A big part of the time I spent in Europe was spent in bars. (Sorry, Mom and Dad!) But a few of the bars stood out. All for different reasons, and they’re actually all quite different from the others. But these are the places that I really enjoyed, that I made sure to go back to, and that I look forward to visiting again on the next trip. So here are a few of my favorite bars in Europe.
Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Now, saying the Spaniard was the only thing I liked about Belfast might be a bit of a stretch. But not much of a stretch. Belfast was not one of my favorite places, but the Spaniard definitely was. Everything about it seemed perfectly set up to ensure you had a great time. It’s a small pub, definitely full a few times we were there… but worth the wait if you want to hang around for a table. The bar was covered, floor to ceiling in kitsch. Every surface was covered in stuff, be it old album covers, retro toys, weird knick knacks… pretty much anything and everything. Really easy way to spark a lulling conversation, ‘oh hey! did you hear that album?…’ The other thing that I loved about the bar, was the music. Really eclectic, fun, ‘oh my goodness, I haven’t heard this song in forever!’ music played at a level that you could actually hear the music… but, didn’t have to shout over it. Lovely.
Cafe Des Halles
Now, to be truthful. It wasn’t the most amazing bar for anything having to do with itself. (Though the inside of the bar looked really cool, but we sat on the terrace) I loved it more for its location, and the amazing people watching that could be had from the terrace. Located on a busy corner, surrounded by other bars, this was a place where you could kick back with an overpriced mixed drink in a trendy bar and just observe the antics of the trendy people, also drinking their overpriced mixed drinks at all the bars in the area. I suppose it sounds like a place I wouldn’t really like, but it lacked any kind of pretension and it felt really comfortable. Plus the menu was on a record. Cool.
And then there was Pudel Baar. Most weekends I spent more time at Pudel Baar than I did at home. Now, a big part of what I loved about Pudel was that my friends were there. Only a few weeks into my time in Estonia, a colleague told me he was going to be opening a bar. They had just found the location. It was in an abandoned warehouse complex. And a piece of me said, ‘What the what? All the way out in the middle of nowhere… and that building… it doesn’t look so inviting…’ But just a few months later, that building had been turned into a fabulous bar in a very quickly up and coming neighborhood.
Now there are many reasons that I loved Pudel. The bar staff were all super nice and really helpful in suggesting drinks. Those that I didn’t know, quickly became friends… but such is the spirit of the bar. The spirit of the bar is also beer. Beer is the name of the game here. And the beer is spectacular. I had never been much of a fan of beer. I made it through university really never drinking any. I finally caved in Prague when faced with cherry beer and beer prices lower than the cost of ordering water. But I still wasn’t a fan. Pudel bar made me a fan. With about 100 choices, there pretty much has to be something you’ll like, and once I found it, it was easy to keep trying new things.
Another thing that made me head to the bar was the terrace and outdoor space. Because it wasn’t located in the middle of Old Town, there is actually enough space to move around. Many afternoons were spent on the terrace, (that gets sun all day long… which doesn’t seem possible, but is.) Sometimes we set up a barbeque to do some grilling. Sometimes we would all meet to eat pancakes. Also, they have cheese. Yum. Much fun.
Red Emperor Bar; Tallinn, Estonia. Great fun bar with something for everyone. Cheap beers, pool tables, giant jenga, and a skate bowl (in the bar!) For me the biggest attraction was the events they have going on all the time. Personal faves being Karaoke Night (Monday) and Trivia Night (Thursday)
Mouse House; Pogradec, Albania. Mouse House was a bar owned by a friend of mine that we went to quite often. Drinks were cheap (as was everything in Albania) and the people were always really friendly. Drink Rakia, ask Mouse to play Tuna, dance around the bar- Great night!
Caravan; Paris, France. Lovely little bar, with good wine. Very relaxed. It felt more like hanging in someone’s basement than a bar. But a nice basement. Not, like, a cement hole. All mismatched chairs and tables.