The legal drinking age in Europe

european drinking age

The U.S. compared to some countries in Europe seems pretty strict according to drinking age, but you’ll be surprised to discover that the European drinking age is not as homogenous as we think, and some countries are more austere than others. If some countries like France or Spain whose culture is heavily based on alcohol, that it’s not so unusual to see sometimes children with their parents drinking a small glass of alcohol, it’s not the case in England, we’re entering a bar or a pub when you are underage, even with your legal guardians or parents, is forbidden.

In general, the drinking age limit in Europe is radically lower than in the United States and varies between 16 and 18, but some countries lately rose up this limit or even completely canceled it. From the lowest drinking age in Europe to the highest, here is everything you need to know about drinking laws in Europe to prepare yourself at best to drink on your next trip to Europe. Just remember to drink responsibly, especially in a country you don’t know the language and the habits, you don’t want to get into any trouble.

The legal drinking age in European countries

legal drinking age in europe

The European countries drinking age varies from each region, but in general, you can buy alcohol in Europe if you are over 18 years old, even though many countries allow minors as well to drink alcohol, such as in France, Ireland, and Germany, where 18 remains the minimum age to buy alcohol, while you can still drink beers or whine when you are 16 years old.

On the other hand, in Sweden, you cannot drink under the age of 18 and you are not eligible to buy any beverage containing alcohol above 3.5 percent under the age of 20. As a minor, finding alcohol is much easier than in the U.S., but you still are subject to some restrictions, for example in Germany, or Switzerland, 16 and 17 years-old- can drink beer and wine, but to drink spirits, you must be 18 years old. In Spain, 16 years old can drink legally except in the region of Asturias, where you must be 18. You see, the drinking laws in Europe vary, and the tendencies vary from the North to the South and from the West to the East, in order to make it clearer.

A list of the legal drinking and purchasing ages of each European country

drinking ages in european countries
  • Albania;
  • Belarus;
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina;
  • Estonia;
  • Macedonia;
  • Moldova;
  • Ukraine;
  • Spain;
  • Slovakia;
  • Serbia;
  • Portugal;
  • Poland;
  • Netherlands;
  • Latvia;
  • Italy;
  • Ireland;
  • Hungary;
  • France;
  • The Czech Republic.

All countries named are countries where you need to have turned 18 to both drink and buy any kind of alcohol.

Austria; Belgium; Liechtenstein; Switzerland

In these countries, if you are 16, you can drink and purchase beer and wine, but you have to be 18 to drink and purchase spirits.

Bulgaria; Croatia

You need to be 18 to purchase alcohol.

Cyprus; Greece; Malta

You can drink and purchase alcohol at the age of 17.


Age 16 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol.


Age 16 for purchasing alcohol with less than 16.5 percent alcohol by volume, you have to be 18 for purchasing alcohol with more than 16.5 percent. 18 is also the age for buying alcohol in bars and restaurants.


You have to be at least 14 years old to drink beers and wine in a presence of a legal guardian; 16 years old for drinking beer and wine, and the age of 18 to buy strong liquor and spirits.


Age 20 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol.

United Kingdom

what is the legal drinking age in europe

Age 15 for drinking on private property; age 18 for both drinking in public and purchasing.


There is no legal drinking age; to drink in bars and restaurants you have to be age 18 and to purchase 20.

Russia; Romania; Montenegro

No legal drinking age, but to purchase alcohol you have to be 18.


For purchasing alcohol between 1.2 and 22 percent ABV you have to be 18; for purchasing alcohol between 23 and 80 percent ABV you have to be 20; to purchase alcohol in bars, clubs, and restaurants, you have to be 18.


To purchase alcohol with less than 15 percent ABC, you have to be 16, and to purchase alcohol above 15 percent ABV you have to be 18.


There’s not really a “legal drinking age” like in other countries, however, to buy alcohol with less than 22 percent volume you have to be 18 and for alcohol above 22 percent, you have to be 20.

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