From the cocktail bars in New York to the underground club scene in Berlin, our rankings explore the world’s best cities for nightlife in 2018. The research-based ranking is based on the number of quality of bars, clubs and music scene in a city, as rated by visitors and locals. Overall, Europe is undoubtedly the continent for night crawlers.
From the West End to the alternative Camden scene, or a trendy night out in Shoreditch, London is home to some of the best bars and most prestigious nightclubs on the planet. As the number of nightclubs decreased by 50% in the past five years, the Mayor’s office appointed a “night mayor” in 2016 to give nightlife a clear, respected voice in City Hall. London is not the first city to introduce such a policy—Amsterdam, Toulouse, Zurich and Paris were pioneers in Europe. Launched in 2016, Transport for London runs a “Night Tube” on weekends to provide subway services to London’s night owls. For an exclusive night out head to the Tape Club in Mayfair. In summer, The Roof Gardens, a spectacular venue in Kensington owned by Richard Branson, is a world away from the hustle and bustle of London—the perfect place for after-work drinks. In other parts of town, institutions such as Ministry of Sound are still surviving the development of Elephant & Castle. It has been at the forefront of the dance scene for almost two decades, welcomes more than 300,000 clubbers through its door every year and spawned a worldwide music empire. If a pint is what you’re after, London has hundreds of pubs, from rustic to modern, to fit any mood. The George Inn, The Cittie of Yorke and The Prospect of Whitby are famed to be part of the great pubs of London.
Madrid likes to party. Ranked second best on the planet behind London, locals and visitors are drawn to the city’s happening nightlife. In summer, the city streets light up as locals spill into bars and terrazas. The capital is also known for its cocktail culture, with the classic bar Chicote considered among Europe’s temples of mixology. Gran Meliá Fénix, the Bar Cock, 1862 Dry Bar and the Gin Bar at Mercado de la Reina are now part of the growing cocktail scene in Madrid. Since everyone goes out late in this city, after a few cocktails head out to Teatro Kapital, a seven-storey club, or BarCo, one of the best-known nightclubs in the city. Madrid is also the capital of flamenco. Tablaos (flamenco bars) carry on the tradition and offer locals and visitors alike a chance to see flamenco at its purest. For an authentic experience, head to Villa Rosa, a century-old flamenco bar founded in 1911 by two bullfighters, easily recognizable thanks to its tiled façade.
3. NEW YORK
New York has finally repealed its bar-dancing ban. Although mostly unknown to locals, the 91-year-old “New York City Cabaret Law” required bars to apply for a special license to allow dancing within their confines. It also prohibited more than three musicians from performing at once. Recently, Bill de Blasio’s office reported to the New York Times that the mayor “strongly supports repealing the law.” From now on, get ready to see more live music (and dancing) across the city. Some of our favorite places to drink and dance are Mailroom, which is located in the basement of a building that includes WeWork and WeLive. Elsewhere is a renovated industrial performance space in Bushwick, while Magic Hour Rooftop Bar & Lounge features an urban amusement park with an adult sensibility and epic Empire State Building skyline views. Rooftops are hot in New York and if a view is what you’re after, check out the The Roof at Public, the Westlight at The William Vale or The Crown at Hotel 50 Bowery.
Barcelona has long been renowned for its beaches and thriving nightlife. Classy lounges, tiny tapas bars and eclectic parties, mixed with Spanish culture, attract music lovers and partygoers from across the world. Recently, the waterfront in Port Olympic has become one of Barcelona’s hot spots with Pacha, the legendary Ibizan dance temple, and beside it Opium, featuring a beach terrace. Here, the hottest DJs from the dance, electro, and house scene are regular acts. For avant-garde electronic music sessions, we recommend Laut (‘loud’ in German) in Poble-sec. On a different night, explore Gracia, which has become one of the most sophisticated neighborhoods of the Catalan capital, and its culinary scene. Before leaving the city, stop at the Eclipse Bar on top of the W Hotel to admire the view.
By night, the city of bridges and castles shows off a different side. The popular Prague nightclubs are concentrated in the center of the Old Town, including the largest club in Central Europe, Karlovy Lazne. But the alternative music clubs and venues such as The Meet Factory and Palac Akropolis are located in Žižkov, a lively neighborhood that attracts crowds of students on weekends. For a cocktail experience like no other in the city, head to Lounge Bohemia, a by-appointment-only space decorated in mid-century modern furnishings where mixologist Pavel Tvaroh delivers drinks in wonderful and unusual vessels. The Czech capital is also gay-friendly and relaxed about recreational drugs, which only adds to the city’s rebellious and independent vibe. Wherever the night takes you, don’t miss out on the famous Czech pilsner.
Expats, creatives, entrepreneurs, immigrants, punks and misfits all find their place in Berlin, a city where remnants of its fragile history mingle with an ever-changing present, and where being whatever you want to be is not just encouraged but embraced. Indeed, the city has an annual festival, Karneval der Kulturen, that celebrates diversity and, of course, Berlin Pride Celebration is arguably the biggest and most popular LGBT parade in all of Europe. Go in winter, when gloomy days seem to last forever and the bitter cold chills your soul, and you’ll find bars packed to the gills. Start your evening at Prater, a popular beer garden since 1852. If the weather cooperates, you can sit outside and pair the house-brewed Pils with a Bratwurst and Bretzeln (pretzel). If you’re in the mood to dress up, stop at Rum Trader, a tiny bar where the eccentric owner, Gregor Scholl, has a penchant for wearing bow ties and waistcoats. There’s no menu so just tell him whether you prefer a sweet or sour drink and he’ll sort you out. Berlin’s well-heeled crowd also frequents Tausend, a bar-cantina-art gallery with an unmarked entrance and an eclectic seasonal cocktail list. On the other side of the spectrum is the self-proclaimed “bar for common people” called Madame Claude.
