Once the centre of the Spanish counter-cultural movement of the early 1980s, these days Malasaña is the height of hipster cool. One of Madrid’s central neighbourhoods, Malasaña has always retained its alternative spirit, from its indie boutiques to its quirky cafés. Perhaps not as raucous as it used to be, these days you’re more likely to find people sipping lattes than raging against the establishment.
El Born, Barcelona
Located just next to the hyper-touristy Gothic Quarter, El Born has managed to retain a rather cool vibe thanks to its hip cocktail bars and trendy boutiques. Not quite as old as the Gothic Quarter, the buildings in El Born are still going to look great on your Instagram thanks to their patterned facades and romantic courtyards. From here you’re within walking distance of the beach, the main tourist sights and both high street and designer shopping venues.
If you’re after old-school cool then Triana in Seville is just that. Once mainly inhabited by Spanish gypsies or gitanos, this community gave the area its rich cultural identity, from the art of flamenco to the tradition of bullfighting – one of Spain’s most famous bullfighters of all times, Juan Belmonte, was a la Triana native. These days you’ll find dozens of ceramic shops selling colourful earthenware, while the Triana Market is not just a place to shop but also acts as a place to meet, eat and watch the world go by.
This rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood of Valencia is the kind of place you’ll find dusty old bodegas a few doors down from an edgy gin bar. During the daytime much of life in Ruzafa gravitates around the eponymous food market where you’ll find fresh fish, meat, vegetables and all sorts of other wonders. Located close to the train station, Ruzafa is home to some excellent indie art galleries as well as vintage stores, second-hand book shops and trendy cafés.
Gros, San Sebastian
If you’re looking for somewhere to escape the big city and get a little fresh air then the neighbourhood of Gros in San Sebastian is where you need to stay. Located on the seafront, this surfer neighbourhood gravitates around the Zurriola Beach, considered one of the best places to catch a wave in the city. But by night time the streets come to life as people ditch the beach and come to grab a beer, catch up on the days activities and chow down on some of those famous Basque pintxos.
One of the boldest, most colourful neighbourhoods in the Spanish capital, Chueca is considered the epicentre of the LGBT community in Madrid. Unsurprisingly the nightlife here is some of the best in the city, with fun late-night bars and after-hours clubs. But there’s also a more laid-back side to Chueca too which really comes out in the daytime when you’ll see sunny terraces filled with chattering locals.
El Raval, Barcelona
Twenty years ago El Raval was still something of a crime-ridden no-go area in Barcelona but these days its a multi-cultural neighbourhood home to the MACBA, Barcelona’s contemporary art museum, as well as indie boutiques and trendy late-night bars. During the day time you’ll find skaters on the forecourt of the MACBA while during the night time the in-crowd gathers in the bars on Joaquin Costa street.
Bilbao La Vieja, Bilbao
Located just across the river from Bilbao’s Old Town, Bilbao La Vieja is a neighbourhood very much on the rise thanks to its fusion restaurants, craft beer bars and trendy boutiques. Nicknamed ‘Bilbi’, the area is renowned for its vibrant street art scene which features work by international street artists and is very much considered the ‘hipster’ district in Bilbao.
La Merced, Malaga
If the fact that this is where Pablo Picasso was born back in 1881 doesn’t make La Merced the de facto coolest neighbourhood in Malaga, its bustling bars, lively streets and cool architecture certainly does. Life here gravitates around the square which gives the area its name, the Plaza de la Merced, but its by wandering through the side streets of La Merced that you’ll get a real sense why this neighbourhood has become one of the cultural epicentres of Malaga.