Any major city will have bars, clubs and live music venues, but not all of them can claim to be a true party capital.
And, while the definition of what that is may change from continent to continent, there are a few truths that are universal.
First, a superior party city is fun. The locals like to have a good time, and the nightlife scene is joyous and raucous.
Second, there needs to be a diversity of entertainment to cater to all walks of life. Ten clubs spinning the same techno beats is hardly revolutionary.
Finally, it should be unique. Whether it’s Rio’s botecos or Berlin’s infamous clubs, every city on this list champions its individuality.
We’ve scoured the globe to find the world’s best party cities, from Bangkok to Tel Aviv. And whether you’re a dance-‘til-sunrise type or prefer whiling away the hours at a hidden bar, there’s something for everyone on this travel list.
The capital of Thailand delights every sense, from its beautiful temples to its unforgettable roadside eateries. So it makes sense that the nightlife here is not a one-trick pony.
“Bangkok’s nightlife is so unique because it is diversified,” says Khun Chaba, chief concierge at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok. “Visitors can explore and discover new experiences from culture to food, local lifestyle and entertainment.”
One of the most popular and photogenic areas for nightlife is the Soi Nana district in Chinatown. “It’s full of converted houses that have been transformed into cozy bars with fun, yet relaxing vibes,” says Chaba.
An extra perk: It’s easy to grab an order of Chinese dumplings on the street in between bar hops. Bangkok in general is known for its robust bar scene. Seven establishments in the city made it onto the coveted list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars for 2019, including Thailand’s highest ever entry, Bamboo Bar, which ranked No. 8.
Those looking for dancing should make a beeline for the Thonglor district in Sukhumvit, where clubs and performing venues offer everything from karaoke to thumping EDM music.
As any student studying abroad can tell you, Barcelona’s nightlife stands out for its sheer longevity.
By that, we mean they take partying until dawn quite literally. Of course, in a city where locals don’t sit down to dinner until 9 or 10 p.m., it’s little wonder that the club scene is still vibrant well into the middle of the night.
The climate along Spain’s Mediterranean coast also means that Barcelonés can take advantage of outdoor revelry nearly year-round, so expect plenty of partying on terraces or rooftops.
“The night scene is mainly divided into two areas,” says R. David Salomon, general manager of buzzy hotel Almanac Barcelona.
“The uptown area includes the famous Aribau and Tuset streets, full of bars and emblematic clubs such as Sutton and Bling Bling. Then, there’s the Ciutat Vella district, where popular clubs such as Sala Apolo and Razzmatazz are located.”
The city is also a hub for music festivals, such as Primavera Sound, Sonar, Tomorrowland and DGTL, which attract artists such as Miley Cyrus and the Killers.
“The Lebanese people’s love for life, complemented by Beirut’s wide offerings of trendy clubs and bars, makes Beirut’s party scene so unique,” says Roxane Fersane, chief concierge of Four Seasons Hotel Beirut.
No matter the time of day in this city, chances are there’s a party happening somewhere.
“Starting from brunch and beach parties, then to sunset, and then to the early morning hours, partygoers of all ages – with different tastes in music, food, and ambiance – are catered to,” says Fersane.
The Beirut waterfront, littered with popular clubs and rooftop bars, may be the city’s most popular party destination, but locals also flock to specific streets, depending on their mood.
“Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael are well-renowned streets that have a traditional feel and are popular for bar-hopping,” says Fersane. “And Hamra Street has more of a hippie ambiance and is popular for its pubs, street cafes and bars.”
One activity unites all partiers, however.
“After a long night out, you can find the party crowd indulging in Lebanese specialties such as manakish (similar to a flatbread) or knefeh (a sweet cheese pastry),” at any number of early-morning breakfast spots, says Fersane.
“In Berlin, every day is a party,” says Philipp Vogel, managing director and culinary chef at Orania Berlin hotel. “Whether you’re looking to go dancing on a Sunday afternoon, or have a big night out on the weekend, you’ll have a choice of at least 10 clubs.”
