With the summer finally emerging, tourists will be jet setting across the world to enjoy the good weather and take in those warm summer nights. 2017 promises to continue previous years of growth in interest in the former USSR. There is a growing appetite to break away from the well-trotted tourist paths of Western Europe for something more exciting and interesting.
Going out drinking in the former USSR represents something far beyond just burly men drinking vodka. Increasingly, some of the best bars in Europe are popping up across the eastern regions, where rent prices are cheaper, governmental regulations are looser, and booze tends to cost a lot less. What makes it even more appealing is that many of the top bars are run and managed by younger people who continually respond to emerging trends and create a nightlife reflective of a newer generation’s values. Here are our favourite bars that you should check out this summer. Твоё здоровье!
Meoba (Tbilisi, Georgia)
Meoba is everything that you should love about Tbilisi. In contrast to the gentrifying and soulless bars of Tbilisi, Meoba represents the perfect example of a Tbilisi bar. Sitting next to the Opera House just off Rustaveli Avenue, Meoba brings together largely, but not exclusively, a young Georgian crowd. It’s low maintenance, grassroots, and it isn’t some corporate bullshit bar. Meoba is the newest addition to a variety of bars that could be called Tbilisi’s ‘ruin bars’, along with the likes of Pirimze, Salve, Arsad, and Canudos. They are tailored to a young population that is unpretentious, socially progressive, and representative of creative Tbilisian culture. Tbilisi nightlife is always difficult to get a hold of, but if you start off here, you’re in for a brilliant night.
Том Sour (Kyiv, Ukraine)
Kyiv right now has some of the best bars in Europe, in stark contrast to how it was before Maidan. Although there are some absolutely amazing places, the one that stands out is Том Sour. Whereas the majority of quality bars can be found away from Maidan, this place is located steps away from the epicenter of Kyiv. This is absolutely a cocktail bar but it avoids all the superficial chicness of other places. Instead, they mix great drinks while blasting punk music. It has a lot of standing space, giving you a chance to mingle with the customers and easily start up conversations, which is a break from a lot of other places in the former USSR. The bartenders are hilariously treat their regulars like pricks. One teased me for gaining weight but then threw me a shot. Amazing bar.
Piano Man Outside (Vilnius, Lithuania)
When your favourite indoor bar, where you met your first love and quite literally lived for a number of years (I mean, I had been eating cold pink soup cooked by the bartender from a beer glass on Sundays way before they actually opened a kitchen) goes outside, you know the summer has officially kicked off. Good old friends, good new friends, beloved hits that everyone sings along to, pink Hoegaarden (you can tell I have this thing for pink, can’t you?) — who needs home when you’ve already got one?, and it’s in a lovely closed backyard of a museum. Live music-, dances-till-dawn- and pet-friendly.
Calumet Ethnic Lounge (Yerevan, Armenia)
This bar may not come as a surprise, but there is a reason Calumet Ethnic Lounge has been a steady factor in Yerevan nightlife, whereas other local bars come and go. Friendly staff, laid-back vibe, live music, and ice cold Kilikia beers: Calumet attracts a diverse and tolerant audience every day of the week. You may wake up hungover the morning after a Calumet night, but you are sure to a) have had a good time, and b) to have added many new friends to your contacts – who will subsequently invite you to other cool Yerevan events, such as silent discos.
Save The Ales (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan)
Save The Ales is absolutely at the forefront of a rapidly changing Bishkek. Bishkek has emerged as the most exciting city in Central Asia, with its dynamic counterculture and diverse nightlife. This small microbrewery is located in the yard of an apartment complex right next to a Turkish club. Without proper knowledge of its location it would be easily missed. However, what is happening inside represents something amazingly exciting. An all-female crew of brewers and bartenders mind this bar, which is remarkable considering the continuing issues of sexism in Kyrgyzstan. Partners Aida Musulmankulova and Arzu Kurbanova have been at the forefront of changing the image of Bishkek from a Soviet backwater into the next hot location in the former USSR.
Tsvetochki (St Petersburg, Russia)
Why is Tsvetochki (‘Flowers’ in Russian) one of the nicest places in a city crammed with charming venues? Due to the cozy atmosphere and relaxed vibe radiated by the patrons and cool staff. Then, no matter whether you like beer, wine, or cocktails, they are guaranteed to serve you something delicious that tickles your fancy. Literature buffs will also like this small bar due to the fact that Sergei Dovlatov used to live in this building. Look out for his statue in front of the bar, even though it seems to be removed every now and then. Finally, they just post really cool vintage photos on their Facebook page.
Ў Bar & Gallery (Minsk, Belarus)
This place was the first wine bar in Minsk and definitely the place to go if you’re a wine person fond of the artistic milieu. Located in an older apartment complex just outside the city centre, it is just as perfect for a coffee in the morning as it is for a glass of democratic wine in the evening. Live gigs, DJ sets, cool vibes, and all services in Belarusian rather than Russian. Ў also includes a contemporary art gallery, a bookstore, and a hand-made souvenir shop in the same building, just in case you get bored drinking.