Certain destinations are well-known for their nightlife. The reason that most people go to Ibiza or Cyprus or Mykonos is so that they can spend the entire night partying (and, perhaps, the entire day sleeping). Large cities like New York, London, Paris, and Milan are also known as great destinations for nightlife aficionados.

But there are other cities that might not be on party-loving travelers’ radars, but are certainly well-worth visiting because of their pub, club and live music scenes. These places might not have the same notoriety as the headliners that we mentioned above, but you are virtually guaranteed to have a good time, and you will be able to return home and boast about finding the next best party destination before everyone else.

Here are five great nightlife destinations that are not on most people’s radar.

Jakarta

Jakarta

Photo: Muhammad Rasyid Prabowo / Flickr

Jakarta, Indonesia is one of the most chaotic and crowded cities in Southeast Asia. It also has some of the best nightlife in the region. Most party-seekers flock to Bangkok for the mix of cosmopolitan clubs and raunchy nightspots or to Singapore for the cutting edge clubbing scene and the safe streets. But Jakarta might actually have the most diverse and exciting nightlife in Southeast Asia. Some of Asia’s best house DJ have residencies in Jakarta’s numerous cavernous dance clubs, while the city’s elite rub shoulders in glitzy lounges and hip coffee shops that wouldn’t seem out-of-place in New York City’s trendiest neighborhoods. The pub scene is also quite raucous, especially around the tourist and expat center called Blok M. Indonesia has one of the best live music scenes in Southeast Asia, with local talent on par with the Philippines and Singapore. So in Jakarta, you can pretty much find the perfect place to spend the evening no matter where your interests lie.

Addis Ababa

Traditional Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

Photo: Owen Barder / Flickr

One of Africa’s safest cities, Addis Ababa has a great nightlife scene. The options range from cultural performances to awesome live music venues where dancing along is encouraged to glitzy clubs where Ethiopia’s “beautiful people” come to make the scene. Ethiopia’s great coffee culture (where the beans are freshly roasted just before brewing) and unique cuisine mean that you can quickly recover from the night before and get out to see the mix of modern and historic sights that characterize this unique city.

Kolkata

Kolkata

Photo: Rajarshi MITRA / Flickr

India is not known for its nightlife. Even in the modern boom cities of Bangalore and Mumbai, early closing times really dampen what would otherwise be incredible nightlife scenes. Things are slightly looser in Kolkata (though a one a.m. closing time has now put a bit of a damper on a scene that previously went almost all night). Pub culture here is widespread and there are some very hot nightclubs scattered all around the city where West Bengal’s scene-makers come to mingle and party.

Tel Aviv

Nightlife in Tel Aviv

Photo: israeltourism / Flickr

If you are in the Middle East and you are looking for a place to party, few spots are better than Tel Aviv. Israel’s most cosmopolitan city, it draws party-seekers from all over the region. If you are in the center of the city, you will never be more than a couple hundred meters from a place to get a drink or hit the dance floor. Rather than going out to a specific club or bar, nightlife seekers head to a certain area and usually visit several different places during the night. Entire neighborhoods are known for their pubbing or dancing scenes, while other are filled with cafes and live music clubs. Tel Aviv really earns its nickname: “the city that never stops.”

Cartagena

Cartagena

Photo: Mark Rowland / Flickr

Columbia’s Caribbean city, Cartagena is quite different from the rest of the country. A land of beaches, tropical landscapes and a decidedly Caribbean vibe, it is filled with nightlife options. The historic Old City features dance clubs, cool lounges populated by the in-the-know jet-set, and pubs that would not seem out-of-place in the world’s most well-known nightlife cities. The city’s once-popular La Avenida del Arsenal still has about a dozen crowded nightclubs, while the menu inside the atmospheric Old City is almost endless.

What do you think we should add to our list of nightlife destinations that most mainstream travelers don’t know about? Let us know in the comments section below.

Josh Lew
Josh Lew
Josh Lew has traveled widely in Asia and the Americas. He has contributed to popular travel sites like Gadling and Brave New Traveler and currently writes a weekly travel column for MNN. His work has also appeared on the websites of CNN and Forbes Magazine.

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1 Comment

  1. Leah says:

    Having fresh roasted coffee on hand would definitely help a city’s nightlife! I’ll definitely have to check out Addis Ababa. Thanks for the suggestions!

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