If you’re a big fan of bars, then traveling the world is a great way to experience the different ways that bar culture is interpreted from place to place.
Of course arriving in a new town or city and not knowing what separates the best bars from the merely average watering holes is all too common for globe-trotting types. So what are some of the ways to strike gold when bar hopping in an unfamiliar destination?
Be clear about what you want in a bar, e.g. bar games
What makes a ‘good’ bar is entirely subjective. For some it’s the range of drinks they offer. For others, it’s whether the venue has the best bar and brewery games available for customers to play.
It all comes down to personal taste, and so long as you know what you are looking for before you start your search, it’ll be much easier to narrow down the list of potential places to visit.
Of course sometimes when you’re traveling, a bar is the social hub where you’ll be able to make friends and learn about the local area, which is especially important if you’re on a solo adventure.
In this case, you might consider adjusting your priorities, and perhaps looking for a bar with games and other communal activities involved, which is a great ice-breaker.
Ask the locals
Speaking of making friends and socializing, it’s always a good idea to not only rely on what you read in your guide book, and instead find out which bars stand out from the crowd via word of mouth recommendations.
People who live in the area tend to know hidden gems that even travel writers might have missed, and that doesn’t just apply to bars.
You could unearth amazing restaurants, informative museums, little-visited neighborhoods and all sorts of other places that you’d otherwise miss thanks to this approach.
Stray from the busiest areas
While the central parts of towns and cities are usually where the largest concentrations of bars can be found, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll be the highest rated venues in the area.
Because rents tend to be more expensive in the heart of an urban space, this attracts chain brands and bars with broad appeal, which tend to be more watered down and less authentic than those places that are a little more out of the way.
Simply wandering down a side street that’s one or two blocks over from the main thoroughfare will pay dividends if you’re hunting for a bar and you don’t want to rely on the obvious digital options for research.
Look for drinks you’ve never heard of
Bars market themselves to punters by putting neon signs, posters and other advertorial materials in their windows. This is an ideal way to work out whether a venue is a bland, cookie cutter, corporate spot, or a more leftfield, unusual and interesting dive.
If the breweries being marketed are not ones you’ve encountered before, take a peek. If the signs are all for internationally known drinks brands, keep on walking.
Check social media
If all else fails, social media is your friend when it comes to pinpointing perfect bars in locations where you’re a total stranger.
Instagram is especially useful for this, because if you find venues in your area, you can check out their feeds to see what they look like inside, whether they offer the kind of vibe and experience you’re after, and if they have a decent following. A carefully curated social presence suggests that a business takes itself seriously.