Dog-friendly Europe: Which countries allow dogs in restaurants?

Meet Truffles the Yorkie: 2.5 kilograms of half-cute, half-feisty adventure dog. Her specialist subjects are: sashimi-grade salmon, stealing ham from strangers, and having travelled via every means of transport from planes, trains and automobiles to scooters, toboggans and gondola cars. Truffles was born in May 2020 and three months later was adopted by her two foodie digital nomad pawrents, who trained her to visit restaurants and chill out in her travel bag just as soon as covid allowed.

Truffles and I on one of our many road trips

But here’s something we didn’t know: not all European countries are created equal when it comes to dog friendliness. We’re based out of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where dogs are very much a part of public life. But I quickly realised that more research was needed when it came to other destinations. And the research wasn’t that easy. Some metrics of dog friendliness were based on the number of vets per square kilometre – arguably important if your dog gets sick, but of no real help the rest of the time. Other articles claimed that every country in Europe is dog friendly, because the author clearly came from America where dogs are generally left at home. (I know this because I’ve taken Truffles to the US as well, and been turned away from many places.) What I was looking for was research into the kind of dog-friendliness I value: Is my dog allowed inside restaurants? Is my dog permitted in buses, trains and taxis? Is my dog welcome in public open spaces like beaches and parks?  

By far the best input I found was this article by Gigi Griffis with her dog Luna, and I still refer back to it every time I’m thinking about travelling to a new European destination. But since I’ve been to a couple of places that she hasn’t, and perhaps spent more time in a few of them, I thought it was worth contributing my experiences to the body of knowledge that is the internet. My plan is to add to this post over time, as and when I travel somewhere new with Truffles.

How dog-friendly is the Benelux and Germany?

The Netherlands: Amsterdam

Amsterdam is home base, so it’s the place where Truffles has spent the most time. She’s allowed inside at almost all restaurants and she’s been on every form of public transport with me. That said, it’s up to the discretion of whoever is running the business: she’s been turned away by a couple of taxi drivers (who cited allergies) and very occasionally we’ve been asked to sit outside a restaurant. But these examples are the exception – as a general rule, dogs are welcome pretty much everywhere.

Truffles walking by the Amstel

Dog owners should note, however: Amsterdam is a busy, chaotic city. There are bikes, trams and pedestrians everywhere, and you’ll frequently see dogs off leash in places they shouldn’t be. If your dog is easily stressed or scared, it might not be the best destination for you, no matter how dog-friendly the Dutch attitude.

For more information about restaurants in Amsterdam, download my Amsterdam Restaurant Guide.

Belgium: Nieuwpoort, Oostduinkerke

I’ve only taken Truffles to the Belgian coast for a few days, so I don’t have a great deal of experience when it comes to Belgium’s dog friendliness. That said, she was welcome at the few restaurants we did take her to, so long as she stayed on the floor and not on the seats. We also took her on trams and trains with no problem, and she had a great time running around on the beach in winter.

Germany: Koblenz, Aachen

From what we experienced, Germany is extremely dog-friendly. Truffles joined us at Christmas markets, wine tastings, restaurants, bars… you name it. The only aspect I can’t vouch for is the public transport, as we were with friends who have a car for this trip.

Remember that ham-stealing incident I referenced in the intro? That happened at a brauhaus in Koblenz, where Truffles was sitting on the banquette next to us. She probably realised we’d had one too many beers and wouldn’t notice if she sidled up to the table next to ours, where a customer was eating (you’ve guessed it) schinken. I assume she gave him the puppy dog eyes because he ended up feeding her pieces of ham from his plate for ten minutes before we noticed and stopped her!

Planning a trip to northwest Germany? Read my foodie guide to Aachen, Koblenz and Wiesbaden!

How dog friendly are the Nordic countries?

I’ve only taken Truffles to Sweden (see below), but I’ve also travelled to Finland, Estonia and Lithuania since I’ve had her – which means I was on high alert for other dogs. All three countries looked to be very dog-friendly, with plenty of dogs in restaurants, cafes and shops. In Helsinki, we even saw a dog in a luxury department store – I don’t remember the name of it, but it’s the equivalent of the Bijenkorf in Amsterdam or Selfridges in London. That was a first for me!

Sweden: Stockholm

Truffles came with us to Stockholm for two weeks and had the time of her life. But that may well have been because we were staying down the road from a forest-lined lake on the island of Lidingö in August, meaning both the location and the temperature were just about perfect for little Goldilocks (not too hot, not too cold, just right).

Truffles at pizza restaurant 450 Gradi in Stockholm

Truffles sat next to us on the tram and metro we took into the city centre every day, and was welcome on every beach, every park and almost all restaurants. The Swedes sometimes had a policy I’ve not seen elsewhere: dogs were allowed in one half of the restaurant and not in the other half. Both were indoors, so I wasn’t sure what the difference was, but perhaps they’re mindful of people who are afraid of dogs? Either way, it was easy to navigate and Truffles was loved by the locals.

