World’s best nightlife cities
Not everyone gets it. For some of us, travel is best expressed through celebration -- that is, partying.
We prefer to exchange culture over the clinking of shot glasses and between the flashes of strobe lights. It’s cross-cultural hedonism.
Thuds of bass let us know where we are better than any map.
Conversations punctuated by “Prost!” and “Salud!” show us more than any guidebook. We find hidden friends and strange beats in a strange land.
I view myself as a kind of international nightlife connoisseur. I’ve been around the world many times over and have partied in many situations the U.S. State Department would surely advise against.
I’m a global lush. And of everyone I know, I feel the most qualified to throw an absurd list like this together.
Each city was judged on four criteria, each given a score from one-to-10
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1. Hours. How late each night and how many nights per week is the party good?
2. Hotness. How hot are the people? Bonus points for friendliness.
3. Music. Judged on quality and variety of music offered in each city.
4. Experience. How likely you are to have an experience that you’ll still be telling your friends about a decade from now.
I’m embarrassed to admit how much time I spent on this list (seriously, there was an Excel spreadsheet involved), but I finally narrowed it to 10 cities and I’m confident with the end result.
First, some honorary mentions: Hong Kong, Sydney, Miami, Stockholm, Tokyo and Tel Aviv. My apologies party people, but the competition was stiff.
Tell us about your own favorite party cities in the comments.
A lot of travelers continue to pass through Bangkok not realizing there’s more to it than the seedy dregs of Soi Cowboy, or the backpacker haven (read: drunken playscape) of Khao San Road.
The reality is Bangkok has a vibrant and classy side as the city becomes more cosmopolitan. Whether it’s a series of gorgeous rooftop hotel bars downtown, rock bars near Ratchathewi, dance clubs just off Sukhumvit or trendy pubs in Thlonglor and Ekamai, there’s legitimate, quality adventure to be had.
Bangkok's hottest nightlife strip: The young kids prefer RCA, but the city's beautiful people are drawn to the clubs on Sukhumvit Soi 11, namely Bed Supperclub, Q Bar and Levels.
9. Buenos Aires
“The Paris of the South” puts a New World spin on the insane Spanish practice of eating dinner at midnight and then dancing until dawn.
While living there, I vividly remember trying to go home as the sun came up and an Argentinian girl telling me she wanted to go to an after-party instead. It was eight in the morning. On a Wednesday.
Although not as affordable as it used to be, Buenos Aires is still good for a 10-day bender.
They love good rock music, too.
Start with the calmer bars of Recoleta and work your way up to the boliches of Palermo Hollywood. There’s no rush, trust me.
Best place to find yourself doing something you always promised yourself you’d never do: Bahrein on a Tuesday … and no comment.
8. Las Vegas
A staple. No nightlife list would be complete with out it.
Sin City has something for everybody. Unfortunately that everybody includes truck drivers, meth addicts and businessmen gambling their way through a midlife crisis.
Stick to the southern end of the strip: Marquee, XS, Tao. Tell everyone your name is Dave and you’re a movie producer. No, really. It’s hard to have a bad night out in Vegas.
Best place to waste your life savings and love every second of it: XS in the Encore. But get there early or suffer through the two-hour line.
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Given how much Americans rip on the French, it’s ironic that they have such an awesome population a mere day-trip from our border.
Montreal is the undiscovered party gem of North America.
Beautiful, friendly people. All night dancing to a wide variety of music. And of course, the summer festivals. Start with Saint-Laurent and Crescent Streets.
Pro tip: Don’t go in winter.
Best place to learn why the French do it better: Wood 35. Good drinks, good food.
The first rule of Barcelona is that you don’t stay on Las Ramblas. The second rule of Barcelona is that you don’t stay on Las Ramblas.
Don’t get sucked in by the guidebooks and pub crawls. The place is tourist hell: street vendors shilling fake watches, African prostitutes and gypsy pickpockets.
The truth is Barcelona rages hard, really hard. They don’t get going until well past 1 a.m. each night, but the good clubs are scattered throughout the north part of the city, a significant metro ride away.
Best place to wake up early for: Row 14. Doesn’t get going until 6 a.m.
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The world epicenter of corner pubs touts some of the ritziest and most prestigious nightclubs in the world.
Despite London’s dizzying logistics and pretenses about social class, you can enjoy fantastic music almost any night of the week.
And there will always be the pubs. Just watch out for people in football shirts. And don’t mind the guy passed out in the bathroom. He’s not alcohol-poisoned; he’s just 16.
Best place to suffer the pretension firsthand: China White. Tell them you know a promoter named Becker even though you don’t. Sounds reasonable, right?
4. São Paulo, Brazil
The dark horse on this list. Often overshadowed by its more beautiful and glamorous sister, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo is actually the cultural hub of Brazil, and arguably all of South America.
São Paulo’s glory isn't apparent upon arrival. The place is ugly.
But when you dig into the sprawling concrete mass, you'll discover greater diversity and intensity on a nightly basis than almost any other place in the world.
Best place to dance with a hot Brazilian until he/she has to go straight to work: D-Edge on a Thursday after 1 a.m.
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3. New York City
Although it’s not true that the “city never sleeps” (it’s usually done by 3 or 4 a.m., earliest on this list), New York City scores big simply because it offers something for everybody on any night of the week.
Warehouse parties in Brooklyn, mega-clubs in Meatpacking, trendy hipster joints in the East Village, hotel lounges, college bars, indie rock shows, loft parties, hip-hop and jazz, heavy metal and opera -- I could keep going but this article has a word limit.
Best place to buy a single drink for more than you spend on some nights out: Meatpacking District. Bring a credit card.
If a city’s mental health was determined by how many hours of the week its clubs weren’t active, Berlin would be a lunatic in a straightjacket, repeatedly slamming its head against a padded wall.
Witness: stumbling out of a venue at 9 a.m. on a Sunday to find that there is still a line to get in; a club with beds installed on its bottom floor so patrons can sleep without the inconvenience of having to leave; ceilings made completely of LED lights; leather parties; swimming pool next to the dance floor; bouncers with face tattoos.
Berlin, I bow to thee.
1. Ibiza, Spain
Ibiza is nightclub mecca and every party hound must make a pilgrimage there at least once. The venues in Ibiza aren’t as much clubs as they are life experiences.
Nowhere else have I seen a stripper rock a saxophone solo hanging from the ceiling naked, or the blast of a wind tunnel built into a dance floor, or parade floats and foam dropped from the ceiling like it’s the Fourth of July indoors.
Enjoy the beach parties during the day, hit the hotel bars in the evening and dance to the best DJs in the world all night.
Sleep not recommended.
Best place to have an out-of-body techno experience: Shell out the extra money for the clubs in Ibiza Town (rather than San Antonio). They're worth it.
Tell us about your own favorite party cities in the comments.