Globe-trotter, trendsetter and unapologetic party animal Jackson Winters was charged with one task: find the world's craziest party cities. These are the results.
Editor’s note: It was no great feat convincing Jackson to find the world’s best party cities. A few early-morning phone calls had him out of bed, on a plane and flying across the Atlantic into a monthlong frenzy of booze and debauchery. Charging a man of his calibre and credentials to explore the world’s greatest party cities took little effort; sorting out literal boxes of unpaid bar tabs and scroll-length expense reports was another story. Getting him to file his copy on time and in legible script is an even longer one. But explaining to our CFO why he was getting calls from some hotel in Ibiza about a guest refusing to leave his room was really the last straw.
Jackson is home now and his pay stub for services rendered looks more like a damage report from a Midwestern tornado during an earthquake. The bad news is that Jackson will never see another dime from this magazine. The good news is, he’ll be writing for us for a long, long time.
Scene: 10/10 Cost: 5/10 Getting Around: 10/10 Girls: 7/10
It was somewhere between my fourth and fifth day in Ibiza that I decided I was never going home. The place had consumed me, tangled completely in the never-ending stream of the island’s fast-living, long-drinking days. It’s a nocturnal nomadic beach world that runs on booze, women and fun. Serious. Fucking. Fun. If the days, or rather late afternoons, are somewhat relaxed — calm, cool and collected — then the nights are downright obnoxious free-for-alls, with clubs running into the wee hours of the morning and the party on loop. The day never changes in Ibiza; they all just blur together in one long neon-colored night that never ends. Closing time never comes and no one ever leaves; Ibiza is the longstanding party capital of the world.
Places to Hit: Privilege (10,000 capacity, indoor pool), Amnesia, DC10 and Space.
The Women: Travelling partiers, as plentiful as they are diverse.
Key Features: Small island, big party. Lax drug laws (possession is not a crime, though there is a thin line between possession and trafficking). Clubs run from midnight to 6 a.m. Loose dress code.
Cost: €12-15 a drink at the club, €10 at the bar. €10-12 a beer at the club, €6-8 at the bar.
The Downside: Overcrowded and overpriced during peak season (July-August).
Scene: 8/10 Cost: 3/10 Getting Around: 7/10 Girls: 9/10
Lost somewhere between the electronica vibe of Cafe Solon and the impossibly tall blondes of the Club Odal, I realized I’d been here before. Twice before, actually. I was standing in the middle of Laugavegur Street, stone drunk and completely sideways with no jacket, no wallet and no ID. Being lost in Iceland’s party capital is not an unfamiliar feeling, but it’s also not an uncomfortable one. As I backtracked through the maze of side streets, through the enormous crowds of bar-hopping locals and equally confused tourists, I came across a group of what in my state I could only assume were supermodels, who happily invited me to Reykjavik’s super club NASA, and I happily obliged. Waking up next to one the morning after, she informed me we had met days before under similar circumstances, I in a similar state. I told her I couldn’t remember and she simply said, “Reykjavik: Rinse, Rock, Repeat.”
Places to Hit: NASA, Cafe Solon, Gaukur a Stong
The Women: Stunning. Tall, blonde angels
Key Features: Incredibly nice locals. Excellent pre-club scene. Vodka-spiked beer. Great breakfasts and geothermal swimming pools for hangovers. Low cover charges.
Cost: €13-17 a drink at the club, €10-12 for a beer. €10-15 a drink in the bar, €8-10 for a beer.
The Downside: Only real downside other than cost is the cold.
Scene: 9/10 Cost: 10/10 Getting Around: 4/10 Girls: 7/10
Stepping out into the dull glow of early morning in Belgrade, I couldn’t quite get my bearings, my ears still ringing from a seemingly endless stream of new-wave electronica and deafening euro beats. There is something strange about pulling off a weeklong bender in a city that only twenty years ago was being bombed into oblivion but is now emerging as the next European party powerhouse. Belgrade’s underground life is a no-holds-barred homage to the 80s and early 90s, and you’re never sure if it’s intentional or if the whole city is just caught in a time warp. But it doesn’t matter one way or the other; anyone born before the fall of the Berlin Wall will feel right at home in the unpretentious underground of Belgrade.
Places to Hit: Andergraund, Akademija, Cvijeta
The Women: Dark-skinned, light-eyed beauties
Key Features: Blast from the past; total nostalgia. Ridiculously cheap.
Cost: €3-5 a drink at the club, €1-2.50 for a beer. €2-4 a drink at the bar, €1-2.50 for a beer
The Downside: The scene is pretty spread out, and without a subway system, Belgrade is a little tricky to navigate. Luckily public transit and cabs are also dirt cheap.
Rio de Janeiro
Scene: 7/10 Cost: 7/10 Getting Around: 7/10 Girls: 10/10
“O que você pensa que está fazendo,” was the first bit of Portugese I learned after spending my first night in Rio facedown on a beach in Copacabana. It roughly translates to “What do you think you’re doing,” and it’s something I started hearing a lot after I discovered Lapa’s street parties. These nightlong ragers turn entire districts of Rio into one concrete dancefloor of unrivaled beauty and debauchery, people flooding out of clubs and bars after they close and into the wild stream. Sunrise brings with it a sense of finality and some much-needed rest, but the parties continue to rage long into the day along Rio’s coastal stops and back into the city center and the super clubs come nightfall.
Places to Hit: Bunker 94, 00, Casa da Matriz
The Women: Drop-dead gorgeous and sparcely clothed.
Key Features: Street parties, beach life, Carnival, clubs where you can bank drinks against your cover charge (pay $20 to get in, first $20 in drinks are free).
Cost: $8-12 for a drink in a club, $6-8 for a beer. $7-10 for a drink in a bar, $4-6 for a beer.
The Downside: Losing your drink card at the club (US$125 upon exiting).
Scene: 8/10 Cost: 6/10 Getting Around: 8/10 Girls: 9/10
Montreal is the layered universe of party cities: an endless scene that bleeds the permanently relaxed lounges of the Plateau area into the heart of the city’s downtown clubs and back out to the ancient waterfront bars of the Old Port. The whole thing is a three-ring circus with after-hours clubs stacked upon bars beside greasy breakfast dives and across the street from strip clubs. You couldn’t throw a stone in Montreal without hitting a good time, but no one throws stones here, there’s no need. The city runs on good vibrations and good-natured locals, so long as hockey isn’t part of the conversation.
Places to Hit: Le Sainte-Élisabeth Pub, Rouge, Korova, Dieu du Ciel
The Women: Well-dressed French Canadian goddesses
Key Features: Endless string of festivals, innumerable strip clubs (fully nude), poutine (fries drenched in gravy and cheese).
Cost: $7-10 for a drink in the club, $5-6 for a beer. $6-10 for a drink at the bars, $4-6 for a beer.
The Downside: It snows. A lot. But even in winter Montreal ponies up with festivals like Igloofest and Nuit Blanche.