I love a good beer garden. The best beer gardens have a casual atmosphere and feel like a backyard party or football tailgate, and the very best add top-tier beer, simple but delicious food, and somehow seem to create and even contribute to conversation topics.
Here are 10 of our favorite beer gardens in all of Europe:
10. Corvinteto in Budapest: I’m starting this list off unconventionally. This is another beer garden experience worthy of its own special feature, and it’s currently on my short list of stories to write over the next few months. It has to be the most unique beer garden setting I’ve ever been to, as it’s set on top of a building in central Budapest and boasts sweeping views over the Budapest rooftops and the Danube. The only stipulation is that in order to reach this beer garden, you first have to prevail through a terrifying gauntlet of stairs and a nightclub straight out of a scene from The Basketball Diaries.
9. Pivovara Medvedgrad in Zagreb: A surprise finisher is this small bar in Zagreb, located just blocks from the old town. While its small size could easily allow one to argue that it’s more of a pub than a beer garden, the wonderful outside deck at the back of the bar was enough to qualify it in my mind for this list. We were there on a cold afternoon in December, so we practically had the place to ourselves. While it’s an easy assumption to make that this place gets fun and lively during the right months, for our purposes, it was peaceful, cozy, and relaxing. What stood out the most was the quality of the beer. Other than Germany, I can’t think of a wheat beer I’ve enjoyed more, or that went down any smoother. If you’re a beer fan traveling in Zagreb, this should be your first stop.
8. Stone Brewery in Berlin: This enormous brewery sits about 20 minutes outside of central Berlin, and I think it was the first US brewery to set-up shop in Europe. We visited on a frigid night in late December, so the outside beer garden was closed. The taxi we took dropped us off, in the dark, in a neighborhood that looked like it was out of a horror movie and not the setting for such a massive, wonderful beer garden that was an interior design masterpiece. After a moment or two of panic, we turned the dimly lit corner and saw what vaguely appeared to be an entrance of some kind. I was so excited when I realized that we hadn’t just been dropped off in the middle of nowhere, and that it appeared we actually were at a brewery, that I pulled the “push” door with all my might and forced it open with a head turning squeeeeeek. After nearly breaking the door and feeling the disapproving gaze of the locals inside, I forged ahead into a lovely outdoor beer garden. At least, it felt like a lovely outside beer garden. There were trees, lamp posts, and paths, but I couldn’t help but notice it was also room temperature and there was a roof above me. Wow! I took a quick look outside at the actual beer garden and even in the dark of winter it was clear that this place is special. When you add-in a huge menu of draft beer from both Stone and other local breweries, as well as a foodie menu with items like duck confit tacos, it’s easy to see how this place made the list.
7. Hofbrauhaus in Munich: This is the Disney Land of beer gardens. Yes, it’s commercial, it’s touristy, it’s crowded and it’s full of merchandising, but you always end up having fun. You can expect soccer chants, large portions of barbarian-style food, a live “Ompah” band keeping things lively, and ladies in traditional German garb carrying six pints per hand as they navigate the crowds and make their way to their tables of customers. It’s as if you’ve wondered into an entire town of “happy” drunk people that are smiling and putting there arm around you to slur out how much they love you. I don’t think anyone will find this beer garden or restaurant charming or relaxing, but you can’t avoid having a great time if you visit the Hofbrauhaus.
6. Viktualienmarkt Biergarten in Munich: How do you not love a city that literally revolves around a beer garden? Smack in the center of downtown Munich is the Viktualienmarkt, where you can browse local specialties, find almost any food your heart desires, and then settle into a seat at the enormous beer garden. It’s a lively area full of tourists and locals, and really is the epitome of what a beer garden should be.
5. Braustuberl Weihenstephan – Freising (Munich): You can read our full account of our visit to the Braustruberl Weihenstephan in the stories section. This is a wonderful beer garden located about an hour outside of Munich and just a short cab ride from the airport. Enjoy the 1000 year-old monk-brewed beer recipe along with classic German fare and views of the gorgeous countryside. Be sure to visit the flower garden and maybe, just maybe, they’ll have sausage there when you visit. Fantastic!
