Too many people have too many ideas about what makes for a good vacation spot – food, scenery, local history, arts and culture, etc. – but we know you care more about one thing than any other: the partying.
Yes, we know you’re looking to have a good time without having to contend with snot-nosed brats running around everywhere or grandpa with his camera taking pictures of every old brick in town. And on that note, and because we love you, we’re pleased to bring you this: the 50 best party cities in the world.
The 50 Best Party Cities In The World: 50-41
50 Chicago, USA
Good beer, good food and lots and lots of young, successful people tends to equal fun, and so it’s no surprise that Chicago earns a spot on this list. In addition to the land-based parties, Chicago’s location on Lake Michigan also means lots of boat parties and what better way to sweat out a hangover than by lying on the beach?
49 Pattaya, Thailand
Pattaya isn’t the world’s top party place – although it does have a thriving nightlife scene – but what it is, is perhaps the most debauched place on this list. It has been referred to as “Sexy Disneyland” and has a reputation as a city that caters to every conceivable appetite. It’s basically the city version of that freaky scene in 300.
48 Lima, Peru
By day, Lima is a great place to unwind and chill on its beautiful beaches. By night, Lima’s club scene comes alive and will wear you out so that all that day lounging becomes necessary. The Miraflores area in particular is known for its club scene, with places like Gotica and Aura situated along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean where you can get drunk just like Pizarro probably did back in the day.
47 Krakow, Poland
Poland has become a hot spot in recent years behind the old Iron Curtain, and perhaps no place is more party-mad than Krakow. It’s got plenty of bars and nightclubs and the best part is that many of them stay open until the wee hours of the morning, especially in the town’s main square.
46 Copenhagen, Denmark
It takes a while for Copenhagen to really come alive, but once it does – usually past midnight or so – it stays alive through the night. The people are friendly, and the best part for any young dude is that the ladies in Copenhagen are notoriously, uh, comely.
45 Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne is known for its thriving nightclub scene, but it also boasts a robust underground scene, including several swinger’s parties if you’re into that sort of thing. The weather in Melbourne isn’t always the best but that just means that instead of relaxing outdoors you can hunker down indoors with your beverage of choice and hundreds of your beautiful friends.
44 Osaka, Japan
Osaka’s people are known as perhaps the friendliest in Japan, which only adds to an atmosphere that is fueled by the country’s best food and drink. Osaka might not get the headlines of Tokyo, but if you want to indulge your senses in Japan then Osaka is probably the place to be.
43 La Paz, Bolivia
La Paz is a diverse, cosmopolitan city located high up in the Andes mountains which means that thanks to the elevation, the alcohol tends to hit just a little bit harder. How much of a party city is La Paz? Well, you’ve heard of wine bars, but La Paz actually has underground cocaine bars.
42 Tokyo, Japan
Osaka is probably more party-oriented per capita than Tokyo, but Tokyo’s sheer size means that there is always somewhere in the city where you can get wild. The people may have a reputation for stoicism, but that just means that everything is just a little bit crazier underneath. No city in the world is more perfect than Tokyo for the wandering soul who just wants to get lost for a while.
41 Reykjavik, Iceland
An article in the Washington Post once dubbed Reykjavik as “the king of clubs” which makes sense when you consider the capital of Iceland’s unique mixture of beautiful people and the rich young Europeans who flock there on the weekends to indulge in the local, uh, cuisine before heading bleary-eyed back to the boardrooms on Monday. The only thing hotter than Iceland’s thermal pools is its party scene.
Best Party Cities In The World: 40-31
40 Marrakech, Morocco
Marrakech has long been a desert oasis where both the rich come to indulge in debauchery and hippies come to indulge in, well, hippiedom. This unique blend, coupled with the city’s almost ancient feel, provides one of the most unique party atmospheres in the world, with both luxury and seedy no-frills partying available to anyone who wants it.
39 Gothenburg, Sweden
Most people will tell you that Stockholm is the best place to party in Sweden, and while it’s certainly one of the premier Scandinavian party cities, the real partying in Sweden is done in Gothenburg, a port city whose unique location creates a cosmopolitan vibe. This vibe is then harnessed in a thriving club and music scene. Oh, and let’s not forget the notoriously beautiful locals.
38 Thessaloniki, Greece
Thessaloniki is home to a large student population and wherever there are students there are bound to be some amazing parties. And it’s no different in Thessaloniki, which has the most bars and clubs per capita of any city in all of Europe. Enough said.