Vogel says the lively vibe of the German capital is still influenced by the events of 1989.
“During the fall of the Wall, an underground – and illegal – club scene emerged,” he says. “While most are closed now, the city’s spirited party culture remains.”
The Kreuzberg area is ground zero for exploring the scene: “The neighborhood is special because it is so diverse; you can find a great mix of cultural influences and endless types of restaurants and bars,” he says.
And of course, all diehard clubbers will want to make a pilgrimage to Berghain, which is as famous for its music as for its strict door policy. But if you don’t get in, never fear: “There are no rules; you don’t need to dress up; and you can find a party whenever and wherever you like,” he says of the city.
With such beautiful surroundings, it’s no surprise that Cape Gown partying often happens outdoors.
“You don’t have to be constrained to a bar or club; we have remarkable events, venues and outdoor parties,” says Hoon Kim, concierge and front of house manager of The Silo hotel.
Popular festivals include Afrika Burn (South Africa’s answer to Burning Man) and Rocking the Daisies, which is one of the largest outdoor music festivals in the Southern Hemisphere. Many Capetonians also love to party in the Cape Winelands, where estates and farms surrounding the city host lively events.
But a night (or day) out in town is also pretty unique: “Capetonians are incredibly laid back, so most venues transform throughout the day from cafes to bars and then to nightclubs,” Kim says. Some of the most popular include Harrington’s, Village Idiot, Aces n’ Spades and Athletic Club & Social.
And don’t worry about fancy attire: “There’s no stiff formality or dress codes in Cape Town; it’s a seaside town at heart,” Kim says.
If there is any city in the world synonymous with partying, it’s Las Vegas. But the scene here is more multifaceted than many give it credit for.
“Few places in the world can boast the high concentration of world class restaurants, entertainment and nightclubs in such a short distance from one another,” says VEGAS magazine’s editor in chief, Emmy Kasten. “The combination of high-quality choices and convenience is a magnet for revelers around the world.”
While the glittering lights of the Strip offer a party experience for nearly every type of guest, there are a few spots that are particularly buzzy.
“The Cosmopolitan, Park MGM, Wynn, and Palms are topping the lists of what’s hot right now,” says Kasten. In addition, Downtown Las Vegas and Chinatown are quickly emerging as must-see destinations. “Both neighborhoods have much more of an edge that is harder to find in the bigger places on the Strip,” she says.
As for the veracity of the city’s unofficial mantra? “The Vegas motto – you know the one – unleashes a freedom that no other city can claim,” Kasten says.
“It’s got everything, all under a blazing sun and next to the ocean,” says Jared Shapiro, former editor in chief of “Ocean Drive” magazine and founder of Miami-based branding agency The Tag Experience.
What also sets Miami apart is how seriously the city takes its nightlife.
“It’s an actual industry here,” he says. “In Miami, you’ve got people devoting their lives and careers to making it the best in the world.”
South Beach still reigns supreme as the city’s party capital, with clubs that keep the music going at all hours of the day.
“LIv, Story, E11even, Rockwell – on any given night you’ll see some of the world’s biggest athletes, most famous celebrities or gorgeous models, mixed in with billionaires and anyone else who wants a peek into that lifestyle,” Shapiro says.
But neighborhoods such as Wynwood (known for its graffiti walls), Downtown and Brickell are also starting to attract crowds.
Wherever you go, though, the energy is palpable. “It all works in unison: bars, lounges, clubs, hotels, even restaurants throwing parties,” he says. “It creates this great 24-hour pulsing vibe, which by the way, you can bypass at any moment for an umbrella and beach chair.”
New York City
From the all-night madness of Times Square’s New Year’s Eve ball drop to Fashion Week’s most exclusive fetes, New York may be best known for its parties that revolve around its world-famous events.
But the City That Never Sleeps also offers a diversity of entertainment for any type of reveler. “New York’s variety makes it a world-class party city,” says Clancy O’Connor, a concierge at Four Seasons New York and a member of the exclusive Les Clefs d’Or.
