Club culture has a way of capturing a moment in time. Take 1930s Shanghai, a golden era defined by decadence and the city’s mantle as the nightlife capital of Asia: replete with smoke-filled jazz speakeasies, gentlemen’s lounges, and a vibrant opium scene. Southern California in the 1940s was a playground for celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart, who hobnobbed on glamorous Sunset Boulevard with mobsters and politicians.
After the Berlin Wall fell, an industrial techno scene blossomed from the city’s Mitte district warehouses and government buildings left abandoned by the Soviets—the epic all-night parties representing a raw and newfound freedom for East German youths who birthed a subculture that reverberated throughout Europe in later decades. New York’s after-dark scene in the 1980s and 90s was dubbed Clubland, a drug-laden maelstrom of characters like Andy Warhol and RuPaul, hedonistic club kids dressed in drag, and kingpin promoter Peter Gatien, the impresario behind fabled spots such as Limelight, Palladium, and Tunnel.
Now? A European export has transformed nightlife from Las Vegas to Dubai—electronic dance music, in all its many forms, owns the night. Everyone wants in on the craze, but only a few deliver a top-notch experience. Here, the best places to party around the globe.