Is smoking allowed in Europe’s bars? (Updated)


Image by Mark Sebastian

Tourists visiting Europe, especially those from North America, are often amazed it’s still possible to smoke a cigarette in a bar in many cities in Europe.

In March 2004, Ireland became the first country in the world to impose an outright ban on smoking in workplaces. Since then, the EU has done its very best to ban smoking in public throughout Europe. In many countries though, smoking is such a tradition that it’s very difficult to ban it in social spots, such as bars and restaurants.


Image by Lhoon

Where can you smoke a cigarette in a bar or restaurant in “our” Spotted by Locals countries & cities?

Austria (Vienna): Yes, many places!

Background: As of January 2009, all restaurants, bars, discos and pubs larger than 50m² have to introduce smoking rooms and non-smoking rooms. In a place less than 50m² the owner can choose to be a smoking or non-smoking place. They expect it to take a long time to be fully implemented. Quite understandable, since Austrians love their smoking!

For a smoke, Vienna locals recommend Cafe Bendl, and non-smokers can enjoy Cafe Aromat.

Belgium (Antwerp Brussels, Ghent):  Not at all.

Up until 2011, the smoking ban was enforced only in venues where food is served. Since July 2011, smoking isn’t allowed in any restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs or casinos, with exemptions of clearly designated smoking rooms with appropriate ventilation. The smoking rooms cannot take up more than 25% of the total surface of the establishment. Any kind of service is forbidden and the customers can only take their drinks with them (in the hospitality sector).

For a place with a smoking room try the White Cat bar in Gent.

Bosnia & Herzegovina (Sarajevo): Go ahead!

A theoretical smoking ban does exist since 2007, but enforcement is weak so you may smoke in many places.

A couple of non-smoking areas can be found in Vatra and Torte i to.

Croatia (Zagreb):  Nay in restaurants, yea in bars!

A full smoking ban in 2009 was quickly repealed, as it was impossible to control. Now, the official rules say that establishments up to 50 sq m that meet very strict conditions may permit smoking. One of the conditions is a ventilation system that is able to change indoor air at least 10 times per hour. Only 16 out of 16.000 establishments met these conditions. In practice, many don’t care about the regulations – there’s no smoking in restaurants, i.e. places serving food, but as for the bars, an overwhelming majority is still smoke-friendly, even though not many meet the required standards.

For a restaurant with a nice heated terrace for smokers, you can visit Pizzeria Duksa, while for a non-smoking coffee place (the first in Croatia!) go to Cafe Bar Elis.

Czech Republic (Prague): Yes, no problem!

The Czech Republic requires bars and restaurants where smoking is allowed (practically all of them), to put up a sign.

For a non-smoking bar in Prague, our Spotter Katerina recommends Kafé Kakao.

Denmark (Copenhagen): Yes, but only in tiny places.

Smoking is prohibited in venues larger than 40 sq, except in smoking rooms or cabins, where food and drinks are not served. Small bars, with a serving area smaller than 40 sq may permit smoking.

A plethora of such spots can be found at our blog, including Kronborggade 3McKluud, The Moose, Drone Bar, Palæ Bar etc.

Estonia (Tallinn): Only in smoking areas.

Banned in certain types of public places (e.g. shops), but in others (bars, restaurants, coffee shops and nightclubs), smoking is allowed in designated rooms or areas.

For a bar with a smoking area try Tops, or, if you like smoking on a terrace better, go for Protest.

Finland (Helsinki): Only in smoking areas.

In bars and restaurants, smoking is allowed in separate ventilated rooms where no food or drink is to be served or consumed.

A restaurant/bar with a smoking area recommended by local Mirjam: Käpygrilli.

France (Paris): Yes, some places.

Paris establishments have to meet very strict criteria to allow smoking (much ventilation, separate rooms with automatic doors). In practice though, many establishments ignore this ban.

Local Tamara recommends this place with a heated terrace for smokers: La Comédie.

Germany (Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt): It depends on where you go.

Germany has different regulations in different parts of the country. Smoking bans exist at the state level, usually allowing for separate smoking rooms and exempting smaller establishments that do not serve food. Complete smoking bans for the hospitality sector are in place in Saarland, North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria. In Berlin, many continue to try to abolish the smoking ban law.

For a smoke in Berlin, try some of these: Fos BarWohnzimmerGaststätte W. PrassnikDas GiftWein & Geflügel8mm BarMein Haus am SeeAltes Europa etc. The last one even serves food in the smoking area!

Greece (Athens): No in theory, yes in practice.

Greece has the highest proportion of smokers in the EU (40%) . Yet they imposed a very strict law at the end of 2010 to ban smoking in all bars and restaurants. Enforcement of the law is reportedly weak though, with most owners of coffee shops, pubs, and restaurants continuing to allow smoking.

For a smoke-free place in Athens, try Bliss.

Hungary (Budapest): Probably not in any decent establishment.

Following a decade of resistance by the tobacco lobby, a comprehensive nationwide smoke-free law covering all inside public spaces (including workplaces, clubs, pubs, restaurants) is in effect from January 2012. Also, the number of stores where people can buy tobacco has been reduced from 40,000-42,000 to 5,300. Hungary’s really cracking down on smokers!

