The new A to Z of partying

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n' roll? Nah. nowadays, it's all about street food, bingo and, er… zoos. Take a look at our good-time glossary.

Featured December 17 Words by Kate Solomon, Andy Hill, G. Green, M. Smith /Illustrations Studio Takeuma
The new A to Z of partying

A is for Absinthe

The Green Fairy's making a comeback, which is handy, as absinthe is an excellent way to get any party started. The Absintherie bar and museum in Prague's Old Town serves 60 versions of the boho tipple, including shots that are - quite literally - on fire. Cool your jets afterwards with their signature absinthe ice cream.

B is for Bingo

Your gran's favourite pastime is hip again, though it's probably best to leave her at home when you venture to Bongo's Bingo (in Amsterdam, Liverpool and a host of places in between), featuring callers in drag, players dancing on tables and bingo-themed cocktails - two Two Fat Ladies, please, barman! Things are equally riotous at Underground Rebel Bingo in London, where ravey tunes and burlesque dancers set the tone. It's bingo, but not as we know it.

C is for Curling

Yes, that thing with the ice and brooms is London's favourite new bar game. Hurl a few stones at Queens ice rink in Bayswater or at Roof East in Stratford.

D is for Dirty laundry

Like Fight Club, the first, second and third rules of The Washhouse are that you don't talk about The Washhouse - oops. A new spin on the speakeasy, this hidden cocktail bar recently opened behind an innocuous-looking laundrette in Manchester's Northern Quarter. Just don't try bringing in your grubby smalls. “A few people have come in with washing,” say the owners. “Which was really funny… Until trading standards came in for a chat.” Over in Paris, they've gone a step further. Lavomatic is a fully functioning laundrette near the République Metro stop, but ascend its spiral staircase and you'll find yourself sipping daiquiris in a pop-art-inspired bar. A word of advice: if you're planning to ‘pull a Levi's advert', just make sure your white undies are clean…

E is for Eby

Big nights out in Florence start at Eby's, the lively hole-in-the-wall bar that's now internet famous thanks to videos of its eccentric bartender. Rocking silver hair and offbeat flavour combinations, it's small wonder Eby is nicknamed ‘the Einstein of shots'. Go and behold a shouty, mad genius at work.

F is for Food

It's official (because we say it is): eating is the new drinking and epic food markets, such as the Mercado da Ribeira in Lisbon, are drawing hipsters away from cramped bars towards vast halls filled with tasty morsels. In Rotterdam, Markthal houses nearly a hundred stalls below a space-age arch, while Budapest's Great Market Hall is fairy-tale pretty and the best place to chow down on creamy, doughy làngos (a local speciality). If you're craving something brand new and a bit bonkers, Bologna's Fico Eataly World is a 100,000sqm ‘food theme park' that includes actual working farmland, animal husbandry demonstrations, a vineyard, an orchard, artisan workshops (pasta making, that sort of thing), 25 restaurants and even - next year - a dedicated hotel. Chew on all that.

G is for Gnarly

Which is what snowsports festivals totally are, bro. The idea's simple: board all day, party all night. Or skip the board part and jump in the Jacuzzi for a few hours before Skrillex's igloo set. Snowbombing in Austria is the original and (some would say) best, but several newcomers are giving it a run for its money. France's Rise Festival, in Les Deux Alpes, has the world's hottest house DJs and Craig David. Or, if hip hop is more your thing, the Alps also play host to Snowboxx, while late-running Horizon, in Andorra, has the benefit of being so high up in the mountains, there's no one around to tell you to turn it down.

H is Hell for leather

Italian leather, to be precise. Fetish Pride weekend celebrates a big year in kink, with a rubber-lovin' party in Rome's catacombs (8-10 Dec).

I is for I will survive

Because a good night out isn't complete until you've wrestled a microphone off a stranger and indulged your inner Gloria Gaynor. Or, maybe, inner Jay-Z? Hip Hop Karaoke is a thing and it takes place in a sweaty room in Hoxton, London where, if you mess up, you'll be unceremoniously air horned off the stage. Or, if you crave a larger audience, head to Bearpit Karaoke in Berlin, where you'll sing to literally hundreds of people in a park (our advice: pick a power ballad). Barcelona keeps things more low-key: A Viva Voz is a straightforward karaoke bar that was recently booked out by plucky up-and-coming Irish band, U2. Frontman Bono's karaoke song of choice? When Love Comes To Town by, er… U2.

J is for Jónsi

The main man in ethereal Icelandic band Sigur Rós is also the mastermind behind a new festival at Reykjavík's harbourside Harpa Concert Hall. “Organising your own event is brilliant,” says the J-man. “You get to draw up a fantasy league of all your favourite players.” On his teamsheet are Britpop pouter Jarvis Cocker and Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine. Norður Og Niður festival (it translates as ‘Everything's Going to Hell' - reassuring!) takes place between 27-30 December.

