Choosing the 15 coolest neighborhoods in the world is not an easy task. Why? For one, finding the trendiest districts in town is a never-ending mission.
Yesterday’s happening ‘hoods are soon gentrified and transformed by upmarket influences, a process which tends to push out the young crowds and creative types that were originally drawn in by the cheap rents and alternative vibes.
But we’ve done all the hard work for you, digging deep to uncover the very best places to visit, live in and get to grips with this year.
We’ve factored in an area’s demographics (all our neighborhoods are teeming with 20- and 30-somethings), arts scene, nightlife, café culture, restaurants and indie stores, along with the street and community life to guarantee these places really hit the mark. And if expensive flights are the only thing holding you back from exploring more of the places on this list, check out our parent company Yore Oyster (and their handy renowned flights blog) to save 20-50% off the cost of your international flights. Problem = solved.
From artsy East Austin, to colorful Hongdae, Montreal’s edgy Mile-Ex to Hackney Wick’s hipster haunts, here they are.
The 15 Coolest Neighborhoods in the World
#15: Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Amid the skyscrapers, designer brands and luxury shopping malls, Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan neighborhood is a haven of hip, harboring a unique bohemian vibe and home to a thriving population of urban creatives.
Situated to the northwest of Hong Kong Island, the area is teeming with fashionable lounges, craft house coffee places, late night eateries and appealing art galleries. Alongside the influx of indie businesses, the area also retains a grittier, authentic feel with its graffitied walls, colourful structures and numerous reminders of old-world China in the form of antique dealers, dried-fish vendors and make-shift street furniture.
Tai Ping Shan Street is undergoing rapid gentrification and now boasts a wealth of artistic attractions in the form of edgy galleries, pop-up retailers, and stores selling creative homeware and accessories. Igloo Homeware and Château Zoobeetle on the adjacent Sai Street are two of our favourites. Also worth checking out is squarestreet, a distinctly Swedish lifestyle brand with an immaculate storefront on nearby – you guessed it – Square Street.
Sheung Wan’s culinary scene is another big draw. Authentic international eats are to be found on every corner. Head to the Japanese gastro pub Yardbird, currently one of the city’s hottest tables, for a taste of its acclaimed chicken yakitori. Classified is an ultra laidback brunch spot, whilst coffee aficionados should head to Barista Jam or 18Grams.
If you’re in search of some good nightlife, head to Hollywood Road, the area’s main commercial stretch, where you’ll find plenty of stylish bars and lounges. 208 Duecento Otto is a great spot to share a bottle of wine with friends or feast on delicious thin-crust Italian pizza. Alternatively, check out Visage One, a quirky hair salon which doubles as a bar and live music venue.
#14: The Mission, San Francisco
This diverse San Francisco neighborhood defies easy characterization, its inhabitants spanning the gamut of ages, professions, cultures and lifestyles. Full of striking contrasts, it’s a place where you’ll find everyone from tech entrepreneurs and students, to artists, musicians and ordinary working class people. The Mission is an historically trendy neighborhood, packed to the brim with craft coffee houses, stylish restaurants, chill bars, alternative bookstores and art galleries. If you’re in search of good shopping, head for trendy Valencia Street with its hip boutiques and vintage clothing stores. The culinary scene is also booming in this area of San Francisco, with enough variety to satisfy the most adventurous of foodies. Be sure to check out Pizzeria Delfina, Range and Beretta restaurants, or one of the five restaurants in the neighborhood that have received Michelin stars for 2017: Commonwealth, Lazy Bear, Aster, Californios, and Al’s Place. And don’t miss Ritual Coffee Roasters and Zeitgeist for some excellent microbrews on tap. The district has undergone rapid changes in recent years, but traditionally has been home to a sizeable Latino community, which adds plentiful Mexican grocery stores, colorful food markets, authentic street food and tasty taquerias to the heady mix. Whilst a well-paid boho crowd flocked in and gentrified large parts of the area following the dot-com bubble, The Mission still holds onto its Latino roots, notably around the 24th and 30th Street areas.
One defining feature of the Mission is the ubiquitous street art that adorns the walls, sidewalks and buildings. There’s even a non-profit mural-focused arts center, Precita Eyes, which runs popular walking tours. Also, be sure to explore the neighborhoods heart and soul, Dolores Park, where locals flock to picnic, play and admire stunning views of the city’s skyline.
#13: Santa Teresa, Rio de Janerio
Rio has undergone an economic and cultural boom in recent years and the rush of development is only gathering pace in the run up to this summer’s Olympics. One of the most exciting and fast-rising areas of the city is bohemian Santa Teresa. Situated high in the hills overlooking the downtown area, this neighborhood is an ever-evolving enclave of artistic activity and a gourmet’s paradise. It attracts a young bo-ho crowd that populate the many cafés, bars, galleries and craft shops, yet manages to retain its unique identity, villagey feel and close-knit community. Santa Teresa was an historically wealthy area, a fact reflected in its many formerly opulent aging colonial buildings, many of which have been carefully restored and converted into unique guesthouses, such as the Casalegre art villa and Hotel Maria. Art deco buildings, colorful murals and mosaics add further bursts of color to the neighborhood, whilst the green spaces and hillside position, removed from the bustling city below, contribute a sense of space and calm. Artists, writers, designers and musicians have flocked to the area, setting up galleries, studios, cooperatives and boutique hotels. The area is also known for its myriad of locally-organized cultural events, from drumming performances to art walks, samba celebrations to street parades.
Santa Teresa’s culinary scene is currently hitting a high. Eat, drink, relax and enjoy the stunning views over Rio at one of the area’s many stylish venues. We recommend the renowned Aprazível Restaurante, the Espírito Santa, as well as the lively Bar do Mineiro, which serves hearty Brazilian fare accompanied by an interesting array of cocktails.
#12: Belleville, Paris
Away from its well-worn tourist tracks, Paris is home to several alternative, grittier areas, which stand in stark contrast to the city’s chic imagery. Topping the list of cool Parisian neighborhoods is Belleville, a staunchly working class district located in the 20th arrondissement to the northeast of the city. This area of Paris has a growing reputation as a thriving arts hub thanks to the influx of trendy designers, artists, writers and fashionistas. Avant-garde galleries are opening left, right and center, whilst plentiful street art adds a splash of color to the neighborhood’s facades. Check out rue Denoyez – plastered from tip to toe in paint – for the best example Paris has to offer. Meanwhile, artist’s collectives and studios are coming together as the burgeoning creative scene gains momentum and increasing recognition. Top of the list, should be a visit to the annual event hosted by Les Ateliers d’Artistes de Belleville for a chance to sample local talent in intimate surrounds. Belleville is also strongly multicultural which adds plenty of excitement to the street life, as well as giving rise to a diverse international food scene. A bustling market fills the boulevard de Belleville every Tuesday and Friday mornings, whilst specialty food stores and ethnic supermarkets abound. Rowdy neobistrots serve up tasty offerings from all four corners of the world, including authentic dishes from places as diverse as Brazil, Rwanda, China, Tunisia, Sicily and Vietnam. Felicity Lemon and Chatomat are two rising stars on the culinary scene definitely worth a visit.