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Europe is a melting pot of culture, filled with scenic beauty, epic history and world-class artistic and culinary diversity. From Warsaw to Oslo, Budapest to Berlin, Europe is brimming with trendy neighbourhoods. Attracting a vibrant crowd, each district is a cultural wonderland in its own right – we have sought out 12 of the coolest areas that should be on everyone’s European bucket list.
Metelkova isn’t your average tourist destination. An ‘autonomous social centre’, or urban squat, in the middle of Slovenia’s capital city, this neighbourhood was settled by squatters in the early nineties. Today, its streets are covered in art, and it is a hub of underground music, art and culture, offering over 1,500 events, hosted in its occupied buildings each year. However, don’t let its unconventionality worry you, Metelkova is renowned for its welcoming, electric attitude.
Ancoats is a picturesque, inner-city neighbourhood in Manchester. The up-and-coming area is known for its red-brick textile mills, which have been repurposed for flats, homes and small business and creative ventures. Brimming with hip cafés, charming pubs and scenic canal-side views, this small slice of Manchester is fast becoming one of the UK’s trendiest hoods.
In the past, Warsaw‘s Praga was a neighbourhood known only as the district with the highest crime rate in the city – how times have changed. Now, the eastern area hugging the Vistula River has blossomed into one of Europe’s many creative hubs. Many of the areas abandoned warehouses and disused factories have been transformed into hip bars, clubs, restaurants and art spaces. Praga now attracts young crowds of boho-types who rightly acknowledge that this up-and-coming district is where the pulse of Warsaw can really be found.
Berlin has repeatedly been named Europe’s coolest city and, without a doubt, Kreuzberg is its trendiest neighbourhood. A run-down area a decade ago, since then, waves of European expats, Germans and OG Berliners have descended upon this district that has a distinctly Turkish inflection. Stretching from the leafy Bergmannstraße all the way to the river at Oberbaumbrücke, this is really the place to be in Berlin. From the eclectic bars, affordable Turkish food joints, boutique stores, the neighbourhood also houses many of the city’s famed techno clubs. The area offers a distinct vibe, and Berlin as we know it today would be nothing without Kreuzberg.
Estonia‘s tiny capital city, Tallinn, is fast becoming a top holiday destination in Europe, offering an inviting blend of medieval history, wild nightlife and vibrant neighbourhoods. Leading the pack is a former Soviet border zone, the industrial neighbourhood of Kalamaja. Once closed off to tourists, this budding district is now home to an eclectic mix of bohemian cafés, bars, galleries and flea markets. A hub of culture in the city, this neighbourhood is a must-visit when in Tallinn.
Budapest is a relative new-comer to Europe‘s must-visit cities; however, its rich history, stunning architecture and unique cultural points have cemented it on many people’s European bucket lists. For years, the Hungarian capital has been cultivating its own kind of cool, in particular, its offbeat selection of ruin bars – watering holes that occupy the spaces of abandoned buildings. Many of these are located in the city’s 7th District, including the famous Szimpla. Decorated with a mismatch of objects and bizarre furniture, it offers a fantastic night out, as well as countless exhibitions, movie screenings and concerts.
Grunerløkka is Oslo‘s edgiest and trendiest district and is transforming into the city’s ultimate pocket of culture. Over the last decade, the industrial area has been transformed into a vibrant neighborhood that easily competes with its Scandinavian neighbors for the prize of the best city district. Explore the Birkelunden flea market on Sundays, visit the designer shops, and browse through numerous galleries, before taking a break at one of the many artisan coffee shops or microbreweries in the vicinity.
Exarchia is a central Athens neighbourhood that made headlines in 2008 for all the wrong reasons. However, don’t let that put you off, as skipping this hood will have you missing out. While the neighbourhood doesn’t have the same classical beauty of other parts of the city, it does have a rich, underground culture and arts scene. With graffiti and art adorning its streets, Exarchia is home to a left-wing energy that can be felt in its student-packed bars and cafés. Here, tourists can rub shoulders with locals and enjoy an unrivalled atmosphere.
Sweden oozes cool, from its amazing gastronomy to its famed minimalistic design, and Stockholm’s Södermalm only enhances this hip reputation. With a relaxed and creative vibe, this district is a labyrinth of fantastic spots to eat and drink. Notably, Södermalm is also home to one of the most reputable art bookstores in Europe, Konst/ig Books. Before leaving the area, be sure to take in the best panoramic views of the city, and the steep climbs up to Fjällgatan and Monteliusvägen are definitely worth the effort.
Head north of jam-packed Le Marais to find yourself in one of Paris‘ hippest hubs. On warm evenings, young crowds of locals make this their destination of choice to meet up with friends and indulge in delicious wine canal-side at Canal St. Martin. The whole area up to the Point Ephémère cultural center is alive with cocktail bars, trendy cafés and quaint bakeries. Although this is now one of the more gentrified areas of the French capital, it has still retained much of its charm and local flavor.
Located in the north of the city, Nørrebro is a must-see for those visiting Copenhagen. It is rightly regarded as one of the top foodie destinations in the country and boasts a tremendous number of cafés, Danish bakeries and reputable restaurants. As well as being a gastronomic hotspot, the area’s Jægersborggade– a delightful cobbled street full of coffee shops, vintage clothes stores and inviting wine bars – never disappoints. For a short break, head to the Assistens Cemetery nearby, the resting place of Hans Christian Andersen.
Barcelona’s Gracia is one of the city’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, bursting with an infectious youthful energy. Visitors can spend hours wandering through its maze of narrow streets filled with bars, shops and restaurants waiting to be explored. Located near the famous Park Guell, the area is a great spot to grab a drink after climbing to marvel at the view from the gardens, complete with gingerbread houses and mosaic lizard sculptures. In mid-August, the district hosts a loud and boisterous week-long festival, so for those up for the challenge, this would be a perfect time to visit the city.