The Legal Drinking Age in European Countries

It's much lower across the region than in the US

Revelers celebrate Octoberfest (Oktoberfest) inside the tents on Theresienwiese.
••• Dan Herrick / Getty Images

If you're planning a backpacking trip through Europe or are going a big trip with your parents, you might have heard that many of the countries in the region have lower drinking ages than in the United States.

Throughout much of Europe, the legal drinking and purchasing age ranges between 16 and 18, and often there isn't even a drinking age at all; it's not uncommon to see children drinking a small glass of alcohol in France or Spain.

While it can be tempting to make the most of your newfound freedom, remember to drink responsibly as you travel, especially if you're traveling solo as a woman. Don't get very drunk around anyone you don't know and trust and try to remain in control of yourself.

If you're not yet able to drink in the United States and don't have much experience with alcohol, keep that in mind when you head to a bar. Start slowly and learn more about your tolerance before jumping in at the deep end. You don't want to open yourself up to scams and sexual assault abroad because of a heavy night of drinking.

Legal Age by European Country 

Here's a list of the legal drinking and purchasing ages for every country in Europe. All are younger than the legal drinking age in the United States, which is 21. There are exceptions in certain states for a variety of reasons. Most involve being on private property and having the permission of your parents, but in some states there are no exceptions.

  • Albania: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing
  • Austria:  Age 16 for both drinking and purchasing
  • Belarus:  Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing
  • Belgium: Age 16 for drinking and purchasing beer and wine; age 18 for drinking and purchasing spirits
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Bulgaria: No legal drinking age in Bulgaria, but the purchase age is 18
  • Croatia: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Czech Republic: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Denmark: There is no legal drinking age in Denmark. There's a purchase age of 16 to buy alcohol that's less than 16.5 percent alcohol by volume (abv), 18 to buy alcohol of greater than 16.5 percent abv, and 18 to be served in restaurants, pubs, and bars
  • Estonia: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Finland: Age 18 for purchasing alcohol between 1.2 and 22 percent abv; age 20 for purchasing between 23 and 80 percent abv; and age 18 to be served in bars, clubs, and restaurants
  • France: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Germany: Age 14 for beer and wine (in the presence of your legal guardian); age 16 for beer and wine; age 18 for spirits
  • Gibraltar: Age 16 for alcohol with less than 15 percent abv
  • Greece: Age 17 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Hungary: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Iceland: Age 20 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Ireland: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Italy: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Latvia: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Liechtenstein: Age 16 for purchasing wine, beer, and cider; age 18 for purchasing spirits
  • Lithuania: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Luxembourg: Age 16 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Macedonia: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Malta: Age 17 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Moldova: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Montenegro: No drinking age; purchase age of 18
  • Netherlands: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Norway: There is no legal drinking age in Norway, but there is a purchase age of 18 for less than 22 percent abv and age 20 for greater than 22 percent abv
  • Poland: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Portugal: Age 16 for purchasing beer and wine; age 18 for purchasing spirits
  • Romania: No legal drinking age; purchase age of 18
  • Russia: No legal drinking age; purchase age of 18
  • Serbia: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Slovakia: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Slovenia: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing; no drinking age for drinking on private property
  • Spain: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Sweden: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • Switzerland: Age 16 for fermented alcoholic drinks; age 18 for spirits
  • Ukraine: Age 18 for both drinking and purchasing alcohol
  • United Kingdom: Age 5 for drinking on private property; age 18 for both drinking in public and purchasing