Life

The Best Party Cities You Absolutely Need To Travel To


best party cities in the world

I’ve never understood why hedonism gets stigmatized. I’m sure there’s a certain warped math to it — connected to our “get a haircut and get a real job” notions of adulthood, our “achieve or perish” approach to work, and our Puritan-inflected sense of guilt. But forget that noise. Partying is fun and fun is good. A night of raging against the coming dawn is, therefore, a vital part of a balanced life.

“Don’t worry, be happy,” as the sage once said. Or, to quote the famously wild Venga Boys “We like to party. We like, we like to party.”

As summer winds down, I asked fellow hedonist Zach Johnston to help me rank the best party cities in the world. It was a fun project, though a fair number of our recollections were blurry. Our criteria was similarly jumbled. How do you rank one wild night above another? Especially when the true joy of going big is so often found in the people you’re with rather than the places you go. Still… we persevered. And while we surely missed a few cities, our 20 of the best party cities in the world deserve a visit before “I’ve got a big day tomorrow” and “I think I’m just going to stay in” ever enter your lexicon.

-Steve Bramucci, Life Editor

SEE ALSO: A WEEKEND AT THE PINK PALACE — EUROPE’S MOST NOTORIOUS PARTY HOSTEL

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

Ah, Rio. The Carioca lifestyle is hard to not fall in love with. Spend the early day lounging on a postcard-perfect beach, maybe playing some volleyball. Maybe do a little work in the afternoon when the sun’s high. Then head into town after dark to dance, drink, and party the night away with someone sexy. Rinse. Repeat.

Rio has the perfect mix of beach life, tavern culture, and party verve. You can’t help but have fun here. A night out in Lapa or Santa Teresa will hook you deeply in your soul and you might not want to ever leave. The beer and cachaca flows. Music bumps on the streets. You will dance. You’ll say you won’t or can’t. But, once you’re in Rio, two or three caipirinhas in, you’ll dance like you’ve been dancing your whole f*cking life.

HAAD RIN, THAILAND

We’re still in the early going and already a renegade pick — the famous Full Moon Party on Ko Phangan in Thailand. Look, we get all the criticism of these sorts of manufactured parties:

  1. They aren’t really about “travel,” in the truest sense.
  2. They feel vaguely skeevy.
  3. The deluge of foreigners makes the whole thing feel sort of colonialist…

We could go on and talk ourselves out of this pick in a hurry. But here’s the thing: The Thai Full Moon Party has taken on a life of its own. It does have some degree of (at least grudging) community support, it does prop up the local tourism economy, and it is a lot of fun.

One of the biggest problems that Thai tourism faces is people sticking to the beaten track. They carve the same routes over and over and then complain that the country is over-touristed. But Thailand has tons of national parks, small villages, islands, and temples that most backpackers don’t see. Go see those. Explore. Then, when you’re ready to paint your face and dance under the glow lights, visit Ko Phangan and party with the full moon masses. It’s a wild time and you’ll be glad you made the effort.

As for why this belongs on a list of “party cities”… well, let’s just say there are enough people out and clubs raging in the days before and after the full moon (plus there’s the “no moon” party and the “half moon” party, etc.) that the honor is well-earned.

CARTAGENA, COLUMBIA

Columbia is a great place to party overall. Medellin and Bogota both have great bar and club scenes. But, we’re going with Cartagena for our pick in Columbia. One very big reason is that this city by the sea is just so goddamn fun to walk around on any given day (and at 3am). There’s a great tavern culture here, a fantastic seaside vibe, and some seriously killer bars and clubs that inevitably spill out on the streets.

What also helps Cartagena take the golden ring of great party cities is that the energy is always up. It’s hard to get tired here. Yes — for better or worse — the cocaine flows like f*cking water. But it’s more than that. There’s a collective energy of going out, talking with friends on the streets while drinking, and just straight having a great time with life. Add in the amazing views of the city and you’ve got a fantastic place to party.

