Jun 28, 2012 10:59:56 AM
Best bars to taste that local flavour
Drinking with the locals isn’t hard in these 10 bars (although you’ll more than likely be drinking with a few fellow travellers too). So pull up a chair, order a beer, a cocktail, maybe a sheesha, talk about what you saw today and ask a local what you should see tomorrow.
Fishawi’s Coffeehouse, Egypt
Cairo has thousands of ahwas (coffeehouses) where you can while away the hours over a glass of shai (tea), a sheesha (water pipe) and a few games of towla (backgammon). Smoking sheeshas used to be strictly for men, but now it’s not at all unusual to see women smoking, even at the regular ahwas. Fishawi’s Coffeehouse (in an alley off Midan Hussein, in the Khan al-Khalili market area) is one of the oldest and the most famous. Despite being swamped by foreign tourists and equally wide-eyed out-of-town Egyptians, it is a regular ahwa, serving stallholders and shoppers alike. It’s especially alluring in the early hours of the morning.
Il Rifrullo, Italy
You’ll find the best dark local haunts in Florence‘s Oltrarno and Santa Croce, where Happy Hours can last half the night. Cheap drinks are often accompanied by nibbles on the counter; enoteche (wine bars) like to serve food when Florentines are drinking, which may explain why they never seem as tipsy as the travellers here. Try the spread of aperitivi (appetizers) at Il Rifrullo, a great little bar on a quiet corner of San Niccoló. This place, which attracts a chirpy, suave crowd, is a wonderful spot to mingle with the locals.
Kaertner Bar, Austria
Former capital of the Hapsburg empire, Vienna has some very well-appointed drinking holes. For a really intimate taste of the city, try to get a seat at Kaertner Bar. Lavishly designed by Adolf Loos in 1907, you’d be hard pressed to fit 20 people in here. For the eight who are standing, it’s a great recipe for meeting locals. Start with a glass of Austrian wine then move on to Viennese schnapps or fruit liqueurs.
Karaoke bars, Philippines
The Philippines is chock-full of naturally talented musicians. Perhaps that’s why so many Filipinos head for karaoke bars on their nights off. Karaoke is taken seriously: no matter how bad the singer, they’ll still get respect. This is just a warm-up, however, as most towns have live music bars with local talent belting out flawless cover versions of classic rock and recent hits. Three commonly heard renditions are I Will Always Love You (Whitney Houston), Dancing Queen (ABBA) and Wind Beneath My Wings (Bette Midler).
Barasti, United Arab Emirates
Pubs and bars in Dubai are open until the early hours of the morning. You’ll find beers from all corners of the earth here and the wildest cocktails conceivable. You’ll also get to listen to an extraordinary mix of music on any one night, from bhangra (lively northern Indian music) and Bengali to Arab-Latin fusion and Persian pop. Barasti at Le Meridien hotel is a drinking spot for laid-back sundowners on a hot afternoon. It’s the kind of place that you don’t have to dress up for, and can head to straight after a day at the beach.
Yes, we heard you the first time (from across the room) – you’re in the mood for a martini. A snazzy beverage can be found in many places in New York: sleek lounges, cosy pubs and straight-up alcoholic dives. One option is Rise at the Ritz Carlton. Even the expensive martinis won’t make you think twice about hanging here, where the high-up lounge affords views of the sunset over the Hudson River.
As you’d expect from the capital of beer-obsessed Germany, Berlin elevates drinking culture to a fine art, offering everything from spit ‘n’ sawdust Kneipen (pubs) to shiny-smart cocktail lounges. Prater, on Eberswalder Strasse, is Berlin’s oldest beer garden and also one of the prettiest, and is a great place for quaffing away beneath the chestnut trees. The complex includes a small stage operated by the Volksbühne (people’s theatre), a cocktail bar, an old-fashioned restaurant and the popular Bastard club.
Raffles Bar, Singapore
Famous for a drink that tastes like cough medicine and is more expensive than a flu shot, Raffles Bar is still worth a visit for the sense of times gone by. Despite Raffles’ colonial connotations, Singaporeans do come here, bringing clients or visitors. Patrons nestle into a dark-boothed interior, or lounge on the wide white balconies littered with the shells of small salty peanuts. The staff are distressingly demure; fortunately the fans are now automated.
Coogee Bay Hotel, Australia
An hour’s stumble from Bondi and the Beautiful People of Sydney, and across the road from the lazy wide expanse of Coogee Beach itself, the Coogee Bay Hotel is the place where locals come. They’ll be watching the game – usually rugby – and downing Arctic-cold beers. You’ll find blokes in the front (sports) bar and backpackers dancing at sassy, brassy Selina’s nightclub out the back. In between is a beer garden, a bottle shop and a view of low-lying Wedding Cake Island. The cocktail lounge caters to suits, and open-mic night usually produces an idol or two.
Also read our article on bizarre bars.