Top Picks For After-Hour Drinks & Casual Late-Night Bars
It’s a very European thing, gathering with a friend or two (or a few) after work for drinks at a casual sidewalk cafe.
People watching is part of the process and it starts late in the afternoon and can go until dark.
In Basel, a small city in Switzerland that’s on the border with both Germany and France, the prime cafe scene is along a three-block area of a pedestrian street, Steinenvorstadt.
While no cars are allowed on this street, watch out for the occasional bicycler, who is not exactly on the lookout for tourists trying to figure out which cafe they want to go to for a drink.
Steinenvorstadt is a straight shot up from Barfusserplatz, which is easy for even first-timers to spot because it’s where all the trams stop. If Basel had a Grand Central Station, Barfusserplatz would be it, although (thankfully) on a much, much smaller scale.
Here’s a quick guide to the best and most popular of those cafes.
Basel’s Best Bar Cafes
PubClub.com’s favorite is Kuchilin Bistro. That’s because it has the most tables and, thus, the most activity. It’s also the most popular cafe and you’ll probably have to wait on a table on a pleasant Friday afternoon/evening. It’s right in the middle of Steinenvorstadt, so it’s a prime people-watching spot.
The All-Bar-One is the second-most popular cafe. It’s quieter than Kuchilin and the patrons are among the most mature on the street. We’re hardly talking senior citizens, mind you, but it’s mostly an upper-30s and up place.
For young beer drinkers, Mr. Pickwick’s Pub is your home. This popular British pub is actually busier late at night than it is after work, but there always seems to be a few people on the patio regardless of the time of the afternoon or evening.
At first look, you may be fooled into thinking there are several drinking cafes in the Barfusserplatz. The tempting-sounding Caribbean Bar brings to mind sailboats and rum drinks, and on nice nights the picnic tables are full of people. But they are really there to eat. Instead, cross the tram station to the patio in front of the German restaurant. Or try Papa Joe’s upstairs.
The cafes in Basel, and indeed throughout the continent, are Europe’s version of America’s Happy Hour, and while there are (usually) not food or drink deals and the scene is more sedate, it’s their way to relax and unwind.
At Kuchilin Bistro, PubClub.com had four beers and the bill was 28CHF (and you don’t tip on drinks in Switzerland, only food). We also had a lively waitress and even managed to engage in conversation with a couple of lovely local ladies, which no doubt contributed to our enjoyment of the place.
Speaking of which, if you are looking to pick up people at the cafes, it’s not impossible but you’re better off saving it for the bars. For starters, most people are not there to get hit on; they are there to discuss the day’s drama with their closest friends. So you’ve got to pick the right time to interrupt their conversation.
Secondly, you’ve got to be positioned at the right table to even start talking with them; this is why these cafes are what PubClub.com refers to as “position bars.” If you’re in the right position you’ve got a chance. If you’re one table over, you might want to consider another cafe.
So if you’re an anxious American looking to rage, just tone it down for a while. The bars and clubs go late – Paddy Reilly’s in Basil is open weekends until 5 a.m. There’s plenty of time to cut loose later, so enjoy the casual pace of the sidewalk cafes.