37 Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town has a laid-back vibe perfect for lazing away the day on its beautiful beaches. But at night, the city’s party and club scene comes alive, especially on its famous Long Street, appropriately named given the endless stretch of clubs and bars, perfect for club-hopping. There is something for every taste in Cape Town, from rock bars to electronica, or from grungy, cheap dives to upscale wine and brandy style places.
36 Los Angeles, USA
Los Angeles might not be as openly lively as many other cities on this list – one of the reasons for this is the city’s sprawling layout, which makes club-hopping difficult – but it still has several hotspots such as its famous Sunset Strip club scene. The real party allure of L.A. though is its infamous house parties, where the rich and famous mingle and do blow with the ordinary people – provided they know someone of course.
35 Tallinn, Estonia
One of the more underrated cities on this list, Tallinn in recent years has become known as a party hotspot. Situated on the Gulf of Finland, Tallinn has taken advantage of the post-Soviet atmosphere to foster a hot club scene, fueled by both tourist money and the economic advantages of being a port city. Of course, it helps that Tallinn is also home to some of the most beautiful people in the world.
34 Airlie Beach, Australia
A little more unconventional than some of the cities on this list, Airlie Beach has built its reputation on being a Mecca for young backpackers who just want a place to chill for a while and get blasted before exploring Australia’s Whitsunday Islands. Its combination of a rather bohemian atmosphere and a thriving little club scene along the city’s boardwalk makes for a unique combo hard to find anywhere else in the world.
33 Popovka, Ukraine
Perhaps the most unlikely town on this list, Popovka is one here for one reason: for six weeks every summer it is home to the infamous Kazantip, an electronic dance music festival. The festival is so big that it refers to itself as a “virtual republic” all its own, and for those six weeks Popovka and the area around it are turned into one giant rave. The only reason it isn’t ranked higher is because, well, it only lasts six weeks every year but for those six weeks, it’s the place to be.
32 Belgrade, Serbia
All you need to know about Belgrade is this – during the NATO airstrikes of the 1990s, the people of Belgrade kept right on partying at an outdoor concert. Now that’s a city dedicated to its partying, and now that the violent times have largely passed, the city as a whole has taken to partying like it’s its job. Once the sun goes down, all of Belgrade seems to wake up – and with a bottle or mug in every hand.
31 Baku, Azerbaijan
In recent years, Baku has taken advantage of both the fall of the Soviet empire and the massive amounts of oil dollars that have come pouring in to create a bustling party scene. Of course, it also helps that its location on the Caspian Sea makes it an economic and cultural hub in the area. The combination of all of those factors has made Baku the hottest place to party in the Caspian region, a place of utter excess and all the fun that comes with it.
30-21: Global Party Cities Under The Radar
30 Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is known both for its sophisticated nighttime scene and for its wide diversity of clubs. At 1AM the restaurants will be packed with businessmen eating steak dinners and the clubs packed with partygoers. It’s one of the best cities in the world for the night owl.
29 Prague, Czech Republic
Cheap beer, clubs that go late into the night, gorgeous locals – Prague has it all. It’s the perfect city for backpackers to crash for a night or two and just let loose. Prague is exactly what you picture in your head when you picture the prototypical European club, with DJ’s spinning all night long and booze and love permeating everyone and everything.
28 Sydney, Australia
Sydney is similar to Melbourne as far as nightlife goes, but it has a couple of things going for it that give it the edge as far as Aussie party cities go – first of all, the weather is generally better and second, it has several killer beaches so you can sweat your hangover out in style. Plus, it’s been said that Australians love Americans, but I’m sure you don’t care about that at all. Nope, not one bit.
27 London, England
London will always be a top party city, if only because its importance as a city means that so many young, vibrant people end up congregating there. The music scene is, naturally, one of the best in the world and the club scene – especially the underground scene – can stand toe to toe with any other city. It might not be as balls to the wall crazy as some of the places ranked higher, but London will always be a good place to party.
26 Moscow, Russia
Moscow has become in many ways a hedonist’s playground. The Russian oil boom coupled with the city’s notorious organized crime scene means that many clubs operate like independent fiefdoms, each with their own laws – or lack thereof. And, of course, the beautiful locals. The only things keeping Moscow from being ranked higher is that it can be expensive, you generally have to know somebody to really dig into the city’s party scene, and let’s face it, chances are pretty good that you’ll wind up missing your kidneys after waking up in a dumpster. But hey, that’s just the price to pay for one perfect night.
