From Kiev to Zabreb, Musement takes a look at the nightlife in some of the most vibrant New East cities.
Whether you’re in London or New York, it’s a similar story. Nightlife is being curtailed by strict opening hours and rising rents. Even Berlin, once a celebrated European party destination, is feeling the effects of its popularity. The once low-cast off-licenses, liberal attitudes, and a general feeling of freedom have all somewhat faded.
When we travel in search of hopping nightlife, the last thing on our mind should be closing times or where to get that final drink. So, it’s time to head to the New East (the catch-all term for the former Soviet countries), where cities such as Tbilisi, Warsaw, Kiev, Zagreb, and Riga still have thriving nightlife and clubs that are relatively unknown to the uninitiated.
This guide to the best of the New East’s nightlife lists some of our favorite places to dance, drink, and socialize. Many of the destinations are still fairly unknown, so you can be sure to be one of the first to immerse yourself in one of these exciting scenes.
The first city we would like to talk about is Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Though close in proximity to Budapest, Sarajevo, Ljubljana, and the Croatian coast, many visitors to this part of the world don’t stop and stay in the capital for long enough to discover its thriving underground scene.
Going out in Zagreb is so unlike a night on the town in London, where a can of lager in a trendy club costs four or five times as much as it does in the corner shop outside and feels like an affront. In Zagreb, the beer won’t burn a hole in your wallet and the bar is full of cigarette smoke. In fact, Zagreb is all about the bars and the culture of sitting around until day transitions into the night, and suddenly you’re in the midst of a full-on party.
Any of the bars on Frankopanska ulica will be open late and full of people having a proper drink. If you’re lucky you may even hear some Turbo-folk, a music genre popular in the Balkans, though never seems to be played in the bars.
If you find yourself alone in Kiev, ask a stranger for the speakeasy-style bar just up from Besarabsky Market. You will need a code to get through the door, which is down a backstreet and feels a little shady, but once you’re safe inside, it’s very cool indeed.
The bartenders are skilled at making vodka-based cocktails and will help you order in English if your Ukranian isn’t up to scratch. The toilets are, disconcertingly, on full view in front of the dance floor. Fortunately behind frosted glass.
Kiev also has a serious rave scene, the heart of which is at Cxema. And techno fans won’t want to miss Closer, the city’s other most famous nightclub.
You might think that Minsk, the capital of Belarus, a country that is often disparagingly called Europe’s last dictatorship, would be an unlikely nightlife destination. But in fact, the city has a strong underground scene that is focused around the website MinskNotDead.
Also worth a look is the Rich Cat club, one of the city’s most wild backdrops for some R’n’B and revelry. Given its name, it shouldn’t be surprising that white cat statues preside over the space.
Last but not least, Riga, the capital of Latvia, is a great place to visit for craft ale enthusiasts and parties in quirky industrial spaces. Our favorite ale on offer at the moment is ‘existential crisis’, a strong and punchy choice.
If you’re new to town head to Tallinas iela (Tallinas Street) and check out the many workshops, bars, cafes, galleries, and poetry readings in the district’s former industrial spaces.
5. And beyond….
Other notable venues include Bassiani inTbilisi and the Śródmieście district in Warsaw. In fact, there’s so much nightlife to explore in the former Soviet countries that you really just have to visit them for yourself.
Got your own nightlife recommendations or tips? Share them in the comments.