Guide to Buying Noncarbonated Water in Europe

Mmmm...the bubbly stuff...water Mmmm…the bubbly stuff…water

“Ohmygod,” said one American who walked into an aisle of the grocery store. The other, slowly grew wide-eyed: “which one is it?”

“Remember the problem we had the last time?” and they slowly set themselves to the task of testing every single item in that aisle…

Shaking bottles of water to see if it “sparkled.”

So we’re not the only ones shaking bottles, I thought.

It was 120 degrees and sunny the day we drank some sparkling water. We were so thirsty, we had forgotten that there is more than one kind of water in Europe. As I took a sip of water, my face furrowed as I realized I had picked the wrong bottle of water. Well, wrong for us, but delightfully refreshing for others.

Except Americans. A lot of communities’ water sources in the States are chlorinated and it doesn’t have the freshest taste. So, we’re willing to spend money on bottled water or a water filter because it tastes better. And sparkling water just hasn’t caught on in the States. Personally, I don’t find sparkling water refreshing at all. My husband thinks it tastes like “drinking fart” (quoted verbatim).

If I had to venture a guess as to why sparkling water is so popular in Europe, I think it’s because most water that comes out of the tap and public drinking fountains (and our personal favorite, the spring water fountain on Knez Mihailova Street in Belgrade) is normal, tasty water. So, if someone is going to pay for water, they get their money’s worth with the sparkle. Still, other Europeans think sparkling water is “awesome and it tastes good” (also quoted verbatim).

That word means your water will sparkle. That word means your water will sparkle.

But, until the trend of sparkling water takes hold in the States (hopefully never), here’s a handy Guide to Buying Non Carbonated Water in Eastern Europe that you may find useful. All the words were found through trial-and-error and a little bit of Google Translate with every purchase. Feel free to provide your own suggestions in the comment section.

Czech Republic
neperlivá (still)

ohne kohlensäure (without carbonation)

neperlivá (still)

szénsavmentes (not carbonated)

negazirana (noncarbonated)

Bosnia and Herzegovina
prirdona iz vorska voda (natural still water; look for the blue label)

negazirana (noncarbonated)

still water

As my husband and I wallowed in the heat of that 120 degree day, I looked over at what was now two bottles of sparkling water. Like a good husband, Frank marched back into that grocery store to find me some still water. The “Shake the Bottle” test had failed and two giant bottles of carbonated water were staring back at me. Twisting open the cap, I took what was to be a long journey of sips. I wasn’t about to toss it, though: we spent a lot of money to sparkle, so we’re going to drink it.

Have any suggestions for buying still water? Let us know!

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15 responses

  • I feel your pain. My first encounter with sparkling water was at the wonderful age of 15 while on a summer exchange in Germany. I was out with my host family on a boiling hot day and we stopped at a cafe. Desperate for some water I quickly ordered and took a huge gulp when my glass arrived. Sparkling. Awful. My scary host mom kept glaring at me like I had better finish that water she just paid for. It was a sad day.

    Happy travels :)

    • That reminds me of a story from this lady we met in France. She said her family had just moved to Berlin. And her son wanted some apple juice. So she found a bottle with an apple on it. It was liquid-y, the package looked inviting. She bought it for her son. He took a drink…nope, not apple juice. It was apple vinegar! They kept it around because they spent money on it.

    • So we’re definitely not the only ones shaking bottles. I couldn’t help but think grocery store employees thought we were a tad crazy just shaking bottles.

    • Well, that’s new. I don’t think I’ve purposely made soda go flat. But, you know, soda has a bit more flavor. My attempts at making water go flat just left it tasting metallic-y. Not metallica, which would have been a delightful surprise.

  • Wow, I didn’t realize so many people didn’t like carbonated water! I love it and prefer it when possible but I understand how absolutely shocking it could be to take a sip of it when you aren’t expecting it. I accidentially bought “agua con gas LITE” in Chile which was “lightly carbonated” which I thought was really terrible idea. I’m sure you would agree :)

    The problem I have more often how to avoid getting served bottled (still) water in places where the water is fine for tourists. We spent a small fortune on bottled water in restaurants in Spain and Chile just because I could never remember how to say or describe “tap water” in Spanish.

    • I can’t imagine what lightly carbonated tastes like. Carbonated is carbonated (according to my tastebuds, though). I honestly had no idea people didn’t like carbonated water either! … Until we tried it.


    We can’t stand sparkling water. It is THE WORST. More than once we’ve been given fizzy water at a restaurant and had to try choke it down. Luckily most waiters ask ‘gas or no gas’? And we don’t buy bottled water in Europe anyway.

  • Haha! This mix up is the reason I LOVE sparkling water now! I accidentally picked it up in Germany and after the “…what is this?” moment, loved it. I haven’t looked back (although sometimes when I’m really thirsty, still water is the only thing I want).

  • I realize your post is almost 2 years old, but want to say that I think the problem wasn’t the carbonation – it was the fact that the water was mineral water. All their water contains minerals. You will find ‘still’ water (not carbonated), but this will NOT(ugh), taste like our bottled water.
    I just returned from Germany and was on a quest for just WATER!! Their mineral water is heavy tasting (it seemed thick) and salty. I searched and read numerous labels and was lucky enough to find a brand that had less minerals – an acceptable taste, but far from perfect. Silly me, did I really think Poland Spring was a worldwide brand???

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