Constant change is what makes the world’s best cities worth revisiting. But overexposure and gentrification often mean that the most well-known ‘trendy’ areas of town aren’t so cool by the time you get there.
Unless you’re the ultimate hipster or possess insider knowledge, chances are you’ll miss out on cutting-edge culture on your travels, heading to neighbourhoods that have already gone stale. So, once you’ve checked out what was hip, make sure you head to the places that still are.
New York: from Williamsburg to Bushwick
It’s been called ‘The Last Bohemia’ and has garnered a global reputation. But Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighbourhood has long since lost its shine. Fancy riverside condos rub shoulders with terrifyingly expensive restaurants. Sure, there’s still plenty to draw you here, from the weekly Smorgasburg food market in East River State Park (brooklynflea.com/markets/smorgasburg) to the mind-blowing vinyl at Rough Trade NYC (roughtradenyc.com).
But for something edgier, head further east to Bushwick. In the area’s industrial wastelands you’ll find Shea Stadium (liveatsheastadium.com), a DIY gig venue and recording studio that hosts the best in new music from bands you’ve never heard of. Before getting sweaty in the mosh, grab a jar and, if you’re lucky, some free barbecue at Lady Jay’s, a killer dive bar on Grand Street where Williamsburg bleeds into its cooler neighbour.
London: from Shoreditch to Peckham
Like Williamsburg, Shoreditch is synonymous with cool. But soaring rents and the encroachment of the city’s financial district have left the area a pale imitation of what it used to be. Sure, have a pint in the now swanky Electricity Showrooms (electricityshowrooms.com). But then jump on the Overground and head south to Peckham.
This area is changing at a rapid rate, but has managed to hang onto its diversity, with a high street full of local businesses and crumbling art deco architecture. Its most unlikely go-to spot is the top floor of a multistorey car park. This unprepossessing building is home to Frank’s Cafe (frankscafe.org.uk), and offers some of the best views of central London going. Party fiends should also check out the Bussey Building for the latest DJs. The Bussey is also home to a rooftop cinema, with the building’s Yogarise studio running outdoor classes throughout the summer (yogarisepeckham.com).
Paris: from Montmartre to the 11th Arrondissement
The cobbled hills and cafes of Montmartre are the Paris of old-time cliche. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re after a place to eat well and sink a few glasses of red after a day of shopping and checking out the rejigged Musée Picasso, this is not it. Instead, hop on the Metro and go east to the 11th arrondissement.
Billed as Paris’s version of Brooklyn, in reality it’s a more laid-back, quintessentially French take on that NYC borough, with more rough and ready charm than some of Paris’s fancier areas. Your first stop has to be Death By Burrito (deathbyburrito.com), or DBB as the locals call it. The tacos and burritos in this tiny bar are fast gaining a reputation as some of the best in the city. Make sure you try owner Shay Ola’s stellar cocktails while you wait. Shake off your hangover the following morning with brunch at Bloom (bloom-restaurant.fr).
Tokyo: from Roppongi to Kichijoji
With its legendary nightlife, Roppongi is the place where locals and gaijin alike go to down glasses of sake and dance the night away. Its twisting alleyways and ultra modern skyscrapers are the apotheosis of Tokyo, while the likes of the Mori Art Museum make it a destination for well-heeled art lovers. However, its seedier side is never far away, with plenty of travellers’ tales about spiked drinks and exorbitant credit card bills after a night on the rice wine.
For something equally hip but much less hectic, make for the eastern suburb of Kichijoji. This student area is easily reached from Shinjuku station. Take a stroll through the gorgeous Inokashira-kōen and visit Ghibli Museum to steep yourself in the wonderful world of Hayao Miyazaki, before kicking back at hammock cafe Mahika Mano. Be sure to check out the art space upstairs and guzzle a local beer after you’ve had an afternoon nap.
Amsterdam: from the Red Light District to Den Haag
Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District is a must-see for first timers to the Dutch capital. But its seedy side is never far away, its coffee shops and bars often feeling long in the tooth. For an altogether more interesting experience, jump on a train from Centraal station to Den Haag.
It’s only 50 minutes away, but has become a go-to spot for those after first-rate art and killer coffee. The recently renovated Mauritshuis is the perfect antidote to the overwhelming Rijksmuseum, and is home to Vermeer’s most striking works, including Girl with a Pearl Earring. Literature fiends will also be pleased to see Carel Fabritius’ The Goldfinch, the inspiration for Donna Tartt’s novel of the same name. If all that art overwhelms you, Hometown Coffee (hometowncoffee.nl) is the place to grab a strong brew and a healthy lunch.
Las Vegas: from The Strip to Downtown
The Strip’s relentless neon and shady characters can make it seem as if cool left Las Vegas with the last of the Rat Pack. But Sin City has a surprisingly hip side, as long as you’re willing to head further down the main drag to the old-school Downtown area.
Sure, there are still plenty of places willing to help divest you of your last few dollars. But in between the casinos you’ll find street art to rival the best in east London and Brooklyn. 18b, the Las Vegas Arts District (18b.org), features three cutting-edge galleries, as well as hangouts where you can attend yoga classes or learn to paint. Being Vegas, you’ll need a few drinks once you’re done. Atomic Liquors (atomiclasvegas.com) is the city’s oldest independent bar, dating back to the days of parties to coincide with atom bomb tests in the Nevada desert.