4. Bauschanzli – Zurich: It feels as though Bauschanzli came first, and the rest of Zurich was built around it. Perfectly located on its own little island just south of downtown Zurich and at the mouth of Lake Zurich, lies this gem of a beer garden. Wonderful views, plenty of seating, live music, great location, and a (no surprise) efficiently run buffet style self-service system that makes securing your food and beer quick and easy regardless of the crowd. Bauschanzli is also right next door to a unique public swimming pool that sits on top of the river and is surrounded by a bar. Best of all, the prices are reasonable for Switzerland standards. If you’re in Zurich on a pretty day, find this place.
3. Englischer Garten – Munich: This enormous park in the city center is also one of our favorite green spaces and places to take a walk in all of Europe. Contributing to its greatness are the multiple beer gardens scattered throughout the area. While I recognize the beer garden by the Chinese Tower is probably the most touristy and oft-marketed beer garden in the park, we still loved it. There is a great vibe with live music, soccer club chants, venders walking around selling pretzels the size of your face, and long communal tables encouraging everyone to meet each other and share a toast. Where else can you literally go bar hopping with beer gardens then in Munich. On top of all of that, you can always take a break and watch a little surfing.
2. Szimpla Kert – Budapest: Szimpla Kert is the best of the “ruin” pubs that we visited in Budapest, and the most famous. A good beer garden is relaxing in a way that is both conducive to relaxation and conversation, but Szimpla Kert goes beyond that and literally becomes an attraction in itself. For anyone that lived through the cold war or gravitates at all to the nostalgic, this pub will keep you busy for hours. Like an open air museum, Szimpla Kert presents an overwhelming assortment of communist kitsch, memorabilia, junk, and other items throughout multiple rooms and floors. It’s amazing. We spent at least an hour just walking from room to room admiring the exhibits and artwork, before settling in at a casual table in their beer garden. Now that the ambiance has been firmly established, it’s time to move on to the beer. Szimpla Kert offers a selection of about ten local beer options, including some brewed in house. They also offer a full bar and a wine menu. If you’re hungry, they offer dirt cheap bar food that’s more filling than it is delicious, but that seems to be a part of the experience. However, since the time we visited, I believe their growing popularity has led to some expansion and (assumingly) improvement in the food options.
- Augustinerbrau: My hands down favorite beer garden. For a full account and pictures, check out the whole story.
While they didn’t make the top 10, these 3 deserve Honorable Mention
1. Gaffgen in Cologne – This place surprised me as it wasn’t super high on my research list, but I loved the atmosphere from the moment we arrived. As you enter Gaffgen, you are greeted by a large barrel full of the prized local favorite, kolsch, which is a light and easy to drink beer similar to a lager. It’s important that you know the beer system before entering. If you order a beer, expect it to be endlessly refilled as staff wonder through the restaurant and beer garden with uniquely designed, circular treys designed to transport the standard kolsch beer glasses, and swap out your empty glass for a new one. Putting a coaster on top of the glass will stop the process. In addition to the efficient beer delivery process that I wish other bars would adopt, the restaurant is comprised of several classically German rooms with dark wood and interesting old paintings that would feel at home in a haunted house. There is almost a Scooby-Doo vibe to the front room of this place. While we experienced it mostly as a restaurant, as I wondered to the back looking for the restrooms, I came across their beer garden. It was closed at the time, but it made enough of an impression on me to at least include it here.
2. Franciscan Well in Cork – For a country full of cozy pubs with low ceilings, stained glass partitions and dark lighting, it was nice to find a lively outdoor beer garden when visiting Cork. The Franciscan Well had a great variety of quality beers, an authentic wood burning Italian stone fire pit outside churning out fresh pizzas, and charming beer garden with hanging flowers, comfortable seating and great ambiance. Take a (short) break from drinking Guinness and find this place if you’re in Cork!
3. Altes Tramdepot in Bern: Another smaller establishment that blurs the line between “patio” and “beer garden”, Altes Tramdepot sits in an enviable position looking over the storybook rooftops of Bern right at the tip of the peninsula formed by the gorgeous, turquoise blue waters of the Aare River. We’ve spent 3 days total in Bern and we’ve chosen this brewery, restaurant and beer garden for 3 meals. Granted, part of that is because almost everywhere else in Bern is so ridiculously expensive, but part of it is also because of that inspiring view, their nice selection of rotating micro brews, and the quality of their frankfurters and Weiner schnitzel.
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