Lunar beach blowouts on tropical isles collide with snow-doused après bars in the Alps and sleek Mediterranean club meccas in this guide to the best party places in the world. How many can you get done before you’re 40?
Koh Phangan, Thailand
Where else? Phangan has been one of the best party places in the world ever since the first hemp-smoking hippies hit the island in the 1960s. These days, it’s the home of the legendary Full Moon Party, which draws up to 40,000 people to Haad Rin beach for shindigs from sundown to sunup.
Berlin is the home of techno. Iconic clubs like Berghain and KitKat make it true hallowed ground for hedonists of all stripes. It can be hard to gain entry to those, but don’t worry, neighborhoods like Friedrichshain and Mitte have cool jazz bars and underground speakeasies aplenty.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Amsterdam’s Red Light district is known all over the globe for it’s free-wheeling, liberal vibes. However, you can also spend the night dancing to local live bands in the body-packed pubs of Leidseplein. Or, hit Rembrandtplein for microbreweries and beer terraces and more.
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
You’ll be stunned by Koh Phi Phi as you pull into the main harbor on the ferry. The island has soaring cliffs that poke like daggers straight from the Andaman Sea. There’s a buzzy nightlife to match the awesome scenery, although it’s largely about chilled beach bars and hippy cocktail joints since the Thai government imposed new regulations in 2018.
Start the night with a vodka tasting to sample the potent clear liquid that Poles drink like water. Then, head off on the Krawl Through Krakow (one of Europe’s original backpacker crawls) to hit underground bars and multistory clubs, all with a shot on entry and a ‘power hour’ of free-flowing booze to start things off.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague bills itself as the beer capital of the world. You won’t be disappointed! Beyond the UNESCO-tagged cobbles of the Old Town, historic beer halls like U Hrocha offer unpasteurized Bohemian brews that taste divine. After that, join up with the Prague Pub Crawl – it attracts some of the largest crowds on the continent.
Manchester’s Northern Quarter is credited with giving the world bands and artists such as Oasis and Mick Hucknall. Mosey down to that powerhouse of British music and you can still visit the very same venues where the legends played – spots like Band on the Wall and the Manchester Roadhouse. It’s also now a hipster hub, with cool gastropubs and jazz bars.
Ibiza fully deserves its place on this list of the best party places in the world. Why? Well it’s only the hedonism capital of Europe! Mega clubs like Amnesia and Swag might cost you half your travel budget in entry, but they’re among the most famous venues on the globe and host legendary DJs all throughout the summer season.
Las Vegas, USA
Vegas, baby! You don’t get a nickname like Sin City without being downright off the hook on the party scene. The Strip is where most of the action happens, in big super clubs hosted by casinos like the MGM Grand and Caesars Palace. A-lister acts take to the stages regularly in those, while themed pool parties start earlier on in the day.
Bangkok buzzes with more nightlife hotspots than you can shake a plate of pad Thai at! Khaosan Road is the best-known of the bunch. The original backpacker haven, it spills with hostels, go-go bars, sports clubs, and ramshackle street bazaars. A chicer scene can be found in Sukhumvit. There, five-star sky bars take over with drinking terraces that have 360-degree panoramas of the metropolis.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Copacabana beach leads the way on the party front. Shacks sell tangy Caipirinha cocktails there while mini carnivals break out between the sands and cantinas. Talking of carnivals…this city is known for its annual Rio Carnival blowout. It takes place in February and sees millions (yep – millions!) of revelers hit the streets in flamboyant outfits. It’s one of the largest parties on the planet!
The biggest town and most happening corner of the Isle of the Gods is Kuta. By day, folk hit the waves of the best beginner surf in Bali to try their hand at riding the swells. By night, they start with cold Bintang beers on Jalan Pantai before moving to pulsing Sky Garden Bali or the gritty dancefloors of the Engine Room.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
With a twirl of the tango dress and oodles of Latin pizzazz, Buenos Aires nightlife goes into overdrive. The Argentine capital is famed for its moody speakeasy-style bars, which congregate in happening Recoleta and in stylish Uptown. Of course, you also have to see the dance halls, where the national tango is nothing short of a work of art!
