5. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is well known for its lax laws on prostitution and drugs. This can be best seen in the city’s infamous Red Light District, in the city center. This district is filled with small, canal-side lanes whose buildings are packed with scantily-clad women standing in front of windows behind red lights. The area also has a good deal of nightclubs, strip clubs, bars and Amsterdam’s famous ‘coffee shops’ – where instead of coffee it’s marijuana that enlivens the customers.
However, despite their fame, it’s actually mostly tourists who partake in the city’s vices. Dutch people are more likely to be found enjoying the city’s epic nightlife at one of the many clubs around Leidseplein. This central square is home to some of Europe’s hottest clubs and venues, and famous bands and DJs regularly make appearances.
4. Barcelona, Spain
Sleep is overrated, but Barcelona’s nightlife certainly is not! Barcelona is known throughout Europe for its raucous nightlife. The bars open early and the clubs stay open late. In fact, don’t except any club to close before sunrise.
The best areas for casual drinking in Barcelona are Gracia, Raval, Gotico and El Born. Two especially cool bars are La Champagneria and Espit Chupitos. La Champagneria is located in El Born and its interior resembles that of an old barn. Only open during the day and early evening, the bar serves cava and assorted plates of tapas at rock-bottom prices. Meanwhile, Espit Chupitos is a shots bar serving over 500 different types of shooters for €2 each. Espit Chupitos has several locations around town, with the largest and most popular one being located in the University District, not too far from Placa Catalunya.
Once the bars close, it’s time to hit the clubs! Some of the city’s largest nightclubs can be found on the beach at Porto Olimpico. Opium Mar and Shoko both have excellent beachfront locations and are hot spots for trendsetting European travelers. For a more low-key club scene, go native and check out Sala Be Cool near Avenida Diagonal in the neighborhood of Hospital Clinic. This club is a popular choice with young Barcelonans and is for the most part, off the tourist map.
3. Miami, USA
[Also see "Miami Travel Guide"]
Miami, particularly Miami Beach, is world famous for its excellent beaches, sunny weather, sexy people and great nightlife. The small neighborhood of South Beach is the center of the city’s nightlife scene. Streets like Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive play host to America’s trendiest dance clubs and are packed year round with models, celebrities and local glitterati.
Additionally, Miami is one of the few places in the United States where the bars are allowed to stay open 24 hours. While not too many take it that far, Miami has certainly inherited the Latin late-night culture and many of its clubs stay open until sunrise or later.
2. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
[Also see "The World's Sexiest Travel Destinations"]
On the sun-soaked beaches and streets of Rio De Janeiro one can feel the city’s Latin soul. Everything is slower and more seductive. Every February, during Carnaval, the entire city erupts into a parade of dancing and gyrating that puts Mardi Gras to shame. Schools of beautiful and elaborately dressed Samba dancers take over the streets, where they dance to the beats of drummers.
When Carnaval isn’t being celebrated, the beach is the place to go for people watching. Here attractive men and women show off their brown bodies and wear swimsuits that would be considered obscene in many countries. Once night falls and the masses retreat off the beach, the city becomes a different place altogether. The clubs open late and the dancing doesn’t stop until the sun reappears over the Atlantic.
1. Bangkok, Thailand
[Also see "The Other Side of Bangkok"]
Bangkok, forever immortalized in the film Hangover 2, is without a doubt the world’s most wild city. It first became known as a city of sin during the 1970s when it was a popular destination for American soldiers on R&R. Today, the soldiers have been replaced with party-seeking tourists, but they still come for the same epic red-light districts and gigantic nightclubs. Bar girls desperately seek the attentions of customers in Soi Cowboy, while in Patpong, the infamous ‘ping pong shows’ can be found on almost every corner.
Not all of the nightlife is sleazy though. RCA and Bed Supperclub are popular spots for dancing and making new friends. While the city’s trendiest nightspots can be found in and around Thong Lo. One cool establishment is Iron Fairies, a small jazz bar whose interior resembles something out of a Tim Burton film.
Most clubs in Bangkok close early at 1AM, but there are late night alternatives such as the club Scratch Dog in the Windsor Hotel or the many bars in the backpacker area of Khao San Road. Take it easy though, because as the song says, “one night in Bangkok can make a hard man humble.”
Photo Credits: Flickr Wry2010, Mark Freeman, Tatiana Ferro