K is for Keeping it fresh

Which is what family business Elrow has been doing for six generations. The Barcelona brand hosts roaring, kaleidoscopic, carnival-esque club nights that have put Elrow at the leading edge of nightlife since the turn of the 20th century. They take over Bristol superclub Motion for an epic New Year's Eve bash this year, so go down and party like it's 1899.

L is for Lyan

Ryan Chetiyawardana - aka Mr Lyan - is London cocktail royalty and his Thames-side bar, Dandelyan, at the Mondrian hotel, is the world's best - at least according to the judges at the 2017 Tales of the Cocktail Awards, who admired Lyan's ‘nose to tail' approach to flora. Say what? That means pretty much no botanical ingredient is wasted, but still more intriguingly, Mr Lyan and his team, “research how plants grow, reproduce and defend themselves in an attempt to extract these qualities”. Sound farfetched? Come back to us after you've tried an Arsenic Waltz from the bar's Lust menu - a full-bodied fusion of Tapatio Blanco tequila, sour pear, long pepper and cucumber honey.

M is for Mezcal

Berlin is having a mezcal moment, with on-trend drinkers enjoying the earthy Mexican spirit's depth and - let's face it - knock-out strength, at bars including Tentacion Mezcalothek in Freidrichshain and TiER in Neukölln. Take the local advice and drink it in sips, or ‘little kisses'.

N is for Naptime

If you've made it this far, you're probably ready for a well-earned disco nap. Brussels has its own nap bar called PAUZzzz (geddit?) where you can grab a snooze and a massage, while Madrid offers power sleeps at Siesta & Go, where you pay for a bed by the blissful, cotton-soft minute.

O is for Ollie, Ollie, ollie!

Things really ramped up in Amsterdam last year when twentysomething Colin Vlaar opened Skatecafé - the Netherlands' first all-in-one café/bar/skatepark in post-industrial Amsterdam-Noord. A cavernous warehouse, it offers the (notoriously tall) Dutch space to kickflip and ollie to their hearts' content until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays, with bands and DJs in the background. If you're more of a foodie than a skater, go on a Thursday, when guest chefs take over the kitchens. “It's nice to have a place where everybody can have fun when it rains,” says Vlaar. “And the parties are crazy every week!”

P for Piano

Jukeboxes are so passé - we want nothing less than a live pianist bashing out our every request in London's trendy Farringdon and The Piano Works provides. Crowds of rowdy music fans scribble songs from Abba to Zappa on napkins, which the musicians then use as their setlist. For a classier ivory tinkling experience, head to Paris, where you'll find Aux Trois Mailletz in the Latin Quarter - a hidden bar in a medieval vault with fiendishly good cocktails. After one or two, there's a good chance you'll end up on stage with its stars.

Q is for Quiet, please

Fiddling with your device on holiday is boring and antisocial. Agreed? Good. Luckily, some enlightened spots are taking a hard line on smartphone faffing. Münich's BLITZ nightclub has banned phone use and implores revellers to “engage with each other for real on the dance floor”. Waiters at French eatery Petit Garden, just outside Montpellier, blow whistles and issue soccer-style yellow cards to anyone gauche enough to prioritise their social feed above their croque monsieur. And The Gin Tub in Hove, near Gatwick, has copper mesh and silver foil in the walls and ceiling to block phone signals, so you actually have to talk with people in person. Over gin. Now doesn't that sound lovely?

R is for Ruin bar

Not necessarily a bar where you can get ruined (though you never know), ‘ruin bars' are common in Budapest, where many of the city's dilapidated buildings have been transformed into hipster hangouts. The labyrinthine Szimpla Kert, in the Seventh District, is the best. The place overflows with kitsch decorations, traffic lights serve as disco lights and merry visitors often scratch their names into the walls alongside rather more professional graffiti. Hang around in the evenings for free concerts, arthouse film screenings and the terrifying prospect of a ‘self-awareness disco'.

S is for Silver screen

You were born to be a star, dahling, so act like one in Rome, where Cinematic Folks ( throw parties based around cult films and TV shows - Twin Peaks and Donnie Darko have been the inspirations for recent events. Here's the twist: you never know when or where they're going to be, since the company stopped promoting their events until a couple of days before they take place - a direct result of more than 7,000 Romans turning up to a screening and afterparty based on the film Non Essere Cattivo (‘Don't Be Bad'). “I throw parties as many times as I am inspired,” founder Daniele Dezi told us. “Maybe 10 to 30 a year, always in different locations around the city.” Keep your eyes peeled for details on social media. And stay fabulous…

T is for Tram

Three party-loving Aussies is all it took to turn one of Krakow's olde worlde streetcars into the Polish city's most happening party joint. Board the TramParty every Friday for shots, dancing and a one-way ticket to A Fun Time. Safe to say, you'll be trolleyed.

