Travelling the world while in your 20s is possibly one of the most carefree experiences that you will ever have; which is not to say that travelling becomes any less enjoyable as you get older – it’s just different. Now at 29, I simply don’t have the patience to share a dorm with 20 other snoring and highly sexually active backpackers, and I don’t have the stamina to party until the wee hours of the morning or the ability to hold down terrible-tasting, cheap shots. Although, come to think of it, I don’t think my younger 20-year-old self possessed that ability either. As you get older, your tastes and priorities change which is why you should make the most of travel while in your carefree 20s. Here is a list of 20 cities to visit in your 20s where having that 20s stamina may very well come in handy.
Berlin radiates ‘uber’ cool and is a magnet for creatives, hipsters and entrepreneurial types. Check out the bars in gritty Kreuzberg, explore the industrial buildings in the Urban Spree, cheer on the brave souls at bear pit karaoke in Mauerpark and ride a bike along the airstrip at the abandoned Tempelhof airport. You’ll need all the stamina that you can muster to keep up with this experimental city.
Budapest has cemented itself as one of Europe’s coolest cities and for good reason. The glittering Danube River literally divides the city into two and and also figuratively splits the city’s personality. You’ll find the hordes of tourists on the leafy Buda side during the day, and the partygoers on the Pest side in the evening. Stay in the hip Jewish quarter and spend time in the makeshift ruin pubs born out of abandoned buildings – the original and most famous ruin pub, Szimpla Kert, is a visual feast to behold. Budapest is also known as the ‘city of spas’ so head to one of the infamous spa parties if you’re game.
A cosmopolitan melting pot of cultures and a hub for excellent music, it is often said that London is the centre of the universe, a fact which is indisputable when you’re there. Join the cool kids for a gin and tonic in the trendy suburbs of East London, pick up one-of-a-kind vintage finds at the Portobello Market and watch all of your favourite bands for less than 20 quid! The royal family aren’t against welcoming commoners into the regal fold, so you never know…
Home to the wacky, bizarre and the brilliant, there is no other city quite as eclectic as Tokyo, or one as likely to make you feel as if you’re in a manga comic. Pretend you’re one of Gwen Stefani’s backup dancers in quirky Harajuku, have a saké with Japanese salarymen in one of the minuscule bars in the Golden Gai area, get your geek on in nerd-town Akihabara, and, of course, belt out your favourite J-pop tunes in one of the many karoke bars.
5. New York
It’s cool, urban and trendy and you’ll need a whole lot of New York swag to keep up with all of the pavement-pounding locals in this concrete jungle. Find the pocket of New York that speaks to you: whether it’s the edgy Lower East Side, boho Greenwich Village, trendy Tribeca or hipster-central Brooklyn. Walk the Highline, visit Central Park and soak in the view from the top of the Empire State Building – you’ve seen the movies, you know what to do.
Blessed with a mesmerising locale on the Croatian coast, Dubrovnik is a must-see for all twenty-somethings. Although not as renowned as its island counterparts for its party atmosphere, there is still plenty to do within the ancient city walls of the Old Town, which has its own unique aura of Adriatic charm. Don’t miss out on the Buza bar, otherwise known as the ‘hole-in-the-wall’, a bar perched on the cliffs offering uninterrupted panoramas of the sparkling sea. You’ll need to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming.
A strange combination of refinement and liberalness, Amsterdam is the home of canals and tulips, sex and weed. Although let’s be honest, the young’uns are probably more interested in the latter. Twenty-somethings will fall in love with the freedom and autonomy that Amsterdam grants its residents and the unrivalled friendliness of the locals.
8. Rio de Janeiro
There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and that the last one standing during a night out will always be a Brazilian. Seriously, Brazilians know how to party. Time your visit to coincide with the colourful and wonderful Carnival festival that is held annually before Lent. Otherwise, spend your days sunbaking on the famous Copacabana and Ipanema beaches before practising your samba moves and drinking caipirinhas to your heart’s content.
Phuket’s reputation as a party hub is well established. Most of the activity takes place along Bangla Road in Patong where you will encounter the curious and the outlandish among the bright neon lights and discotheques – as well as plenty of attractive ladyboys. It’s cheap, it’s cheerful, it’s camp: what more could you want?
