The 7 Most Epic Gambling Destinations In The Whole Of Europe

Tripoto

Home is not where you live but where they understand you” – Christian Morgenstern

People travel the world for all sorts of reasons. Some want to experience white sandy beaches with endless mojitos and salty sea air. Some want to visit the highest mountain peaks to ski the freshest snow and fall asleep next to gentle fires. And some want to visit cities that party all night for the cheap alcohol and the potential to get laid.

Those are all solid reasons to visit a new location. I’ve visited places for those reasons along with many other motives. While I lived in Europe I did make some trips for the gambling opportunities available, specifically where I could find a good poker game. While the games offered in each place were similar (if not the same) the locations themselves offered so much more to do outside the casinos. And now I’ve put together my list for the best locations in Europe to gamble, play poker and have fun.

Photo of Riga, Latvia by Steve Carter
Photo of Riga, Latvia by Steve Carter
Photo of Riga, Latvia by Steve Carter

The Baltic country of Latvia is one of several that only gained its independence from Russia in the early nineties after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Since then the nation has redefined itself resulting in a boost to their economic potential. Like many other countries that want to increase their opportunities for tourists to spend cash they have legalized gambling, although not quite what you would compare to Las Vegas standards.

There are a few casinos spread throughout Old Town in central Riga. I came across Tortuga during my wanders my first night and came back several times to this pirate-themed club that has blackjack tables and a few poker tables in the back. Like other casinos this is a small club in Old Town that makes for a good break during one’s pub crawl through the area. Olympic Casino is also good spot for action in Old Town.

Lodging – Riga’s hotels have definitely become more upscale in recent years, although a quick search on Travelocity shows that most luxury hotels can still be reserved for less than $100 a night, sometimes as cheap at $35 a night. There are also many hostel options here, especially in Old Town. These have their pluses and minuses though. Hostels are cheap (I stayed in one for $12 a night), relatively comfortable, most have their own bar where you can get substantially drunk for less than $20 a night and you’re sure to find unique and interesting people. They are usually full of older British guys out on their stag weekends or other groups of guys here for the cheap pub crawl and Baltic women.

Food & Drink – Western capitalism has definitely reached the Baltic States, so there are McDonald’s, Burger Kings and other fast food joints everywhere. However, there are still plenty of food choices to be found. Just ask the front desk of wherever you are staying and they can point you in the right direction, unless you speak Latvian and can find your own way around. Drinking is also good and cheap. Stick with the local or regional beers and spirits and drinks shouldn’t cost more than a few bucks. Unless you wonder into the cigar bars in Old Town where there are scantily clad women waiting for any foreigner to walk through the door. Here a drink will probably cost $40 or more and you’ll be hard pressed to spend extra money on “other services.”

Things to do – If you’re traveling to Riga you’re probably looking for woman and booze. There are many pubs spread throughout Old Town and each hostel or hotel organize some sort of pub crawl. There are many companies in Europe that organize stag weekends, generally aimed at British guys looking to spend a weekend together such as Riga Cheap Stag. There are also many castles and cathedrals outside the city that can be visited through similar tour companies such as Baltic Tours.

Photo of Interlaken, Switzerland by Steve Carter
Photo of Interlaken, Switzerland by Steve Carter
Photo of Interlaken, Switzerland by Steve Carter
Photo of Interlaken, Switzerland by Steve Carter

The Swiss mountain town that means “between the lakes” is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Gamblers who enjoy the outdoors will have an amazing experience here. Casino Interlaken is the one casino in town but offers all the action you will need with a wide variety of poker, roulette and table games. Interlaken makes the list not simply because of the casino here but because of the outdoor activities and adventures that wait outside of the casino.

Lodging – Hotels and guesthouses are available in Interlaken, but this is where I suggest a hostel for your stay. The hostels in Switzerland are very clean and safe and attract people from all over the world, most of whom are happy to sit at the bar in the hostel, talk about their travels and listen to your stories of adventure. They’re also a good source for finding more activities nearby in you’re not too familiar with the area. Balmers Hostel is a good place for those looking to explore the outdoors by day and play some cards by night. They run about $24 a night and with a bar, restaurant, club and hot tub on site it’s definitely going to be a fun stay.

Food & Drink – Switzerland in general isn’t going to be as cheap as other countries on this list. It’s not 12 euros a beer like in Paris, but it isn’t 2 euros for a bottle of local beer either. Here a meal and a drink are on par with the rest of the developed world, somewhere around 15 euros for lunch and a beer either at the hostel or another restaurant in town. There is even a Hooters in Interlaken if you’ve ever wanted to try them out… For their buffalo wings that is.

Things to do – Again, this is an outdoor lover’s paradise. You can hike a glacier, skydive, paraglide, take a cruise on the lakes, bobsled, ski, snowboard, kayak or just go out for long hikes across town and the surrounding mountains. Your hostel or hotel is going to be able to suggest places for all these activities, or may even be able to book them for you at their front desk. Adrenaline Hunter is also a good site for researching paragliding adventures. You can also walk down the main street in Interlaken and there will be several adventure shops that can book whatever thrill you’re looking for.

