There are certain clubs most dance music pilgrims have on their bucket list. You’ve got the Berlin icons like Watergate on the River Spree and techno temple Berghain, with its celebrated residents, ‘open end’ weekends and Panoramabar up top, where the morning sunlight glints through the shutters. America has its big names you know well, from LIV in Miami to New York’s iconic Cielo to the Las Vegas leaders like Marquee. Ibiza’s drawcards run from institutions like Space, Amnesia and DC10 to flashy upstart Ushuaïa Beach Hotel. London has Fabric and Ministry Of Sound, Tokyo is renowned for Womb and ever-ascendant dance music destination Brazil boasts the new leader of the DJ Mag Top 100 Clubs poll, Green Valley.
It’s a wide world, though, with many incredible club experiences to be had – from dark, sweaty basements to vast, state-of-the-art rooms. As a sequel of sorts to our international festival checklist, here’s 25 clubs worth planning a holiday around. Some of these you’ll know, others may not yet be on your radar, but inthemix can swear by them all. We hope you spend a long night on one of these dancefloors soon. A list like this will never be comprehensive, so let us know what discoveries we’ve missed from your own clubbing adventures.
Kicking off our list is the riotous Row 14, found off a freeway in Barcelona. You have to make an effort to get there, but the intrepid raver will be rewarded. The photo above should give some indication of the club’s carnival-esque vibe, with a retractable roof that can let in the sunlight for those famous night-into-day marathons.
The rolling party is one of Row 14’s calling cards. While relatively young, its Sunday session Elrow is already renowned for going epic with seasoned pros like Marco Carola, Luciano, Ben Sims and Richie Hawtin. Recently, Barcelona figurehead Paco Osuna settled in for a seven-hour set. The Spaniards have a well-deserved reputation for long-distance raving, and Row 14 is the perfect place to join in.
Head down some stairs off the Rue Montmartre in central Paris and you’ll find Social Club, a 500-capacity room with some of the savviest programming around. It’s hard to pin this club down to any one sound. Recent line-ups have seen DJ Falcon, Tensnake and Alan Braxe sharing the booth, James Blake and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs in DJ mode, the Gallic dream-team of Brodinski and Gesaffelstein, a club set from DJ Shadow, Michael Mayer getting deep, and much more.
Social Club is a regular haunt for many of our favourite Parisian DJs, whether they’re booked to play or simply soaking up the vibe. And the vibe is strong here. When the dancefloor is at capacity, surrounded on all sides by pipes of neon light, the feeling’s good. Back when he was still shrouded in shadows, Madeon shot the video below inside Social Club. This is how it goes down on a good night.
Bulgaria may not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of clubbing destinations, but Yalta, located smack-bang in the centre of capital city Sofia, is most definitely a hidden gem. With a distinguished history behind it, today Yalta plays host to a diverse range of talent from über-cool stars like Maceo Plex and Nic Curly to underground stalwarts Adam Beyer and Danny Tenaglia, and international chart-toppers Axwell and Paul van Dyk.
The crowd is one of the friendliest you’ll find in Europe, with everyone keen to escape their daily troubles on the dancefloor. No VIP area, an “everybody’s welcome” attitude, state-of-the-art lighting and a crisp, loud sound system help to bolster the carefree vibe of the club – the result being a night out that feels like a house party at a rich friend’s apartment.
Miami’s a year-round party town, and it’s got everything from extravagant bottle-service clubs (make a beeline for South Beach) to underground institutions. The Electric Pickle falls in the latter camp. With a stalwart team behind it, the Pickle’s the kind of place that house and techno DJs buzz about. In their words, it’s ‘A Liquor-Fueled Love Machine Designed As A Forum For Creative Expression’.
Located in downtown Miami’s Wynwood Arts District, the club has multiple spaces equipped with custom soundsystems and a laidback outdoor area. The Electric Pickle also has that intangible feeling inside its walls of a club with soul. The Electric Pickle celebrated its four year anniversary back in February with Wolf & Lamb’s Slow Hands and Seth Troxler, and it’s the spot where the likes of Ame, Dixon, Metro Area and Michael Mayer stop in Miami. Make the same resolution yourself.
There are a few things that Output does differently. One of the newest clubs on this list, the much-buzzed-about party spot is located on Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg. Here’s how they pitch it: “Output is open to anyone, but is not for everyone. Output welcomes individuals who value the communal experience of music over cameras, ropes, and bottles.”
