Some people like to view traveling as an open invitation for debauchery. What’s so wrong with that? As long as the local culture has embraced and sanctioned the kind of debauchery you’re looking for, and as long as you remain with the local legal boundaries, and universal ethical boundaries, we say: let go and feel unbound from your everyday self, if only for a little bit.
That’s the impetus behind the following list. If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you might have caught our list of 21 great cities to visit if you’re a foodie, which we published a while back. Well, what that list was for the gustatory-arts adventurer, this list is for the the traveler looking to be a patron of the darker arts.
Without going into too much gritty detail as to what exactly constitutes a “sinful city”, let’s just say it normally involves partying, sex, substances, and a little gambling. At least, that’s the metric we’ve employed to put together the following list.
Of course, there are some shaky ethical instances, where the cheapness of a certain place, mixed with its lax laws on certain vices, attracts a horde of travelers disruptive to the local society. We’ve tried to avoid those sorts of places on this list, instead focusing on locales that have embraced their status as a global sin city.
Las Vegas is such a prominent sin city that it’s even earned the nickname “Sin City”. So there’s no way we’re not including Vegas on the list.
This depraved desert city has long been the go-to for gamblers, bachelors, bachelor parties and anyone else looking to get up to no good. While there has been a push in the last couple decades to make the city more appealing to families, with the construction of theme parks and kid-friendly establishments, once the sun goes down Las Vegas is still the city it always was.
There are, of course, the world-class casinos, complete with every single form of betting.There are restaurants dedicated to serving lurid amounts of calorically dense eats. There are strip clubs, for both men and women, which feature acts from around the world. And there are ranges where you can shoot Uzis and AK-47s, beer in hand.
The second American entry on the list could have very well been New Orleans, or even Miami, but we went with Los Angeles – or, more specifically, Hollywood. Debauchery is nothing new for Tinseltown; even back in the 1930s, the film hub was earning itself a reputation for booze-and-drug-fueled parties, indecent nightclubs and a high crime rate.
Fast forward 90 years, and Hollywood is still pretty wild. Even though it mostly attracts throngs of tourists hoping to meet movie stars, the neighborhood is still known for its electric nightlife, including clubs with such names as “Tramp Stamp Granny’s”, “Jumbo’s Clown Room”, “Frolic Room” and, the most popular of the bunch, “Good Times at Davey Wayne’s”.
Rio can sometimes seem like one never-ending party. Even though the city is literally presided over by a giant statue of Jesus, the city gets up to some pretty sinful stuff. Multi-story raves, underground Samba shows that last well into the wee hours, beach bars, Carnival parades – these are just a few places partygoers congregate.
But be responsible when traveling to Rio for “party” purposes. Although prostitution is legal, the government has been trying to actively dissuade sex tourism. And although the government decriminalized personal drug use around a decade ago, in practice drug incarcerations have gone up. There are still dangerous neighborhoods in Rio where gang activity is prevalent, which should be avoided.
It has long been the weekend party destination for Southern Californians, owing to its cheap, abundant liquor, its great food and its red light district. While the city has recently tried to de-emphasize its status as a seedy playground for Americans, it still does embrace and sanction a certain, more conventional party atmosphere. The tequila is still abundant and inexpensive, and the food is still amazingly good.
Remember that, as travelers, you are ambassadors for all travelers. I.e., anything you wouldn’t want done in your hometown, don’t do in Tijuana. Avoid drinking and being overly boisterous in the streets, be respectful to the locals, and avoid bringing up the donkey shows of yore (no one wants to talk about it). Just hit the clubs, meet people and enjoy this amazing city.
We move now to Europe, a continent that knows a thing or two about nightlife, debauchery and subversion. And perhaps the best example of that ethos is Berlin, the all-night party capital of Europe.
Berlin’s status as a “sin city” goes back a full century, to the interwar Weimar period. At the time, the locals’ open attitude toward sex and sexual orientation earned Berlin a reputation as being “decadent” and “lascivious”. Its many clubs and queer-friendly establishment shocked hardliners of the time (and continues to shock some today).
And although the Nazi regime erased much of that culture, and the Cold War separation further snuffed it out, in recent decades Berlin has once again emerged as a sex-positive city with a strong LGBTQ+ community. Check out clubs like Icky, Trade and Pornceptual for the unadulterated Berlin experience. The clubs here don’t have a dress code, and usually basics are favored over fancier dress – so be sure to save on our packs and bundles before you hit the town. Just don't dress too smart.
It used to be that backpackers flocked from around the world, in awe of the country that legalized marijuana (sort of). But with more and more countries and states taking that step, is there anything reason to visit Amsterdam? Of course there is.
Its many clubs and bars, bumping alongside the banks of canals, are still hotbeds of bad behavior. And its ever-famous Red Light District hasn’t been sanitized one bit over the years, despite becoming a mainstay on tourist sightseeing tours. It’s still overflowing with sex shops, brothels and all manner of different “shows”.
As the famous Mike Posner song goes: “I took a pill in Ibiza”. That pretty much sums up the experience of many Brits who traveled to the Idyllic Spanish Island in search of raves, house and trance clubs in the early part of this millennium. While we can’t condone the self-medication, we can say that the island still plays host to a number of incredibly big, impossibly decadent parties, always featuring some form of house music.
