Nightlife in Europe tends to be synonymous with the idea of clubbing, at least when it comes to travel blogs and vacation guides. And to be sure, there are several cities on the continent that are renowned for their vibrant, restless clubbing scenes. But a night out isn’t the same for every traveller. Sometimes it means hopping from pub to pub getting a feel for local establishments; sometimes it means a classy dinner and a trip to the theatre; sometimes it means seeking out whatever form of entertainment has the best reputation in a given city.
Trying to take all of this into account broadens the idea of what makes for a great European city for a night out. We can’t list every possibility here (and I’m not discounting club scenes completely), but these are some of the cities that come to mind for their own unique reasons.
London may be the premiere city in Europe for a night out simply in that there are so many options. A cheap night out might involve happy hours, affordable pubs, beautiful night-time walks, and public music or performances. A more involved evening might mean taking a ride on the London Eye, gazing over the city with a glass of champagne with a special someone, or heading out to some of the city’s dazzling clubs. You might also seek entertainment in the London casinos, or in the vibrant theatre culture that endures to this day. There are simply a ton of things to do in this lively city, which means a night out in London might appeal to anyone.
Antwerp doesn’t necessarily jump to the front of your mind when you consider European cities known for nightlife. But if you’re more interested in cosy bars and good beer than pulsing nightclubs, you might want to add it to your European travel list. Antwerp is known as a fantastic beer drinking city, in large part because it is the home of one of the most famous bars in the world: Kulminator. Voted the best beer-pub in the world serveral years ago, this “beer mecca” has become a site of pilgrimage for beer fanatics, and a good reason in and of itself to visit the city. You may spend most of your time out at Kulminator, but it helps to know that Antwerp is a pretty city that’s nice to walk through as you move from one pub to another.
It probably goes without saying that Dublin, too, is a wonderful city for pub traditionalists. The standard image of the “Irish pub” that has taken root all over the world is largely inspired by Dublin establishments – not to mention you can visit Guinness breweries or the Jameson whiskey distillery in town. But Dublin also has a little bit of the same variety that makes London such a wonderful city for nights out. While casino regulation was once attempted, a loophole in the legislation allowed for “private member clubs” to rise up and become what are now perfectly accessible evening casinos. Additionally, Ireland (and Dublin in particular) has perhaps the only local theatre culture that can rival London’s. So, between pubs, casinos, and theatrical venues, you’ll find plenty to enjoy.
Budapest is probably an underrated travel destination in general. It’s a gorgeous city, combining various eras of architecture (as well as some old ruins) to present a stunning image to tourists. The city is particularly appealing at night, lit up with a sort of golden glow that makes it nice simply to walk through after sundown. However, Budapest also boasts one of the best blends of bar and club culture in Europe. Here you can find some of the same types of late-night clubs that put places like Prague and Amsterdam on the map for travelling partiers – yet you can also find some more ordinary bars with really cool atmospheres. The most unique feature of the city’s nightlife is probably that some bars are actually built into the aforementioned ruins.
And then there’s Barcelona. I mentioned I wouldn’t disregard the club scene entirely, and if you’re one to enjoy high-energy nights out in legendary clubs packed with people, Barcelona is the place for you. Hostelworld ranked it as the very best city in Europe to party, even going so far as to say that nothing happens until 2am. That might be a touch dramatic, but it does express the idea that this city really comes alive in the early hours of the morning, when travellers from all over the world mix it up with locals to enjoy an incredibly vibrant party scene.