Chasing neon lights – Why we are so drawn to the city at night

Nowhere lights up quite like a city at night. Looking down at a cityscape upon nightfall and witnessing all of the glistening lights pierce through a sea of jetblack darkness ignites a special sense of electrifying excitement. But where does this feeling come from? What constitutes the galvanic appeal of the nocturnal city?

During the day, urban metropolises are all about efficiency and functionality. The streets are flooded with people rushing to get through traffic, run errands, sit in back to back meetings and get their work done, all as quickly as possible. Every minute of the city’s busy schedule is counted, tied to strict expectations and evaluated for optimization, leaving little room for breathing. 

Upon nightfall however, the city gradually reveals its hidden side.

As the sun slips from view, the night wipes away the expectations of the day and creates space for free exploration.

In urban metropolises, the sundown we usually interpret as a sign to retire, marks the beginning of something else entirely. Because what the city does like nowhere else, is bring light into darkness, transform a sea of midnight black into a realm of radiant colors and infuse hours of stillness with the invigorating buzz of endless opportunities.

The city’s nocturnal colorscape of glistening lights and beaming neon signs allows us to revel in the unreal, even if it’s just for a few late hours, when nobody expects anything from us anyway. This detachment from the everyday accompanied by the shedding of all quotidian inhibitions, is what liberates us and enables the momentary escape into the energy of the nocturnal city. 

When we look down at a nocturnal metropolis, the skyscrapers stretching out into the horizon serve as a reminder of the vastness of the world and bring to mind that in the grand scheme of things, we are but one small glowing dot in this endless sea of darkness. And yet, at the same time, knowing that every single one of these gleaming lights illuminates another living being’s life and all of their thoughts, dreams and decisions, creates a distinctive feeling of interconnection that is only accessible during urban nighttime. 

It is this unique combination of disconnection followed by complete immersion that constitutes the enrapturing appeal of the city at night. And in our quest for continuous stimulation, we can’t help but be drawn in by the night lights’ promising twinkle.

Lean into this invigorating energy and learn to hold onto it to enliven your urban existence and take full advantage of the dynamism of day and night.



 Written by Elizabeth Hanisch