Rome may not have a reputation as a rowdy nightlife kind of town, but that doesn’t mean you should stick just to ruins, museums and churches during a visit to this ancient city. Once you’ve explored the lively Pigneto neighborhood and Campo di’ Fiori, you’ll want to start your evening at one of the city’s many speakeasies. Try The Jerry Thomas Project, one of the first to open in Rome’s historic center and where the menu focuses on Italian liqueurs, spirits and bitter flavors. The place is tiny so best book in advance. Rome’s premier burlesque and retro vinyl club is Micca Club, which organizes weekly events and one-nighters in key venues around centro storico, such as Salone Margherita variety theater. If dancing is what you’re after, head to Akab, a popular nightclub where guest DJs like Gilles Peterson have spun house, funk and soul beats to an eager crowd. For live music, there’s Le Mura, a great place to see local up-and-coming bands.
Chicago comes in at number 8 globally for best Culture and Nightlife around the globe, fueled by its legendary blues bars, live shows and music festivals that span genres (remember, Lollapalooza was born here). Start your visit at the Kimpton Gray Hotel, which is housed in the striking New York Life Insurance Building and lets visitors sip and stare at the famous skyline whatever the weather with a retractable roof over their Peruvian lounge called Boleo. For an entirely different vantage point of the Windy City, reserve a spot in a booze cruise. Mystic Blue offers craft beer cruises featuring beer samples that accompany themed tasting menus. Or head to Navy Pier and board, Zanies Comedy Cruise, where local comedians work hard to make you laugh while you sip beers or cocktails. If you find yourself in Wrigleyville, home to the iconic baseball park, stop by the GMan Tavern, a cool retro bar with an old-school jukebox and a laid back vibe to match. Chicago has a huge Irish population and an annual celebration of Celtic pride to match. Whether you’re in town on St. Patrick’s Day or not, your best bet for an authentic public house is O’Shaughnessy’s Pub, which has an impressive whiskey list. Back in the ‘70s the legendary Frankie Knuckles created a new type of music by mixing old disco classics and new Eurobeat pop at a Chicago Southside club called the Warehouse. And house music was born. The club may be long gone but you can still dance the night away at places like Smart Bar, which hosts a weekly Sunday night party dedicated to house music. Meanwhile the kitschy Beauty Bar offers recurring party nights (think Pop Punk vs. Emo) and a room decked out in ’60s furniture, sparkling walls and disco balls.
Tourist visits may be down but they’ve not entirely vanished. Istanbul is the only major city that straddles two continents, and globetrotters have long praised it for its incomparable blend of East and West. And for its eclectic Nightlife, which comes in at 9th best in the world according to Resonance Consultancy research. Start your evening at Unter, a restaurant-cum-bar set in a three-storey 1960s building. The vibe changes from laidback at brunch to buzzy and loud at cocktail time. Arnavutköy is a waterfront area on the European side known for its Ottoman-era mansions, and Alexandra is the place to go for potent cocktails with killer views to match. On the other side of the Bosphorus River is Arkaoda, a favorite hipster hangout where local bands play live music and where DJ sets get the crowd moving until the wee hours. There are many happening bars in the Karaköy neighborhood, including Mitte, a restaurant and bar where local DJs start playing after 11 p.m. Istanbul has a bit of a jazz scene and Nardis Jazz Club, named after a Miles Davis track, showcases some of the city’s best local artists.
The cocktail culture in the City of Lights is finally lit and every week, or so it seems, a new bar crops up in one of the arrondissements. Start your evening in Le Marais where hidden behind an unmarked door lies the now-iconic Experimental Cocktail Bar. Velvet drapes, exposed beams, brick walls and dim lighting lend this place the vibe of a speakeasy. The cocktails, made with fresh juices, strange spirits, and subtle spices, run on the pricey side but are well worth it. Over in Bastille is Moonshiner, another speakeasy-style bar tucked away in a quiet street but mere steps from the hustle and bustle of Place de la Bastille. To get in you walk through a pizzeria to a secret door in the back. Once inside you’ll be treated to retro jazz tunes and classic cocktails—think martinis and negronis. To continue on the retro theme, stop at Le China where the decor fuses checkered floors, blood-red walls, black leather sofas, and potted plants for a sexy 1930s Shanghai cabaret vibe. Try the Fleur de Chine, made with litchi, liqueur de fraise, Malibu coco and lime. Over in SoPi (short for South Pigalle) is the cute little Baton Rouge, a Louisiana-themed bar decorated with voodoo dolls, old whiskey bottles and funky mismatched furniture. Each drink on the menu has its own tarot card-style illustration. For late night dancing—or rather, early morning dancing—stop at Nuits Fauves, a spacious nightclub designed by collective Studio BALD to have a “neo-punk nocturnal playground” aesthetic. Located on a three-level boat docked on the Seine is Concrete, one of the city’s best venues for techno and house music. The club also runs a record music label for good measure.