EuroTour: Dublin, Lisbon and Madrid
This summer, Dancing Astronaut will be giving our readers a new feature: a review of multiple clubs through Europe as we make our way across the continent. We’ll be digging out the house scenes of Dublin, Galway, Lisbon, Madrid, Ibiza, Genoa, Cinque Terra, Florence, Siena, Ancona, Split, Hvar, Dubrovnik, Belgrade, Athens, Ios, and Stockholm. This is the first installation of the series. Let us know if you have any club suggestions!
The tour de force began in Dublin, Ireland. Apart from such great tourist attractions as the Guinness Brewery, Jameson Distillery, and Trinity College, Dublin is also home to what can be called a healthy pub scene (or unhealthy depending on your drinking tolerance.) If you’re looking to rage for the night, we recommend that you head out to the Temple Bar area. Though touristy, these 8 or so square blocks are packed with as many bars, pubs, and clubs as can possibly fit in such a small area. It’s said that crossing Dublin without hitting a pub is impossible; it should be added that crossing Temple Bar and hitting anything else similarly can’t be done.
Unfortunately, for all its nightlife and pub crawling, Dublin seems to lack a real club or EDM scene. The normal routine seems to involve pregaming clubs in a pub (or two or three) until around midnight, at which there is a migration to the club scene. Most venues feature live music or Top 40 playlists, though two clubs in particular do stand out. The first is The Button Factory, which switches up its scene from day to day. If you catch it on a weekend, you’re likely to hear indie tunes mixed in with the dance music, but on Wednesdays, this club plays host to Tetric, a huge electro and tech-house party. The second club, Tivoli, was on an off-night when we were visiting, but anyone asked about an EDM venue recommended it. Dedicated exclusively to dance and disco, the club has played host to Ministry of Sound events before and is definitely worth checking out should you make it over to Dublin.
Lisbon is a city not particularly known for its clubbing scene. Though it has beautiful beaches and scenic hills, you won’t find it referenced anywhere in a list of top party destinations. Even so, it’s not difficult to find a solid EDM venue to rage at if you’re in town. One of the most surprising aspects of Lisbon is how late the city comes alive; it’s not rare to see people heading out for the night around midnight or one in the morning. We would recommend starting in the Bairro Alto neighborhood – a treasure trove of hole-in-the-wall bars and cafés – before moving on to a club later.
Our first night in Lisbon was spent at Kapital, one of the city’s biggest clubs and a member of the Grupo K, a legendary coalition of nightclubs. For all the hype it received, this club turned out to be disappointingly plain and overrated. An early telltale sign was that there was no line at the door to get in, which, at 1 am on a Saturday night, is not the hallmark of a raging house paradise. They employ a system pretty common to Lisbon of making all entrants buy a drink card for 15 euros, which you have to keep for the duration of your time in the club or face a 50 euro charge when you exit. And don’t expect any help from the bouncers, who seem to spend most of their time hassling guests on the ground floor as they exit. The club itself was underwhelming. It consisted of one main dance room with an island bar and a few lounge areas and couches. The two resident DJs made little attempt to hype up the crowd and didn’t demonstrate much more skill than an iPod playlist as they led the dancefloor through the normal litany of mainstream house hits. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the club was that it was almost empty – on a Saturday night. Kapital may be a nice tourist trap, but it definitely isn’t much more than that. We would recommend that you stay away.
Our second night in Lisbon almost made us forget any memories of the first. After asking around, we were told by multiple locals about a club called Lux down on the river that runs through Lisbon. This venue did not disappoint. Even on a Sunday night, the club was pretty packed. After a short wait at the door, we made our way inside to witness what can best be described as a rage fest. The DJ was not pulling any punches as he churned the dancefloor through tracks that bounced from electro to house to tech. The lighting setup throughout the club coupled with the palpable bass that banged through every part of it gave it an almost festival-like feel. Maybe the best part of this adult playground was that it was packed with beautiful women (and men) taking no time off from raging before the work week. Definitely a key destination if you’re ever in Lisbon.
