Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

World's best nightlife cities

By Mark Manson, for CNN
October 2, 2014 -- Updated 1012 GMT (1812 HKT)
Whether in rooftop bars (like Sofitel So's HISO bar, pictured), dance clubs or trendy pubs, there's quality adventure in Bangkok. Whether in rooftop bars (like Sofitel So's HISO bar, pictured), dance clubs or trendy pubs, there's quality adventure in Bangkok.
HIDE CAPTION
Top nightlife cities: 10. Bangkok
9. Buenos Aires
8. Las Vegas
7. Montreal
6. Barcelona
5. London
4. Sao Paulo
3. New York
2. Berlin
1. Ibiza
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Many travelers pass through Bangkok not realizing there's more to it than the seedy areas
  • The first rule of Barcelona is that you don't stay on Las Ramblas
  • Ibiza is a nightclub mecca and every party hound must make a pilgrimage there at least once

(CNN) -- Not everyone gets it.

But for some of us, travel is best expressed through celebration.

We prefer to exchange culture over the clinking of glasses and between the flashes of strobe lights.

Conversations punctuated by "Prost!" and "Salud!" show us more than any guidebook.

I view myself as a kind of international nightlife connoisseur.

As an entrepreneur, author and all-around life enthusiast, I've been around the world many times over.

And of everyone I know, I feel the most qualified to throw an absurd list like this together.

Each city is judged on four criteria, each given a score from one-to-10

MORE: Where to party like a local in Asia

1. Hours. How late each night and how many nights per week is the party good?

2. People. Is it a good crowd -- cosmopolitan, friendly and, yes, good looking?

3. Music. Judged on quality and variety 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, my honorary mentions: Hong Kong, Sydney, Miami, Stockholm, Tokyo and Tel Aviv.

My apologies party people, but the competition was stiff.

10. Bangkok

Hours: 7

People: 5

Music: 5

Experience: 10

Total: 27

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 of Khao San Road.

Bangkok has developed a vibrant and classy side as the city has become 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.

Best place to mingle with the locals: The young kids prefer RCA, while many of the city's beautiful people are drawn to the clubs on Sukhumvit Soi 11 or upscale Ku De Ta, among others.

MORE: Sleep is for wimps: World's 10 craziest party hostels

9. Buenos Aires

Hours: 9

People: 7

Music: 6

Experience: 7

Total: 29

"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 remember trying to go home as the sun came up and an Argentinian friend 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 a relative bargain among major world cities.

The locals love good rock music, too.

Best itinerary: Start with the calmer bars of Recoleta and work your way up to the taverns of Palermo Hollywood. There's no rush, believe me.

8. Las Vegas

Hours: 8

People: 8

Music: 6

Experience: 9

Total: 31

A staple. No nightlife list would be complete without it.

Sin City has something for everybody, from NBA power forwards blowing their signing bonuses to middle-agers gambling their way through a midlife crisis.

I tend to stick to the southern end of the strip -- Marquee, XS, Tao -- but 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. Get to this nightclub early or suffer through the two-hour line.

Cold winters, warm nightclubs.
Cold winters, warm nightclubs.

7. Montreal

Hours: 8

People: 8

Music: 8

Experience: 8

Total: 32

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.

Obvious tip, but still good to keep in mind: Don't go in winter.

Best place to learn why the French do it better: Wood 35. Good drinks, good food.

6. Barcelona

Hours: 9

People: 8

Music: 8

Experience: 7

Total: 32

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.

Guidebooks and pub crawls funnel the least savvy visitors there.

Other parts of the city are far more interesting at night.

Well, early morning.

Clubs don't get going until well past 1 a.m. each day.

Most of the top clubs are scattered throughout the northern part of the city.

Best place to wake up early for: Row 14. Doesn't get going until 6 a.m.

MORE: World's sexiest accents

5. London

Hours: 9

People: 6

Music: 10

Experience: 7

Total: 32

The world epicenter of corner pubs touts some of the ritziest and most prestigious nightclubs in the world.

You can enjoy fantastic music almost any night of the week here.

And there will always be the pubs.

Best place to suffer local pretension: Chinawhite. Tell them you know a promoter named Becker even though you don't. You might get in.

Typical night in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Typical night in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

4. Sao Paulo, Brazil

Hours: 9

People: 9

Music: 7

Experience: 8

Total: 33

Sao Paulo is the dark horse on this list.

Often overshadowed by its more beautiful and glamorous sister, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo is actually the cultural hub of Brazil.

The city's glory isn't apparent upon arrival.

The place isn't beautiful.

But dig into the sprawling concrete mass and you'll find 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.

MORE: Insider Guide: Best of Rio de Janeiro

3. New York City

Hours: 7

People: 10

Music: 9

Experience: 8

Total: 34

Although it's not true that the "city never sleeps" (it's usually done by 3 or 4 a.m.), 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 -- there's almost no limit to the ways this city entertains you.

Best place to buy a single drink for more than you spend on some nights out: Meatpacking District. Bring a credit card.

2. Berlin

Hours: 10

People: 6

Music: 10

Experience: 9

Total: 35

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: walking out of a venue at 9 a.m. on a Sunday to find that there's 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; a swimming pool next to the dance floor; bouncers with face tattoos.

Best place(s) to experience the big-club vibe: Berghaim. If you can't get in (it's random), then Watergate.

Where humans and hedonism collide.
Where humans and hedonism collide.

1. Ibiza, Spain

Hours: 10

People: 9

Music: 9

Experience: 9

Total: 37

Every party hound must make a pilgrimage to Ibiza at least once.

The venues aren't as much clubs as they are life experiences.

Nowhere else have I seen 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.

In Ibiza, you do beach parties during the day, 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: The clubs in Ibiza Town (rather than San Antonio) are worth the extra expense.

Tell us about your own favorite party cities in the comments.

Originally published November 2012, updated September 2014.

Mark Manson is an author and entrepreneur.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 16, 2014 -- Updated 2326 GMT (0726 HKT)
Take a trip to the Chinese town that has more relics than people.
November 13, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
You know about reggae and Usain Bolt -- but you probably aren't aware of these other Jamaican superlatives.
November 14, 2014 -- Updated 1152 GMT (1952 HKT)
Artist creates brilliant tribute to Dutch impressionist painter -- a cycle route that glows in the dark
November 14, 2014 -- Updated 0633 GMT (1433 HKT)
European airlines beware: These 320kph trains are upping the travel game with roomy seats and onboard wi-fi.
November 13, 2014 -- Updated 1053 GMT (1853 HKT)
For such a relatively small collection of islands, the UK packs in an phenomenal range of beautiful scenery.
November 12, 2014 -- Updated 2237 GMT (0637 HKT)
Animals run behind the Rovos Rail train's observation balcony in Africa.
Rovos Rail's epic trips out of South Africa pamper passengers with fine dining, vintage comfort and even a bathtub.
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 0137 GMT (0937 HKT)
Nasir al-mulk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran
Self-taught Iranian photographer gains rare access to shoot religious buildings as they've never been seen.
November 11, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
The subject of erotica has a way of making people uncomfortable.
November 7, 2014 -- Updated 0037 GMT (0837 HKT)
A
UK's Heathrow Airport pairs destinations with fragrances to evoke long distance travel. We do too.
November 6, 2014 -- Updated 2100 GMT (0500 HKT)
Bumper cars, a freefall simulator and robot bartenders are just a few of the cool features on Royal Caribbean's new Quantum of the Seas.
November 2, 2014 -- Updated 2258 GMT (0658 HKT)
Up in the mountains and across deep chasms, these bridges are both spectacular and terrifying.
ADVERTISEMENT