NYC has Williamsburg, but what do Berlin, Stockholm, and Budapest have? We traveled the globe in search of the world's hippest cities—and discovered 7 that rival America's best. See if you agree.
Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany
Often referred to as X-Berg, the Kreuzberg borough is known for being Berlin’s counterculture hub. Once one of the poorest areas in the German capital, the modern cultural center has seen an influx of students and artists thanks to thrift shops, lowkey cafes, casual bars, energetic street art, and urban outdoor spaces (see: Viktoriapark). Check out Dadaist and Eastern European avant-garde pieces at the new Berlinische Galerie; chow down on communal Korean BBQ at Kimchi Princess; and when you’re ready to experience the city’s clubbing scene, head for SO36 (named after Kreuzberg’s old postal code), a legendary punk venue that’s hosted bands like Die Toten Hosen and the Dead Kennedys.
Gastown, Vancouver, Canada
Look into Gastown's past and you'll find it has the distinct honor of being Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood—one which came up around a single tavern established in 1867. Accordingly, historic charm is part of Gastown’s appeal; Victorian buildings rub shoulders with vintage lamp posts, cobblestoned streets, and the whistling Steam Clock, but the nabe hasn’t turned its face to modernity. Edgy fashion studios, highly-curated galleries, and some of the city’s hottest restaurants have also sprung up in the quarter. Before you get to shopping—a fated Gastown pastime—grab a bite at The Diamond in Maple Tree Square. The second-floor sushi and craft cocktail lounge doles out perfectly-plated sashimi plates and pours tantalizing drinks like the Brand New Cadillac (sake, Lillet Rose, kumquat, pastis, Thai basil, and soda). Once you’re satiated, it’s time to flex your wallet. First up: the flagship, all-glass greenhouse-esque John Fluevog Shoes.
Shoreditch, London, England
From Peckham to Hackney Wick and Dalston to Kings Cross, London has its fair share of trendy nabes. But Shoreditch—the long-favored home of young creatives, hipsters, and fashionistas—still takes the cake. The gritty East London hood is chock-a-block with reimagined industrial warehouses and the like, including Boxpark Shoreditch, a pop-up mall and street food market constructed entirely from refitted shipping containers. Swing by for authentic crepes from Les Deux Amies and chips with DIY dips from Poptata before shopping heritage and up-and-coming indie brands like The Camden Watch Company and Wandering Minds. When you’re ready to day drink, it’s off to The Book Club, a reinvented Leonard Street Victorian warehouse that hawks Mezcal Negronis and Hot Tropical Toddies in an airy, bespoke-furniture-filled space. If you’re looking for nightlife, Queen of Hoxton has you covered. The tri-level bar and club (with a kitted-out rooftop deck and garden) serves up London rave vibes with lasers, smoke, and DJ acts from well-respected labels.
Fitzroy, Melbourne, Australia
Peek behind the curtain of modern-day Fitzroy’s in-your-face street art, buzzy brunch spots, and converted warehouse cafes and you’ll get a little taste of its history. As Melbourne’s first suburb—it hit the scene in 1839—the hood still holds strong to its centuries-old Victorian architecture and narrow grid-planned streets. To check it out yourself, grab a drink at the historic Builders Arms Hotel. The public house has had a few identity crises in its lifetime (cycling through stints as a live music venue, guesthouse, and bordello), but nonetheless, it’s been an iconic landmark since 1853. If you’re in the bar-hopping mood, next up is The Everleigh; the glam watering hole is all golden era charm (think: crystal chandeliers, subway-tiled floors, a long marble bar) and classic cocktails. If you’re looking for a piece to spice up your gallery wall or some new threads, follow the creatives to The Rose Street Artists’ Market. Every Saturday and Sunday, the indoor/outdoor art and design market displays wares—jewelry, clothes, vintage curios, and more— from some of Melbourne’s most innovative creators.
Sodermalm, Stockholm, Sweden
Boho-chic perhaps best describes Stockholm’s southern Sodermalm neighborhood. The Millenial-favored district is chock-a-block with converted art galleries, eclectic cafes, and designer boutiques. In the popular SoFo (South of Folkungagatan) area of Sodermalm, young crowds gather at Louie Louie for rockabilly decor, occasional live music, and a no-fuss menu of sandwiches, salads, and pastries. Once you’ve fueled up, it’s all about shopping the Scandinavian goods. The neighborhood is home to more than a few designer labels and indie brands, our favorites being Grandpa, for men’s and women’s fashions as well as homewares, and Swedish Hasbeens, an iconic purveyor of ‘70s-styled wooden clogs.
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West Queen West, Toronto, Canada
As the capital of the entire province of Ontario, and with a population of more than 2.8 million, Toronto is an exceptionally diverse metropolis. But when we’re looking for a funky day out—one full of dynamic art galleries, kitschy boutiques, and off-the-wall fashion—we turn to one neighborhood in particular: West Queen West. Check in at the flagship Drake Hotel, a design-oriented landmark with 19 rooms, a cafe, raw bar, rooftop patio, and underground venue where legends like Beck and Peaches have held intimate performances. Once you’ve settled in, make for Graffiti Alley to fulfill your Instagram dreams. The vibrant alleyway—also known as Rush Lane—is covered in energetic murals from local street artists and even international stars like Banksy.
District VII, Budapest, Hungary
If you’re looking for edgy, District VII—aka Erzsébetváros—is Budapest’s answer. Once a thriving, pre-World War II Jewish quarter, then a wartime ghetto, the district has reemerged as a bohemian hangout thanks to cafes, restaurants, and world-famous ruin bars; derelict buildings which have been turned into hip drinking dens. Though the seventh is ruin bar central, the pioneering, bric-a-brac-filled Szimpla Kert is our first choice with themed rooms, and open-air courtyard, and live music. When it comes to stays, BrodyLand is Budapest’s best home-away-from-home option. The collection of artist-designed lofts and rooms—which are spread out between heritage buildings Brody House, Paulay House, and the Writer’s Villa—are all about salvaged and upcycled furnishings, original artwork, and charming architecture.