On the 14th floor of a recently built hotel, you can drink and eat, and gaze at two thirds of Berlin. Favoured seats are along the west facing windows for sunset. Stunning!
As the name suggests, these are essentially drinking establishments set up in disused buildings, often in the court yards of a derelict apartment blocks. Renowned for their cheap beer, hip music and interesting surroundings - it's definitely worth taking the time out to hunt down one of these bars.
In the backstreets of Budapest
Everyone knows the best thing about heartbreak, loneliness, and unrequited love is the music. Especially the Smiths. This Valentine's Day, February 14, you can celebrate your love, or lack thereof, with The Sons & Heirs, a Smiths and Morrissey cover band at The Bell House in Brooklyn. (Check out their songs here.) Doors open at 8 pm and the show starts at 9 pm with a Smiths-inspired cabaret. You can buy tickets in advance for $12 or $15 at the door. And yes, there will be lots of alcohol and singles there! The Bell House is located on 149 7th Street off the F and G trains.
149 7th St Brooklyn, NY 11215, United States
+1 718 643 6510
Google map: bit.ly/TNui8e
* Amanda is our Been there local for New York. You can check out her page here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/new-york-local-amanda-green.jsp and her own NYC blog here: www.noisiestpassenger.com/. She's also on Twitter: @amandagreen
I love the faded splendour of the Central Cafe in Budapest. Sat on worn red leather seats in the wood-panelled interior it is easy to imagine eavesdropping on the earnest conversations of bearded revolutionaries, artists, poets and lovers.
Art deco lights hang from from starburst ceiling roses, and the doors open up onto the street to entice passers-by into the cool, high-ceilinged rooms with their beautiful painted mouldings and dark wood floors.
The waiters act slightly aloof, as though they carry the weight of history around with their trays of magnificent cakes and hearty Hungarian breakfasts. We feasted on scrambled eggs, Mangalica sausage, soft cheese on brown seeded bread and freshly squeezed orange juice.
The Red Room is a faintly grungy expat haunt just behind Karlovo Namesti replete with black sofas and dark corners for lounging. You don’t come here for the beer – they only have Staropramen and Hoegaarden on tap which any self-respecting Czech would turn their nose up at – but there’s an extensive range of cocktails if you prefer Long Island Tea to lager. The bar’s main draw is the music. Should you find yourself at a loose end at the end of your long weekend in the city and fancy seeing live acts in an intimate venue, the Red Room is the place to head for. Sunday is open mic night and the standard is refreshingly high. On my last visit I was treated to a French double bass player accompanied by a pal riffing away on clarinet and a British lady with an angelic voice belting out ballad standards like ‘Stand By Me’ as well as the usual mix of aspiring singer-songwriters. Should you need to take a break from the tunes there’s a backroom with a pinball machine and table football. Would-be performers should get there by 8.30pm to sign up for a slot.
Myslikova 28, Prague 1
+420 222 520 084
Google map: bit.ly/X0psQE
* Lisette is our Been there local for Prague. You can read her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/prague-local-lisette.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/LisettePrague
I had my wedding here this Christmas and it was the best experience I could have wished for. They made the day run so smoothly and were so helpful and friendly. Robyn helped us plan our wedding and made it seem so easy and stress free. it was a dream! It is a quirky venue and does the ceremony as well as the reception which we thought was perfect. A real find! (It is also attached to a hotel so we did a wedding package with them which made everything sooo much simpler not having to think about travelling constantly on the day!)
p.s. the food and cocktails were gorgeous!
I would really like to recommend a new restaurant in Barcelona called Llamber. It's situated in the new hip area of Born. It's one of the few places in Barcelona, where you get a free pitxo (mini tapas) with your glass of wine. For the wine lover they have 150 different wines, 30 by glass and they start from only 2,5€. Also they have a really good a la carte menu with different kinds of tapas, tables of cheeses and Spanish ham, dessert etc., all served in a creative and beautiful way.
I love to go there because the food is delicious and it's a really friendly and informal place with beautiful decoration.
We were staying in the Komaneka Bisma and were walking back to our hotel one evening after a lovely meal, we fancied a drink but didn't fancy Cafe des Artistes at the bottom of Jalan Bisma. So we walked on to our hotel along the rice field road. We walked past a shack/bar/music venue. it was full of locals watching a local band playing Nirvana!!! we have never enjoyed drinking warm beer so much in our whole lives. we were welcomed in with opened arms and the invite to dance was one we couldn't resist! it was hot and sweaty but real, we were treated as one of the locals and my wife and I felt safe. It was surreal listening to Indonesian Nirvana in a small shack in a rice field on our honeymoon but it's an evening we'll never forget.