ATHENS, GREECE

The Athens party scene encapsulates so much of the best of Europe. It’s diverse, eclectic, welcoming, full of good techno, and doesn’t really even get going until 1am or so. Mega clubs like Islands and beach bars like Bolivar still leave plenty of space in the landscape for the groovy small-room techno spots in the Placa.

When you think “party + Greece” you naturally think of islands like Mykonos, but truly it’s tough to compete with Athens. That said, this is a hard city to make reccomendations for. The best Athens parties are the ones you stumble into: the wine bars where a DJ starts spinning at midnight and goes ’til 4am, the clubs that randomly turn up big on a Tuesday… you know the deal.

This pick is a no brainer for us, but if it weren’t there’s always this: A true Athenian gyro is — bar none — the best hangover food on earth.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO

View this post on Instagram

😲

A post shared by gi. 👾 (@fagisellec) on

Ugh. I bet y’all thought we were going to pick Cancun or Cabo or some other touristy party resort, didn’t you? Well, that has its place, sure, but we’re talking a real place to party like a local, not some over-taxed tourist trap where you can be an asshole the whole time. Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world and it knows how to party.

There’s a little bit of everything in Mexico City or Ciudad de México. If you want down-and-dirty street tacos with ice cold beer and shots of white lightning out of an old plastic rum bottle, they’ve got that. If you want a long night in an EDM club where the molly’ll take you away to hang on a cloud, they’ve got you covered there too. Fancy just sitting at a posh cocktail bar and watching a master bar chef perform alchemy right in front of you? Yes, of course, Mexico City has that too and everything in between from a craft beer scene to simple neighborhood bars where everyone might learn your name and shout it when you walk in the door. It’s a hell of a city to hang in.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

Here’s why Vegas will make every “best party city” list until the end of the world (and maybe even after that): No one can compete with its scale. Not just the scale of the casinos, restaurants, bars, and clubs, but also the scale of people eager to get wild.

The pool parties, the superstar-headlined clubs, the groovy lounges… Vegas does it right. And while part of the scene can feel a little too processed (like many of the city’s attempts at haute cuisine),

NEW ORLEANS, USA

The Big Easy is probably the best place to party in the United States (sorry, NYC). Walk down Bourbon Street or Frenchmen with a $1 can of ice cold Miller High-Life and try to say it’s not. We dare you.

In all fairness, NOLA is built to be a great drinking and party city. It’s in the deep tissue of the place. There’s amazing, cheap food that’s perfect for a hangover (po boys, rice and beans, fried oysters, all the Bloody Marys) and there’s a bar for everyone. That’s what we love about New Orleans. You can start the night in an old pirate bar, move onto a ritzy Jazz bar, and end up at a hip-hop club until the sun comes up. Then, inexplicably, you’ll find yourself in a diner the next morning, ordering too many pancakes and another Bloody Mary because, well, New Orleans.

View this post on Instagram

Bourbon Street #neworleans

A post shared by Paola Mencarelli (@paolamenca) on

NEW YORK CITY, USA

You know the old SNL Stefon sketches. They’re funny as hell, but they also testify to a truism of the NYC scene: There’s something to satisfy every odd quirk and peccadillo in the book. Want a basement club to listen to a renegade MC? That’s easy to find. Standup comedians just weeks from breaking big? Absolutely. Want a speakeasy with a superb cocktail program? It’s a breeze. Want to play pool and sip some beers? You’ve got options. Plus you get big stars playing shows, and plenty of trendy-ass places where you need to either know someone, have a hundy to burn on a cover charge, or be willing to stand in line.

The perks are plenty in NYC. Not least of which is the fact that seriously superb street food can be found at all hours. Get a little falafel in your stomach and your “day after” is going to be a breeze.

TORONTO, CANADA

Two words: Bloor Street. If you haven’t partied down Bloor in Toronto, you haven’t been to Toronto. Listen, we get it. Few people think Toronto and shout, “WOO! PARTY!” But they should. Toronto has one of the best bar scenes of any major city in North America and people pack those bars out. People love going out so much there that you’ll see queues outside piano bars and even brewpubs.