A potential place to try for indoors smoking would be Pótkulcs.

Ireland (Dublin): No smoking whatsoever!

The first country to kick off the desmokification process, a total ban was imposed here in 2004, and seems to be strictly enforced.

Italy (Milan, Rome): Yes, but do it outdoors.

Italy’s bars and restaurants have to meet very strict criteria to allow smoking indoors (rigorous ventilation, separate rooms with automatic doors). Many have chosen not to have smoking rooms (about 99%). Fortunately, the weather is often good and plenty of outdoors seating opportunities, so smoke ahead!

Latvia (Riga): Total ban.

Since 2010, when the ban started, the enforcement has progressively grown. In late 2014 amendments to the law considering smoking ban took effect and included whole areas surrounding educational institutions, apartment building balconies, entrances and staircases as prohibited areas where smoking is not allowed. Also additions to law states that every person, located in the vicinity of the smoker, now are given rights to ask the smoker to extinguish the cigarette at once upon request. Smoking in vicinity of underage children is now classified as child abuse, and punished respectively. Serious stuff.

A smoker-friendly spot to try would be Cadets de Gascogne, which has a big outdoors terrace.

Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam): Nope.

Since 2013, the Dutch parliament agreed on a total ban in the hospitality sector with 77-73, with no exceptions for smaller, owner-operated bars.

Norway (Oslo): No smoking!

The Norwegians have banned smoking in bars and restaurants in 2004 already, as one of the first in Europe. This ban includes the immediate areas surrounding the doorways, etc.

Poland (Krakow, Warsaw): Yes, but it’s not easy.

Poland imposed a strict law at the end of 2010 to ban smoking in regular bars and restaurants. Smaller establishments may allow smoking though, and very large establishments can install physically separated and properly ventilated smoking rooms.

Smokers, try Antycafe in Krakow or Czuły Barbarzyńca in Warsaw.

Portugal (Lisbon, Porto): Smoke away!

In theory, restaurants and bars in Portugal must have detached, ventilated and labeled smoking areas. In practice though, the smoking ban isn’t thoroughly enforced. According to a study published in 2011 by the Ministry of Health, there was 90% compliance with the law in establishments with a total smoking ban, but only 50% compliance in establishments where smoking is partly or wholly permitted (i.e., most bars).

For places with non-smoking areas, try Rubro Avenida in Lisbon or Café Vitória in Porto.

Romania (Bucharest): Yes, no problem.

The smoking ban in Bucharest seems to be poorly enforced.

Non-smokers, go for Cafe KLEINAlt Shift or The Harbour.

Serbia (Belgrade): Where can’t you smoke?

Serbia tried going along for the non-smoking ride in 2011, but gave it up quickly. The more reputable establishments have non-smoking areas though.

Slovenia (Ljubljana): A pretty comprehensive ban.

Smoking has been prohibited since 2007 (with success coming in gradually), but there are places you can get away with it.

Some of them are Kljukec and Daktari.

Spain (Barcelona, Madrid): No smoking?

Spain imposed a strict ban in 2011, in all bars and restaurants, though many were defying it for years.
Our local Nathalie recently reports: “People are smoking outside now when they are with friends in a bar. The ban seems to be working!”

Sweden (Stockholm): No smoking!

The ban has been on since 2005, with separate smoking rooms as an option for establishments. No serving or consumption of food or beverages is allowed in the smoking rooms though, and they may not cover more than 25% of the institution’s total area.

Switzerland (Geneva, Zurich): It depends on where you go.

11 cantons (Jura, Aargau, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Zug, Schwyz, Glarus, Schaffhausen, Thurgau, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Appenzell Ausserrhoden) have imposed only the national mandated restrictions, with the remaining 15 (Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Valais, Fribourg, Bern, Solothurn, Basel-City, Basel-Land, Zürich, Uri, Ticino, Graubünden, St. Gallen, Lucerne) imposing stricter laws by not excluding establishments smaller than 80 square meters. All 15 cantons, however, permit separate smoking rooms with 6 (Bern, Solothurn, Zürich, Uri, Ticino, Graubünden) permitting service in them.

UK (London, Glasgow, Manchester, Edinburgh): Banned almost everywhere.

England (London, Manchester) has banned smoking in 2006. In Scotland (Glasgow, Edinburgh), smoking is banned in places that are more than 50% covered.

And what do our readers think about smoking in bars? In a poll on our Facebook page (just 13 votes, no so not very representative…) 38% said they would avoid bars where you can smoke, while 62% said they wouldn’t.

Nice comments too on that poll:

  • Ana Cukolovic “‎:o would NOT avoid!! smoking and drinking and listening to good music and talking to good people – that’s what you do in a bar!”
  • Thomas Estenfeld: “There should be an european law for all EU countrys valid for all public places! Should be the easiest way and fair play.

Would you avoid bars where it’s allowed to smoke? Let us know!

Source for facts about smoking regulation in Europe’s cities: Wikipedia, EU and WHO websites, mixed with our own experiences. If you’re a local, and know better: can you correct us where we’re wrong by commenting? We’ll correct it. Thanks!

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Last Changed Date: 2016-05-19 11:45:13 +0200 (Thu, 19 May 2016)