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Jul 19, 2008 04:45 PM

Question on water (also for the rest of Europe)

I'm currently on my honeymoon and we're going around Europe. I've already hit London (but we're going back for 2 more days) and Amsterdam and we're in Rome.

In Canada or when we go to the US, when we ask for water, we get free water. Everytime we ask for water in Europe we end up paying $4 to $10 US for bottled water that costs nothing.

How do I get regular free water in Europe? Is there such a thing or are we doomed to keep paying for water?


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  1. Here in the UK you need to specifically ask for a glass or jug of "tap water". As you've discovered, if the waiter/waitress asks if you want water and you just say "yes please", you'll get given bottled mineral water. And yes - it is a restaurant technique to make money, although some people do prefer mineral water and so will pay for it. Anyhow, as long as you're buying other food or drinks in the establishment, asking for tap water shouldn't be a problem at all. Hope you have a great trip and get some good weather in London!

    1. Specify tap water. Some higher end restaurants will refuse you, though. Which is absolutely outrageous especially when they serve strongly spiced cuisines and begin more or less waving the alcohol list in your face while going on about how it's a Friday night and you should start it right. But saying tap works most times.

      3 Replies
      1. re: JFores

        What place will specifically refuse you tap water? Do they not have to provide it by law?


        1. re: TexasToast

          I am afraid there isn't a law in the UK requiring it (unlike France). The "Evening Standard" newspaper recently led a campaign to get free tap water on the menu. A few restaurants will refuse but that is far less common these days.

          Across Europe my rule of thumb tends to be that the water gets less safe the further southeast you head. So I would tend to drink bottled water around the Mediterranean especially in Greece and Turkey

          1. re: TexasToast

            Snazz Sichuan is one of two places that has refused me water while more or less waving, parading, and dancing in front of me with the alcohol menu.

        2. In other parts of Europe, you can also just ask for a jug of water - in France ask for a pichet d'eau. Some countries may not have very good water though. It's better now, but I know that there were some areas of Spain where the water was so disgusting that you couldn't even make coffee with it. I think Spain is ok now, but it's worth checking what the water is like in each country you visit before you go.

          11 Replies
          1. re: Theresa

            I've been in some parts of Italy where the tap water was so bad that we were using a well connected to a local stream for all of our water instead. But that's an exception (the tap was so off that my hair would harden as if I put mouse or gel in it after I showered.)

            1. re: JFores

              The tap water where we were staying in Tuscany last year was really disgusting and smelled of rotten eggs. Everyone drank bottled water.
              London tap water is good especially if filtered and chilled.

              1. re: greeneyesN4

                I have to say that, to a northerner, London water tastes horrible (there's nothing actually wrong with it, it just isn't nice) - the water here in Liverpool is really good - from the reservoirs in Wales ...

                1. re: Theresa

                  I agree, London water tastes horrible (despite the fact that it is perfectly safe to drink!) Filtering it is key!

                  1. re: Theresa

                    Yeah, London water is pretty dreadful and the lyme scum is the worst I've ever seen. You could leave a cup of water stagnant for 10 minutes and you already see see stuff on top. But then again, NYC tap water is really good and London's beats much of Italy's.

                    BTW, the egg scented tap water is just high in sulfur. No biggy compared to small towns in Sicily with dodgy plumbing where ever the locals tell you not to drink the water and instead point you to a public water pump!

                    1. re: JFores

                      Italians tend to drink bottled water full stop. I think they have the highest consumption in Europe.

                      1. re: greedygirl

                        Yeah, even when I was in acceptable water areas (Genova and Rapallo), we would fill up a dozen or so bottles of water from the hills deep in Liguria where my friends had their medieval (more like late Renn. They had a hose linked straight to a box that pumped from a spring) house and farmland. Even where the water's OK, they seem to try their very best to avoid it.

                      2. re: JFores

                        the thames is the source for much of the water in london. not the tastiest but it won't hurt you. it's not cold out of tap.

                        1. re: steve h.

                          is there any truth in the old saying about London water being drunk by eight other people before you? Just stumbled across this thread and am curious....

                          1. re: DietStartsTomorrow

                            The way it tastes, I wouldn't be at all surprised - although I'd heard it has only gone through the digestive systems of five people by the time we drink it .... mmm, luverly

                            1. re: DietStartsTomorrow

                              So that's what that dreadful white film which forms on top of the water is.... ;)

                2. When I lived in Germany sometimes it was a real pain to get them to bring us just plain water("tafelwasser"). When I go out for drinks I usually like to order a glass of water on the side, and I remember one waiter being very hush hush after I persuaded him to bring me water, saying that he could get in trouble for doing that. Some of my friends there told me that they consider tap water to be "dirty"(I drank the tap water there all the time, it tasted a lot better than the tap water I get in NC!) But I mean, if I could get mineral water here for $.25/ 1.5L bottle I would drink it all the time too!