Now, back to Bloor. This is where you want to spend a night eating a drinking everything in a two mile radius. Start at the Gaslight (a cozy living room feel sorta place with a great bartender and on point beer list) and work your way down the street until you hit Civil Liberties. Once you make it there, you’ll likely never leave as the bartenders whip you up the best cocktails in the city. Then jump in a cab and hit a club. We dare you not to have a good time.

BERLIN, GERMANY

There are few cities more legendary for their party scene than Berlin. Even back in 1800 songwriter Franz von Suppé wrote the famed lyric, “You are crazy, my child. You must go to Berlin.” That’s at least 218 years of Berlin being the place for the mad ones.

There’s another famous quote, which paraphrased goes something like, Berlin is never Berlin. Berlin is whatever you want it to be. Do you want sex parties? Gay sex parties? Trans sex parties? Massive empty warehouses with 48-hour non-stop drug-fueled EDM parties? Deeply historical cocktail culture? Beer? Beer gardens? Neighborhood bars? Drinking on the street? All the drugs? All the time? Then, you need Berlin. There are outdoor beer gardens and food courts with play parks for the kids that turn into DJ parties when the sun goes down that turn into techno parties after two AM that then turn into yoga studios when the sun comes up that then turn back into beer gardens and food courts when the kids show back up. Then there are the dozen or so street parties that break out throughout the year. Entire sections of the city are shut down, stages are erected (for every type of music you can image), and bars and food vendors go to work keeping the party going.

In Berlin, it truly never stops. If you can’t find the party you’re looking for here, it probably doesn’t exist anywhere.

BLACK ROCK CITY, NEVADA

You’re telling me one of the best party cities on the planet only parties one week a year?

Yes. That’s precisely what we’re telling you. And we’re right too. Who needs 52 weeks of partying when the party literally goes on 24/7. Who needs 365 days when you can live a lifetime in 24 hours?

Sure, sure, we know that all your friends have been telling you “the burn” is burnt out for the better part of a decade. They’re wrong. There’s still so much to see. So much stunning art. So many people who are literally at their friendliest and most accepting for the entire freaking year. So many costumes and — better yet — people who don’t mind looking like a freak in their costumes. That makes for an epic time.

Burning Man isn’t just a party spot, it’s the planet’s ultimate good vibes factory. So yes, even with its limited days, Black Rock City is one of the best party cities on earth. Believe it.

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

Prague has been going through a libertine phase since the fall of the Iron Curtain and their Velvet Revolution freed them from the Soviet yoke. Club culture exploded in the city that already reveled hard on the beer and drinking fronts. This is a city where bars open up at six AM so people can grab a beer on the way to work. Granted, the beer’s amazing and we know beer for breakfast is legit. Still, drinking is hardwired into Prague culture.

Prague stands out because the denizens of Prague like to go out and have a good time. And, that right there, makes a city stand above when we’re talking partying. It’s no fun if the only people who are partying are drunkard tourists. When you can mingle with the locals who want to get just as f*cked as you, then you’re in a great party city. You can start a day at a super cheap beer garden and slowly make your way into the city beer bar after beer bar until the clubs open up then you can hop until the sun comes up. Finally, when 8am or so hits, grab that breakfast beer with the workers before crashing long enough to recharge for another bout of partying in Praha.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA

There are few cities as fun to party in as Moscow. One, it’s amazingly cheap to drink in Russia. Think a-bottle-of-coke-costs-more-than-a-bottle-of-vodka cheap. Everyone thinks they come from a drinking culture. Then they go to Moscow and realize they have no idea what a real, hardcore drinking culture is. Moscow also has the advantage of being wholly unique. There are few cities as bolshie, brash, a bat-shit crazy fun as Moscow.