Photo of St Julian's, Malta by Steve Carter
Photo of St Julian's, Malta by Steve Carter
Photo of St Julian's, Malta by Steve Carter
Photo of St Julian's, Malta by Steve Carter

The island nation of Malta in the Mediterranean is such an amazing paradise that I will most likely use it for several lists. It’s a beautiful island with good, cheap food and drinks, the people are friendly, the waters are warm and perfect for scuba diving and there are many casinos throughout the island.

Although a lot of the people you will see in casinos in Malta are wearing suits or evening dresses the casinos don’t generally require them. Still, if you have a decent suit I would suggest wearing it out if you intend on gambling. A suit just fits the ambiance that you are entering.

Blackjack, craps and roulette are abundant here. Poker is available at the Dragonara Casino sometimes, but the most regularly occurring poker game is going to be at the Portomaso Casino in the Hilton St. Julian’s.

Lodging – Lodging choices are abundant, from $18 a night hostels to $200+ a night luxury hotels on the water. With Airbnb.com you can even get extremely good prices on renting entire apartments (as little as $16 a night I found). For a broader detailing of lodging options in Malta check out my article on why Malta is the most underrated destination in Europe.

Food & Drink – Compared to other destinations in Western Europe Malta is exceptionally cheap (in a good way). If you’re budgeting yourself $30 a day for food and drink because most of your money is tied up in your gambling bankroll then Malta is the place for you. Gamblers sleep late, and finding a quick bite and a beer on the Triq Santa Rita Steps in St. Julian’s to cure that hangover before finding the next blackjack table later in the night is a great way to start your day.

Things to do – Scuba diving should be on your list of must-do’s for Malta. If it’s not then I’m not sure why you decided to visit an island in the first place. Even though Malta does have its cooler months scuba diving is available year-round. There are also a lot of cool old palaces and forts all around the island that are worth checking out. Take a few hours and go see the 100-ton canon when you have an afternoon free.

Photo of Prague, Czechia by Steve Carter
Photo of Prague, Czechia by Steve Carter
Photo of Prague, Czechia by Steve Carter
Photo of Prague, Czechia by Steve Carter

Prague is another location that is quite liberal in certain aspects, which is another reason the city is another popular destination for groups of British men wanting to book a stag weekend.

The casinos and gambling available in Prague are quite plentiful. They range from casino clubs on the main tourists avenues to poker and gambling clubs on the banks of the Vltava River that round central Prague. I even spent a night playing blackjack in a hotel lobby casino.

Lodging – I have good feelings about both hostels and hotels in this city. Since it’s in Eastern Europe you will get a great deal on a luxury hotel for about $100 a night , but then again you can also get a great deal at a hostel for $15 a night. I had a great experience at Sir Toby’s Hostel just outside of central Prague, and was fortunate enough to meet some awesome fellow travelers. I especially enjoyed their pub in the building's old stone cellar.

Food & DrinkPrague is the birth place of the original pilsner beer! I’m not sure if that’s actually true, but after a couple drinks it won’t matter one bit. The array of beer and alcohol choices in this city is amazing, and also pretty cheap. Years ago Czech was supposed to move to the euro but given recent economic and political shakeups they are most likely sticking to their own currency, which is awesome for travelers!

Food choices are also superb in this city. I’ve had the best steak dinner of my life on the banks of the Vltava river in a little restaurant called Restaurace Mlýnec.

Things to do – Besides clubs, casinos, bars and restaurants there is plenty to see and do in Prague. As I mentioned earlier this city is especially popular for stag weekends, which cater to gentlemen looking for their own parties and excitement, but also specialize in activities such as driving tanks and shooting machine guns! Since the collapse of the Soviet Union there is an abundance of Soviet military equipment that would have gone unused, if not for companies such as Prague Weekends who will let people drive tanks across open fields for a small fee.

Photo of Paris, France by Steve Carter
Photo of Paris, France by Steve Carter
Photo of Paris, France by Steve Carter
Photo of Paris, France by Steve Carter

Most people want to visit Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, experience the food and wine or to say they’ve eaten a genuine French crepe. I did all that, but I also played a bit of poker and blackjack while there.

Paris used to be the poker player’s destination in Europe because of The Aviation Club right in the middle of downtown. The club closed down a few years ago but there are still plenty of opportunities to gamble nearby. Casinos in Paris are not so much advertised though; as they are usually hidden down a side street of have an entrance that is marginally announced. Still, they’re around and not hard to find.

Lodging – Since Paris is such a tourist mecca it’s no wonder why the city is so expensive. If you want to stay in a hotel anywhere in the central vicinity then be prepared to spend at least two or three hundred dollars a night. A good hostel can average $30 a night or more and may be a great options for anyone visiting the city on a budget.