Jalan Bisma, Ubud, Indonesia, right off Jalan Raya Sanggingan, between Cafe des Artistes & between Komaneka Bisma.
Google map: bit.ly/Ud2SYM
Just a stone throw away from La Rambla - Barcelona's busiest street - Boadas is a hidden cocktail bar. The oldest cocktail bar in town, is snug and authentic. The cocktails are fantastic, the waiters dressed in tails and the crowd engaging.
Carrer dels Tallers, 1, 08002, Barcelona, Spain
+34 933 18 95 92
Google map: bit.ly/11LIijI
I came across this bar/restaurant on the internet when I was doing research for my 2010 USA roadtrip and I became determined to visit it. The bar is slightly out of the way for most, but luckily for me, it was down the street from where I was staying. Still, I didn't make it there until my last night in San Fran. My friend and I had a tiring day of sight-seeing and only strolled in to Tommy's at around 11pm. Tommy's is a Mexican restaurant, not only famous for it's food, but also for it's tequila. It's not fancy, or classy, or pretentious. I headed straight to the bar and ordered a margarita, only to be told last orders were at 11pm. I was gutted! I begged and pleaded with the bartender. He went and asked the owner, but came back with an apology. I then decided to play the English card. He went back to the owner and this time, the owner himself came over and greeted me with, 'Oh! You're from England! Come! Have a drink!' It was probably one of the best margaritas I've ever had! Not only that, I was given a personal lesson in picking good tequila, was given free tasters, and also a free shot glass. The owner chatted to myself and my friend for a good few hours about his favourite bars in the world and it turned out he knew someone I knew. He even introduced us to his family and the original Tommy! A little tip on Tommy's. They have a 'tequila card' that has around 50 different tequilas listed on it. You are allowed to try a maximum of three tequilas a night and each time you try one, it will get marked off your card. They vary in price - some start at a few dollars and some go up to hundreds of dollars. If you complete the card, the owner will take you to his distillery in Mexico. I now keep on noticing 'Tommy's Margarita' on bar menus around the world, which proves how iconic this place is. I know it is slightly out of the way, but please give it a shot - I guarantee you will love it!
Based on an old-fashioned European apothecary shop, Apotheke is a cocktail bar like no other. The menu is eclectic and the bar is more of a chemistry lab than a drinks station, surrounded by medicinal jars from around the world. Great atmosphere, potent cocktails and attractive bar staff.
Though there are bands on in the night, go there at a quiet lunch time. The architecture will take you back to the old whaling days of Baltimore. From the bay you have to take a water taxi to get there. Something about arriving 'by sea' that makes it all rather magical. Half close your eyes and you can imagine Jack London, Edgard Alan Poe and Captain Ahab shooting craps in the back room. A very special place.
Bar Isabel - in a word, fabulous. A glamorous, mirrored space in a vaguely art-deco/Studio 54 style, with an overhead canopy consisting of a sequence of flashing lights, the place feels special the second you walk in the door. Those who feel the need can park themselves in a booth and be waited on, but the place is equally welcoming to those who just want to rock up and hang out at the bar. Outside at the back is a dramatic concrete-lined space with an open fire providing light but also retaining secluded corners for those who want them. Combine all this with a staff that knows how to make top-notch cocktails and are friendly to boot (as everyone is in this city), and great DJs keeping things suitably cool and you are on to a winner. Just don't get lost in the completely mirrored hall of wonders that is the (unisex) bathrooms ...
It's a little jazz bar half way up a hill in the scruffy, poetic quarters of Ecuador 169, Valparaiso. Careful, it's a rough hill. To enter, you step through a doorway of stone piano keys.
No English spoken, no beer from a glass, no smoking ban. The place is thick with jazz smoke and there are instruments littered against every corner and wall. Sometimes the regulars will pick up a sax or a guitar and just start to jam, cigarettes hanging from their mouths. This isn't amateur stuff—the standard of the music is incredible..
If you want a beer, you sometimes have to wait for the owner to come back with a slab of cans from the supermarket. Then the party is on. Small place with a hot, lively atmosphere. Named after Henry Chinaski—the most famous bar-fly in American literature.