A night out in Moscow often starts innocuously enough in someone’s kitchen. A little wine or beer with snacks will invariably turn into shots of vodka with more snacks and more shots. Plan on about one half-liter bottle of vodka per person on top of wine and beer. Then, you’ll go out, most likely to a club. The music will insanely loud. Insanely hot people will be dancing on the bars and tables. You’ll get up there and dance too. You’ll lose count of how many drinks you’ve had. You’ll make out in a bizarrely decorated bathroom. You’ll probably be offered coke that’s actually just speed. Then another club and another … and another. The next thing you know, you’re in a park swigging from a vodka bottle and eating pickled peppers and onions like your life depends on it with a guy likely named Ivan.

The crazy thing is that you’ll wake up the next day ready to do it all again. That’s Moscow, baby.

View this post on Instagram

Не смогла удержаться.

A post shared by Pakhtusova Dasha (@hobohoney) on

HONG KONG, CHINA

Hong Kong has always been a city of transit. Pirates, robber barons, colonists, traders, slavers, smugglers, mercenaries, chefs, writers, gangsters have all passed through Hong Kong’s harbors. Some might even dare to have called the place a hive of both scum and villainy from time to time. All of that has lent Hong Kong a very loose and fun atmosphere where bacchanalia is turned up to eleven.

Areas like Wan Chai around Lockheart Road turn into a center for partying around bars, clubs, and sex dens. You’ll be bouncing from bar to bar looking for the best DJ, drink specials, or vibe all while prostitutes will be doing their darndest to pull you into a sex club. The best part of the bar and club scene in Hong Kong is the street food. Eventually, you’ll pour out of a club or that speakeasy cocktail bar behind a gas station and nothing but a box of deep fried shrimp will do. Or maybe some wicked fried noodles. Or anything that’s being cooked on the street in Hong Kong — because it’s also one of the best food cities in the world.

View this post on Instagram

View from the Pit. #TheOldMan #HongKong #CocktailBar

A post shared by The Old Man (@theoldman_hk) on

SHANGHAI, CHINA

Shanghai knows how to party at every level. There are crazy rooftop bars with glistening skyline views, amazing cocktail bars, craft beer, hard-rocking clubs, and plenty of everything in between. What’s more, Shanghai is fairly cheap when it comes to getting down. Cabs are cheap. Drinks are cheap — if you stay away from the obviously touristy spots.

Overall, Shanghai has a great drinking and partying culture that transcends borders. You’ll meet new people. You’ll drink awesome drinks. You’ll do great drugs. And you’ll leave with a head full of fuzzy new memories. That’s what it’s all about.

LONDON, UK

Partying is London is an exemplary experience. The city has been a center for migration, culture, and bacchanal since Roman times. The pubs are the stuff of beer, gin, and whisky-fueled legends. There are few places on earth where you can get lit in a place people used to have their last meals and drinks before walking out the door to be hanged or beheaded. It’s a trippy place to tie one on.

Then there’s the club and amazing cocktail scene where the cocaine flows almost as freely as the champers and rum. During the week, London is Europe’s cocaine capital when it comes to consumption. So, yeah, people are getting down in foggy ol’ London Towne 24/7. Add in a great molly scene and plenty of cannabis to go along with the long-standing clubs and pubs on nearly every corner and you’ve got a great party city.

BARCELONA, SPAIN

View this post on Instagram

(Eng.⤵️) Где потанцевать от души в Барселоне?🕺🏻 💿 Sala Apolo 💿 Аполо это наверное единственное место в Барселоне где если вечеринка начинается в 19,00 вечера, то уже в 19.15 там не протолкнуться. Насколько поздно испанцы любят ужинать и идти по клубам, настолько рано они приходят в Аполо, чтоб натанцеваться от души. Адрес: Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 113 Метро: Paral.lel (M: L2 и L3) Стоимость входа: €10 . . Where to dance heartily in Barcelona? 🕺🏻 💿Sala Apolo💿 Apolo is probably the most popular place in Barcelona where if the party starts at 19.00 pm, then at 19.15 there is not enough space to stay. How late the Spaniards love to dine and go to the clubs, so early they come to Apolo to dance from the heart. Address: Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 113 Metro: Paral.lel (M: L2 and L3) Entrance fee: € 10 . . #barcelona #barcelonanightlife #nightlife #club #party #barcelonaparty #barcelonawishlist #saturday #saturdaynight #partypeople #barna #bcn #барселона #барселона🇪🇸 #клуб #вечеринка #дискотека #барсеонаночью #барна #кудапойтивбарселоне

