In ‘da Club: Alternative Student Nightlife in Europe


Image via Wikimedia.

I grew up sneaking peeks at MTV until I left home for college. My mother just didn’t let me watch it growing up, so I was always curious. Any taboos that I developed during this time cemented my personal definition of nightlife as ageless glamor, expensive drinks, VIP lines and bottle service, bikini-clad hostesses, sparklers-in-hand, perhaps some pole dancers, kickin’ music, and a bunch of real cool looking people without a real care in the world.

That’s all well and good, and you can find that nightlife anywhere in the world: from Milan to Rio, NYC to Tokyo. They’ll have a DJ spinning away at what seems like a musical shrine, the furniture is sleek and emphasizes aesthetics over comfort, and there’s a line at the mod and trendy bar. But at the end of the day, these are pretentious wastes of money, which many subscribe to—thanks to Hollywood—but most can’t realistically afford, especially if you’re on a budget. If you’re a student traveling through Europe paying close attention to costs, there’s good news: Those swanky venues aren’t the only kind of nightlife out there. In fact, the posh nightlife only makes up a small minority in the rainbow of local choices you have for partying after the sun goes down.

Party in Milan. Photo via Wikimedia by Natascial.

Party in Milan. Photo via Wikimedia by Natascial.

Remember, if you, dear American backpacker, are having a hard time affording these pricier clubs, you can rest assured the youth of Europe can’t afford them either. Instead, these clubs are populated with the kind of folks who don’t have to worry about dropping hundreds of euros in a night. In other words, these venues are packed with old men and tourists.

So with these observations in mind, shed your premonitions of what you think counts as a legit club, and try to find the districts where the local scene hangs out. I love paying attention to the more subtle clues that lead me to the young, affordable and happening neighborhoods. Watch out for street posters that line many streets in Europe. Remember that the culture of going out in Europe is very social and doesn’t rely on stacking up a beer cane, shot gunning ‘til you pop, or blacking out to grind the night away. Instead, great conversation and simply hanging out in the local square is an integral component of enjoying a night out for most of your international counterparts. These student crowds hang around the cheaper bars and convenience shops where they can pick up party supplies to go. So not only will you save cash, but with this new attitude, you’re about to pick up some pretty kick-ass off-the-beaten-path experiences. Join in on some of Europe’s top-rated trips at!

Andy Steves

About Andy Steves

After 20 years of traveling with his dad, travel writer Rick Steves, exploring Europe independently and studying abroad during college, Andy is now pursuing his passion by helping students learn more about foreign cultures. His company, Weekend Student Adventures, allows students to dive into a culture, scrape their knees a bit, and make lifelong memories while visiting the most popular destination in Europe. Visit to learn more about his weekend student adventures!