Having been a clubber in my teens and early twenties, I was excited to go clubbing in Europe. For me, it was not only about the music, but about seeing the cultural differences – how people danced in clubs, club protocol, what they dressed in, as well as seeing a lot of the history of electronic music.
If you are interested in going to clubs or hearing music in other countries, seek out an English-language newspaper or magazine – your hostel may stock some, or know where you can find one. Browse through it, looking for club advertisements or reviews. You can also head to music stores, and ask savvy staff if they know where you can hear your favorite beats. Flyers posted around town often advertise major club events, and big festivals (such as the Love Parade and the Street Parade) will be listed in guidebooks and even have websites. A web search should also bring up results. For example, when searching for drum n bass (a type of electronic music with a fast drum beat and deep bass) parties in London, I went to www.google.co.uk, and typed: (“drum n bass” OR “jungle”) AND London. I quickly found a website listing weekly drum n bass parties.
If you’re wondering what to wear, and don’t want to be out of place, keep it simple. Comfortable shoes good for dancing are essential if you plan on dancing – but in Ibiza, heels on women are more the norm. Wear what won’t hurt your feet. All black is quite an easy option, though strange in some places (such as outdoor parties, when the sun can quickly heat you up). When attending festivals such as the Street Parade, the more outrageous the better. If you want to buy club clothes, you can locate fun clothes in most cities – I paid 9 euro for a pink halter top in Vienna, which got plenty of wear throughout Europe. Clubbing cities like Ibiza provide many clothing boutiques suitable for clubbing. You can also be creative by transforming a colorful scarf into a shirt, wearing loud makeup, purchasing inexpensive jewelry, or borrowing some clothes from a fellow traveler.
Free or discount club nights, or clubs where admission includes a free drink, are always good for the budget-minded traveler. You can meet many people at clubs that you would never meet at a hostel or a tourist trap. People in clubs are usually locals (except in Ibiza, which is primarily English travelers), and they will enjoy hearing your travel adventures and life story, perhaps even playing host to you around town to different clubs. Getting exposed to different kinds of music will broaden the horizons of your trip even more.
I’ve listed some of my favorite clubbing places in Europe. I know there are many I missed, but I’ll be back to catch those.
I was also excited to go to a drum n bass party in London, as drum n bass music originated in the UK. I went to Grooverider’s weekly Sunday party (making friends back home jealous, as he rarely visits the USA), Grace, at Herbal. I danced with complete strangers and new friends: I befriended a Portuguese musician and his two Chilean friends, all living in London, who let me practice my Spanish with them. As I was leaving the next day and had very few pounds, they bought me drinks. After the party was over around 2 a.m., my new friends wouldn’t let me go back to my hostel. They took me to a party down the street where house and techno music blasted through the windows. They introduced me to people who questioned me about Twilo, an infamous and now nonexistent New York City club. “You need to move here!” they kept telling me. I felt myself get weak in the knees, knew with my grandfather’s British citizenship it would be easy to simply stay, but knew I couldn’t just stop in London – I had to keep on traveling.
“Ibiza? Don’t the clubs cost 50 euro there?” Some of them probably do, but I didn’t pay more than 35 euro. Overhearing me in a hostel lounge in Valencia, Chris was also headed there – we bought our ferry tickets together and got a room in San Antonio (a 20 minute bus ride to Ibiza Town) where food and drink were cheaper, and there was plenty to do from fabulous beaches to the legendary sunsets at Café del Mar.
After we arrived, we purchased tickets for Amnesia that night from the Amnesia shop (advance tickets are always cheaper) and went back to our hostel to get ready. The Disco Bus comes hourly and drops people off at the various clubs around town (check schedules, which can be obtained from any record shop), and we caught the one a.m. bus to Amnesia for the opening Cream Party to see Paul van Dyk. A group of drunken British men sang the entire bus ride, and others had to shout to converse. Dancing took place in the aisles of the bus, when there was room. I met Rob on the bus, who I ran into several other times during my time in Ibiza, as it really is a small place. At Cream, I befriended a group of Londoners, who danced with me. Every time the CO2 cannon blasted out cold air to the crowd (to prevent people from getting too hot), I couldn’t see anything, and joined in jumping up and down, unable to see anything. The music was fantastic, the dancing was fabulous, and 98% of the women there were just gorgeous – and wearing bikinis, short skirts, and other miniscule articles of clothing that made the men mad – and there are more men than women, so this is good, ladies.
After dancing until 8 a.m., we waited on the long line for taxis, and split the cost between several others going to San Antonio. Stay at a hotel or hostel with air conditioning-it’s way too hot to sleep during the day without it, as I learned the hard way.
I also spent time at other infamous Ibiza venues during “opening weekend”-the weekend all the clubs open, with huge parties and large crowds. Pascha, Privilege, Space, Eden, and Amnesia are among the bigger, more famous clubs. San Antonio’s West End provides more bars and smaller clubs than you would care to go in, although it is fun to walk around at night.