A post shared by FUNBCN| Лучшее в Барселоне (@funbcnru) on

Barcelona — and Spain in general — is a great place to party. Barcelona gets the nod here because it has a very long and very fun beach where wine-filled days turn to drug-fueled nights with ease. The ancient streets of Barri Gotica are a maze of hidden bars where beer and wine will only set you back about $2 a glass. Migrants wonder the streets selling ice cold cans of beer for only €1 (basically a buck). And, if you’re savvy enough, these guys hold the keys to stronger inebriates. Just keep your head and be reasonable.

Barcelona is also a cannabis lovers paradise. Every year they hold Spannabis — a cannabis trade show with commercial vendors for everything from growing to harvesting to partaking in the green flower. We’ll just say this, you’ll get a pretty big contact high just walking in the door. Once you find your way back into the city, it’ll be hard not to eat all the tapas. Then when you’re refueled, it’ll time to hit some bars and clubs and dance the night away.

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

Cape Town is a fantastic destination in general. The beauty of the mountains crashing into azure seas with beaches covered in penguins is a big draw. Add in a second-to-none wine scene that’s super affordable and you’ve got a winning location for your next trip. Cape Town is also a great place to party.

The bar scene skews very raucous and leans very pub and dive-y. Then there’s the waterfront bars where you can spend a day soaking in sun and showing off your body — or just watching all the fit people show off theirs — while you get your day-drink on. Then, of course, there are the clubs and music venues if you wanna go a little deaf while you party. It’s all good. Just make sure you have solid barbecue plans with some friends the next day because that hangover is going to be legit.

HAVANA, CUBA

People have been flocking to Havana to party for well over a century. Daiquiris, Cuba Libres, and Mojitos dominate the drinking culture. Havana Club Rum is king of the booze and insanely cheap — seriously, you can buy a case for about the price of a bottle back home.

The bar scene is spectacular but the real vibe is just hitting the streets with the locals and hanging out on curbs and in squares around the city. People in Havana love to party and take the spirit onto the streets most nights. You’ll find music being played from stereos, or live, people will be dancing, and you’ll drink more rum than you knew you could. You’ll get a pretty solid rum hangover the next day. That’s easily solvable with a trip to the beach where you’ll likely drink a little more rum to make the pain go away.

View this post on Instagram

#repost from @havana_reverie

A post shared by Mona Monet (@monamonet) on

BEIRUT, LEBANON

Beirut is a great party city that you probably never knew about. Beirut is the place the cool kids go to party — or at least the kids in the know. Rooftop bars, French-colonial cafe/bars, and beachside cabanas define the scene in the Paris of the East.

You can easily start your day at cafe drinking coffee that turns into beers then hit a rooftop bar for a few pre-dinner cocktails. Then, the play is to head down to the beach and post up at a bar like Pierre & Friends and wait for that sun to set over the Mediterranean with a few hundred people showing off their uber-fit beach bods. Once the sun is down, the real fun starts as the DJs starting spinning on the beach and rooftops. That’s when the real partying begins as the locals break out the cocaine and molly. Trust us, it’ll be a long and very fun night of revelry.

View this post on Instagram

Drinks and sunsets. #IrisBeirut

A post shared by Iris Beirut (@irisbeirut) on

View this post on Instagram

Laughter is the best medicine

A post shared by Maya Hallab (@mayahallab) on

×