25 Tel Aviv, Israel
You generally don’t think “party” and “Israel” in the same sentence, especially when there’s a non-zero chance that the sirens go off, but Tel Aviv’s party scene thrives despite all the distractions. The clubs are among the best in the world and the Mediterranean beaches rival those of Miami for sheer hedonistic splendor.
24 Barcelona, Spain
Spain is arguably the party capital of Europe, and Barcelona is one of that country’s hot spots, frequently partying until sunrise. Unlike many cities, whose parties take some work finding, Barcelona delights in bringing the party to newcomers and all you have to do is walk down the streets and somebody will hand you a leaflet for one of the top clubs. And while some may shun the easy accessibility of Barcelona as a tourist trap, are you really gonna argue with a city that makes it even easier for you to drink? I thought not.
23 Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Cabo is the preeminent party spot on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula. Its beaches are spectacular and its clubs will welcome you with open arms. Cabo was basically built for partying, either on spring break with your friends or during that weeklong blissful vacation when you get to rid yourself of the kids and revel in what’s left of your youth.
22 Madrid, Spain
It’s been said that Barcelona is where the tourists go to party while Madrid is the place where all the real Spaniards party. And while that may seem like it makes things more difficult for you, the prospective tourist, you shouldn’t be afraid to let yourself disappear into a purer party experience. Madrid often doesn’t even start the true party until after 2AM but then it rages on through the morning, just in time for the afternoon siesta.
21 Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul has exploded as a premier party city. It’s been said that you can keep the party going in Istanbul 24 hours a day if you want. The music is always pumping, the clubs are packed with dancers and the alcohol is notoriously strong – and all with a killer view of the Bosphorus to top it all off. Istanbul goes hard. Just try to keep up.
Top 20 Party Cities On The Planet
20 Montreal, Canada
Montreal is one of the top party cities in all of North America, boasting an incredible blend of foreign travelers looking to party, bilingual natives and some of the most beautiful locals in the world. It has a laidback feel that gives way to a party scene at night that boasts everything from modern nightclubs where you can dance your way to bliss to old-school jazz clubs. And for the Americans reading this, it’s just right across the border.
19 Berlin, Germany
Berlin has a little bit of everything, and a whole lot of partying. If there is a city that rivals New York’s “city that never sleeps” status, it’s Berlin, where people can be found partying at all hours. Of course, it’s also the home to one of the best music scenes in the whole world. And hey, what would Germany be without some truly outstanding beer?
18 Sao Paulo, Brazil
Rio might get all the headlines, but Sao Paulo is actually Brazil’s largest city and it more than holds its own against its sexier neighbor. It’s an ugly city but don’t let that turn you off. Dig just a little beneath the surface and you’ll find perhaps the most culturally vibrant city in all of South America, and wherever “culturally vibrant” can be found, “badass partying” usually isn’t far behind.
17 Ayia Napa, Cyprus
Ayia Napa used to be a nice family resort but in recent years it has become known more for being a place where degenerates from all over Europe come to get wild. It’s a natural progression given Ayia Napa’s killer Mediterranean Beaches, and if you learn anything here it’s that where there are amazing beaches there are tons of beautiful people – and lots and lots of awesome nightclubs. If you really want to dive into the scene the beach you want is Nissi Beach. Harbour Beach is bigger but is more family-oriented and hey, you’ve got your own family back home and they weren’t invited.
16 Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam probably seems slightly underrated here, but that’s just because while it certainly has its share of hotspots its allure isn’t necessarily its late-night raves but its relatively carefree attitude towards some of the more, shall we say… seedier sides of the human experience. Still, that’s enough all on its own to make Amsterdam a must-visit for anyone looking to indulge their party gene.
15 St. Tropez, France
St. Tropez is infamous for being the playground of the rich and beautiful and while chances are you’re neither that doesn’t mean that you can’t crash their party. In the end, when the booze is flowing and the sun is shining bright on a beautiful beach, no one will care how you got there, just that you’re there and you’re there to have fun.
14 Miami, USA
Miami is Miami. You all know what that means. It means sun, beaches, ridiculously beautiful women, alcohol and, uh, other intoxicants and everything else you might want out of a party experience. Miami parties so hard that most people can’t handle it. It’s just too damn hot – both literally and figuratively.