Planning a trip to Sweden? Read my foodie guide to Stockholm!

How dog-friendly is Southern Europe?

Spain: Valencia, Gran Canaria

Of all the destinations on this list, Spain is the least dog-friendly European country I’ve been to so far. In Valencia, Truffles wasn’t allowed inside at any restaurants – which was unfortunate, since we’d somehow picked the two coldest, rainiest weeks I’ve ever spent in the sunshine city. On the plus side, dogs are allowed off leash in Turia Park – a huge green space that runs through the centre of the city, along the former river bed.

Truffles exploring the mountains of Gran Canaria

In contrast, when we spent seven weeks in Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria, dogs were not allowed in the city parks, on the beaches (or even the boardwalk next to the beach!), in the botanical gardens or seemingly anywhere except the concrete jungle of streets. I even got yelled at by a man for letting my dog pee on a patch of grass at an intersection near our apartment. Truffles was miserable and so were we.

When it came to restaurants, people were a little more lenient. A few actually advertised themselves as being dog-friendly (for obvious reasons, many of these feature in my foodie guide to Las Palmas). Many establishments carried No Dogs signs on the door, but several restaurant owners/managers took pity on us and made exceptions. Although I wouldn’t want to give anyone false hope: Truffles is tiny, quiet and non-shedding; a big German Shephard might not get quite the same response!

Planning a trip to Spain? Read my foodie guides to Valencia and Gran Canaria!

Portugal: Porto, Ericeira, Algarve, Madeira

Outside of the Netherlands, Portugal is the country that Truffles has spent the most time in, and we’ve explored several different destinations together. The first was Porto, in which everyone thought Truffles was adorable, but no one would let her inside their restaurant. They generally cited health and safety rules, which makes perhaps a little more sense when you realise that there are many more strays in Portugal.

Truffles heading to the beach at sunset in Ericeira, Portugal

In the smaller towns of Ericeira (west of Lisbon) and Carvoeiro (in the Algarve), Truffles was allowed inside restaurants roughly 50% of the time. It seemed like the No Dogs sign was standard but widely ignored if you were polite about it. Dogs were also allowed onto the beaches, but again I don’t think this was policy. We were there in off-season (late March and April) and everyone seemed pretty chilled about dogs running around the beach. In summer, I read that dogs are banned from beaches.

In Funchal on the Portuguese island of Madeira, the attitude was similar. The city has a green promenade stretching all along the water’s edge, where Truffles ran off leash every day. Madeira’s tropical climate makes it a glorious place to hike along coastal paths, through dense forests and up steep mountains. Truffles was a big fan of all the nature – but less enthralled with the terrifying car rides it took to get us there! When it came to restaurants, most places required us to sit outside but a few would let us indoors as well. And as with Spain, these exceptions were made very much on a case-by-case basis; I wouldn’t guarantee the same reception for a bigger dog.

Planning a trip to Portugal? Read my foodie guides to Porto, Ericeira and Madeira!

Italy: Lucca

We chose Lucca as our most recent destination precisely because we’d read that Italy (and northern Italy in particular) is incredibly dog-friendly. And the rumours weren’t wrong! Truffles accompanied us to even the fanciest of restaurants, and no one batted an eye. The city is surrounded by a huge grassy park and tree-lined city walls, which makes it ideal for dogs (less so for hay fever sufferers). We also took day trips by train to Pisa and Montecatini, and Truffles simply sat on our laps. Unsurprisingly, there are absolutely hundreds of dogs in Lucca, so if you’re not a dog lover it might be a destination to avoid.

Planning a trip to Italy? Read my foodie guides to Rome and Lucca (coming soon)!

Travelling by plane with a dog

I’ll preface this by saying that I only have experience of flying with one (very small) dog on around half a dozen airlines. Every dog, and every airline, is different – so it’s important to contact the airline you plan to travel with to check their requirements. I tend to use sites like Skyscanner, Expedia and GoEuro to compare prices.

When flying to or from Amsterdam, my preference goes to Transavia or Vueling – simply because they’re the only airlines that allow you to book your pet online at the same time as you’re buying your own ticket. Most other airlines (including Dutch national carrier KLM, Delta, TAP Portugal, Air Baltic and a raft of others) require you to book your own ticket and then phone customer service to add your dog to the reservation. If there are too many pets already booked on the plane, you’ll need to reschedule. It can be a time-consuming and frustrating process, so I advise you to book early and leave yourself a good hour for customer service shenanigans.

Truffles on the train, sleepy after a long day of adventures

The airline will also ask you about the size of your pet carrier and the combined weight of your dog and the carrier – so make sure you have that information to hand. We bought this pet travel bag from Amazon and have found it to be ideal. And don’t forget to check which vaccinations are required for your dog in the country you’re heading to. Safe travels!

If you like food, travel and dogs (and who doesn’t?!) you might enjoy following our adventures on Instagram:
@a.foodie.abroad and @yorkshiretruffles


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