91. K.K.C * – Riga, Latvia – 8.5/10
Riga’s answer to the ‘ruin bar‘ comes in the form of K.K.C (Kaņepes Kultūras centrs), a complex centred around an old music school found North-East of Riga’s boorish and tourist-heavy old town. You’ll find a DIY feel, with art, community events, and drinks from local producers. A visit will take you closer to what’s really going on in the city. There’s a fair truce here between local bohemians, hipsters & artists and the see-and-be-seen crowd. We believe this is partly due to the spaces to explore which gives the venue intrigue as well as a relaxed, easy-going feel.
Go for: Local life, an alternative crowd, artwork and events, to escape the old town…
97. Csillag EzPresszó – Győr, Hungary – 8.5/10 (– No Change In Position–)
Virtually tourist-free, beautiful Győr provides a respite from snakes of backpackers, busloads of pensioners and hucksters trying to tempt you into sleazy strip joints. This doesn’t make it a sleepy place though – the centre is abuzz at night, and the core pub is Csillag Ezpresszó, named after ‘Csillag Utca’, or ‘Star Street’ where it is situated. Taking its design cues from ruin bars and the ephemera of Ezpresszós long gone (and never to return), the intimate blend of nostalgia – and Pálinka – will set you up for a wonderful evening.
Go for: Retro furnishings and antiques, the local alternative scene, firewater…
96. Weisser Holunder – Cologne, Germany – 8.5/10 (New Entry)
Is there more to Cologne than the Kölsch houses and Papa Joe’s? Certainly, and after a first visit it would be wise to spread out into this big city to find some of its other highlights. Weisser Holunder, or ‘White Elder’ is certainly one of the coolest night spots and kultkneipe you could hope to find in the city. Neon signs, pool table, vintage furniture – there are all sorts of influences going on. It pulls in a mixed crowd and really gets going as the evening rolls on. There is even a hint of notoriety, as the place was closed down early this decade due to a lack of operating permit.
Go for: An escape from the beer halls, local life, stylish antique fixtures and furniture, a game of pool…
95. Zlý časy, Prague – 8.5/10 (New Entry)
Prague has evolved, expanding from brewery-tied pubs, typically with only a couple of beers on tap at most to a diverse nightlife. Zlý časy was ahead of the curve and now it’s on top the curve. This super popular 3-storey pub in Nusle district is a great excuse to become acquainted with Prague’s brilliant tram network, which ties the city’s districts together, making everything feel only a short distance away. Each level has its features, which itself makes the venue interesting but we recommending descending to the basement where you will find an array of tap and bottle options to please almost anyone, including those remaining who claim not to like beer! High quality products in a reassuringly effective format drive business and whip up a jovial and cosy atmosphere.
Go for: Beer paradise, clandestine basement drinks…
94. Apfelwein DAX – Frankfurt, Germany – 8.5/10 (New Entry)
A dry, sour cider, Apfelwein is one of the quirky offerings and traditions distinct to Frankfurt and the surrounding Hesse region. Apfelwein DAX is such a place to try it, located on the south side of the river in Saschsenhausen. You’ll discover a beautifully ‘worn in’ pub with a blend of badger themes, retro signage and preserved fittings which misdirect – where does the original and the retro begin and end? (You may even think that about the regulars). With a lovely garden, the eponymous, thirst-quenching speciality to knock back, and a varied crowd, young and old tucking into their Bembels, your journey into the peculiar delights of Apfelwein should start here.
Go for: Unique quirky drinks in a preserved authentic setting, pleasant garden surroundings
93. Prophet – Lecce, Italy – 8.5/10 (New Entry)
A short walk from Lecce’s beautiful old town will be richly rewarded if you can secure a table at Prophet. This bar offers the best selections of local, European and U.S beers but it is also the remains of an old chapel, complete with confession box and frescos. Sometimes these concepts don’t work, but the execution is spot on here, as the original features are allowed space to speak for themselves, while the local buzz of a young unpretentious backstreet crowd makes this an unmissable stop-off in the city.