13 Lagos, Portugal
Another beach town? Another beach town. But Lagos isn’t just any beach town. No, Lagos is a beach town known for almost unprecedented amounts of insane partying. Twenty-somethings from all over Europe descend on Lagos like zombies, only they crave alcohol and skin rather than brains. Then again, I’m sure someone has actually accidentally eaten a brain or two in Lagos.
12 New York City, USA
It’s the city that never sleeps. That about sums it up. While the bars close earlier (4am) than in many cities on this list, you can always find a killer after-party or warehouse party to keep things going. New York is also basically the capital of the world and chances are if something cool is going on, it started in New York.
11 Mykonos, Greece
Mykonos is a heavyweight when it comes to partying. Some of the clubs stay open 24 hours a day and the dancing starts on the beaches during the day and ends up in the clubs at night. Mykonos is basically an island paradise in the Mediterranean, and island paradises always – always – attract their share of party hounds out for a good time.
Best 10 Cities For Partying On Planet Earth
10 Punta del Este, Uruguay
Punta del Este is probably the dark horse of the top ten, the one you’ve probably never heard of, but you should know about it because there aren’t many places on Earth that can beat it for its combination of cool excess and natural beauty. Located where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Rio de Plata, Punta del Este is basically where people from Buenos Aires go when even that awesome city isn’t enough for them. It’s an upscale paradise where weekday angels turn into weekend devils.
9 Ios, Greece
Ios pretty much exists as a place for young Europeans to come and party their cares away. It’s one of the birthplaces of modern hedonism and many pay homage to Ios today by flocking to its endless parties. Forget nightclubs, people don’t even bother to leave the beach to get wild in Ios.
8 New Orleans, USA
Forget anything bad that you’ve heard about New Orleans because no city in America has as much character – or as relaxed an attitude towards partying – as the Big Easy. People drink day and night, openly and without care, pub crawling down Bourbon Street even during months when nothing’s going on. When the city is home to one of its infamous festivals, though – especially Mardi Gras – things get kicked up a notch and New Orleans becomes the party capital of North America.
7 Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok is a lot like Amsterdam in that its appeal doesn’t lie so much with giant parties, but with the endless amount of carnality that is available to anyone with enough desire. You can lose yourself – and your soul – in Bangkok, and anytime you can talk about a place in terms of soul loss you know that it’s a premiere party city.
6 Cancun, Mexico
Spring break, woooooooooooo!!! Half of you reading this had that go through your head as soon as you saw the name Cancun. That pretty much says it all right there, doesn’t it?
5 Koh Phangan, Thailand
Once a month, the beaches of Koh Phangan on the Gulf of Siam play host to the massive “Full Moon Parties” where DJs spin all night long and thousands of people dance and party on the beach all while a giant, gorgeous full moon sits on the horizon. It’s perhaps the world’s biggest – and most awe-inspiring – rave.
4 Goa, India
Speaking of raves, the venerable Goa, India basically invented the rave. A favorite of hippies for decades, Goa developed the infamous Goa Trance, which is pretty much what people think of when they think of the stereotypical rave. The modern party scene almost originated in Goa. Anytime you can say that, you’ve earned a place of high honor on a list like this.
3 Las Vegas, USA
“Vegas, baby!” “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” “Sin City.” You’ve all heard those before and with good reason. Vegas has marketed itself as the ultimate lost weekend destination and people from all over America flock there hoping to get their own version of The Hangover. You come to Vegas for one reason, and that’s to party harder than you’ve ever partied in your life.
2 Ibiza, Spain
The island of Ibiza is basically the modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah. The whole island exists just as a place for people to get utterly debauched and do all of the things that they’d never dare to do back home. It’s a madhouse of carnality, with clubs that go through the night featuring world-famous DJ’s and beaches that are lined during the day with perfect party people. Go there for a whole summer – or at least until the money runs out – and just follow the party.
1 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The beaches of Rio might be the most famous in the world and people ready and willing to indulge their basest party instincts. And like New Orleans, Rio takes what’s already a wonderland of hedonism and turns up the dial all the way to 11 when it’s festival time. Yes, the world-famous Carnaval happens in Rio and when that’s going on, Rio becomes such a powerful party entity that you’ll be lucky to even get out of the city without dying of dehydration. You can imagine how. It’s basically bacchanal of music and drinking. It takes the best parts of every other city on this list and says “You know what, we can do even better.” It’s the world’s party capital for a reason.
(Previously published on August 7, 2013.)