New Orleans, USA
Rio has Carnival, the Netherlands have King’s Day, New Orleans has Mardi Gras. Yep, the jazzy Big Easy of Louisiana hosts one of the biggest parties in America every year around February time. Expect to see plumes of pink feathers, multicolored outfits, huge float processions and more big-band music than anyone can handle on a single party trip!
Belgrade separates its nightlife into two. There’s the winter scene, which means partying in industrial complexes and underground techno clubs. Then there’s the summer scene, which is all about wild boat parties on the Danube River and rooftop get-togethers. Belgrade also hosts sprawling super clubs like Freestyler, where the DJ acts and dance performances are something else.
Japan’s neon-lit, sleepless capital is a party lover’s dream come true. There are some areas you simply have to have on the radar. Start in Shinjuku, the red-light neighborhood that’s a weird and wonderful array of tiny beer bars and manga outlets. Also don’t miss the Golden Gai alleyway that’s bursting with venues, or stylish Shibuya and its chic eateries.
Vang Vieng, Laos
There was a time when this little town in the midst of the wild Laotian jungle could even rival Koh Phangan as Southeast Asia’s party mecca. You see, it was the tubing hub of the region and backpackers came from all over to hop in a rubber ring and drift down the Nam Song River with a bottle of local whisky in hand. A government makeover calmed things down a whole lot, but there are still jungle bars and hostel pub crawls to get stuck into after exploring the surrounding karst mountains.
Spring breaker heaven Cancun is synonymous with beer-fueled blowouts when college stops. There’s actually much, much more to it than that. The whole Hotel Zone is a medley of luxurious resorts that have swim-up bars and sleek cocktail lounges, all with a backdrop of sugar-white sand. Stunning.
Tel Aviv, Israel
Tel Aviv has garnered a reputation for being the Ibiza of the Levant. It’s sure got the setting – a shimmering length of powdery sand runs along the front of the city, washed by lovely Mediterranean waves. Particular places where the hedonism gets good are the end of Rothschild Boulevard and hipster-fav Florentin.
Pag Island, Croatia
If your idea of a blowout is a bumping beach bar bathed in sun right by the turquoise waters of the Adriatic Sea, then Pag has to be on your list of 40 of the best party places in the world before you’re 40. You’ll want to time your visit for the summer months between June and August, when the yachters and the sun seekers hit the watering holes of Novalja – a little town on the north side of the island.
Think Cusco, think the Inca Trail and high-altitude hikes through the Andes. However, this ancient pre-Columbian city also has some seriously throbbing nightlife. It’s mainly populated by backpackers who’ve just finished a multi-day trek, so the vibe is pretty upbeat and positive. Things can go on ALL night, especially if you manage to make it to the legendary trekker’s club of Mama Africa.
Hanoi’s Old Quarter is a heady overload for the senses. Look one way and there are bazaars stacked with spices and veg. Look another and you’ll see ramshackle iron monger markets and hardware stores. On top of all that, the district is a backpacking party hub. Bia Hoi Corner runs the show. Head there to get glugging cheap beer before going for clubs like Rock City and Dragonfly.
Shanghai lays claim to some of the planet’s most audacious venues. Raise a big ganbei (cheers in the local lingo) to venues like RIINK – a futuristic roller skating club – and M1nt – a smart and sleek place to clink cocktails and not worry about the bar tab (clue: It’s always going to be big!). On top of that, there are expat taverns and street-side Chinese drinking streets aplenty.
Koh Rong, Cambodia
Don’t confuse Koh Rong with its near neighbor of Koh Rong Samloem. The second is a relaxed honeymooner’s escape with chalk-white beaches. The first comes fringed with bamboo bars and thumping party spots. It’s cheap but watch out for the snakes!
Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
It’s all about a party on a paradise island in Gili Trawangan. The clubs share the event nights so there’s always something going on. Expect discos of reggae and dub that rock until sunup, with cocktails mixed with local arak (not recommended). To cure the hangover, think about a scuba trip or a day on the pristine beaches of nearby Gili Meno.
Mykonos flaunts the most happening after-dark scene in all of Greece. Drinkers tend to start early, on the sunny sands of Paradise Beach. From there, it’s a quick hop to Little Venice for a dinner and Greek wine right by the Aegean Sea. Then, move to Mykonos Town, where pulsing dance bars hardly stop for a breather throughout the whole summer.
