11 of the best bars around the world

Whether you’re after high-class cocktails or beers with a view, the travel team picks its favourite watering holes in holiday hotspots

Travel Desk
Thursday 11 May 2023 11:43 BST
<p>Searcys St Pancras Champagne Bar is the perfect drinking spot to kick off a trip</p>

Searcys St Pancras Champagne Bar is the perfect drinking spot to kick off a trip

It’s always six o’clock somewhere... As the world finally welcomes back travellers minus onerous restrictions, the Independent’s travel team is relishing the thought of getting back to some of the world’s best beers, bars, cocktails and local spirits while trotting the globe. But where to head first – a sunset bar perhaps, or a city rooftop? Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, we recommend a much-needed drink in these venues:


Indulge with Searcys’ new seafood platter

As a flight-free traveller, many of my foreign – and domestic – journeys begin and end in St Pancras station. The home of the Eurostar, which can whizz me to Paris, Lille, Brussels, Rotterdam and Amsterdam (plus the French Alps if hopping onboard the TravelSki Express), this majestic piece of Victorian Gothic architecture in north London is synonymous with glamour and excitement in my mind. It’s why one of my favourite drinking spots is the Searcys Champagne Bar on the upper level of the station – for what could be more glam than kicking off a trip with a flute of fizz, to a backdrop of international trains?

The bar got a snazzy upgrade over the summer too, complete with carriage style décor, new cosy booths and a seafood bar offering platters and oysters – though the iconic “press for Champagne” buttons at every table have stayed put. Looking to push the boat out before a special trip? Order The Pancras By Searcys Champagne cocktail (with Grand Marnier, 42Below vodka, peach liqueur and brown sugar muddled with Cuvee Champagne Brut NV) and a decadent shellfish platter groaning with Colchester rock oysters, Shetland mussels, Mediterranean prawns, yellowfin tuna tartare and dressed Portland crab... Helen Coffey

New York

Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel, New York

My top city for a cocktail is New York, but as prices are high (make sure you factor in that per-drink tip!) I have a high and a lowbrow option for you. For a swanky nightcap, go for Bemelmans Bar in the 93-year-old Carlyle Hotel on the Upper East Side. There’s a pianist tinkling the ivories, curious illustrations by its namesake artist on the walls, and that old-fashioned style of cocktail serve where they give you a mini cocktail shaker with a top up amount beside your glass (order a Manhattan for the full experience). Lucy Thackray

For a cheaper NYC beer or colourful tiki cocktail, Trailer Park Lounge in Midtown is great fun. Its walls are covered with vintage adverts and road signs, Elvis memorabilia and plastic palm trees. Americana fun. LT


In Prague, you are rarely more than 10 metres from the next drinking opportunity and I love them all. But the terrace of the Hotel U Prince overlooking the Old Town has to be the top choice: good Pilsner beer, better views. A 400ml glass of Staropramen is 99 crowns (£3.70). Sunset is around 5pm right now, extending to 5.42pm at the end of February. Simon Calder

Szimpla Kert, Budapest


Budapest’s ruins bars are a bucket list item, not merely a drink. Old shells of buildings repurposed as pop-up bars, with fairylights, road signs and bric-a-bar decorating them, they’re rowdy and a great place to get chatting to locals. You’ll find them in the Hungarian capital’s Jewish Quarter: my tip is Szimpla Kert, a huge, rambling watering hole with a lively crowd. LT

Porto and Lisbon

Portugal has a thousand great waterside venues in which to self-soothe with alcohol – the bars on the Douro in Porto, on the Tagus in Lisbon and scattered along the Atlantic coast immediately to mind. But last year I discovered somewhere even more atmospheric: the rooftop bar of the Casa do Turismo in Setubal, the charming port an hour south of the capital by train. Mine’s a chilled white port, please. SC


Everyone hunts out the Lost in Translation hotel bar in Tokyo (in the Park Hyatt hotel); and while it is big-screen famous, it’s echoingly large, not the prettiest and a bit underwhelming all round. Prettier, smaller and more atmospheric is the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo’s hotel bar, a glossy little cube where you can get a great skyline view and listen to a trickling indoor water feature. LT

Also seek out Tokyo’s tiny, whisky-specialist cocktail haunts: my favourite was Bar High Five, in a nondescript office building in Ginza. You’ll need to ask your host or hotel for specific directions, but it’s worth the adventure. LT


Most tourists to Brussels are content with a beer surrounded by the gabled guildhalls in the Grand-Place. Yet just five minutes’ walk south takes you to the dainty, triangular Place de la Vieille Halle aux Blés – and Le Coming Soon. The name celebrates cinema, and the interior is decorated with images of celluloid heroes. Or take a table outside on the square, order a local beer and create your own drama. SC


The harbour at the Turkish city of Bodrum has a magnificent setting and has been a hub for the eastern Mediterranean for millennia. Today, it’s a bay of tranquility – offering safe haven to hundreds of boats, both pleasure craft and fishing vessels. Of all the cafes along the quayside, my favourite is the home of the Mariners Association, just beneath the castle. SC


In Singapore, start or end the evening 39 floors above the streets at Mr Stork, atop of the Andaz Hotel. The city-state sparkles beneath you. Heighten your appreciation with a cocktail (S$27/£17). Get there on a moonlit night soon (before 17 February) and you can order a Lunar New Year special: the Hao Yun Lai, which mixes salted plum gin and Campari with pomegranate and roasted pineapple soda. SC

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