The sun isn’t the only thing that sizzles between June and August – the season also ignites the hottest summer party spots around the globe, from bizarre desert gatherings to hedonistic bashes on azure-coasted islands. We’ve rounded up a fantastic list of must-visit cities, where revelry manifests itself in renowned cultural fests and over-the-top parades; sexy seaside towns, where celebrities and party-goers touch down – often by yacht – to enjoy long summer nights; and even a desert destination, where thousands converge to send off the season. Of course, our list had to include Scandinavia's coolest summer capital, where midnight golf, mineral spas, and hopping nightlife are just some of the season's remarkable bounty. So get ready to get your groove on when the summer party switch is flipped!
There are more than a few reasons to head to Germany’s capital city for a raging summer jaunt you won’t soon forget. The “capital of cool” (its common moniker) is the stomping ground for the Love Parade every July, possibly the world’s biggest street party, and plays host to some million beer-lovers at the Berlin International Beer Festival in August, for those who just can't wait for Oktoberfest. Even if you miss these headline events, any summer night in Berlin holds endless opportunities for debauchery-laden fun – its mercurial nightlife scene is renowned for its underground clubs, beer gardens, and über-cool lounges.
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind summer party, rest assured that the annual Burning Man festival held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert is no mirage. This weeklong, no-holds-barred “art event” has drawn increasing numbers of global pilgrims (over 35,000 of them in 2005) since its modest 1986 debut (when just 20 revelers descended on a San Francisco beach). The ultimate end-of-summer hurrah (it’s held in the week leading up to and including Labor Day weekend) encourages everyone around to let go – don't be surprised to see people getting naked, drunk, or high – and culminates with the burning of a 40-foot tall wooden effigy known as “the Man”.
Chicago’s nickname, the Windy City, may have been borne of excessive boasting during its bid for the 1893 World Fair – and have nothing whatsoever to do with the weather – but summertime in this Midwestern city definitely warrants bragging rights. In addition to its year-long attractions – think world-class museums, legendary jazz and blues clubs, 7000-plus restaurants, two stellar ball clubs (the Cubs and White Sox) – summer months bring a slew of seasonal events, including The Taste of Chicago summer feast at Grant Park; the critically acclaimed Theater on the Lake; concerts in Highland Park as part of the Ravinia Festival; and the Magnificent Mile Arts Festival, an eclectic display of jewelry, sculpture, photography, and textiles from over 200 local and national artists. You’ll also find 29 magnificent miles of glorious lakefront set below the impressive skyline created by big-name architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and William Le Baron.
Monte Carlo, Nice, Cannes, and St-Tropez – the quartet of French cities at the heart of this sexy Mediterranean strip – conjure images of well-heeled vacationers passing long days on the beach, and even longer nights at elegant casinos, fine restaurants, and hot nightclubs. A night of gambling at Monte Carlo’s famed casino is a must – walk in looking like a million dollars and, with any luck, you’ll walk out with a bank account to match. Nice, the region’s major metropolitan center, has the most abundant nightlife and summer events, like the prestigious Nice Jazz Festival. If you’re content to strut your stuff, the place to do it is Cannes’ palm-treed the Croisette, a boardwalk lined with cafés, restaurants, fancy hotels, and glitzy designer shops. The paramount place to be seen after dark, mind you, is St. Tropez, at spots like the famous seaside Les Caves du Roy. Just make sure to change into something with deep pockets come nightfall – you’ll surely need them to afford these chi-chi summer spots.
This up-and-comer on Croatia’s southern coast (a thirty-minute high-speed-ferry ride away from Dubrovnik, itself another bona fide summer hot spot) is considered by many to be the hippest island in the Adriatic – and we’d have to agree. It’s blessed with fantastic beaches, the hottest bars in southern Dalmatia, and a beautiful globetrotting crowd, all of which combine to create the chicest beach-party scene north of the Mediterranean. By day, water taxis shuttle bathing beauties to the island’s best sands; come nightfall, you can stroll the picturesque Riva promenade, imbibe cocktails at the famous harborside bar/lounge Carpe Diem, dance under the disco lights at Veneranda, or relish a mouth-watering lobster dinner at Gariful – all in the fine company of yachting celebrities and jet-set revelers.
Listed as the “entertainment island of the world” by the Guinness Book of World Records, Ibiza, one of the three main Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain, has become synonymous with summer hedonism. Characterized by world-renowned clubs, where dance floors heave under the tracks spun by A-list international DJs, it’s quite possible you’ll spend more time dancing on this pleasure island than anywhere else on our list. When you’re in need of a break, kick back under the moonlit skies at Benirras Beach or stroll the local marina – one of the multimillion dollar yachts moored in the harbor may just belong to a visiting celebrity.
Summer merrymakers seeking a blend of sophistication and sass, and culture without pretense, can find a bit of debauchery à la française in Montreal. Of course, you’ll have to forego beaches and bikinis here, but with alcohol consumption and casino gambling (check out the chic Casino de Montréal) open to the 18-and-over crowd, scintillating nightlife (try Boulevard St-Laurent or Crescent Street for the best action), strip-clubs galore, and a certain je ne sais quoi, Montréal’s appeal reels in its fair share of summer party-goers all the same. Popular seasonal festivals also abound – two not-to-miss events include the renowned International Jazz Festival (late June to mid-July), which has headlined greats like Miles Davis and Dizzie Gillespie, and the Just for Laughs Festival (July), featuring some of the world’s funniest comics.
The sizzling summer months spark a hedonistic wildfire on this famed Greek isle, as jet-setters, backpackers, and cruise-ship day-trippers alike converge in search of the ultimate party. Indeed, if your idea of paradise involves rambling white sands met by the deep-blue Aegean, beach bars bumping with Euro tunes, bikini-clad bodies dancing on tables, and topless girls sprawled on the sand, you’ll find it and more on two adjoining local beaches, the appropriately named Paradise and Super Paradise. Come late-afternoon, you’ll be hard pressed to resist the full-blown party that gets going along the shores; the music doesn’t typically die down before dawn – in time for sunrise and a morning nap on the sand.
This isolated, yet remarkably open-minded New England beach town on the eastern end of Cape Cod has long been a magnet for summer-party seekers and all-around adventurers, drawing artsy types, gays and lesbians, and assorted free spirits to bask by its shores and soak up the culture of one of America's oldest art colonies. Long days spent combing the miles of protected beachfront – or exploring the high seas on the deck of a sailboat – tend to seamlessly merge into evening partying. One of the best ways to get your groove on is by attending the town’s popular Tea Dance at the waterfront Boatslip Resort, a distinctive summer party that harkens back to Victorian times, when afternoon tea was still a ritual – here, it's been updated to include cocktails and DJs spinning dance tunes.
As the countdown to the summer solstice begins to wind down, Iceland’s unpretentious capital of Reykjavik definitely heats up. Home to a legendary nightlife scene that’s actually a blast to partake in all year long, Reykjavik nonetheless really comes into its own in summer, when the fabled Midnight Sun crests the horizon – and heralds a season of midnight golf and white nights. The days near the solstice mark the onset of “midnight madness,” with a Viking-inspired festival complete with bonfires and live music. Despite its chilly temperatures (summer highs barely top 65 degrees), there are plenty of thermal wonders to keep you warm here too; most popular, perhaps, is the Blue Lagoon, where mineral-rich hot water bubbles up from the earth in a moonlike landscape.