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.
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
  • 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.

Part of complete coverage on
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
The guidebook asked staff, contributors and authors for well-known and lesser-known recommendations.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
An airport in Asia has stolen the crown from Manila's Ninoy Aquino, voted 'world's worst' three years in a row.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1620 GMT (0020 HKT)
It's time for a beef break, veal vacation, hog holiday or sinew sabbatical in a T-bone a-fide U.S. meatopolis.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
With so many awesome new attractions on the way, the next few years are going to be a roller coaster ride.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 0107 GMT (0907 HKT)
Scientists are busy surveying Southeast Asia's Coral Triangle, home to 75 percent of all known coral species.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 1350 GMT (2150 HKT)
Bounce Below in Wales
Bounce Below transforms an abandoned slate mine into a surreal, springy world of fear and fun,
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2316 GMT (0716 HKT)
With chopsticks or fingers? Wasabi or no? A double Michelin-starred Tokyo chef sets the record straight and shows us the sushi way.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2224 GMT (0624 HKT)
Markthal Rotterdam foodhall in the Netherlands.
It may look like a gateway across time and space crafted with alien technology, but in reality it's a fruit and vegetable market.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 0925 GMT (1725 HKT)
Based on the votes of over 330 industry experts, the 2014 winners include bars from 27 cities in 14 countries.
October 12, 2014 -- Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT)
Careening down an active volcano at 95 kph on a thin board? It happens only at Cerro Negro in Nicaragua.