What makes a night memorable? Repurposed ruins, feather boas, great tasting booze, really good music and even better people.
All the best party cities in Europe have them, and yet no single city is the same. Whether it’s a staring contest with Berlin’s tattooed bouncers, smashing a “speedboule” tournament in Sweden, or celebrating sundown in Croatia; Europe’s best party destinations will probably not only entertain you, but change you. This is a guide to the best party destinations this continent has to offer.
Hanky-Panky in Hamburg
The Reeperbahn is, without a doubt, the must-see in Hamburg and one of Europe’s wildest party destinations. Essentially it is the red light district, with all the usual suspects of strip clubs and fabulous gay bars, but it feels more like exploring another planet – a planet with sex supermarkets and neon in every available space.
Via. Instagram: @miniyocom
If that’s a bit too much, the next (slight) step down is the aggressively cool Schanze neighbourhood: politically active by day, candle-lit and raving by night, with street art as the standard decor.
Bobbing Along in Belgrade
In summer, Belgrade tops the best party cities in Europe with its floating bars. If you have to choose one, is has to be 20/44 – this laid-back venue is what an independent Serbian club looks like – an origami paint job and, instead of the traditional mermaid found on ships, this raft sports a “Smooth Criminal” Michael Jackson statue.
Via. Instagram: @technoculture
If you start to feel sea-sick, seek dry land at Drugstore, a slaughterhouse turned techno dungeon, and WATS. “We Are The Sh*t” is more sophisticated than it sounds – house DJs play a soundtrack to the stunning views of Belgrade atop this old shopping centre.
Island (Night-)Life in Croatia
Hvar Island is the heaven of party destinations. Because beach bars – can you beat them?
Via. Instagram: @hulahulahvar
Stroll down to the waterfront after lunch to already kick off the night with some relaxed beers. Then, to save yourself from sunburn and, um, rehydrate, stretch out under the thatched-roof of spa-like Carpe Diem Beach bar. Then toast the meeting of sun and sea at Hula Hula.
Manchester, like England itself, is a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. You can find the finest cocktails in the country in one bar and the cheesiest charts in the next.
Via. Instagram: @antwerpmansion
But you can also find… an old Victorian mansion, turned into a venue. Antwerp Mansion‘s team invites you to do photoshoots in their salons, spray paint their walls, and drink and dance until you are no longer amused.
Set a Record in Gothenburg
Nära skjuter ingen hare. Close shots won’t get the rabbit – or as we say in English, “close, but no cigar”. Expect to hear this from a consoling Swede at one of Europe’s genuinely unusual party destinations: a games bar in Gothenburg.
Via. Instagram: @tbjerkehag
Did we say a bar? We meant several. Two of the best are the Biljardpalaset (which literally has 150 types of beer, plus 30 billiard tables and 18 shuffleboards) and the Boulebar, which takes the famous French outdoor sport and sticks it under a roof. Try out “speedboule” and see if you can make it onto their leader board… whilst under the influence, of course.
Bucharest’s Got Bling
Disco balls? Puh-lease. You ain’t seen true glam until you’ve set eyes on the dinosaur of a chandelier in Kristal, which may well be an heirloom from the club’s former life as a cinema.
Via. Instagram: @kristalclubro
Now, fetch your frocks: Gaia is waiting. Themed parties on Thursdays have featured dress codes from “hoodie-gans” to Russian aristocracy, psychopaths to Disney characters. Kinky or questionable? You decide…
A History of Drinking in Dublin
“No psychedelic innovations here!” says Mulligan’s website. Even before the threat of psychedelics, Irish literary giants such as James Joyce and Seamus Heaney were visiting this cheerful, traditional 19th-century pub and loving it. The same can be said of the institutional Stag’s Head with its stained glass windows.
Via. Instagram: @skychia3
If you ask most people, Temple Bar, quite rightly, will be where you end up for riotous parties. But locals will turn continue from the Stag’s Head down Dame Lane and have a pint in Sweeney’s Bar for live music or 4 Dame Lane for memorabilia-philia.
Cosy with Whisky in Edinburgh
We all know that the Scottish make a good whisky. And we also know that pubs – such as Kay’s, decked out with a library and velvet seating – are comfy. But maybe you didn’t know that Edinburgh’s elegant cocktail bars make it one of the best party cities in Europe?
Via. Instagram: @jpgyourlife
Here are a couple that you will definitely need a good nose to find. Follow the tiny alleyway lined with steps to The Devil’s Advocate, once a Victorian pump house and now a place of worship to the bottle. Or have the barmen in the Bramble Bar counsel you in the art of cocktails in this cosy cellar bar.
In Berlin, Just Don’t Sleep
Museums are closed on Mondays in Berlin, but Berghain, the Vatican of techno, is still open and hasn’t shut its doors since Friday night. But to get in, you have to make it past Sven Marquardt. This tough, god-like bouncer’s Judgement Day-style of manning the door has inspired a “How to get into Berghain” app and the web game, BerghainTrainer.com. And he has released some pretty heart-rending memoirs.
Via. Instagram: @lifeofind.y
If Berghain (most likely) fails, go to any of these other spots for a proper Berlin night out: musically diverse Kater Blau, labyrinthine Wilde Renate, or RAW Gelände – an old train repair works complex that is now a graffiti-ed strip full of bars and clubs, including the world’s tiniest: teledisko, a converted phone box that, for a 2-euro coin, will play your chosen song, spurt out disco fog and photographically record you in the happiest moment of your life.
Don’t Stop Now!
You’re bound to have a ball at any of what are, in my humble opinion, the most diverse and best party cities in Europe. But there are even more beauties to discover: how could I leave you without even mentioning Amsterdam, Budapest, London? Easy: it would take you all night – several nights – to find all of Europe’s nocturnal gems. Where will your next night take you?