Gangnam, South Korea
South Korea really knows how to party, but Gangnam is the epicenter of the lot. It’s packed with craft beer places and soy-scented Korean BBQ restaurants, where the locals start nice and early. Afterwards, book in for a spot of noraebang (that’s karaoke to you and me) to sing your hearts out until the early hours.
Mirissa, Sri Lanka
Beach bars spill out onto the seafront all along Mirissa Beach to make what’s arguably the most happening strip of shoreline in Sri Lanka. You’ll laze on bean bags all afternoon while watching surfers carve up the nearby swells, glugging cold Lion beers or crafted cocktails in the shade of a coconut palm. Then, you can hit the clubs, which are known for their lively backpacker vibe.
London is more like a whole load of mini cities packed into one. You can party the night away under the bright lights of Piccadilly if you like. However, that would mean missing out on the comedy clubs and Irish taverns of Soho, or the cool hipster speakeasies of Stoke Newington and the pubs of Dalston. There’s a load to enjoy in the capital of Old Blighty.
Sarajevo was a warzone not too long ago. These days, the sieges are all gone, and a vibrant, multicultural capital awaits. Parties begin in the mezze eateries of the Old Bazaar, between plumes of shisha smoke and the smell of paprika. Then, move to the underground clubs to the north of the Miljacka River to hangout with an eclectic crowd of travelers and locals.
Bondi Beach, Australia
A day on the waves and glinting sands of Bondi Beach is a must for any first-time travelers in Sydney. After the surf is done, check out the nightlife scene for a typically Aussie bout of beer drinking and BBQ. It’s a very youthful vibe at places like Ravesis and Hardware, thanks mainly to the huge crowds of backpackers that pass this way.
Budapest is famed for its alternative ruin bars. They’re off-beat, bohemian party holes that exist in half-crumbling tenement blocks in the city’s enthralling Jewish Quarter. They’re also a downright awesome night out. Check Szimpla Kert and Doboz for two of the best.
Siargao, The Philippines
Siargao is one of the coolest parts of the Philippines and it’s only just been discovered by travelers. Filled with azure tide pools, lush coconut groves, and paradise coves, it balances all that with a bumping after-hours party atmosphere. See what we mean at the huge karaoke hall in General Luna. Then, go in search of the infamous Siargao jungle party.
Miami is home to one of the most iconic party strips in the USA: Miami Beach. Since the 50s, it’s been attracting revelers and beautiful people with its Art Deco hotels and gorgeous sands. These days, you can enjoy rum punches galore in the bars of South Beach. Or, head back into the metro area for the cigar joints and cantinas of Little Havana.
Istanbul matches its ancient history and Ottoman grandeur with some seriously raucous nightlife. The summer is the best time to visit, because you can get stuck into the open-air bars that line the Danube – establishments like Sortie and the Klein Garten. From there, a trip to lively Beyoglu or chic Bebek won’t disappoint.
Wild nights of stomping on the tables and singing Gaelic folk music await in the rollicking Irish capital. The Temple Bar area is the best for all that, with its age-old pubs and taverns. Perhaps you could start the day at the Guinness Storehouse for some pre tipples?
San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan is the capital of the coconut-fringed isle of Puerto Rico. To party, don’t miss the quarter of Old San Juan. It’s riddled with paint-peeling cantinas that slosh with rum. Condado is another area. There are beaches there backed by big hotels with on-site nightclubs. Beware: Spring break gets super busy in SJ.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Call it just Cabo for short, because that’s what the jet setters and the spring breakers do. One of the most energetic towns in all of Mexico, this white-painted pueblo caps off the Baja Peninsula with a whole load of rock bars, tequila dives and celebrity clubs.
Good vibes and good company await at the backpacker surf town of Montañita. Perfect waves on the Pacific combine with establishments like boho El Batey and the Lost Beach Club to create a destination that’s surely one of the more off-the-beaten-track of the best party places in the world before you’re 40.
Alpe d’Huez, France
There’s nothing like a spot of après ski to cap off a day on the mountain. Of all the resorts in the Alps, we think Alpe d’Huez in the Isere ranges of south-western France really takes the biscuit. Legendary seasonaire bars include Les Caves and Smithy’s Tavern. However, most skiers will start early with a champagne courtesy of La Folie Douce up on the slopes.