With room for about 450 people in its darkened space, Output is built for dancing. They bring in the right DJs for the job, too. Since opening, the club has hosted an elite roll-call of names. Whether it’s Berlin icons like Marcel Dettmann, Steffi and Ben Klock, New York luminaries Francois K and Tim Sweeney or the Hessle Audio crew straight from the UK, Output knows how to get the best out of its soundsystem. Just keep the camera phone in your pocket. Carl Cox’s Global 522 episode below showcases highlights from his marathon set at Output. “Oh yes, oh yes…”
Ibiza’s clubbing terrain is well-documented, from the colossal Amnesia with its famous smoke cannons to the sun-drenched Ushuaïa Beach Club, where everyone from Sasha and Loco Dice to Avicii and David Guetta feel right at home. Stray from the well-scuffed dancefloors, though, and you’ll find Sankeys, a 1500-capacity club where the sounds of the underground rule.
Opened in 2011, it’s made its mark on the White Isle as a space designed for music, not VIP trappings. Sadly its namesake, the legendary Manchester institution Sankeys, has recently closed its doors, so it’s over to the Ibiza outpost to keep the spirit alive. For its third season on Carrer de Alzines, Sankeys has gone all-out. The Dirtybird crew is in the building on Thursdays, while elsewhere you will find distinguished names from the newly-disco-ed Skream to all-nighter expert Steve Lawler to Wolf and Lamb and friends. Getting the vibe?
At Stereo in Montreal, “everyone is equal: black, white, straight, gay, those with money and those without money,” according to owner Thomas Piscardelli. Unlike a lot of large clubs in North America, where table service is standard, Stereo removes this obvious divide between the “haves” and “have nots”. In fact, the bar doesn’t serve alcohol at all. You can buy either a bottle of water or a soft drink. If that’s not a clear statement of “we’re about people who genuinely love the music and come to dance”, we don’t know is.
Stereo is primarily focused on house music, which is reflected in its interior, modelled on the legendary Paradise Garage in New York, one of the spiritual birth-places of the sound. With a 1000-person capacity, the club strikes a good balance between fresh, underground artists like Audiofly and Joseph Capriati and bigger names such as Tiga and Roger Sanchez, but always aims for credibility and soul with the music. And tribal and progressive legends Chus & Ceballos are residents; how good is that?
Love house music in intimate rooms? That’s exactly what you’ll find at Ego, hidden just off Hamburg’s red light district. The club has earned a reputation that extends far beyond its hometown. Ego is partly owned by Solomun, whose Diynamic label has been enjoying a hot streak in recent years, and its week in, week out programming mirrors his ear for four-four.
DJs with a preference for warmth and groove are right at home inside Ego, with recent guests including Dixon, Sebo K, Anja Schneider, Robag Wruhme and Shaun Reeves. Then there’s the famous Diynamic Neon Night residency, which sees the label’s stars getting silly with costumes, props and hypercolor face-paint. Head to Hamburg and be part of the family for a night.
Because every national media outlet has to eventually diversify its assets, we have Trouw in Amsterdam. Formerly the home of the Dutch newspaper of the same name, Trouw is now a three-floor club, restaurant and event space/gallery, hosting everything from exhibitions to heads-down techno raves. Hints of the venue’s past remain, such as the decommissioned printing press and the stark concrete which surrounds you at every turn, but these add to the venue’s grimy, industrial charm, and they are interestingly contrasted by warm-coloured lights and projected visuals.
On top of that, Trouw was also the first venue in Amsterdam to receive a 24-hour permit, and they sure know how to use it. Their infamous ‘All Night Long’ parties have featured some huge name guests such as Ame, Speedy J, and Ben Klock playing – you guessed it – all night long (or until people’s feet are worn down). And the best part? If you get tired of dancing, you can always re-fuel in the restaurant.
Plastic People has made its name by getting the essentials right. The tiny basement club in Shoreditch was designed around its immersive soundsystem, with the dancefloor as dark as it should be. With capacity of just 200 dancers, Plastic People is the anti-superclub.
In 2005, the club became home to trailblazing bass night FWD>>, with the likes of Ramadanman, Pariah and Jamie XX filing through on Thursdays. These days, it hosts regular appearances from electronic adventurer Floating Points and the Horse Meat Disco crew. Speaking to inthemix recently, James Blake enthused about his 1-800-Dinosaur residency at Plastic People.
