After drinking countless pints of beer in over 30 European cities like Brussels, Munich, and Prague, we've picked out the best beer cities in Europe!
There are few things in the world better than sitting back with a cold beer and watching the day go by. As full time travelers, one of our favorite ways to get to know a new city and do a little "people watching" is to find a nice sidewalk cafe, order a few locals beers and let the city pass us by.
The past year has brought us to over 30 different cities in Europe, giving us a chance to sample a pretty wide array of beers, and take part in the local beer culture of many European cities. While we knew in advance that countries like Belgium, Germany, and the Czech Republic were going to give us a chance to taste some really amazing beers -- we were surprised to find that there is a thriving and innovative craft beer scene in countries like Iceland and The Netherlands.
However, no matter where we are, the most important thing we look for in each city we visit is great bar. They don't have to be fancy (actually the more "dive-like" the better!) and they don't need to have a huge beer list (but that does't hurt!). The bars we like to go back to need to have a certain special "character" about them. Who wants to sit in a boring bar after all!
So after a year of being on the road, we've compiled a list of our favorite beer cities in Europe, and what bars to try in each place. This is by no means an exhaustive list (in fact, a few of the places we've been, we can't even remember) -- so feel free to let us know your favorites in the comments below!
8. Reykjavik, Iceland
We honestly had no idea that Iceland even had a craft beer scene before we arrived in Reykjavik. However, after spending just a few days there, we came to realize that this little country has a huge number of amazing breweries -- many making beers that are only available in Iceland. Our "go to" beer each day was the Einstock Pale Ale (for Chris) and the Einstock White Ale (for Danika), both of which were available on tap at the Klauster Bar in HotelKvosin. We also really enjoyed the Borg Brugghús Porter and Borg Brugghús Baltic Porter.
7. Strasbourg, France
While France is definitely not known for it's beer, the Alsace-Lorraine region in south east France, which borders Germany, is a standout exception. In Strasbourg there is a unique mix of French and German culture which leads to some very interesting places to grab a drink. Our favorite bar in Strasbourg, was easily The Apostles. The bar had an extensive beer list featuring beers from German and Belgium beers, and since it is located directly in front of the Strasbourg Cathedral, it offered a lot of really good people watching!
6. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam has plenty of great beer places, mainly serving well-known Belgium beers. However, when we wanted something a little more "local", we would head over to Proeflokaal Arendsnest. While I can't pronounce the name, I can tell you that this little bar had an extensive beer list featuring only craft beers from The Netherlands! One of my favorites was a beer they produce called Big Fat 5 Double IPA, it definitely reminded me of the IPAs I used to get back home in California.
We also went to Brouwerij De Molen, and took advantage of their tasting pours to sample almost every beer they produce. Finally, even though they did not have a huge selection of beers, our go-to place was always Cafe Hoppe. Not only does Cafe Hoppe have a ton of character (the place is over 400 years old, and does not look like it has ever been changed!), but they also have fantastic bitterballen -- which is a deep-fried croquette that goes perfectly with a glass of beer!
5. Ghent, Belgium
While we only spent a single day in Ghent, the whole day was spent in bars (only due to the fact it rained much of day, of course!).. Our favorite bar was t'Gouden Mandeke. It had a ton of character (which is always the main thing we look for in a bar). The lighting was low, and the ceilings were even lower making the whole place feel really cozy, especially on a cold rainy day in Belgium. And lastly, they had a great selection of -- wait for it... -- Belgium beers!
4. Brussels, Belgium
Where to begin with bars in Brussels? The capital of the most well known beer country of the world, Belgium... Never in our lives have we seen so many amazing bars, packing so many outstanding beers in one place. While we went into too many bars to even remember, our absolute favorite bar was Le Poechenellekelder. Located directly across from the famous Manneken Pis, this bar stocked every beer you'd expect in a traditional bar in Belgium, like Chimay, Westmalle, Orval, Rochefort, and St. Bernardus and hundreds more.. But what set this apart was the atmosphere inside. It was covered floor to ceiling in old pictures, puppets, and other random things... It was definitely our kind of bar, and we made it our daily hangout spot.
