independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Europe’s hottest party capitals

WILD TIMES: There is serious fun to be had if you know where to look...

Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts as award-winning travel writer MARK EVANS takes us on a tour of Europe’s hottest party capitals

MADRID

WHY IT’S HOT: The capital is a government town, and its civil servants like to spend their hard-earned cash on a good time.

THE SCENE: The wee hours see traffic jams as clubbers go from the bars to the dancefloor. Go out for dinner here at 9pm and you’ll think it’s a ghost town.

BEST BARS: Try the beautifully atmospheric Viva Madrid (C/Manuel Fernandez) or the similarly olde worlde Los Gabrieles (C/Echegaray) in the hopping Santa Ana district.

BEST CLUBS: Explore the triangle between the central areas of Puerto del Sol, Callao and Gran Via. Joy Eslava (C/Arenal 11, 91 366 37 33, www.joyesclava.com) is one of the longest established, while the seven-floor Kapital (C/Atocha), www.grupo-kapital.com, has a cool rooftop bar.

You can then head on to the very late (or early!)

“Los afters”, Sunday morning clubs, which are officially illegal but flout the law nonetheless.

ANYTHING ELSE TO DO? Visit one of europe’s finest stadiums, the Bernabeu, to the north of the city and catch Real Madrid in action.

ANY DOWNSIDE? It’s unbearably hot in the summer and very chilly in the winter.

HERE TO STAY: Best Western Atlantico, from €126 a night, on central Gran Via.

GETTING THERE: AerLingusandRyanairflydirect.



MOSCOW

WHY IT’S HOT: The Russian capital has transformed itself into a mecca of hedonism.

THE SCENE: Moscow has plenty of 24-hour bars and “night restaurants”, with eating, drinking and entertainment under one roof that often stay open till 6am. The Arbat quarter is dotted with shops, souvenir stalls, cafes and nightlife options.

BARS: the wild Hungry Duck (Pushechnaya Ul 9) is the city at its most infamous. There’s a free drinks policy for women until 11.30pm.

The Boarhouse (Zemlyanoy Val 26), is a popular expat pub, with happy hour from 8am till 9pm. The food is good value.

The Vodka Bar (Lva Tolstovo ulitsa 18B), is great if you like spirits, and the food is at decent prices.

If you’re pretentious and want great views, dress up for the poseurish Red Bar (23a Naberezhnaya Taras Shevchenko). It’s 27 floors up in a riverside skyscraper, with sky-high prices.

CLUBS: Gaudi Arena (Skladochnaya ulitsa 1, www.gaudiarena.ru ), attracts topflight international DJs.

ANY DOWNSIDE?: You need a visa, and proof of a hotel booking, to get into Russia. If some beauty chats you up there’s a good chance that she’s a lady of the night. Hotel bills can be extortionate.

WHERE TO STAY: Hotel Milan – at €265 it’s cheaper than many but 14km from downtown.

GETTING THERE: British Midland via Heathrow, Malev via Budapest, Czech Airlines via Prague.



BELGRADE

WHY IT’S HOT: Europe’s best-kept secret as the party capital of the former Yugoslavia.

THE SCENE: In the summer, many clubs move to floating rafts, called splavs. Hundreds of them line the rivers Danube and Sava, offering everything from Gypsy music to electronic, grunge or disco.

BARS: The Plato Cafe terrace (Akademski Plato 1, 303 0633), just off the Kneza Mihailova is a cosy bohemian place. It boasts a large terrace and there’s often live jazz in the evenings. The equally lively Idiot (Dalmatinska 13), attracts an alternative set of musicians and artists.

CLUBS: The floating nightclub Plastic Jam is great for cocktails and grooving. Pricey by local standards, Blaywatch is a huge two-level bar and dance club, with an indoor pool.

ANY DOWNSIDE? There are no direct flights and hotels can be expensive. Don’tdiscuss politics.

WHERE TO STAY: The three-star Hotel Royal is centrally located. Rooms from €30.

GETTING THERE: Malev via Budapest; British Midland via Heathrow; or Lufthansa via Frankfurt.



AMSTERDAM

WHY IT’S HOT: Amsterdam has a wonderful combination of beautiful architecture, wild nightlife and, er, window-shopping.

THE SCENE: Cosy bars and cafes, great Heineken and other local beers and cheap Indonesian food.

BARS: It’s standing room only at historic Wynand Fockink (on Pijlsteeg). Brouwerij’t IJ (Funenkade 7) offers homebrewed beer and a great people-watching terrace.

Club 11, on Oosterdokkade, is considered the city’s hippest spot, offering great views of the city.

CLUBS: Sugar Factory (Lijnbaansgracht) features some great DJs, while you can go to Studio 80 (Rembrandtplein) for electro and disco beats. The legendary Melkweg (Lijnbaansgracht) is popular with the late-night crowd.

ANY DOWNSIDE? Don’t eat those funny cakes, or your weekend could all end up in a blur. Also, beware of the demonic cyclists.

WHERE TO STAY: The Irish-owned Seven Bridges Hotel is a 300-year-old gem of a townhouse full of antiques. From €144.

GETTING THERE: Aer Lingus fly direct.



BERLIN

WHY IT’S HOT: The city is regaining its status as Europe’s party capital.

THE SCENE: The best nightlife districts include Mitte and the trendy but edgy Prenzlauer Berg.

BARS: The Luisen-Brau microbrewery is where you can order 0.2-litre glasses of beer to guarantee a night you won’t remember. For a hip hang-out try CSA Bar96, Karl-Marx Alle, Friedrichshain.

CLUBS: Try clubbing in an old German power station in the Berghain/Panorama Bar for pulsating, hardcore techno.

You need to dress up to get into Sage, built into the side of Heinrich Heine Strasse train station in Mitte.

ANY DOWNSIDE? Berlin is a very sprawling metropolis.

WHERE TO STAY: For a truly bizarre experience, try The Propeller Island City Lodge (Albrecht-Achilles-Strasse), where you can sleep in coffins, enjoy a padded cell or a room where all the furniture is upside down. From €90-€200).

GETTING THERE: Both Aer Lingus and Ryanair fly direct to Berlin Schoenefeld.



SOFIA

WHY IT’S HOT: There are no licensing laws. Repeat, no licensing laws.

THE SCENE: Vitosha Boulevard is the heart of the action and teeming with cafes, bars and clubs.

BARS: Chervilo (Tsar Osvoboditel Blvd) is a barclub where the beautiful people go to party. Strict door policy, so glam it up before you go. Toba & Co (Moskovska St) is a Parisian-style cool hangout. If these don’t take your fancy, the city has six Irish pubs dotted around the central area.

CLUBS: Caramba is a must for lovers of latin music. Dali (Shipka St) has two rooms – one for dance music, the other a chill’n’cocktails zone. With a name like Sin City, you can’t go far wrong with Sofia’s latest poseur club. There’s a VIP area and great sounds.

ANY DOWNSIDES? The metro system shuts early, so pick a central hotel to make life easy.

WHERE TO STAY: The five-star Hilton Sofia has rooms from €136.

GETTING THERE: Swiss, via Zurich; Malev, via Budapest; CSA Czech Airlines, via Prague; Lufthansa, via Frankfurt.

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