“We’re getting a lot of people through the door and it’s really starting to be packed each time and pretty fun,” he said. “I get to play anything I want with all my friends around me, and just play some vinyl, have a laugh, have a drink and talk to people who’ve come along to the show and don’t even know that I DJ. It’s part fans and part just everyday, random people off the street.”
After an “amazing night” recently alongside Seth Troxler and Damian Lazarus, man-of-the-moment Maceo Plex declared Cocorico to be “officially one of my favourite clubs in the world”. He’s not alone in that opinion. The riotous atmosphere under the main room’s giant glass pyramid is legendary, and DJs like Jeff Mills and Chris Liebing can go straight for the jugular there. It’s the kind of space that can lock into the deep groove of Nina Kraviz or get rave-y with a Chemical Brothers DJ set.
To get to Cocorico, you’ll have to head to Riccione, a region of Rimini, and get a short cab out of town. Techno tourists are rewarded by a club that heaves across its four rooms, and Italians can party with the best of them. Then the next day, after that special morning sunrise set, you can head for the beach in Riccione to pick up the pieces.
BO18 is perhaps one of the most ambitious and conceptually unique venues worldwide. Located in Karantina (a semi-industrial zone in the northeast of Lebanon’s capital city Beirut), which was the home of a Palestinian refugee camp that housed up to 20,000 evacuees during the Lebanese Civil War, B018 started as a way to use music as a form of therapy to ease the stress of wartime life.
Changing locations over the years, the current home in Karantina was chosen in 1998, and the club was designed in such a way as to reflect its location, paying tribute to those lost in the war. Aside from being sunk into the ground like a communal grave (or more light-heartedly, a bomb shelter), the club also features tables shaped like coffins and war memorabilia all over the walls.
But it’s not all doom-and-gloom: a retractable roof allows for revellers to dance under the starry Beirut night sky, and carefully placed mirrors reflect the city’s lights onto the dancefloor. Add in a top-notch sound-system, a friendly, open-minded and liberal crowd, and high calibre guests such as Hernan Cattaneo, James Zabiela and Troy Pierce, and you have the fiercely unique BO18. As Danny Howells puts it, it’s “one of the absolute best clubs in the world”. Check out his five-hour set in full below.
Given it’s one of the most picturesque places anywhere, Mykonos is a natural party destination. On a notoriously competitive island, Paradise Club manages to attract top-tier acts each season, and 2013 is sure to be another blockbuster. Avicii, who’s choosing his European dates carefully this year, has signed on for a residency.
Throughout this list, we’ve featured several up-close basement clubs and huge, strobe-lit halls, but Paradise Club is something different. Its location on one of the most famous beachfronts in the Mediterranean might have something to do with it. Buffed-and-tanned party boys and beautiful women descend on the club throughout summer, whether it’s for ‘EDM’ names or DJs inclined to go deeper. (In 2012, the cast included everyone from John Digweed and Nick Warren to Axwell, Laidback Luke and Armin van Buuren.) Dancing bodies pack in around the pool on balmy nights, and the next day hurts less when the beaches are this good.
D-Edge might be one of the smaller rooms on this list, but it’s a true icon of Brazilian clubbing. Many DJs wax lyrical about their sets inside the club, praising the sound-system, the layout and the people who fill the dancefloor.
Famously, D-Edge is a black room with a lattice of neon lights on the ceiling, floor and walls that pulse and change with the music. The man responsible for its distinctive look is multimedia wizard Muti Randolph, who explained his improvements to the club in 2010: “By using mirrors with built-in LEDs, the public will be able to experience the sensation of being inside an infinite repetition of lights – on the dancefloor and from outside.”
Dreamt up by DJ Renato Ratier, the club opened in 2003 in the neighbourhood of Barra Funda, and has since seen a who’s who of house, techno and disco talent pass through its doors. D-Edge has an offshoot label, too, which launched with a release from Ratier. The video below should show just how good this club looks in action.
One of Portugal’s biggest clubs, Lux Fragil is worth a visit for multiple reasons. First of all, there’s the music. Regularly featuring high profile guests that run the electronic gamut, Lux Fragil should definitely be your first choice if a variety of underground sounds is what you’re after. Previous headliners have included the likes of Apparat, Erol Alkan and Daniel Bell alongside the ‘Curated By’ nights, which feature a guest DJ choosing the line-up.