10. Hong Kong
More than a stopover city, Hong Kong offers the best in food, shopping and entertainment. Gorge on the dumplings at Tim Ho Wan, the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, watch the symphony of lights illuminating Victoria Harbour, and then head on over to Lan Kwai Fong on Hong Kong Island, the centre of HK’s bustling nightlife and a beacon for the expat community.
This spirited Spanish city is a wonderful mix of quirky architecture, delectable food and lively nightlife. Explore Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces during the day (don’t miss the incredible Park Güell), grab a fresh juice from La Boqueria, settle in for your 9 pm tapas dinner and then find a cool bar tucked away in the labyrinth of the Gothic Quarter where you can get your flamenco on.
12. Las Vegas
Look, I can’t say too much because, you know, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Although I think this line is used just to mask the fact that most people don’t actually remember what happened after a weekend away in Vegas. This desert oasis city is made for partiers and punters, and you will soon find yourself getting seduced by the (faux) glitz and glamour.
13. Buenos Aires
Here is city that will be guaranteed to have you reveling until the early hours of the morning, simply because the parties in Buenos Aires are known to get started at 2 am – hope you’ve had your coffee intake! Buenos Aires is smooth, sexy and intoxicating, and the perfect place to dance the night away before the sun comes up.
A city where east and west collide front-on, Istanbul is a cosmopolitan blend of different cultures and empires. Wake up to the mesmerising call to prayer at the Blue Mosque (it’s goosebump-worthy), haggle for colourful scarves and carpets at the Grand Bazaar, and visit a hamman for a traditional Turkish bath and a vigorous scrub. Beyoğlu is the epicentre of Istanbul’s pulsating nightlife and you’ll find a diverse mix of people partying together in trendy rooftop bars to more traditional folk venues.
15. New Orleans
Not just the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans is also famed for its raucous and jubilant nightlife and you will be swept away by the joie de vivre spirit that embodies this city. Join in on the festivities during Mardi Gras which occurs at the beginning of the year. Otherwise tuck into the delicious gumbo, jambalaya and po-boys, enjoy the live music scene on Frenchman Street and hit the bountiful bars on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter.
16. Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is a lively, young city with a beautiful coastline and plenty of vivacious energy to keep you buoyed throughout the night. It’s often touted as the party capital of the Middle East, which may come as a surprise to some, but perhaps it’s the backdrop of ongoing conflict that compels locals to live in the moment and to seek out fun and pleasure. Head to the beachfront if you’re keen to party by the water or check out the bars along the area surrounding Lilienblum Street if you’re in the mood for something with a local flavour.
It’s super expensive but oh-so worth every dollar and, in this case, Icelandic krónur. For a city with such a small population, Icelandic people seemed to be iced (pardon the pun) in coolness and creativity. Icelanders also know how to have a good time and after spending your days road-tripping and marvelling at the sublime beauty of the island, you’ll want to join in on the rúntur, which is the town pub crawl. Taste the local ‘schnapps’ Brennivín – otherwise known as the ‘Black Death’.
Sure there are other Greek Islands better known for their party vibe; however, Santorini undoubtedly wins the award for best-looking. The whitewashed walls of Cycladic houses perched dramatically on the cliffs, contrast brilliantly against the indigo Aegean sea – this is a vision that will be engrained in your brain for years to come.
I may be biased as it’s my hometown but Melbourne is simply one of the coolest cities – if not the coolest – in the world with the best bars, restaurants and coffee on offer in this cosmopolitan microcosm. All of the action happens down dimly lit laneways, behind dumpsters, in abandoned lofts and through unmarked doors, so you need to be in the know to know where to go. The rule of thumb is to venture down every derelict alleyway that you come across – you never know what you may discover.
Bienvenue à Montréal! As the home to the second largest number of French-speakers outside of France, it may be beneficial to brush up on your high-school French to score points with the locals. Montréal is a captivating city with a jam-packed festival calendar, innovative culinary scene and countless cocktail bars to practise your Français in!
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Note: this post was also published on Elite Daily on 27 June 2016.