During my time in Ibiza, I also bar-hopped in the West End, watched the legendary sunsets in front of CafÃ© del Mar (bring your own alcohol, or purchase some excellent sangria from CafÃ© Mambo), swam on the beaches next to conversations about DJ skills, ate dinner at CafÃ© Mambo (mediocre food but excellent location and music), gawked at the billboards advertising clubs, went to the opening at Privilege. Ibiza is an amazing experience, unlike anywhere else. The servers at a small Spanish cafeteria I ate at informed me of the best clubs; people I met were so focused on clubbing it was unreal, discussing every track change and mix a DJ made. For the ultimate experience in international clubbing, visit Ibiza.
Berlin’s late-night music scene is legendary. If you visit Berlin and don’t visit the clubs, you’re missing a valuable Berlin experience. While Berlin has its fair share of cheesy clubs, ask residents, read magazines, search the internet, and you will find the names clubs appeal to you. Berlin also has several English-language publications (Hostels such as Mitte’s Backpacker Hostel keep these in their lounge and reception areas.), so you should peruse these for information about clubs, and which sort of nights would appeal to you. Smaller clubs, such as Delicious Doughnuts, offer areas to dance, socialize, and lounge.
|Throwing Glitter off a Truck|
Zurich’s Street Parade
The Street Parade takes over Zurich every August. Although there are corporate sponsors, to the dismay of the purists, it is a fantastic event worth rearranging your trip so you can be there. Book reservations early at hostels and hotels or find accommodations through websites like www.hospitalityclub.org, www.couchsurfing.com, or www.globalfreeloaders.com. The Street Parade is basically a rave through the streets of Zurich-trucks (32 trucks in 2005 Street Parade) with DJs, massive speakers, and dancers on the trailers, often in costume or a color theme. Think of it as a highly-organized Swiss Love Parade.
In addition, people come dressed in crazy, outrageous costumes. This the time where you can finally tape balloons all over body and dance the day away, or scour European thrift shops for an outrageous outfit. Everyone is taking photos, dancing, drinking, and everyone is there-from the children to the grandmas to the hardcore club kids. It’s like Halloween, only with better music and no candy. People are friendly, offering hugs, laughs, conversation, and confetti.
The streets are crowded and filthy during it; however, the day of the Street Parade was one of the best days of my trip. The parade begins at 1 p.m., with trucks slowly (very, very slowly; they often stop) driving down the street. Different areas around the center city have stages with DJs and dance areas. After the parade, parties take place around town, and range in price from free (several good parties, such as along the river, or in the train station) to quite costly (nearly 50 euro). We danced the day away, and then went home for dinner (cheaper and cleaner; food in the area is quite costly), then went back for more dancing, in a parking lot in the center of Zurich, and later, to a party in the Zurich train station. Brochures are around town, including in the main train station, before the event with maps and information, and www.streetparade.ch also is a wealth of information. The next street parade is August 12, 2006.
Greece: Ios and Mykonos
My boyfriend and I visited Greece – Athens, Ios, Santorini, and Mykonos. We took advantage of the infamous clubbing scene in Ios and Mykonos. Santorini has a good nightlife as well – from the infamous Kira Thira Jazz Club (check out the five euro sangria) to Murphy’s (the first Irish bar in Greece) to dancing at Koo Club or Tropical Club. However, we took it easy in Santorini, drinking only in Kira Thira, and sharing a bottle of wine on our terrace. Ios and Mykonos is where we wanted to party.
According to Let’s Go Greece 2005, “If you’re not drunk when you arrive [in Ios], you will be when you leave. On Ios, beers go down and clothes come off faster than you can say ‘Opa!’ You’ll see everything your mother warned you about – wine swilled from the bottle at 3 p.m., all-day beachside drinking games, partiers dancing madly in the streets, people swimming less than 30 minutes after they’ve eaten, and so much more.” Staying on a beachside “resort” like the Far Out Club (where camping, tents, and bungalows provide inexpensive accommodation options) means the partying just goes on and on-from when you stumble out of bed to the poolside (where DJs provide live music), you’ll find drinks being served with lunch, to when you come back from the bars at dawn – hey, there’s a group of people drinking on the beach and you can’t help but join them.
|Waiting for the Sun to Set|
In Mykonos, we stayed at Paradise Beach Club, similar to Ios’s Far Out Beach Club. Hotel rooms, tents, cabins, and camping provided cheap accommodations, with free breakfast and restaurant, shop, club, cafÃ©, and a lovely stretch of beach. There are two DJs during the day, so as you swam or sunbathed you enjoyed good music, and free shots were distributed at 5 p.m. Staff circulated the beach, serving drinks right to your beach chair or towel (which can be dangerous – you can get quite drunk and not realize it while lazing in the sun).
Mykonos Town is full of clubs, such as Skandinavian Bar, Caprice Bar, and Space. Check out flyers around town for special events. Cavo Paridiso on Paradise Beach often features big name DJs and beautiful views – but arrive late, as the club does not open until 2 a.m. The DJs sometimes seem as if their skills are mediocre – Greece is not Ibiza – but usually have a good selection of records. Dance floors are for dancing, as well as platforms, bars, the beach, the ocean, the pool – and the dancing is contagious (especially when free drinks are offered to the dancers).
Don’t stop your monthly club habit when you step on that plane! Pack your dancing shoes, or at least a little extra lip gloss and some energy (local caffeinated beverages are always great for that!). Your legs may be too tired for extensive sightseeing after dancing until five a.m., but your memories will be worth it!