Many travelers pass through Bangkok not realizing there's more to it than the seedy areas
The first rule of Barcelona is that you don't stay on Las Ramblas
Ibiza is a nightclub mecca and every party hound must make a pilgrimage there at least once
Not everyone gets it. But for some of us, travel is best expressed through celebration. We prefer to exchange culture over the clinking of glasses and between the flashes of strobe lights.Conversations punctuated by “Prost!” and “Salud!” show us more than any guidebook.
I view myself as a kind of international nightlife connoisseur. As an entrepreneur, author and all-around life enthusiast, I’ve been around the world many times over. And of everyone I know, I feel the most qualified to throw an absurd list like this together.
Each city is judged on four criteria, each given a score from one-to-10:
1. Hours. How late each night and how many nights per week is the party good?
2. People. Is it a good crowd – cosmopolitan, friendly and, yes, good looking?
3. Music. Judged on quality and variety offered in each city.
4. Experience. How likely you are to have an experience that you’ll still be telling your friends about a decade from now.
I’m embarrassed to admit how much time I spent on this list (seriously, there was an Excel spreadsheet involved), but I finally narrowed it to 10 cities and I’m confident with the end result.
First, my honorary mentions: Hong Kong, Sydney, Miami, Stockholm, Tokyo and Tel Aviv.
My apologies party people, but the competition was stiff.
A lot of travelers continue to pass through Bangkok not realizing there’s more to it than the seedy dregs of Soi Cowboy, or the backpacker haven of Khao San Road.
Bangkok has developed a vibrant and classy side as the city has become more cosmopolitan.
Whether it’s a series of gorgeous rooftop hotel bars downtown, rock bars near Ratchathewi, dance clubs just off Sukhumvit or trendy pubs in Thlonglor and Ekamai, there’s legitimate, quality adventure to be had.
9. Buenos Aires
“The Paris of the South” puts a New World spin on the insane Spanish practice of eating dinner at midnight and then dancing until dawn.
While living there, I remember trying to go home as the sun came up and an Argentinian friend telling me she wanted to go to an after-party instead.
It was eight in the morning. On a Wednesday.
Although not as affordable as it used to be, Buenos Aires is still a relative bargain among major world cities.
The locals love good rock music, too.
Best itinerary: Start with the calmer bars of Recoleta and work your way up to the taverns of Palermo Hollywood. There’s no rush, believe me.
8. Las Vegas
A staple. No nightlife list would be complete without it.
Sin City has something for everybody, from NBA power forwards blowing their signing bonuses to middle-agers gambling their way through a midlife crisis.
I tend to stick to the southern end of the strip – Marquee, XS, Tao – but it’s hard to have a bad night out in Vegas.
Best place to waste your life savings and love every second of it: XS in the Encore. Get to this nightclub early or suffer through the two-hour line.
Montreal is the undiscovered party gem of North America.
Beautiful, friendly people, all night dancing to a wide variety of music.
And, of course, the summer festivals.
Obvious tip, but still good to keep in mind: Don’t go in winter.
Best place to learn why the French do it better: Wood 35. Good drinks, good food.
The first rule of Barcelona is that you don’t stay on Las Ramblas.
The second rule of Barcelona is that you don’t stay on Las Ramblas.
Guidebooks and pub crawls funnel the least savvy visitors there.
Other parts of the city are far more interesting at night.
Well, early morning.
Clubs don’t get going until well past 1 a.m. each day.
Most of the top clubs are scattered throughout the northern part of the city.
Best place to wake up early for: Row 14. Doesn’t get going until 6 a.m.
The world epicenter of corner pubs touts some of the ritziest and most prestigious nightclubs in the world.
You can enjoy fantastic music almost any night of the week here.
And there will always be the pubs.
Best place to suffer local pretension: Chinawhite. Tell them you know a promoter named Becker even though you don’t. You might get in.
4. Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sao Paulo is the dark horse on this list.
Often overshadowed by its more beautiful and glamorous sister, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo is actually the cultural hub of Brazil.
The city’s glory isn’t apparent upon arrival.
The place isn’t beautiful.
But dig into the sprawling concrete mass and you’ll find greater diversity and intensity on a nightly basis than almost any other place in the world.
Best place to dance with a hot Brazilian until he/she has to go straight to work: D-Edge on a Thursday after 1 a.m.
3. New York City
Although it’s not true that the “city never sleeps” (it’s usually done by 3 or 4 a.m.), New York City scores big simply because it offers something for everybody on any night of the week.
Warehouse parties in Brooklyn, mega-clubs in Meatpacking, trendy hipster joints in the East Village, hotel lounges, college bars, indie rock shows, loft parties, hip hop and jazz, heavy metal and opera – there’s almost no limit to the ways this city entertains you.
Best place to buy a single drink for more than you spend on some nights out: Meatpacking District. Bring a credit card.
If a city’s mental health was determined by how many hours of the week its clubs weren’t active, Berlin would be a lunatic in a straightjacket, repeatedly slamming its head against a padded wall.
Witness: walking out of a venue at 9 a.m. on a Sunday to find that there’s still a line to get in; a club with beds installed on its bottom floor so patrons can sleep without the inconvenience of having to leave; ceilings made completely of LED lights; a swimming pool next to the dance floor; bouncers with face tattoos.
1. Ibiza, Spain
Every party hound must make a pilgrimage to Ibiza at least once.
The venues aren’t as much clubs as they are life experiences.
Nowhere else have I seen a wind tunnel built into a dance floor or parade floats and foam dropped from the ceiling like it’s the Fourth of July indoors.
In Ibiza, you do beach parties during the day, hotel bars in the evening and dance to the best DJs in the world all night.
Sleep not recommended.
Best place to have an out-of-body techno experience: The clubs in Ibiza Town (rather than San Antonio) are worth the extra expense.
Originally published November 2012, updated September 2014.
Mark Manson is an author and entrepreneur.