golden glow effect (especially when the fire is on) builds and the pub becomes a most fabulous choice to end up at. We also enjoy the fact you can find a range of ages and people here.

69. Spiż * – Wrocław, Poland – 8.6/10

The centuries-old tradition in central Europe of a cellar beer hall and brewery on the town square is revived in magnificent fashion by this local institution. If you live in Wrocław then you know Spiż – it’s as simple as that. Follow the link above to reach our full write-up to find out what’s so special about it!

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68. The Fat Cat – Sheffield, UK – 8.6/10

Another Sheffield pub, The Fat Cat is no stranger to publicity, having once featured in The New York Times Top 100 Bars In The World. The reason for this is simple – simplicity. Communal seating, slap-up pub grub for a democratic price, and ales kept in good condition. The beer garden is delightful (and this author doesn’t really care about drinking outside, which tells you something). If you can be critical of anything, The Fat Cat loses a few points for being over-subscribed at weekends and evenings these days. Being popular is hardly a crime, but it can make a pint at weekends less enjoyable. Visit on weekdays where possible and you’ll find a pub in supreme working order with locals loyally sticking like glue until the very late hours of the night.

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67. Za Kulisami – Poznań, Poland – 8.6/10

Poznań’s nightlife is fantastic, another medium-sized city with a chronic dedication to drinking and socialising. Go slam shots at the city’s chain of Pijalnia Wodka i Piwa if you wish, but for others who like to go less mainstream and shouty, Za Kulisami is the moody chin-stroky side of the city. Homely and bookish, featuring a mixture of antique furniture blended with flourishes of psychedelia, this is a lived-in dropout joint par excellence, with democratic prices, comfy seating and bohemian clientele to prove it. You don’t have to go far to find this place either, located only a minute’s walk from the central Rynek.

66. U Alberta – Brno, Czechia – 8.6/10

As you enter the park to climb to Špilberk castle, check the steps veering off to a building to your right. It’s a pub – and what a pub! U Alberta is a prime example of how people, above anything else, can make a venue. Sure, the place appears plain and half-finished in appearance, but it is super popular as it offers a real fire in the winter, respite from the crowds in the main squares, beers in superb condition (featuring styles that are not limited to traditional Czech brewing) and snacks freshly sliced and diced at the bar. Quietly quirky, with approachable chatty punters, it’s a perfect example of the neighbourhood local as well as a vital antidote to the creeping corporatism in Czechia over the last decade. If you want to get away from that, come here.

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65. Graciarnia U Plastyków – Rzeszów, Poland – 8.6/10

I’ve been to many strange pubs but this web of bunkers and hideouts leading to rooms of different styles and purpose is up there among the most unusual. Chances are you will find some part of the place that fits your particular sensibility, and on a first visit the appeal alone is in wandering around to take it all in. The bar is accessible via the main square but also via the garden around the back. It sounds so ordinary when I put it like that, but see for yourself: the amount of you’ll find in between is quite remarkable. Niches, corners, mezzanines, each decorated with an eclectic flavour – it’s a maze set up to explore and enjoy.

64. Sheaf View – Heeley, Sheffield, UK – 8.6/10

While statistics will tell you the English pub is dying out, here is yet another James Burkett-owned pub, like the Blake Hotel & The Wellington above, which reinforces not just what constitutes a traditional English pub, but how to run one successfully. The hilltop situation of Sheaf View leads to handsome views over the valley, attracting families on sunny weekends, but during the week the place is a thriving community pub with die-hard fans who enjoy the range of drinks, local events and the straightforward organic atmosphere of people together having a good time. There are few concessions to corporate pub culture, completely countering the prevailing wind that such follies are necessary to maintain a pub these days. Instead Sheaf View proves that if you run a pub based around what has given these places enduring appeal over centuries, and style it in harmony with the structure of the pub, people will remember it and tell all their friends about it. (We are delighted to be the ones doing this in macro-scale). With the excellent Brothers Arms & White Lion nearby, you can have quite the evening in this corner of Heeley.

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63. Prvni Pivni Tramway – Prague, Czechia – 8.6/10

You are at end of the tramline on the outskirts of Prague. The view is of a desolate clearing surrounded by tower blocks. In a dilapidated and unprepossessing building only metres from the tracks is Prvni Pivni Tramway, plastered in plain large letters on the front. It wouldn’t be instantly apparent this was the spiritual home of the beer brewing revival in Czechia. PPT was one of the first pubs in the country to introduce a multi-tap format, so commonplace elsewhere, and foster an interest in regional brewing. While this venue may have been overtaken in terms of beer choice in terms of atmosphere the place is alive and kicking. You’ll find tasteful (ie. not tacky) tram seating at the back of the pub which is a great place to sit in a group, while the low ceilings and rock soundtrack embed what is an unashamedly grungey male-centric venue – not for everyone, but that is not the point of our guide. The journey itself from the city centre by tram feels somewhat like a pilgrimage as you slowly wind towards the end of the line. We recommend setting off to Prvni Pivni Tramway in the early evening to give you and your friends the best chance of getting a seat.

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62. A Baiuca – Fado Vadio * – Lisbon, Portugal – 8.6/10

While Fado these days is sadly synonymous with slick corporate renditions in front of middle class couples in posh restaurants, you can experience the real thing here: raw, rough and legit in a family-run kitchen and living room. The intimacy and intensity rivals authentic folk performances I have witnessed in Ireland, Scotland and North East England. The venue also remains a pub in the truest sense of the term, a family opening its doors and serving drinks and meals – you are free to come and go, there is no obligation to dine. Click the link above to reach our full write-up and find out more!

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61. Gordon’s Wine Bar – London, UK – 8.6/10

In Gordon’s the walls don’t so much talk as broadcast its history. Off-centre framed artwork and news cuttings set the scene, as you dive down a set of steps through uneven floors through to cellar vaults, joining the throng huddled together in the candle light – mind your head at all times! There is even an original iron gate, which makes part of the venue look like a cell. With frequency, reverberations of trains passing above shake the room! It’s fantastic. Unfortunately the buffet spread near the entrance wastes valuable space, the piles of half-eaten food left behind aren’t great either. It can be stuffy in hot weather also. Otherwise, order a glass of port from the barrel, a beaten old chair in the vaults and relax among your cellar surroundings in a truly atmospheric venue: a classic.

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…the Top 100 continues! Click here for Part 3 – Numbers 60-41!