Go for: Craft beer, rubbernecking at old religious features, buzzy evening nightlife…
92. Bar Marsella * – Barcelona, Spain – 8.5/10
Saved by the city council at a cost of 1.5 million euros. Follow the link above to discover what makes this century-old absinthe bar in El Raval district worth saving.
Go for: Your own supporting role in an unbroken history…
91. Café Rococo – Ghent, Belgium – 8.5/10 (New Entry)
We love the distinctive or out of the ordinary but especially when it is delivered with a personal touch, when a bar is an extension of the person you see behind the counter. The owner ‘Betty’ runs the show at this brooding Patershol bar – almost single-handedly. She prioritizes her happiness, quite rightly, which means taking things at her own pace. Show patience before service and you will find someone who shows a genuine interest in her customers. The venue is a beauty too, with tall windows, greenery, a piano and candle lit tables. A touch of class, but perched more on bohemian than pretension. A glass of Cava is the closest thing to de rigueur, but afterwards if you’re feeling adventurous, ‘Liqueur d’amour‘ is available, prepared with a secret recipe (probably cough syrup). Our last visit ended with dead phone batteries and hastily sketched routes to run to the last tram home!
Go for: Woozy evening chats, Bohemian atmosphere, personal service, long waits…
90. Bodega Bellver – Palma di Mallorca, Spain – 8.5/10
A tiny kitchen pumping out pintxos and an old maestro plucking ice cold beers from a chest freezer, this little bodega recently celebrated its centenary which is testament to its enduring appeal. Comprised 90% of upturned barrels and candle wax, Bellver is refreshingly unpretentious and is more than just a bar, it’s a friend. A great alternative to many of Palma’s stuffy and identikit central tapas bars.
Go for: Bodegas how they used to be and still should be. History, intimacy and simplicity.
89. The Fat Cat – Sheffield, UK – 8.5/10
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, nooks and crannies, slap-up pub grub for a democratic price, and ales kept in good condition. 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. It’s an authentic experience that fame hasn’t spoiled.
Go for: Down to earth boozing, real ales, dirt cheap cantine grub, the community vibe…
88. Oldenburg – Madrid, Spain – 8.5/10
This buzzing backstreet boozer offers and attractive blend of neighbourhood kneipe, brown café and simple bodega, starting with exceptional beer offerings, tapas that grows in size after each order and great atmosphere, whether quiet or busy. Be warned, like many Madrid venues, Oldenburg bursts at the seams by midnight. Unusually for us, we also recommend seating yourself by the bar, an attractive and inviting corner of the room where you’ll feel at the heart of the action.
Go for: High quality tap choices, neighbourhood buzz, a social atmosphere…
87. Känguruh * – Vienna, Austria – 8.6/10
Between stuffy city centre Beisls and underground techno clubs, central Vienna doesn’t have the greatest bar scene going. Great credit must be given to Känguruh – daftly-named, but an excellent venue in most other ways. Featuring a curved central bar and candle-lit ledges, it’s both moody, low-key stylish and friendly – you can dissolve into the scenery but just as find yourself being introduced to locals who are happy to share thoughts over a superb Belgian beer or three, even if you are an Einsler. We could go on, and indeed we did! – please follow the link above to discover more in our full write-up!
Go for: Belgian beer, Candle-lit musings, friendly chat, clandestine supping….
86. Altfränkische Weinstube – Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, Germany – 8.6/10 (New Entry)
Whether it’s a Gostilna, Karczma or Weinstube, an authentic country inn is a well-loved, yet vanishing concept across Europe. In Germany, those families who run a true inn or tavern well may enjoy the award of ‘Stammtischbruder‘, or ‘Brother of the Locals‘ in recognition of their efforts. This place may be located in one of Germany’s hotspots for tourism, but it is hard-wired against shortcuts and sellout options. The master of the house adds a distinctly personal touch. Everything is done in his own speed and manner, and the more you get in the mood the more you’ll enjoy his quirks and idiosyncrasies. The place is beautifully furnished and could barely be more beautiful, from the climbing ivy on the exterior to the distinctive worn-in interior, with all the rustic charm and cosy satisfaction you could ever ask. Yes, you will find beer too, but try the fine selection of local wines by the glass.
