New York City nightlife

Perhaps it’s a byproduct of Manhattan’s cramped quarters and high real estate prices, but New York is not a town of megaclubs.

Unlike big European party capitals, nightlife here is diffused across various smaller locales, which is exactly what makes it such a cool scene: underground lounges, intimate dance clubs, dive bars, Prohibition-style no sign joints, and restaurants that transform into chic after-hours spots. Plus there is not a single culture or scene which means you can choose your crowd nightly (or change them hourly according to your needs).

Kids in their 20s with skinny jeans and not a lot of cash might hang out in laid back spots in Williamsburg, while models - and the bankers who love to love them - fork out serious cash for table and bottle service just to get in to some Manhattan hotspots, while cool 30 year olds slip into speakeasy reinventions for a strong cocktail and alternative tunes.

To get the most out of the city, sample the mix that only New York can swing.

Brooklyn Bowl

(61 Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn 11211; +1-718-963-3369;

Some of the city’s most creative nightlife options have sprung up in the hipster neighborhood of Williamsburg, just over the East River in Brooklyn. And Brooklyn Bowl is one of the most fun options in town: a one stop shop for a great night out with 16 lanes of bowling, a Blue Ribbon brasserie, a cocktail lounge and live rock venue all rolled into one.


(9 Doyers St, Chinatown, NYC 10013; +1-212-406-0400;
Tucked into the strange curve of Doyers Street, previously known as the “bloody angle” for its starring role in the gang violence of the early 1900s, Apotheke is a former opium den with a boudoir feel. It’s also currently ground zero for the city’s obsession with finely crafted mixed drinks. But don’t look for an Apotheke sign, you’ll want to go through the “Golden Flower restaurant” entrance instead. Once your eyes adjust to the dark, settle into a deep plush banquette with one of the 250 specialty cocktails (prices start at about US$15 and climb from there), such as a homemade absinthe. Just make sure you know your way home.

Zinc Bar

(82 West 3rd Str Greenwich Village, NYC 10012; +1-212-477-9462;
For an intimate live music experience, skip the city’s overpriced jazz clubs and head to this crowded Village bar for late performances from rising stars on the jazz, Latin and African music scene. Check the site for updated listings, but the fantastic Brazilian singer Marianni plays three sets most Saturday nights.

The Box

(189 Chrystie St., Lower East Side, NYC 10002; +1-212-982-9301;
The brainchild of one of New York’s nightlife kings and grandson of great theatre impresario Oscar Hammerstein, the Box is an intimate and opulent theatre space designed for burlesque (only occasionally of a more obscene variety). The cushy arm chairs are coveted commodities so book in advance online and go with an open mind - it’s more classy than a regular strip club so you can even bring your girlfriend or wife along. And keep your eyes peeled for celebrities - Madonna and Justin Timberlake have been among the sightings. Standing room tickets for one of the late shows are only $25. Or, book a table for the one weekly early show - Saturdays at 7pm - when tickets are $125 and include a prix-fixe dinner.


(240 E. 9th St., East Village, NYC 10003; +1-212-979-2733;
A sexy space that sits on the second floor of a typical East Village tenement block, this has been New York insiders' favorite sake bar for over a decade: a dimly lit underground dive spot with an illicit den feel and a list of 70 sakes to choose from. But as much as the sake is an attraction, it is the very unique speakeasy feel that makes you feel like you have been let into one of the city’s best kept secrets.


(48 East 23rd St., Flatiron NYC 10012; +1- 212-982-8802;
This new Flatiron hotspot is the high school gymnasium meets bar of your American dreams: 13,000 square feet of table tennis tables with a full bar and a DJ booth, and frequented by dreamy models. For just ten bucks you can brush up on your ping pong skills while nursing a beer or just chill out on the bleachers with a cocktail and watch the the young and beautiful on the scene.

The Boom Boom Room (or QT)

(The Standard Hotel, 848 Washington St, Meatpacking District, NYC 10014; +1- 212-645-4646)

On the 18th floor of the new Standard Hotel, this just-opened lounge is New York’s hottest arrival with spectacular views outside - of downtown Manhattan - and amazing people watching inside (Jude Law, Lindsay Lohan and Courtney Love have been among the recent guests). With no website and no mention in the hotel’s materials, the property isn’t exactly advertising the venue, which is exactly what makes it so appealing and why VIPs are arriving in droves. So watch for the parade of celebrities and plan to arrive at the door early.

Lit Lounge

(93 2 Ave, East Village, NYC 10003; +1-212-777-7987;

Nine years is a lifetime in terms of the downtown nightlife scene, but the Lit Lounge has stayed at the center, year in and year out, attracting an arty indie rock crowd along with celebrity DJs. The intimate clubhouse is the perfect venue for listening to live music and even rock royalty like the White Stripes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs come to chill and hear live performances from under the radar talent.

Horseshoe Bar

(108 Ave B, Alphabet City, NYC 10009; +1-212-473-8840)

Also known as “7B” to the hipsters who slum it here, this quintessential wood-paneled dive bar in the East Village has starred in its fair share of films (like The Godfather II for example) and its warm bar stools are the perfect perch to wile away the evening with cheap beer and good friends. Don’t miss the old-time photo booth (great for shooting your mates drunk) and the pinball machines in the back.

Bemelmans Bar

(The Carlyle Hotel, 35 East 76th St, Upper East Side, NYC 10021; +1-212-744-1600;

This elegant Art Deco New York hotel bar in the lobby of the Carlyle hotel is a New York classic, and the best place in the city for a super dry $12.50 Martini and civilized conversation. The old-school waiters look straight out of central casting and the murals on the wall are one of the city’s most beloved fixtures. On Tuesday-Sunday evenings expect performances from top cabaret performers.

Pete’s Tavern

(129 East 18th St, Flatiron District, NYC 10003; +1-212-473-7676;

Purported to be the oldest continually operating bar in New York City, Pete’s Tavern survived Prohibition disguised as a flower shop and now thrives as a clubby neighborhood watering hole. Belly up to the gorgeous wood bar and order a pint of their proprietary ale, and be transported to old New York.