Not everyone gets it. For some of us, travel is best expressed through celebration – that is, partying.
We prefer to exchange culture over the clanking 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.
How was this top 10 list created
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 US State Department would surely advise me not to. I’m a global lush. And of anyone I know, I feel the most qualified to throw an absurd list like this together for you.
Each city was judged on four criteria:
- Hours of Operation. How late each night and how many nights per week is the party good?
- Hotness Factor. Simple. How hot are the people? Everybody enjoys some eye candy. Bonus points for friendliness.
- Music. Judged both by quality and variety of music offered in each city.
- Uniqueness of Experience. Self-explanatory. How likely are you 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 and everything). But I finally narrowed it down to ten cities and I’m pretty confident in what I ended up with.
First, some honorary mentions: Hong Kong, Sydney, Miami, Stockholm, Tokyo, and Tel Aviv. My apologies party people, but the competition was stiff.
10. Bangkok, ThailandHours: 7 Hotness: 5 Music: 5 Experience: 10
Unfortunately, a lot of travelers 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.
Unbeknownst to many, Bangkok has a vibrant and classy side. Whether it’s a series of gorgeous rooftop hotel bars downtown, rock bars near Ratchathewi or dance clubs just off Sukhumvit, there’s legitimate adventure to be had.
And yes, if you get bored, there’s still lady boy gawking and ping-pong sex shows. It’s OK. I won’t judge you. Best place to lose your innocence and see things you can’t unsee: Nang, but don’t say you weren’t warned.
9. Buenos Aires, ArgentinaHours: 9 Hotness: 7 Music: 6 Experience: 7
“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: Bahrain on a Tuesday… and no comment.
8. Las Vegas, USAHours: 8 Hotness: 8 Music: 6 Experience: 9
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 away your life savings and love every second of it: XS in the Encore. But get there early or suffer through the two-hour line.
7. Montreal, CanadaHours: 8 Hotness: 8 Music: 8 Experience: 8
For how much Americans rip on the French, it’s ironic that they have such an awesome population of people 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: Orchid. Friday is open bar for ladies.
6. Barcelona, SpainHours: 9 Hotness: 8 Music: 8 Experience: 7
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 pubcrawls: The place is tourist hell: street vendors shilling fake watches, African prostitutes and gypsy pickpockets.
The truth is Barcelona rages harder than almost any place in Europe. Most don’t know since they don’t get going until well past 1AM 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 6AM.
5. London, UKHours: 9 Hotness: 6 Music: 10 Experience: 7
The world epicenter of corner pubs and failed imperialism touts some of the ritziest and most prestigious nightclubs in the world. Despite London’s dizzying logistics and pretenses about social class (pfft, posh), you can enjoy fantastic music almost any night of the week.
And there’re always the pubs. Just watch out for puddles of vomit. And don’t mind the guy passed out in the bathroom. He’s not alcohol-poisoned; he’s just English. Best place to suffer the pretention first-hand: China White, tell them you know a promoter named Becker even though you don’t. Sounds reasonable, right?
4. Sao Paulo, BrazilHours: 9 Hotness: 9 Music: 7 Experience: 8
The dark horse of this list. Often overshadowed by its more beautiful and glamorous sister, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo is actually the cultural hub of Brazil, and arguably all of South America.Sao Paulo’s glory is not apparent upon arrival. The place is downright ugly. But when you dig into the sprawling concrete mass, you will discover greater diversity and intensity on a nightly basis than almost any other place in the world.
And the best part about Sao Paulo? It’s full of Brazilians. Best place to dance with a hot Brazilian until he/she has to go straight to work: D-Edge on a Thursday after 1AM.
3. New York City, USAHours: 7 Hotness: 10 Music: 9 Experience: 8
Although it’s not true that the “city never sleeps,” (it’s usually done by four or five in the morning, 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 – the list goes on.
Best place to buy a single drink for the monthly income of a starving African: Meatpacking District. Bring a credit card.
2. Berlin, GermanyHours: 10 Hotness: 6 Music: 10 Experience: 9
If a city’s mental health was determined by how many hours of the week its clubs weren’t active, then Berlin would be a madman in a straight-jacket, repeatedly slamming its head against a padded wall. Let’s see: stumbling out of a venue at 9AM on a Sunday to find that there was still a line to get in; a club with beds installed on its bottom floor so patrons could sleep/fornicate 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.
Best place(s) to get your mind blown: Berghaim. If you can’t get in (it’s random), then Watergate.
1. Ibiza, SpainHours: 10 Hotness: 9 Music: 9 Experience: 9
Ibiza is nightclub Mecca and every party hound must make a pilgrimage there at least once in their life. 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 then dance to the best DJ’s 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), it’s worth it.
Any place that you think I’ve should add to the list? Let me know in the comments section below.