Then there’s the view. Located along the beautiful river Tejo in Lisbon, Lux Fragil is the perfect spot to watch the moonlight bounce off the water and/or see the sunrise, especially from the enormous third-floor balcony or the second-floor terrace which is open through summer. There’s nothing quite like having those first streams of light creep up over the horizon while dancing to quality music, and Lux has those moments weekly, staying open until around eight or nine in the morning. And finally, John Malkovich co-designed the joint. Yes, the John Malkovich. That alone makes it worth a visit.
If you’re heading to Germany to get lost on dancefloors, Berlin’s the natural magnet. After all, it’s got Berghain, it’s got Tresor and it’s got many, many more special clubs too. Robert Johnson, however, holds its own. With a blues legend as its namesake, the club is located in Offenbach, just across the river from neighbouring Frankfurt, a perhaps incongruous location for what’s regarded one of the world’s greatest clubs.
With a truly mixed crowd of music heads who swear by it, Robert Johnson has one of the warmest, finely-tuned soundsystems around and a cast of regular DJs who know how to use it. The stripped-back LED lighting, minimal DJ booth with a rotary mixer and intimate dancefloor all add up to a streamlined space. For several years, the club released its own series of mix-CDs from distinguished guests like Prins Thomas, Roman Flugel and Ata, one of Robert Johnson’s founders. The run of mixes ended in 2011 with Dixon’s acclaimed Volume 8. The series might be done, but the real-life schedule is buzzing, with visits from Tobi Neumann, Shackleton, Tensnake, Gerd Janson, Sascha Dive and many more booked over summer.
Berliners, as we know, are spoiled for choice. It’s a city where winters have their own special rhythm, as locals escape the cold by packing onto dancefloors. When summer comes, though, Berlin embraces it. One of the best places to soak up the sun to a perfectly Germanic soundtrack, Club der Visionaere is a rustic shack on the canal in Kreuzberg.
With its tiny dancefloor, this isn’t a heaving peaktime spot. People loll about on the outdoor deck and piece together the high-points from the weekend, while some of the city’s finest selectors dig for records.
“It is so laidback that time doesn’t seem to exist in this place,” Seth Troxler told DJ Mag a couple of years back. “The faces are friendly, the pizza is divine and the staff know my name. It’s a home from home and a little piece of heaven.”
We’ve harped on before about how Croatia is quickly establishing itself as Europe’s new partying mecca, and the country’s clubs are sure living up to that reputation. Papaya, situated the island of Pag’s Zcre beach, has long had a reputation as Croatia’s best club. So what’s the drawcard? On top of the Eastern Europe-standard cheap drinks and near-uniformly attractive punters, Papaya boasts a postcard-perfect setting – you just have to travel a bit to get there.
Zcre beach is only five minutes from the town of Novalja, but it’s 80 km to the bigger city of Zadar. In high season, accommodation in Novalja is best booked in advance, but you can take advantage of the nightly shuttle bus back to the centre of town when things wind up at around the 6am mark or (if you’re lucky) bunk with a local.
Then there’s the infamous Hideout pool parties. Free for Hideout Festival ticket holders, the Papaya-hosted daily pool parties run from 2-8pm, making them the perfect warm-up to the night’s activities. For 2013, the pool party line-ups boast the likes of Julio Bashmore, Jamie Jones, Seth Troxler and Chase & Status and go down from July 3-5: well worth planning your trip around.
Womb is a Tokyo icon, and with good reason, but there’s another mega-club servicing Japan’s capital too. That cavernous space is AgeHa in Tokyo’s Bay Area Shin Kiba. Sure, you won’t find an intimate, exclusive experience, but you will get that famous Japanese attention to detail, from the décor to the sound-system.
Oh yes, the sound-system: designed by Jim Toth of Timbre Tech, who has been in the game since the early ‘80s, it’s a powerful rig. Away from the booming main room, there’s an outdoor poolside stage for those daytime parties and other spaces to get lost in. SonarSound, the travelling arm of Barcelona’s renowned festival, has chosen AgeHa, and its roster ranges from the Cocoon crew to top trance names. Spend a night here surrounded by up-for-it locals and you’ll stagger away pining for another round.
“This is just one of those epic venues,” Dirty South told inthemix when naming Avalon in Hollywood as his favourite room to play anywhere. “People are really up for having a crazy night and I really enjoy playing here. I get to play four to five hour sets and do pretty much whatever I feel like, and the crowd just goes for it the whole night.”