While in Ibiza, you have to check out the infamous DC-10 bar, a converted airplane hangar that has hosted countless 24-hour parties since its inception back in 1999. Or visit the Privilege Nightclub – not only is this one of the first clubs on the island, having formed in 1978, but it’s one of the biggest in the world, with an incredible capacity of 10,000 guests.
Order an absinthe, chase it with a world-class Czech beer, and hit the Náměstí Republiky or Old Town Square. You’ll find a nightclub with five stories (Karlovy Lane), a multi-story underground club (Zlaty Strom), and a pub entirely made of ice (aptly named the Ice Pub), to name just a few of the many, many notable establishments.
One of Prague’s main selling points, the one that keeps tourists from all over the world returning, is just how cheap the booze is. Consuming more beer per capita than any other country, the people of Czech Republic have understandably ensured that their national beverage remains affordable – in some cases, cheaper than water.
We come now to the Asian entries on this list, starting with the insanely fun, the frequently maddening Macau. We could’ve given this spot to Macau’s partner in crime, the nearby Hong Kong, but it wouldn’t have seemed as right. Sure, the two cities both have an obscene amount of nightlife, opulent restaurants and seedy backdoor establishments, but only Macau has broadly legalized gambling.
Move over Las Vegas. Macau has been dubbed the Gambling Capital of the World, and its gross gaming revenue is over triple that of Las Vegas, making up roughly half of the region’s economy. And wherever high rollers go, you can usually be sure to find some vices.
But don’t just visit Macau for the gambling; Macanese culture, a mash-up of colonial Portuguese and Chinese, is enthralling in its own right. It can get awfully steamy in Macau (mostly because of the weather) so check out our collection of mens merino wool clothing before you head out.
Where does one even begin with Pattaya, the tropical Thai city that makes nearby Bangkok look tame in comparison? Nicknaming it “the Modern Day Sodom and Gomorrah”, as the Daily Mirror did, might be little dramatic, but the city certainly attracts pleasure-seekers, not all of them scrupulous.
There are go-go bars, cabarets, strip clubs, “massage” parlors, pay-by-the-hour hotels and a number of other sex-centric establishments all over Pattaya. The city also contains a lively gay nightlife, the biggest in Asia according to some.
Enjoy Pattaya for what it is – a loose, fast, cheap and promiscuous beach destination. Just make sure to research the law, and stay well within it!
For all its daytime rules, regulations and buttoned-up decorum, Tokyo sure lets it all hang out at night. With a metro population of nearly 40 million people – the most of any city in the world – any attempt to sum up Tokyo is going to fall short, but, in general, neighborhoods like Shinjuku, Shibuya and Roppongi are where you want to go for nightlife.
With that massive population comes a massive amount of choice. You can find everything from shady, sleazy back-alley bars to gleaming, luxurious ballroom clubs, and everything in between. There is a club where you can watch robots and dinosaurs fight bikini-clad women (The Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku), a bar whose walls are completely covered in dildos (Vibe Bar in Shibuya) and a bar where you get the full prison experience, complete with your own dingy cell (Alcatraz ER, also in Shibuya).
Dubbed by some as the “sexiest city in the world”, and newly minted as “Hollywood’s Sin City” because of the sheer number of celebrities who go there to party and beach-hop, Tel Aviv is a literal and figurative hotspot in the Middle East.
From the beach parties around Frischmann, Gordon and Hilton Beaches, to the clubs on Rothschild Boulevard, and the hipster bars in Jaffa, there’s something for every party-seeker in the city. But, as per the official Tel Aviv tourism site, keep in mind: in Tel Aviv, things get started late, with clubs only filling up around 2am.
Marrakesh is a desert oasis turned nightlife city, with a thriving club scene and growing number of dance music festivals. You’ve got the Oasis Festival, MORE Festival, Atlas Electronic Festival and more pulling in big international acts as well as homegrown Moroccan DJs.
That said, the central Medina area in Marrakesh is still pretty conservative, and you’re more likely to find a quaint café or hookah bar in the evening than you are a bumping nightclub. Ask locals in the know, and head to the surrounding areas, and you’ll find a whole other side of Marrakesh. The city enjoys a dry heat, so the best socks to travel with when kicking up dust are undoubtedly our merino wool ankle socks.
Sydney is home to the “Doof” – better known as a “bush party”. These makeshift raves popped up in the Sydney countryside sometime in the early 90s and have since become a kind of counter-cultural phenomenon. If your idea of a good time is heading out in sweltering heat to a remote bush and joining a drug-fueled rave, this is the place for you.
Remaining within the city limits, Sydney still has plenty of vices for the average pleasure-seeker. Its bars and clubs draw massive crowds pretty much every night of the week, and it has a booming gay area in west Oxford Street.
Know of any sin cities that should’ve made this list? Comment below and let us know where you’re traveling. And be sure to check out our ever-expanding collection of breathable merino wool clothing, for those times when you get a little too hot and heavy.