Go for: Local produce, quirky service, homely atmosphere, candlelit wooziness, romantic dinners, roaring fires…
85. Free Trade Inn – Newcastle, UK – 8.6/10 (New Entry)
As quoted on their Facebook page: “2 things will strike you about the Free Trade, 1) it’s a dump, and 2) it’s fantastic“. Any trip to their toilets will confirm number 1, however they may be doing themselves a disservice! The interior’s worn-in wooden panels and globe lights and tangible sense of history endow an element of grandeur, not least as the pub sits out overlooking the Baltic mill and bridges of the River Tyne. The phrase that more springs to mind is Bohemian. Free Trade attracts a range of people from beer geeks, romantic couplings, dog lovers, ladies on the lash and all the Geordies in between. The place is proof that stocking high-end beers is no barrier to maintaining a diverse crowd or fostering a lively atmosphere. It’s one of the best pubs in the UK, and you should go!
Go for: The real Newcastle pub scene, top quality beers, preserved fixtures, the view over the Tyne.
85. Pótkulcs – Budapest, Hungary – 8.6/10 (New Entry)
Pótkulcs, or ‘Spare Key‘ is to ruin bars what post-punk was to the indie movement. Certain tropes and features hint at the now established format of the ruin bar, but in many ways it’s more of a low key hangout than that. As low key as a pub with a giant wall of hedge and climbing ivy outside can be, at least. It’s one of Budapest’s hidden gems, one that has flown a bit under the radar and thus preserves its unique atmosphere. Here you can enjoy the feel of a garden, comfortable armchairs, table football. There’s also a film club, exhibitions and live music for guests to enjoy. These performances are mostly jazz and folk, but DJs also sometimes feature. There’s no entrance fee, and a free table invariably beckons. If you’ve never been, be sure to give it a try.
Go for: Verdant courtyard atmosphere, live events and amenities, a less showy, understated ruin bar away from the tourist bustle…
84. The Mayflower – London, UK – 8.6/10
A Thames-side pub with a superbly atmospheric set of gnarled, 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.
Go For: Woozy chats by candle-light, riverside socialising, cobwebby olde England…
83. Damenhof – Augsburg, Germany – 8.6/10 (New Entry)
The Damenhof, with its Tuscan columns, supporting arcades and painted arches was built by the wealthy Fugger family, whose influence dominates Augsburg. It is a rare setting for a bar, and the way in feels almost like being in a museum after hours. The courtyard with its central pool and patio feels more like being at court with the Medicis than a Bavarian bar. Cocktails dominate the menu (though beer is available) and on a summer evening the glow of the lights and bubbly atmosphere makes this an outstanding venue in the city.
Go For: Italianate splendour, cocktails, special ambience…
82. Poechenellekelder – Brussels, Belgium – 8.6/10
Puppets, mannequins, marionettes and framed artwork adorn the walls, nooks and crannies of Poechenellekelder, located directly opposite Brussels’ famous Mannekin Pis statue since 1991. This bar could reasonably be called a Staminee due to the limited but well-sought after food service, but the shape of the place is more like a Café bar, with a staircase separating the top floor and bar (which is the best room you want to be in) and the basement. The overall effect is charming and distinctive, with the emphasis on warm hues and wood. The historic trinkets and decoration, not to mention the stepped gable on the exterior building provide a charm, and a harmony that isn’t present in many other blander alternatives nearby. This alone would present a fine enough basis justifying a visit, but read the bottle menu: rows of high quality Belgian ales are on offer to add the Kriek on top. Expect tourists, but that is no reason to stay away.
Go for: Macabre décor, central hubbub, expansive bottle selection…