One club we weren’t able to make it to but which received a lot of hype was Urban Beach, another member of the Grupo K. Apparently it’s a much more popular destination for locals who take clubbing seriously, but beware: if you are not a pretty girl, you may find yourself turned away at the door. Arm yourself with beautiful women to have a safe shot at getting into this hip club.
Madrid is perhaps one of the most underrated clubbing cities in Europe. If you have the time to venture out to this Iberian party haven, add it to the tour. If Madrid had a beach, it would never sleep. As it is, the fiesta culture is pretty demanding: people normally leave for clubs around 1am and don’t make it out until the metro opens again at 6:30. Bring a Red Bull.
Perhaps the most famous club in Madrid is Joy Eslava, located right in the center of town off Calle Arenal and Plaza de Sol. Joy requires a visit from any intrepid Madrid partygoer, especially on their Thursday nights when they throw well-attended parties. However, don’t expect to meet any Madrileños if you go: the club is one of the more prolific tourist traps of the city. This is immediately apparent from the moment you walk in and hear American Top 40 hits being blasted over the speakers. Though the club itself is well put together, with a central dancefloor, a large mezzanine, and a few bars, it doesn’t deserve the hype it gets as a nightlife destination. The drinks are painfully overpriced (not friendly to the average backpacking rager) and the crowd is composed mostly of foreigners and visiting students being herded into a rather bland cookie cutter club. Worth one visit, but not two.
Then there is Pacha, one of the many manifestations of the famous Ibiza-born brand. Though not as exciting as its New York, Buenos Aires, or Ibiza counterparts, Pacha still manages to throw a solid party. The club itself is extremely posh and well-attended, but don’t expect to get in unless your Spanish is more than passable and your group includes some cute girls.
Perhaps in an appeal to Madrid’s east-Asian demographic, the city also features two far Eastern clubs: Shanghai and Shoko. Shanghai is a missable destination: it features no more than the standard single dancefloor and a Top 40 playlist that sounds like it was taken off Lil Wayne’s iPod. Shoko, conversely, is a must-see spot for any intrepid club aficionados. The venue features a main dancefloor and a VIP-feeling dance and bar area on the second floor overlooking the first. It is both well attended and well decorated, and features an almost exclusively Madrid audience. Dress it up to get into this club – it’s quite upscale
Finally, saving the best for last, is Kapital. Not enough can be said about this club: it hits all the right notes and does exactly what a club should do: incites massive partying. Much unlike its Portuguese counterpart of the same name, the club features a staff of bouncers that does a good job of escorting patrons right into the main dancefloor. (And if you bring some talented ladies with you, you will find yourself escorted to the front of the line.) Once inside, the club is like a small city. Disclaimer: it’s seven stories tall. The main dancefloor features an almost exclusively house and EDM playlist, fog machines, a dancer stage, VIP enclaves with couches, and multiple dancer poles (open to the public.) The second floor features a small bar and some mezzanine-style VIP sections, as well as the DJ booth if you want to hang out with the residents spinning that night. The third floor comes equipped with yet another bar and a karaoke stage. The fourth overlooks the main dancefloor, but features exclusively hip-hop music and its own dancefloor and, of course, bar. The fifth contains a smaller bar with a mixer-feel for those looking for respite from enormous packed dancefloors. The sixth, the Bacardi Bar, is probably the most unique floor of the club, featuring all white couches and decor with a bar exclusively stacked with Bacardi (try the mojitos.) Finally, the seventh and top floor is most likely modeled after heaven itself. My advice is that you begin your night on this floor with a drink at the bar. During the summer, the floor is open-air and features a nice view of some of the Madrid skyline. The area is very loungey and has multiple small couches around the walls giving it a somewhat hookah-bar feel. The middle of the floor is equipped with palm trees and assorted foliage, more couches, beds, and tables for mingling. It’s a great place to meet someone at the start of the night before taking them to one of the dancefloors downstairs. This is a can’t-miss location for anyone, and that means anyone, visiting Madrid, even if only for one night.