From cheap ales in Budapest to free wine in Paris, in honour of National Beer Day (15th June) we've got seven ideas for city breaks in Europe where your pounds will buy you more pints. Beer we go, then!
Judging the cost of cheap city breaks purely on the price of a pint, Eastern Europe has the cheapest booze on tap. OK, so Budapest is technically more central than east, but with a sterling record for having some of the cheapest beer in Europe, it certainly gives places like Plovdiv in Bulgaria a run for their money. There’s a reason this cultured city has become a favourite among hen weekend and stag do destinations, and although the fun nightlife, giant thermal baths and dinner cruises on the Danube have a lot to do with this, it’s fair to say the 90p bottles of lager help as well. Drinking in Budapest is even better in summer when the party heads outside to massive beer gardens along the river. Just don’t clink your glass or say ‘cheers’ when you’re on the beer in Hungary: custom has forbidden it since 1848, when the Austrian leaders of the Hapsburg Empire defeated the Hungarian revolution and celebrated with a toast. Check out our guide to the top 15 attractions in Budapest for more on what to do outside of the bars.
Best bars in Budapest: Try Szimpla Kert, a ‘ruin pub’ (the Hungarian tradition of repurposing a disused building for drinking) with a great outdoor yard featuring suspended bicycles and a grafitti-ed Trabant car.
Average price of a pint: £1.08*
Beer at a pound a pint is usually the preserve of student discos where your feet stick to the floor to an ‘ironic’ soundtrack of Wham! and Chesney Hawkes, but it’s also the order of the day in a lot of Belgrade pubs. Summer supping is best done on out on the water; when the sun has got his hat on, bars and clubs spring up along the Rivers Danube and Sava on moored floats. Head to happening Gypsy Island to get the pints started, while for full-on hop hedonism, the Belgrade Beer Fest in August attracts half a million people every year – and it’s free. We’ve got more on what to see and do in Belgrade in our guide.
Best bars in Belgrade: Go cosy and comfy by the river at The Black Turtle Pub, who brew their own fruit-flavoured beers, or step up your game at hip cocktail joint Dali Bar (Hilandarska 20) where you’ll find mind-bending surroundings inspired by the artist himself and martinis for around €4.
Average price of a pint: £1.14 (for a half litre)
A predictable choice perhaps, but we must nod tipsily in the direction of Munich, with its truly world-famous Ocktoberfest and plenty of scope for party holidays. As well as its beer tents, there’s a massive funfair during September and October to test your constitution after a few too many. You don’t have to wait until autumn to get the beers in, as they like their lager all year in Munich. A summer visit will reward you with the opportunity to booze in one of the city’s many, many beer gardens. Ok, at around €3.50 a pint, it’s not the cheapest city break destination, but in a lot of drinking venues you can bring your own food – probably a sensible idea if you’re getting stuck into the steins.
Best bars in Munich: Head to the trendy neighbourhood of Schwabing for plenty of elegant boozing options – Distillers gets a mention for producing its own vodka. Back in town, Hofbrauhaus (Platzl 8) is a must for any first-time visitor. Expect the full Bavarian tourist experience, complete with lederhosen, oompah music and toasting your new-found friends whilst standing on the table.
Average price of a pint: £3
Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder, so snuggle up with the object of your desire in a dark corner of a dishevelled dive, or a bright hipster hangout, in seedy/trendy Pigalle. Try Le Lautrec or Le Carmen – where there is no drinks menu, just a made-to-order policy. But a few Absinthe friends there could be heavier on the pocket than a dinner cuise on the Seine, so for smaller budgets, what better than mind-bending spirits than free wine? In spring and summer, winemakers from the Rhone, the Loire and such head up to Paris to showcase their wares in tasting sessions au gratuit. The vin blanc, rouge and rosé is often served up with on-the-house snacks too. Check for food and wine events on Paris by Mouth. Spit it out? No chance!
Best bars in Paris: Though the average cost of a drink says otherwise, fear not: cheap bars in Paris do exist. Head to the 5th arrondisement to Le Requin Chagrin, where you can sample 12 beers for just €12. Sit outside on the typically Parisian terrace or party hard at the weekends – the bar’s open until 4am.
Average price of a pint: £6.14
Emporium of edible and non-edible Japanese products, the Japan Centre, in London’s West End, runs regular tastings of rice wine for the curious and the connoisseur. Get to know your Daiginjo from your Futsu-shu and take home a bottle from one of the largest selections of sake in Europe, to drink responsibly, of course. Elsewhere, look for happy hour deals and get the drinks in between the hours of 4pm and 8pm to make your pennies go further in London. Shoreditch and its lesser-known neighbour Hoxton are good places to start.
Best bars in London: Get down to Tank and Paddle near Monument Tube station, for £2 pints every Tuesday or a pint and a pizza for £10 on Thursdays. Thirst also does a mean happy hour that often starts at midday and involves half price cocktails. Not bad for a swanky Soho establishment.
Average price of a pint: £4
There’s whisky and there’s whisky (well, there’s whisky and there’s whiskey, and then there’s bourbon, but we won’t go into that). But if you prefer your whisky without an ‘e’ and insist on a 15 year-old single malt, head to one of the two The Scotch Malt Whisky Society venues in Edinburgh, where you can take a joyous tour of Scotland’s whisky regions from Islay to Speyside from the comfort of a salubrious armchair. More sophisticated stag parties might consider a visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience, where a tour includes a sample of the national drink, as well as the chance to marvel at the world’s largest collection of whisky. But the best value is to be had in a local pub (there are more per square mile than in any city in the world), many of which do cheap deals on a local ale accompanied by a traditional ‘nip’ of whisky. Alas, you usually have to be over 65 to qualify for this offer, for some reason. Pop over to Glasgow on the train if you’re desperate for a cheaper brew – the average beer there costs just £2.75.
Best bars in Edinburgh: The Jolly Judge is concealed down a close off the Royal Mile, making it a good bet for a quiet pint during the week, as well as a good range of stronger tipples, and usually a pet dog or two. Just north of New Town, a walk up to Cumberland Street will reward you with a choice of craft beers and ales in the Victorian setting of the Cumberland Bar, arguably one of the best pubs in Edinburgh and blessed with a lovely garden overhung by a willow tree for those long summer evenings.
Average price of a pint: £3.54
Moscow might be a more obvious place to consume vodka, and no bad place it is, but ordering a vodka at a bar will cost a lot less in Kraków, so it gets the vote for spirit sampling. The beautiful old town conceals many bars housed in ornate buildings and atmospheric cellars that are the happy haunt of stag and hen weekenders, backpackers and partying locals necking cheap vodka by the vat-load. And the beer isn’t bad either. Get them in!
Best bars in Kraków: Atmospheric old pub Alchemia (Estery) has plenty of dark corners and a cellar room for serious drinkers, and a good programme of gigs and festivals for music lovers. Find even cheaper beer (one euro!) at Bania Luka (Plac Szczepański), plus Polish bar snacks to add bulk to your boozing session.
Average price of a pint: £1.60
Remember kids, if you do are partial to a drink or six on your holidays, be careful out there. Check out the facts at Drink Aware.
Want more European drinking and nightlife destinations? Look no further:
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*Published June 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.