Thirsty Thursdays: Top 4 Bars in Kurdistan, Iraq

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. I just had to take Thirsty Thursdays to Iraq didn’t I? Here are my top 4 bars in Kurdistan, Iraq! Prost! Slainte!

top bars kurdistan

Thirsty Thursdays: My Top 4 Bars in Kurdistan, Iraq.

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

sulaymaniyeh sports bar

Outside Sport Bar Football in Sulaymaniyeh, Kurdistan, Iraq.

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.

sport bar football iraq

Thirsty Thursdays in the “Sport Bar Football” in Sulaymaniyeh, Kurdistan, Iraq.

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.

sports bar sulaymaniyeh iraq

My first draft beer in Iraq was in Sport Bar Football in Sulaymaniyeh!

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.

sport bar football

The Sport Bar Football is open from 4pm until 2am.

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”

sport bar football in kurdistan

Yes – the real name of the bar on all signs is definitely “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.

deutscher hof ainkawa iraq german bar

Awesome German Bratwurst and Lager, plus soup and salad in the Deutscher Hof in Ainkawa, Kurdistan, Iraq.

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.

kurdistan iraq

Loving my Bratwurst and pint of German Lager in the Deutscher Hof in Ainkawa, Kurdistan, Iraq.

We had a bit of a feast in there, including Bratwurst and a starter each. I loved the German Beer! I drank Bitburger bottles.

german beer in iraq

Prost! Beer from Germany in Iraq. Love it!

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!

deutscher hof erbil iraq

Deutscher Hof Erbil – the excellent German bar in Ainkawa, Kurdistan, 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

bar in erbil iraq kurdistan

Thirsty Thursdays: Best Bars in Iraq – the downstairs bar at the International Hotel in Erbil.

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.

erbil kurdistan iraq

Loving wearing my Northern Ireland shirt and having a beer in the posh bar at the International Hotel in Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq.

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.

iraq erbil travel planning

Corona and crisps plus a bit of travel planning in the International Hotel Bar in Erbil, Iraq.

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!

international hotel erbil

The posh 5 star International Hotel in Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq. Worth a trip for the bar and free Wi-Fi!

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 kurdistan rasan hotel bar

Thirsty Thursdays in Iraq! Lights off in the “Secret 8th Floor Bar” in the Rasan Hotel in Duhok, Kurdistan!

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”.

duhok iraq rasan hotel bar view

Decent view from the 8th floor bar in the Rasan Hotel, Duhok, Iraq.

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.

rasan hotel bar duhok iraq

The Bar on the 8th Floor of the Rasan Hotel – drinking in darkness…

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…

rasan hotel beer duhok iraq

The fridge full of booze out the back on the 8th Floor of the Rasan Hotel in Duhok, Kurdistan, Iraq.

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…

off licence beer iraqi kurdistan

I stuck to drinking the off licence beer in our hotel room – the cheaper option!

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.

off licence in iraq

Alcohol in an off licence in Sulaymaniyeh, Kurdistan, Iraq.

Videos are fantastic so far from Kurdistan Iraq and I’ll upload them soon.

Happy drinking my friends and safe travels!

Thirsty Thursdays is an ongoing regular feature on Don’t Stop Living – a lifestyle of travel. If you have a bar, pub, drink, restaurant, brand or idea that you would like featured on Thirsty Thursdays, please get in touch via my contacts page or my advertising page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d also love a free beer or a sponsored trip to a brewery Cheers! Send it on…

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21 thoughts on “Thirsty Thursdays: Top 4 Bars in Kurdistan, Iraq

  • What a brilliant dynamic between historical and cultural Iraqi Kurdistan and what – as you have listed – are essentially are modern day ex-patriot bars! Absolutely love it! I particular love your report on the “secret” 8th floor bar and the Sports Bar Football.

    I am assuming your beer choices for these places are limited to the big brand name beers you can find all over the Western World (e.g. Corona, Heineken, Murphy’s, etc.)?

    Or have you noticed any regional beers in Kurdistan yet? I don’t mean Iraqi beers, as I am sure domestic Iraqi beers are non-existent at the moment. Rather, beers you found more of around the Middle East that you might not necessarily find so easily elsewhere in the world, like Turkish or Georgian beers?
    Ray recently posted…The D DropMy Profile

  • Thanks for the comment Ray – you make a number of good points here so perhaps I will edit the post slightly to include some finer details.

    In each bar I opted for the CHEAPEST beer they had on the menu. This was Corona in 2 of the bars (8th Floor and Erbil one), Krombacher on tap in Sport Bar Football and Bitburger in the German Bar. There are a wide range of beers available here – both in bars and in off licences, the most local of which is probably Efes (Turkish Beer) or Almaza (from Lebanon). Petra Beer from Jordan is also available. I have drank both Efes and Almaza in Iraq in my hotel room – they were 1,000 Iraqi Dinars each, which is less than 1 USD. I have also drank Murphys Irish Stout. I will probably write another post related to carryout beers in Iraq rather than just the bars. Safe travels and happy drinking. Jonny

  • I am always curious to learn about and try different International beers that I might be able to find at the nearest liquor store near my home (because of your blog) if I am not in the country itself. Recently, because of your blog, I have tried Efes (Turkey) and Yanjing (China) here in Canada. Happy drinking, indeed! 🙂
    Ray recently posted…The D DropMy Profile

  • Thanks for the comment Agness – yeah I know you guys love your food – I didn’t realise you don’t drink alcohol though! Most my Polish mates go crazy on the Zubrowka and Vodka 😉 ! I’ll be getting a load more food posts up on Iraq too, there’s one already here: Safe travels, Jonny

  • Cool – nice one Ray. When I don’t travel (which is hardly ever), I also try to pick up new beers from around the world! Safe travels and pint sinking. Jonny

  • Jonny,
    What a great post. Whenever you mention Iraq you almost habitually think of a war torn region living in poverty. Well your article completely debunked that whole image! And beer in a Muslim country? What a culture shift! But the Erbil International Hotel looked like something you’d see on 5th Ave in NY. I am really surprised by your post. Thanks for such a great article opening my eyes to a side of Iraq I didn’t know existed!
    The Funster recently posted…Angry Birds Air Swimmers Review!My Profile

  • Thanks for the comments the Funster! Yes, this part of Iraq is certainly a lot different from the media reports. I loved all these bars, as well as the cities themselves. The locals also go in and watch the football! Safe travels. Jonny

  • Thanks for the comment and update on other bars! I don’t want to say “missed them” though as I was in Iraqi Kurdistan for 10 days only and we did a lot – I only made it to 4 bars, so these obviously are my top 4 bars. There’s an Irish Bar there? Wow – now that is a shock and blows my idea to open the first one out of the window! Safe travels. Jonny

  • RJ’s not really that “Irish,” it is pretty much a bare room with none of the wood paneling you find in “Irish” pubs around the world,and no Guinness on tap, so there is still an opportunity. It seems to be more of a dance club.

  • You can live with £200 for a month in Kurdistan because everything is really cheap especially you can get a taxi for any place in the city only for £2. A burger for around £3

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