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Ibiza will always hold a special place in our hearts but this year we’ve been on the hunt for some alternative hedonistic holiday destinations. Stepping up to steal Ibiza’s crown are these lesser-known but just as sun-drenched European destinations where top DJs pump beats in historic squares, atop formidable fortresses and in secret Albanian coves. Tune in to the who’s-who of electronic beats and live out endless days of summer in these under-the-radar dance havens.
The Basque country capital is renowned for gastronomy with narrow winding alleys revealing Michelin-starred restaurants and hole-in-the-wall pinxto joints. Yet aside from washing down plate after plate of Spanish tortillas with kalimotxo (red wine and Coca-Cola) there’s an edgy music scene and mountaintop festival geared up for those who remember Ibiza in its heyday. Headlined by Noel Gallagher, Grammy-nominated Childish Gambino and previewing Hot Chip’s new megamix DJ show, BBK Live offers an eclectic mix of acts set atop the towering Kobetamendi Mountain. After warming up at the festival head to Guggenheim Art After Dark, as the contemporary art gallery fills with thumping bass and dirty beats, then for the hardcode ravers finish off with Seth Troxler’s 7AM set at Sala Sonora.
Ibiza parties for four months a year pale in comparison to the Serbian capital of Belgrade’s yearlong offering. Floating river barges (splavs) are anchored to the riverbank and form the basis for hot summer nights, paired with a barrage of parties that pop-up in unusual places throughout the week. Authentic in its underground offerings Barutana, translating to mean gunpowder storage, is set inside the walls of Belgrade Fortress, while Opservatorjiam is a white-walled gallery favoured by an alternative demographic. Taking over the upper floor of an old shopping mall is WATS, with glass panels running the length of the groovy bar overlooking the city. Belgrade’s most famous joint is undoubtedly Klub 20/44, affectionately known as “The Boat”. The first independent bar in the whole of Serbia and associated with kick-starting Belgrade’s late-night legacy, it has no opening hours, no outside sponsors, no promoters, surprise sets from sought-after DJs and parties that often play out until noon.
This one is for in-the-know ravers who party globally and are always in charge of the house-party Spotify playlist. Little is known about Albania’s late-night offering, making it that little bit more appealing. Despite being home to some of the Mediterranean’s most pristine and unadulterated beaches, the shores remain relatively undiscovered. Debuting its first ever festival, Kala takes place on the meeting point of the Adriatic and Ionian seas. Soundscape yoga sessions, interactive art installations and an array of hiking trails mixed with an impressive dance line up promise an intimate party in an unexpected location. Extend your stay to enjoy the rocky beaches of Dhërmi and neighbouring Drymades, who join forces after-dark for an all-night edition of wild parties centring around the open-air Havana Club.
Between Annie Mac’s Lost and Found festival and entertainment giant MTV hosting their annual Isle of MTV music week to over 5000 revellers, Malta’s place on the European party scene is firmly secured. Annie Mac takes her tribe of shufflers to the hills of Malta where Patrick Topping and DJ Haus will storm the pink castle walls over May bank holiday weekend. Situated on the doorstep of Valletta, MTV transforms the historic Il-Fosos Square for an intense night of EDM with headliners Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike. Big festival names aside, throughout the summer the open-air mega-complex Gianpula hosts a roster of events across four venues, ranging from the stylish, foliage-filled Marrakech to the hub of Malta’s underground music scene Groove Gardens.
Each summer, several of the Dalmatian Islands transform into a hotbed of beach bars and all-night soirées, but Hvar’s heady mix of sun-drenched buildings, pine forests and a promenade framed by super yachts is a hub for hedonistic sun seekers. With its strong celebrity fan club (including those of Royal pedigree) Carpe Diem is reservation-only all summer. Avoid disappointment and catch a water taxi to its sister venue Carpe Diem Beach, which occupies the whole island of Styipanska. Nurse your hangover under fringed umbrellas at Hula Hula bar, one of the few spots in town where you’ll see the sun set fully into the Adriatic Sea, accompanied by a soothing soundtrack of chilled house. A favourite among in-the-know locals, Cocktail Bar Bolero is less crowded, but still remains lively due to its expansive views across Hvar’s waterfront.
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