Top 4 Bars in Kurdistan
by Jonny Blair
While I certainly didn’t go backpacking in Iraq to get drunk, it was pleasing that I was able to relax and enjoy some ice cold beers in some really really good bars while touring the northern part of the country, Kurdistan. All bars are safe to drink in, all friendly and they serve alcohol – it was all part of my recent travel adventures. Here are my top 4 bars in Kurdistan, Iraq! Prost! Slainte!
1. Sport Bar Football, Sulaymaniyeh
Address – Sport Bar Football, Sulaymaniyeh Palace Hotel, Salim Street, Sulaymaniyeh, Kurdistan, IRAQ
Cheapest Beer – 4,500 Iraqi Dinars (About $4 USD) for 500ml Draft Krombacher
This was such a highlight from backpacking in Iraqi Kurdistan. On a Sunday night, an FA Cup day I headed along the main street, Salim Street in Sulaymaniyeh to watch the football and have a beer. Yes it was British FA Cup Day. 10 years ago to the day I had watched the FA Cup in a bar in Bournemouth, England. Now here I was in Iraq. The Sport Bar Football is situated on the ground floor of the Sulaymaniyeh Palace Hotel.
We watched Barcelona v. Elche. Messi was injured, but Barcelona were still way too strong, cruising to a 4-0 win and even affording to miss a penalty.
The bar was busy enough, we sat at the bar. The cheapest beer in there was 4,500 Iraqi Dinars. This works out around $4 US Dollars so not too bad. It was a 500 ml glass of Krombacher. This was my first and only time to drink draft beer in Iraq.
The electric went off twice when we were in there. They show Spanish, German and English football. Welsh as well – since that day Swansea dumped Manchester United out of the FA Cup. And yes, the real name of the bar is “Sport Bar Football”
2. Deutscher Hof, Ainkawa
Address - Deutscher Hof International, Karez Street House 240/6/70, Ainkawa, Erbil, Kurdistan, IRAQ
Cheapest Beer - 7,150 Iraqi Dinars (about $6.50 USD) for a Bitburger 500 ml bottle
The Deutscher Hof in Ainkawa is a German Bar. It’s the first German bar in the country of Iraq and was opened by a German Soldier.
We decided to head to Ainkawa, which is like an extension of Erbil, but also kind of a separate town (think Parramatta to Sydney or Dundonald to Belfast). After checking out the Churches and the line of off licences, we headed to the German Bar. It can be hard to find on a side street, so ask the locals. It wasn’t busy when we went. It’s called Deutscher Hof.
We had a bit of a feast in there, including Bratwurst and a starter each. I loved the German Beer! I drank Bitburger bottles.
One thing though – it’s not cheap!! The cheapest beer was 7,150 Iraqi Dinars, and they add on a 10% service charge making it one of the dearest bars in Kurdistan, so look out for that! But worth it as a one off memory – you’re in a German bar in Iraq!
3. International Hotel Ground Floor Bar, Erbil
Address – Ground Floor, Erbil International Hotel, 30 Meter Street and Salahaddin Street, Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq.
Cheapest Beer – 6,000 Iraqi Dinars (About $4.80 USD) for a 330 ml Corona
Bonus – It included a free slice of lemon and 2 packets of crisps
This is a posh 5 star hotel. I didn’t stay there – of course I wouldn’t. But one day I ventured in just to have a beer and have a look around. There are supposed to be a whopping 6 bars inside. Currently though, the 9th floor nightclub, Shehrazad is actually closed so it should be 5 bars. As the nightclub was closed I did the downstairs, ground floor bar instead.
I went simple and drank at the bar, on my own, the only backpacker in there and on the ground floor. It’s an elaborate hotel and the bar is straight through the front entrance on the left. There are stringent security checks on the way in so be ready for them. Once inside they have clean decor, free wi-fi and beer.
I went for a bottle of Corona which was 6,000 Iraqi Dinars. They added on a 10% service charge. For the sake of it, this was worth the money and I enjoyed the free Wi-Fi which was fast!
4. “Secret 8th Floor Bar”, Rasan Hotel, Duhok
Address – Rasan Hotel, Sindore Street, Duhok, Kurdistan, Iraq
Cheapest Beer – 3,000 Iraqi Dinars (About $2.2 USD) for a 330 ml Corona
I’m not sure how “secret” this place really is, as Iraqi Kurdistan is not actually strict with their licences. Especially not in the dreamy, optimistic town of Duhok which sits not too far from the Turkish Border. But it seemed like I had to keep quiet.
Duhok has a few bars in fact, but this random adventure led me to a well priced almost secret bar with a fantastic view of the city! In fact on this list of top 4 bars in Kurdistan, this one is easily the cheapest and therefore the “backpacker choice”.
The reception staff let me head up to the 8th floor where the lights were out, Kurds and Iraqis were drinking and I ordered a Corona while admiring the night time views of the city.
It was like we were drinking in secret in the darkness – all a bit odd, but the best value bar on this list at 3,000 Iraqi Dinars a beer. They even let me into the “secret beer fridge room”. I’m guessing loads of foreigners drink here all the time and it’s not really that secret, nice story all the same…
These are the only four bars in Kurdistan I drank in on my stay in Iraq. Of course there are many others and Iraq’s Kurdistan region is very cosmopolitan and globalised these days, especially Erbil and Sulaymaniyeh. The Nenkasy Bar/Jim Beam Bar in Sulaymaniyeh is also recommended as are a few of the posh hotel bars in Erbil. There is a UK Restaurant in Erbil which is unlicensed. As far as I could tell and from what I heard, there are NO Irish Bars in Iraq. If I had the capital I’d open one you know. Someone else’s dream...
Most of the time I saved the money, bought some Murphy’s from the off licences and drank in the hotel rooms. The backpackers option rather than heading to the bars of Kurdistan. I’m glad I have a top 4 to share with you al though – I completely enjoyed my beers in Iraqi Kurdistan!
Beers Available in Kurdistan, Iraq
There are a wide range of beers available in Kurdistan in Iraq, both in bars and in the many off-licences. I didn’t see any local beers in my time there, the nearest to Iraqi beer I tried was Efes (from Turkey) and Almaza (from Lebanon) – both in bottles. Cans of Jordan’s Petra Beer are also available. Off licences are well stocked with beer and are usually open until 11pm, especially in Sulaymaniyeh. Take away beers are well priced and I drank a lot more in the hotel room than I did in bars. 1,000 Iraqi Dinars is standard for a can or bottle from the off licence. The off licences include such a wide range of global alcohol you won’t believe, from Bailey’s to Gentleman Jack. There’s not much you can’t get here to be honest.
Happy drinking my friends and safe travels!
You can read more by Jonny here: http://www.dontstopliving.net/.
More by Jonny BlairThings to See and Do in Erbil
The Mountain Village of Sulav
Ainkawa: A Christian Suburb of Erbil
Hotel breakfast in Sulaymanihey
New Year’s Eve in Iraq!
Saddam Hussein’s House of Horrors
Creamy Cake Dessert in Duhok
The Mountain Top Village of Amadiya
10 Things to See and Do in Duhok
A Kurdish Feast in Dohuk
Visa on Arrival at Erbil Airport
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