Other standout bars in Brussels for us were the Delirium Café due to it's great location off of the Grote Markt. If you can find it, do go into Au Bon Vieux Temps -- it's a bar that's been around since 1695, and is hidden down a small alley in the middle of town. Just going into this classic place and having a beer is an experience in itself! And finally, we loved A la Becasse due to it's fantastic selection of Lambics and old fashioned vibe.
3. Prague, Czech Republic
You probably know that Czech beer was good, but did you know it actually tastes better in the Czech Republic? Seriously, when you open up a bottle of Pilsner Urquell at home, you're not drinking the same thing as when you get it fresh from a tap in the Czech Republic! We also learned from speaking with several different people that the WAY beer is poured actually has an effect on it's taste as well... It seemed pretty far fetched to us at first, but after a few days in the city, I swear we could taste the difference.
Luckily, getting good beer in Prague is easy, in fact one of our favorite things to do was to just buy a couple pints from the street vendors and sit in Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) people watching. However, when we wanted something beside Pilsner Urquell, we'd head over to the Prague Beer Museum — which isn't actually a museum at all — but an amazing little bar featuring nothing but Czech breweries. At the Prague Beer Museum we were able to sample (more than) a few pints, including some really delicious ones from Chotebor and Svijany. In all Prague lived up to all of our high expectations!
2. Munich, Germany
When we set out on this trip around the world, we knew right away that we needed to visit Munich. The idea of going into all of the old fashioned bars, drinking liters of beer, pounding tables, listening to german beer hall music, all while eating huge plates of Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle) was just too much to resist. And Munich did not disappoint!
While the Hofbrauhaus may get all of the notoriety -- our favorite beer hall, by and far was Augustiner-Bräu. Not only did it fulfill every single fantasy I had of what a german beer hall would be like (except sadly, no girls in Dirndl dresses) -- but it was also the most fun. The night we were there, we shared a table with 7 other german guys who were all too happy to coax us into singing along with the german songs, slamming our glasses down on the table, and making a general scene all night long -- it was a LOT of fun! And the beer that Augustiner produces is very, very good, in fact the Augustiner Edelstoff is always in my fridge when we are in Germany.
1. Antwerp, Belgium
Rounding out our list of the best cities to get a beer in Europe is Antwerp, Belgium. And this city is our favorite for just one reason; Antwerp is home to the most amazing bar we have ever been to, The Kulminator. This is not a trendy bar, in fact at first glance you might not even realize it is a bar (as the signs out front are not very noticeable), but should you find it you’ll be rewarded with the biggest beer list imaginable. They stock over 5,000 beers here. 5,000 beers. And the beer menu is in a binder that's over 6 inches thick.
Upon entering this amazing bar, the first thing you'll notice is the decor, which is, lets' just say -- eclectic. There are boxes, bottles, knick knacks, old magazines, and whatnot piled everywhere, making it feel more like your grandparents living room, than the greatest beer bar in Europe. But thats what makes the place so amazing! It is truly unlike any other bar in the world.
You’ll be served by Leen, the older woman who owns the place with her husband Dirk. Leen knows here beer list inside and out, and can give you fantastic recommendations if you have a hard time navigating their extensive beer list. Which is definitly helpful considering that they stock every brand of beer you can think of -- and even have many of them from different years (in the mood for a 20 year old bottle of Chimay?, yes they will likely have that).
The best beer I tried there, is actually a beer that you can only buy at The Kulminator. Called Mikkeller 40 Smaragd, this special beer was produced by Mikkeller, to celebrate the 40 year anniversary of The Kulminator. It was probably one of the most delicious beers i've ever tasted, and unfortunately, will likely never have it again, as this beer was produced with a very limited supply. However, should we make it back to Antwerp, i'm sure that one of the other 4,999 beers that The Kulminator has will suffice!