The 10 best party cities in Europe
The hippest destinations for continental clubbing action
Looking for somewhere different to let you hair down for the weekend? Or perhaps you have a stag or hen do to organise and want to make the pre-nuptial celebrations go off with a bang?
Europe is full of great party cities, from hardcore clubbing meccas to sun-soaked hedonistic holiday havens. So get your party pants on and your Alka-Seltzer at the ready as we take a whistle-stop tour through some of the continent’s wildest destinations.
Where else to start on a magical mystery tour of party cities than the Netherlands’ very own capital of cool? Famous (or is that infamous?) for its red light district and coffee shops, Amsterdam’s clubbing scene has also built up a formidable reputation. Head to the Leidseplein and Rembrantplein squares to soak up the cool laid back atmosphere before the clubs open their doors at midnight, pumping out a steady diet of techno, house and trance. In the summer, escape the city to party outdoors by moonlight at one of the legendary Bloemendaal aan Zee beach parties.
Barcelona is a city with something for everyone – hundreds of bars and restaurants, a banging club scene, and, perfect for the post party recovery, miles and miles of golden beach! To fit in with local Catalonian culture, you really have to be a night owl – no one heads out until midnight, and nothing much opens before midday. Chances are if you head to Barcelona in the summer, you will bump into one kind of festival or other. The daddies are Sonar and Primavera in June, but for something a bit different, look out for the Correfoc community festival in August – where locals rampage through the streets with lit fireworks strapped to every part of their body!
For anyone who loves a good rave, a trip to Berlin is simply a must. If Ibiza reigns supreme for those who love their clubbing laid back and cool, Germany’s capital is hardcore all the way. The city is littered with dozens of uncompromising underground clubs pumping out ruthless techno beats while most of the civilised world sleeps. If you want to risk the notoriously fickle door policy (and are open minded about what you might see on the dance floor), the legendary Berghain is an unforgettable post-industrial party experience, while clubs like Tresor are renowned worldwide amongst electronic music aficionados. Away from the clubs, the unpretentious bars and eateries of laid back Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg are ideal for low cost pre- and post-club refuelling.
It is easy to take what’s on your doorstep for granted, but make no mistake – London is a serious party city. The biggest city in Western Europe, London is a mosaic of different districts where you can find every kind of nightlife imaginable. So whether you want to party with the LGBT crowd in Soho, rock out with the indie kids in Camden Town, or get down with the hipster crowd in Shoreditch, London has it all. The capital’s club scene is able to mix it with the very best, with mega clubs like Ministry of Sound and Fabric complimented by dozens or smaller venues. And when it comes to street parties, check out Europe’s biggest, the Notting Hill Carnival, held every August Bank Holiday weekend.
Cheap flights and equally cheap drinks make Hungary’s capital a popular choice with the stag and hen crowds. The island of Hajógyári on the River Danube, once the location of a Roman palace, is now covered in bars and clubs, and every summer hosts the Sziget Festival. Budapest is also famous for its beautiful natural hot springs and spa baths, great for winding down after big night. Some of these spas are also where the party’s at – so-called ‘sparties’ are all the rage, and are a great way to enjoy a pool party in the middle of a European winter.
Poland’s Krakow is renowned for the beauty of its medieval architecture, but after dark it has plenty of other attractions to draw in the party crowd. Reputed to have the highest density of bars of any city in Europe, Krakow is paradise for anyone who loves a good pub crawl – especially with drinks costing little more than 1 Euro in most places. This university city has an eclectic music scene that will suit most tastes.
With the Irish reputation for enjoying a good craic, no list of party destinations would be complete without Ireland’s capital. Beloved by stag and hen parties, Dublin’s main attractions are the warmth of the locals and and the hundreds of bars and pubs serving the world famous local tipple – Guinness.
The Serbian capital might not be the first name on everybody’s lips when they think party, but it probably should be. This is a city so dedicated to its clubbing that it has its own special clubbing calendar – in winter, the parties are tucked away snuggly indoors, but in summer, everything moves out onto the river banks to giant floating clubs known as Splavs. Offering every type of music imaginable, open around the clock and incredibly cheap, every night is a Friday night in this hidden gem of a party town.
For those who like to party in style, Copenhagen has forged a reputation as one of the hippest destinations in Europe. With an eclectic club scene centred around the city’s Meat Packing District, the Danish capital is renowned for venues not opening deep into the wee hours. Clubs like Culture Box attract some of the world’s biggest name and cutting edge DJs, but go prepared – dresscode at most Copenhagen clubs is strict, and large groups will be turned away.
Ok, so it is not strictly a city – but you can’t talk about partying in Europe without mentioning this legendary Balearic island. So renowned on the club scene it even has its own genre of music named after it, dancing at sunrise on the beach at world famous venues like Pacha and Cafe del Mar are on the bucket lists of most dedicated clubbers. However, the fun doesn’t end at the club doors. With prices inside the mega clubs famously prohibitive, many head to this party island anyway to indulge in the other delights on offer – plenty of sun, sand, all night bars and cheap drinks to keep the gears well oiled.
Get the Party Started
Phew, we think we might need a lie down after all that, erm, research… But for those of you looking to plan your next big weekend mash up, we hope we have given you a glimpse of just how much choice there is for having it large all over Europe. From the clubbing meccas of Amsterdam, Berlin and Ibiza to the stag and hen do friendly bars of Krakow and Budapest, the only difficulty will be deciding where to go.
Just one word of advice – remember to book the Monday off work, won’t you?
Paul Newham is a freelance writer and part of the blogging team at Red Robot Media. Based in the UK, his eclectic interests include travelling,