Food & Drink – If you are on a budget then you won’t be doing a whole lot of eating or drinking in Paris. Yes they do have cheap, fast food franchises so you won’t starve. But getting a decent lunch and a beer anywhere near central Paris is going to cost well over 30 euros. Oddly enough Paris is the only city I've ever seen a Canadian Pub outside of Canada.

Things to do – If you’re into wine at all I would say spend some time educating yourself about the different wines available in this city (there are thousands) and selections in markets and bistros often change daily. I’m a beer drinker though, so after a few expensive pints I spent my days exploring the usual monuments until it was time for a poker game. Definitely take a few trips to the Eiffel Tower. The view from the top is wildly different than the view from the top. Just watch your pockets around the tourists sites, gypsies are everywhere!

Photo of Vienna, Austria by Steve Carter
Photo of Vienna, Austria by Steve Carter
Photo of Vienna, Austria by Steve Carter
Photo of Vienna, Austria by Steve Carter
Photo of Vienna, Austria by Steve Carter

Vienna just misses the number one spot for a gambler’s paradise in Europe. It’s home to the Concord Card Club which over the years has been the largest poker room in all of Europe. It’s almost exclusively poker which is great as other casinos in the city cater more to table games and roulette than poker. At the Concord they spread the entire spectrum of poker will all limits, whether you’re looking for a cheap no-limit game or a tournament with multiple tables they will have it.

LodgingVienna is another city where the lodging options are entirely up to you and how much you want to spend. My first trip I booked a cheap hotel for about $70 a night right near their red light district, although I didn’t know that until I arrived. Another trip I stayed in a hostel in another part of town that cost less than $20 a day.

Food & Drink – There is food everywhere in this town, from street vendors selling doner kebabs for five euros to high-end bistros in the central district that will cost 50 euros for dinner. There are also lots of pubs throughout the city with a varied selection of beers, although they will probably be about five or six euros a pint like most other cities.

Things to do – If you’ve played enough poker that you want to take a break there are many old buildings and palaces to keep you occupied. St. Stephen’s Cathedral and The Hofburg Palace are right downtown and easily accessible among all the shops and restaurants.

Photo of London, United Kingdom by Steve Carter
Photo of London, United Kingdom by Steve Carter
Photo of London, United Kingdom by Steve Carter
Photo of London, United Kingdom by Steve Carter

Ah London, my go-to destination when I wanted to get out of town for the weekend, play some cards, have a beer in a pub and hunt down a decent bottle of scotch. Gambling has been legal in the UK for a long time now. Several years ago it was more restricted though, as some casinos were still considered social clubs and you had to be a member to enter. Your other options were looking for private clubs out in the city that were more or less semi-legal. But now gambling laws are much more liberal and the gambling scene across London has really taken off.

The most central casino where you can find any game you want is the Empire Casino located in Leicester Square, right in the middle of the hustle and bustle that is central London. Years ago you had to be a member to get in the place which meant wearing decent clothes and paying a cover charge. But since gambling laws have relaxed casinos too have relaxed their admission standards. So no more cover charge, but if you look too drunk they will refuse you entry (personal experience…).

There are small poker clubs throughout the city which are generally in apartment buildings with a small sign somewhere near the entrance. Often the entrance will be a locked door with a camera, or at least a door man behind a desk away from the action. My favorite club was The Gutshot Poker Club until it closed down a few years ago. To find other poker clubs around town just sit in at the Empire Casino for an hour or so and you’re sure to find someone who knows where they all are.

LodgingLondon is the city of opportunity, and there are endless possibilities for where to stay. You can stay in a decent hostel close to all the action for about $35 a night or you can stay in a hotel right in central London for about $140 a night. My choice for hostels was The Generator Hostel and it was a great time, although I did have to be careful about locking up cash there if I had a winning night at the casinos. For cheaper hotels I liked staying at The Strand Palace just a few blocks from Trafalgar Square.

Food & DrinkLondon is the melting pot of Europe, so naturally there are endless food options. Many times I would take a break from the Empire Casino to grab a cheap slice of pizza out on the street for about $2. Other times I would like to celebrate a winning night with a steak dinner. For the best London experience though I suggest stopping in any of the older-looking pubs scattered throughout London. These places always have a cold pint on hand and will make you possibly the best burger you’ve ever had.

Things to do - London is also my number one gambling destination for everything else the city has to offer outside the casinos. Besides the usual stops at Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus and London Bridge there are countless pubs and restaurants, shopping to suit all tastes, Broadway theater performances, nightclubs, discos and enough historical tours to fill an entire vacation. I recommend the Ripping Yarns tours about Jack the Ripper.

Keep in Mind

A lot of the time I was exploring these countries on my own, so I was free to spend as much or as little time in the casinos as I wanted. Sometimes that may be the better option rather than trying to organize a group outing with people who may or may not enjoy gambling as much as you do. Often gambling trips make for great solo trips!

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