After a long day of sightseeing, many travelers wish for nothing more than a good meal and some time to relax. Others want to take in a concert or a gig and dance the night away. Either way, experiencing the vibe of a city after hours is a great way to get a feel for the local culture, and is highly recommended for those who wish to observe all facets of a destination.
Whatever your taste, most European cities can provide some pretty decent evening entertainment – but some have acquired more of a reputation for a lively nightlife than others. If you’re looking for a city that offers a vibrant and diverse experience after dark, here is our pick of the best European destinations for nightlife:
Spanish cities consistently lead the charge in terms of nightlife, with a cheerful party scene that starts late and lasts until dawn. Of these, hip, fun-loving Barcelona is the cream of the crop. This colourful city offers everything from massive dance clubs to intimate indie hangouts. Start the evening by sharing tapas and wine with your friends, then head on to some of the city’s trendy bars or cosy, atmospheric pubs before finally hitting the clubs after midnight when the fun really begins.
While most people visiting the UK tend to party in London, Manchester’s eclectic urban appeal (and lower prices) make it another prime contender for Britain’s best nightlife. The northern city is renowned for its dynamic and influential music scene, with bands such as The Smiths, Joy Division and The Stone Roses emerging from the city’s legendary Madchester scene of the 1980s, and later bands such as Oasis continuing the world-class tradition. Many tourists still travel to Manchester specifically for gigs and other performances, making it the perfect destination for those who enjoy cutting-edge live music alongside visits to pubs and cocktail bars.
Many people name Berlin as among the best cities in the world for nightlife, citing the eclectic array of edgy bars and hip nightclubs scattered throughout the city. There’s truly something here for every taste, ranging from the elegantly stylish to grungy and laid back. Try the areas around Kastanienallee, Prenzlauer Berg or Mitte for excellent bars, restaurants and clubs – try to speak to a local or pick up one of the city’s “what’s on” magazines to find the most happening places. Remember that while people will be out earlier in the evening, most clubs won’t start to fill up properly until after midnight.
No discussion of European nightlife would be complete without mention of what many consider the ultimate party destination – the small but bustling Mediterranean island of Ibiza, just off the coast of Spain, near Valencia. Although the island possesses a rich history and numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Ibiza remains chiefly associated with its young and sometimes riotous club scene, centred in the two cities of Ibiza Town and Sant Antoni. In recent years the island has gained enough popular appeal to attract big name DJs and performers, but there is also a lively underground arts scene popular with locals and tourists alike.
There’s a sense in Amsterdam that anything goes – indeed, the Dutch capital is famous for its tolerance toward pleasures considered illicit elsewhere. As a result, tourists from all over the world descend on the city to experience (or simply observe) its marijuana cafés and famous red light district. Even if you’re looking for a more mainstream good time, the city’s easygoing attitude means there’s always a party going on somewhere, and visitors are readily accepted into the local scene – check out the areas around Rembrandt Square and Leidseplein for a good place to start.