U is for Up for it

The concept of a sober rave should fill any introvert/Brit with a cold dread, but Morning Gloryville has successfully turned the early morning dance party into a global trend. Our guinea pig, Emily Jane Young, tested out the original event in London. “It was like walking into a tent at Glastonbury, with everyone in sequins and wearing glitter, dancing like it was 11pm,” she says. Shots are replaced by smoothies and guest DJs can be major stars - Fatboy Slim's been known to do the odd 7am set. But was it worth it? “Yes,” says Emily. “I was very smug about how much fun I'd had before anyone else had even eaten breakfast.”

V is for Village

European clubbers have embraced the shipping container as a party space and Village Underground Lisboa is the coolest container city of all. By day it's an arty co-working space, by night it hosts good old-fashioned warehouse raves powered by achingly cool DJs. Go dance to some house within a whole load of heavy metal.

W is for White isle

You can't have a party A to Z without mentioning Ibiza. And, although many superclubs go into hibernation over winter, there's still plenty of local fun to be found, including the free Wine Festival in the village of Sant Mateu on 9 December. Anyone fancy a White Christmas?

X is for Xoroi

Xoroi, so the legend goes, was a sailor shipwrecked on the cliffs of Menorca, who met a local girl, started a family and lived for years in the island's caves, undiscovered. These days, the Cova d'en Xoroi is a bit easier to find - just follow the ‘thump' of the sound system up the many steps from the village of Cala en Porter, to find the most happening bar on Menorca's south coast. Sink cocktails over sunset, then join the other cave ravers in bouncing to pop music all night long. Xoroi's no longer around to complain, but we bet he'd be a Rihanna fan anyway…

Y is for Yacht rocking

The idea of the party cruise (think waterborne raves with top DJs) made a splash in summer 2017, but some boats keep rocking year-round. You can go insane on the Seine to an electro soundtrack aboard converted lighthouse craft Batofar, moored by the National Library of France. Belgrade's Klub 20/44 is an unashamedly boho boat that still retains velvet curtains and steel poles from its seedy strip-club past, plus life-sized statues of Michael Jackson and, er, John Cleese. Former East German fishing boat MS Stubnitz hosts various cultural happenings in Hamburg, but its Spartan GDR aesthetic is best enjoyed at one of its techno parties, where modish DJs come aboard and hit the decks, hard.

Z is for Zebras (obvs)

Where better to unleash your inner party animal than at the zoo? Pairi Daiza in Belgium has a brewery on-site, for beers on the hoof before swinging by the zebra enclosure. Edinburgh Zoo is hosting a lanterns festival (until Feb 25) with mulled wine and paper zebras lighting up the night. While Bristol Zoo is trialling mingle nights for singles. Perfect for meeting someone of the same stripe(s).



… and five of the best places to do New Year

The one for… Retro raving

The Blitz Party: NYE Special, London

Dust off your tea dress and bring out the braces for this WWII-style party in a realistic air-raid shelter, complete with hurricane lamps and blackout curtains (nothing says ‘party' like sandbags). This retro party is perfect for those who want to shy away from the upcoming year, as the cocktails, 40s tunes and general vintage merriment make it easy to forget what era we're actually in. Jäger bombs away.

The one for… Getting away from it all


Erosantorini Hotel, Santorini

Want to start the New Year calm and relaxed? Go off grid with the New Year's Package at this luxury retreat on Santorini, which consists of just eight suites. Welcome in the New Year while soaking in your own outdoor Jacuzzi, then get cosy by the floating fireplace in your room.


The one for… Bringing in the New Year with a bang

Fireworks in Reykjavík

Head up Oskjuhlio Hill, the dome-shaped landmark that's considered the best place to see the abundance of fireworks that erupt in the city on NYE. Book your spot with Gray Line Iceland for pick up and drop off, and entry to the Observation Deck of the hilltop watertanks, plus a glass of sparkling wine.

The one for… Dancing in the street

New Year's Eve Trail, Vienna

While some fancy folk might be bouncing around in ballgowns in the Hofburg Ballroom, the real revelry takes place in the streets. From 2pm, head out on the New Year's Eve Trail, which weaves through the old city. You'll find everything from punch to music concerts, topped off by impressive fireworks in City Hall Square. At midnight, grab a partner as the crowds waltz in the street.

The one for… A musical New Year

TIKTAK New Year's Eve, Amsterdam

Ring in the New Year while your ears are ringing with some banging tunes. There's a grand old line-up of popular Dutch DJs at this electronic music festival at AFAS Live. Even if you don't know who Broederliefde or Lil Kleine are (us neither), judging by previous events, this is the place to be come midnight..

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