Ecuador 169, Valparaiso, Chile
Google map: bit.ly/UlK6f2
Bamberg is a beer drinkers heaven. It is also a UNESCO listed town on the banks of the Main that Bomber Harris failed to visit in WW2. Many German towns were rebuilt after the war, but Bamberg is the real McCoy. Of the nine or so breweries in town, Faessla is the best. Its bar is snug, to say the least, but all the better for it. Don't be afraid to snuggle up to the locals (or tourists) sitting at the benches. They definitely won't bite. The beers are also great and will be brought to your table by efficient bar staff who will mark your beermat every time you have a new drink so you can tot up how many you've had when you pay. The whole place oozes atmosphere and charm. You're not in Bavaria here, but Frankonia, where they are VERY proud of their brewing culture. Get thyself to Bamberg and while there get to Faessla. Should it be busy, the Spezial - opposite - will be a very good substitute!
My favourite bar in London is Trailer Happiness, a little bit of Tiki heaven in Notting Hill Gate’s Portobello Road for an easy relaxed atmosphere and a drink at the end of a hard day. It’s been around for about eight years, and recently even better under new management. Food is great and as the home of the Notting Hill Gate Rum Club it’s definitely the place to go for rum based drinks.
A restaurant and bar on the tiny Bellamy Cay in Trellis Bay, Tortola, the Last Resort is renowned for its live music entertainment often involving musical games, audience participation and plenty of tequila shots from an optic on the drum kit. Making your way back across the bay in a little dinghy after a night at the Last Resort is often much more precarious than it was getting there.
The Last Resort, Bellamy Cay, Trellis Bay, Tortola, British Virgin Islands
+1 (284) 495 2520
The classic American Bar at the centre of Chicago's "Viagra Triangle". Big windows so you can watch (in summer at least) the parade of expensive cars and expensive people, while the bar itself is a curving, dark mahogany glory. Always busy, often with live piano jazz, get that inner glow with the perfect martini, then tuck into the greatest steak on earth. Absolute heaven!
There are better views in Stockholm, from Gondolen for example, and there are better settings for hotel bars - such as the Nobis on Norrmalmstorg.
But for grown up drinking, this bar simply cannot be beat. As part of one of Stockholm's hippest hotels, it's a place that concentrates on the details. An intriguing mix of classics and truly original recipes, all made with the best ingredients and just the right amount of theatre by staff who are friendly, knowledgeable and ready to suggest exactly what you should be trying next.
It's a wonderful place, and not to be missed.
Los Diamantes is a tiny - blink and you'll miss it - local watering hole and tapas bar hidden on a bustling street full of touristy restaurants. The scrumptious smell of fried seafood, ubiquitous in Granada, is almost intoxicating on Calle Navas. If your attitude to good food is anything like mine, don't be surprised if it has a pavlovian effect on you. It certainly made me jiggle on the spot with anticipation and go "mmmm! mmmm!" This place was recommended by Lonely Planet as "reason enough to go to Granada" (I wholeheartedly agree, with the caveat that the Alhambra is, of course, the top reason to go to Granada, followed by a soak and massage in the excellent arab baths - Aljibe de San Miguel.)
The crowded, noisy, bar looked quite daunting at first but we boldly strode in, still clutching our Lonely Planet. We stood our ground and found a small space by the corner of the bar reasonably easily, considering the circumstances. Luckily we had brushed up on our Spanish food words and were ready to order such tasty tapas as "almejas" (clams), "gambas planchas" (grilled prawns) and "chipirones fritas" (deep fried baby cuttlefish). The lady standing beside me was much amused. She pointed at our Lonely Planet which we hastily stowed, "Is this place in the book?" I had no choice but to confirm this. "The food is very bad. I live in Granada and I never come here," she said with a mock frown. "Don't tell your friends about this place, ok?" said her gentleman friend. We laughed at the joke but I knew there was real worry under the smiles.
As is the practice in Granada, we got a complimentary plate of tapas with our cervezas to start. It was a generous portion of pulpo (octopus) which my boyfriend, who does not like octopus, wolfed down faster than you could say "I thought you didn't like octopus". The food did not disappoint. The clams were small and sweet (the way they should be), the prawns fresh and garlicky, the cuttlefish juicy, their tentacles crunchy. We resolved to go there again the next night. The entire meal, with three beers and bread, came up to slightly over 30 euros.
I left wishing I could bring all my friends to Los Diamantes, partly for selfish reasons - so that we would be able to order a greater variety of tapas to try as two dinners at this excellent tapas bar really wasn't enough.
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