Guest post by Zack Davisson
There are plenty of cultural reasons to visit Europe. But who decided architecture and museums have any more cultural value than beer drinking? We say beer can be just as good of a reason for a vacation, so forget the overcrowded hotspots like the Eiffel Tower and instead file into a pub for a pint of liquid gold. With the help of our buddies and vacation rental gurus at AllTheRooms, we’ve created a list of the best cities in Europe for beer drinkers.
If Europe had a beer capital, Munich would probably be it. There is no region more synonymous with beer than Bavaria, and there isn’t an event more ingrained in beer culture than Oktoberfest. Munich is the capital of one and the host of the other. Oktoberfest isn’t just an opportunity to wear lederhosen and dirndl, the Germans take their beer drinking seriously. Every Oktoberfest (which last 16 days), around 2 million gallons of Oktoberfest Beer is consumed. For some perspective, you could overflow Shamu’s performance tank at SeaWorld with that much — and just a reminder Shamu is a whale. Beer drinking is iconic in Munich; while over cities may have famed landmarks, the top thing to do in Munich is savoring a stein of golden goodness.
While it may be better known for its notorious “coffee shops”, Amsterdam’s beer scene is top notch. There are certainly plenty of cool bars to stop in for a local microbrew here, but Amsterdam’s beer tourism begins and ends at the Heineken brewery in the center of town. This is the original brewery to make Heineken but as the company has expanded, so has the building. Nowadays, it hosts tours, and guests can learn about the history of one of the world’s top 10 highest selling beers, as well as get a few samples.
This one may come as a bit of a surprise to some, but Iceland’s nightlife scene is one of the most fun in Europe. From high-end lounges to simple pubs, Iceland’s capital has seen a huge surge in bar openings thanks to its newfound bustling tourism market. The team at Einstök brews Iceland’s best beer and their Icelandic White Ale is now even sold across the US. They do have a brewery open to the public in Iceland, although tourists will need to leave Reykjavik and head to Akureyri in Northern Iceland to see it.
Highly regarded worldwide for some of the Pilsner they produce, Prague takes their beer traditions seriously. While many beer-drinkers may think imported Pilsners are tasty, many Czech breweries actually make their local product slightly differently for that which gets shipped overseas. As a result, many people swear the quality of beer in Prague is noticeably higher. Boozy travelers should pay a visit to the Prague Beer Museum; the name may be misleading as it’s not a museum at all, but the bar has one of the best selections of Czech beer anywhere, partially because that’s all they sell!
So we are willing to give Munich the “Beer City of Europe” award, but we have to hesitate with giving Germany the top country honors. That hesitation is all thanks to Belgium. Belgian-style beer is some of the best in the world and some of their finest has been made for centuries by monks in various monasteries throughout the country. The top place to grab some beers is in the capital, Brussels, around Grand Place. The narrow, cobblestone streets are packed with hundreds of small cafe-bars, and have a great atmosphere.
It’s hard to pick just one favorite, but the must-see bar here has got to be Delirium Café. In 2004, the café set the Guinness World Record for most beers offered in one place, with an astonishing 2,004 different varieties. We’ll let you tackle that menu by yourself, but Delirium does make award-winning beer of their own, just look for the label with the pink elephant on it.
Hey, did someone say, Guinness?! That’s right, that dark, foamy, possibly intimidating glass of nectar originated in Dublin. And just like the Heineken factory, folks can come to Dublin and head over to the Guinness factory to see where the pitch-black elixir comes from. Guinness’ logo is famously a harp, and a stroll outside of the Guinness headquarters and around Dublin’s many pubs reveals why the symbol is appropriate. On just about every street, live music pours out of cozy pubs to create a cacophony of clinking glasses and a twang of musical chords that is distinctly Irish.
Some beer travelers may think the only thing to drink in Poland is vodka (including water, not just other alcohols), but the truth is Polish cities like Krakow have a burgeoning craft brew scene. Krakow plays host to lots of eccentric watering holes that stay open through all hours of the night. Wander into any of these, with or without a friend, and expect to be greeted by curious/friendly/opinionated locals ready for a chat. For those who have just enough cash for a plane ticket and not much else, drinking is going to be cheaper here than in any other city on this list.
London is one of the most expensive places to live, there’s no way around that. However, while many social scenes are overrun with the martini and champagne crowds, it’s impossible to kill London’s pub culture. Step into any traditional pub like Shakespeare’s Head on Carnaby Street and get ready to meet a mixed crowd of intellectuals and hooligans, foreigners and longtime Londoners. The company is diverse, the beer is good, the beer gardens are a treat (in summer), and the English food isn’t always for the faint of heart, but the experience is always one of the best in Europe.
Zack is a recovering technical recruiter who traded in his suit and tie in Silicon Valley for salsa music and a passion for writing in Medellin, Colombia. When not writing for AllTheRooms you can find Zack with his nose in a book, puttering around nature, or getting ultra-competitive while watching Jeopardy.