That all-night atmosphere is what sets Avalon apart in Los Angeles. Possessing a covetable 24-hour license in a town where parties can’t always go as long as the dancefloor wants, it’s L.A.’s superclub-of-choice. The building is unique, too: a Spanish colonial theatre that once hosted The Beatles. In the historic main room, with its soaring ceiling and ornate fit-out, the programming runs from techno to dubstep to anthemic house and trance on any given weekend. As Dirty South put it, the atmosphere of Avalon on a good night is undoubtedly epic.
Here’s how Sydney-bred high-flyer Goodwill, a regular drawcard in South America, sold Sirena Club to inthemix. “This is a pretty famous club but I don’t think you get a picture of how magical it is until you visit. It is amazing that this club attracts 3000-plus people a night, as it is a four-hour-long drive from Sao Paulo to the north coast beach town of Maresias, Sí£o Sebastií£o.
“Guests last summer included Loco Dice, Tocadisco, Carl Cox, Kaskade, Axwell and myself,” Goodwill went on. “Guest DJs play in the main room and are then invited to play sunrise on the amazing outdoor terrace that looks a lot like Jurassic Park. Playing outdoors with the beach on one side and the jungle on the other is incredible. It is hard to describe how magical the place is. You can play very deep and the crowd just love it. They renovate the club every year to keep it fresh and after 15 years it is still one of the most popular clubs in South America.”
“No two nights are ever the same,” Sub Club’s long-standing resident Harri told inthemix, and it’s a philosophy that carries through to his spiritual home at 22 Jamaica St, Glasgow. Sub Club is, in a word, legendary. Born way back in 1987, it was home to the game-changing Optimo residency and has invited a comprehensive list of house and techno to get deep and/or dark over its lifespan.
Dimly-lit and powerfully-equipped with an immersive soundsystem, the underground room invites you to get lost for hours, surrounded on all sides by bodies locked in a groove. Oh, and there’s a Body Sonic dancefloor to get you further inside the music. An enduring fixture is the Subculture night led by resident tastemakers Harri and Domenic, two DJs with very deep record bags. Sub Club favours selectors who love to go long, and they all can’t wait to get back.
If you only like clubbing in close quarters, Fabrik isn’t the destination for you. The enormous hangar on the outskirts of Madrid is built for 10,000-strong crowds. It’s a superclub in every sense, from its dimensions to the sound, the industrial-strength CO2 cannons, oversized disco balls and theatrical performances.
A space this cavernous needs a certain kind of DJ, and Fabrik has recruited some big-room specialists to help celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2013. Carl Cox and Sven Vath will take care of the booming techno, while on a different tip there’s Axwell coming up. Subtlety is the last thing you’ll find at Fabrik, but for all-night, super-sized raving, it’s got it down.
Once you’ve ticked off European clubbing hubs like Ibiza and Berlin, you might start searching further afield. Journey to Russia’s capital and you’ll find ARMA17. The renowned club pulls in Moscow’s dressy, head-turning party people by booking the best in house and techno.
Guests like Richie Hawtin, Ricardo Villalobos, Magda, Marcel Dettmann, Guy Gerber and Ame swear by ARMA17, and the dancefloor stays rammed until well past sunrise. ARMA17 takes its name from the number of the industrial building where the first parties were held. The venue was housed in a former gas-holding facility in the historic part of Moscow, but a fire gutted it in 2009. Now the club has taken over another derelict industrial site at Nizhniy Susalniy. The ARMA17 team describes its after-hour marathons as “endless”. If you can’t get to Russia in the foreseeable future, it’s worth following ARMA17’s podcast series on Soundcloud, featuring killer mixes from names like Vakula, Radio Slave and Roman Flugel.
It’s not hard to see why Warung Beach Club has earned a near-mythical reputation. Perched at the edge of the jungle on the South American coast, few clubs can rival its setting. Then there’s the famous Brazilian party spirit that keeps the dancefloor vibing past sunrise. Expect that to be a very good-looking dancefloor, too.
With an outdoor deck at one end and the DJ booth at the other, the long tepee-like main room creates a heightened atmosphere. The programming leans towards hypnotic techno and house, with guests like Jamie Jones, John Digweed, Gui Boratto and Magda. It’s a space that brings the best out in DJs. As Sasha puts it: “It’s definitely one of my favourite places to play in the world. When you see the sun rising in the triangle at the end of the club, it’s a special time.” Then there’s the Garden area, where masters of deepness like Dixon or Lee Burridge can do their thing in the open air. It’s not the easiest club to get to, but your journey will be rewarded.