Those looking for a good time in the Big Apple can choose anything from “Afro-Latin beats at Bembe in Williamsburg, speakeasies like Employees Only in the West Village, the uninhibited neon circus vibes of the House of Yes in Bushwick, the opulence of the Top of the Standard in the Meatpacking District, to the hard-hitting beats of warehouse-like Good Room in Greenpoint,” says O’Connor.
And, as some of the country’s best arbiters of cool, don’t expect partiers in this city to follow any sort of rule. “Most New Yorkers know that the best parties aren’t on the weekends,” says O’Connor. “New Yorkers don’t settle for average, and the city is constantly pushing the boundary and exploring new nightlife experiences.”
And while every neighborhood in New York is often pulsing late into the night, O’Connor recommends the borough of Brooklyn for those looking for the trendiest spots.
“It continues to drive the nightlife scene forward: Bushwick, Greenpoint and Williamsburg are where some of the best new parties can be found,” he says.
Rio de Janeiro
One quirk of Rio’s nightlife that’s a bit unexpected is how early the festivities actually wrap up.
“In the clubs, the party starts earlier and ends earlier so that you can go to the beach the next day,” explains Juergen Keller, CEO and co-founder of tour operator SouthAmerica.travel.
But the vibrant city certainly makes up for an earlier closing time with its informal botecos, which loosely translates to a bar or watering hole. “On weekends, they often play live music, mostly samba and chorinho, and people dance on the street to the tunes,” Keller says.
The hottest neighborhoods for partying are Lapa, Centro and Botafoga, but one club reigns supreme: The Week. One of the largest clubs in South America, it has two dance floors, aerialists, and, unusual for the city, stays open until 7 a.m. Sunday.
But when in doubt, dip in to any bar: “Very rarely will you see an empty club or bar on a Friday or Saturday night,” says Jon Hillstead, a senior travel consultant with SouthAmerica.travel. “Most young Cariocas are people who are huge into the nightlife scene. They love music, dancing, drinking and overall, just being social.”
A common refrain about the South Korean people is that they work hard and play hard.
Nowhere is this dichotomy more evident than in Seoul, where everyone from students to business people are known for logging impossibly long hours, followed by partying with wild abandon once their duties (or homework) is complete.
In the city’s multilevel clubs, it’s not uncommon for them to be crowded until well after the sun rises, with revelers then decamping immediately for the nearest Korean barbecue restaurant.
Students and younger folk flock to the Hongdae area, which is known for its underground music scene. “Those looking for a high-end party go to Gangnam, which is a combination of West Coast plus New York City-style in one area,” says SJ Lee, executive director of The Travel&Leisure, a Virtuoso-affiliated agency.
Many may be familiar with the area because of Psy’s song “Gangnam Style” from 2012, but it’s famous in its own right for venues such as Octagon and Arena.
One of Tel Aviv’s informal mottos is “the city that never stops,” and its club scene is certainly indicative of that.
“Compared to cities in Europe and the United States, in Tel Aviv you go out pretty late at night,” says Lior Borochoff, a manager at LINK Hotel and Hub Tel Aviv. “Many clubs open their doors around midnight or later, and stay open sometimes even until 6 o’clock in the morning.” An added bonus is the (lack of a) dress code: “The scene is easy going and nonformal, which means much more fun,” Borochoff says.
Serious partiers know to hit up Rothschild Boulevard come nightfall. “It’s the place to see and be seen,” Borochoff says. “It features trendy bars, clubs and cafes and it’s alive and kicking 24/7.”
Another popular neighborhood is Florentin, which Borochoff says is similar to Chelsea in New York City or Shoreditch in London. “Many hipsters, artists and bohemian people live there,” he says.
Wherever you visit, however, there is a sense of the global melting pot.
“In Israel, people from more than 100 nationalities come together,” he says. “This multicultural atmosphere is apparent throughout the parties thrown all across town.”