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HomeArts & CultureFrom Boston to Cape Town: 8 of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods

From Boston to Cape Town: 8 of the world’s coolest neighbourhoods

The likes of Shoreditch in London and Williamsburg in New York are now so well-known that they’re starting to lose their hipster lustre, but constant change means that even the world’s most famous cities have new areas which make them worth revisiting. Here are several to watch in 2017.

Somerville, Boston

Technically a separate city, Somerville has gone from blue collar to every coloured collar you care to think of. Partly thanks to an open-minded mayor and partly people migrating north from studenty Cambridge, Somerville is unusual in that the hip spots are spread across multiple centres rather than concentrated in one. One hangar-like former factory acts as an “incubator” for food businesses, with chocolate makers, coffee roasters and the hot ticket 20-seater Tasting Counter (www.tastingcounter.com) restaurant among the unexpected bedfellows.

Elsewhere, Davis Square brims with elegant old-world secret-entry hangouts, an independent theatre that promises raunchy takes on Shakespeare and Disney, plus Rosebud (www.rosebudkitchen.com), a converted rail car serving poshed-up comfort food from around the world.

Union Square, meanwhile, goes in for German restaurants, farmers’ markets and shops hinting at the area’s multi-ethnic make-up.


‘t Eilandje, Antwerp

snailThe MAS museum in ‘t Eilandje, Antwerp. Michael Jacobs / Alamy Stock Photo

Once rough-as-guts docklands, two big-ticket attractions and some striking residential architecture have transformed ‘t Eilandje into a rather marvellous place to live and hang out. The statement bulging glass tower of MAS (www.mas.be) has been joined by the historic Red Star Line Museum (www.redstarline.be), and cafes and restaurants seem to have sprung up in every available gap. It’s notable that Antwerp’s fiercely multinational driving force is represented here, with everything from Thai to Cape Verdean food on offer. What was once all seedy sailors is now a brave new world of artisan bread-makers, knowledgeable coffee-makers and residents flocking to sample the hot new opening.


Jabal Al Lweibdeh, Amman

The Jordanian capital’s contemporary arts scene seems to have come to rest in this increasingly creative neighbourhood to the north of the Amman Citadel. It’s an area that has pulled in people of multiple nationalities and faiths, and is happy for them to all mix. As many writers and tech start-up owners seem to live there as artists. The resulting cafe scene pulls off a ­Europe-meets-Middle East vibe. Paris Circle is the main hub for indie cafes and shops.


Cais do Sodre, Lisbon

buildingMercado da Ribeira in Cais do Sodre, Lisbon. Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

Once, ahem, “gritty”, the riverside Cais do Sodre has seen something of a party scene move in, helped by cheap rents. Old warehouses between the train line and the river have also been turned into restaurants and clubs, while the rejuvenation of the Mercado da Ribeira has been a masterwork. The old fruit and fish stalls are still there, but one half has been transformed into the Time Out Market. This is midway between a food court and a city showcase. Lisbon’s top restaurants, delis and ice-creameries have all been invited to have their own stalls, where they serve up a range of items from their menus. So you can keep going back to taste the best the city has to offer – and judging by the crowds, people do.


Woodstock, Cape Town

snailGraffiti in Woodstock. Jonathan Dale / Alamy Stock Photo

Cape Town’s glamour tends to stick to the waterfront or in the leafy old-money areas clinging to Table Mountain. But go inland a bit, where there’s less obvious eye-­candy, and a different personality emerges. In Woodstock, the side alleys have become open air galleries, where Cape Town’s street artists go to work. In between, there are moochy coffee shops and highly distinctive ­shopping.

This includes the Woodstock Exchange (www.woodstockexchange.co.za), a former factory that has been transformed into a mall for indie enterprises and crammed with rather arresting art installations.

Coffee Beans Routes (www.coffeebeansroutes.com) runs art-themed tours that take in Woodstock’s street-art scene with one of the artists who lets his creativity loose there.


North Portland, Portland

The world’s most stereotypically hipster city mushrooms hipster districts quicker than most reasonable human beings can keep track, but North Portland has been on the rise for a couple of years now.

Largely clustered around Mississippi Avenue, but spreading west to St John’s, and heavy on the self-consciously quirky, it’s an area where chains are thin on the ground and highly individual, often retro shops get room to breathe. Whether they’re specialising in kooky baby clothes, sea salts or vintage cowboy-style clothing, they combine to make for an enjoyable mooch. The vibe is more homely than elsewhere in Portland – which can try too hard to be edgy – and the ­Mississippi Avenue comes to life on Sunday afternoons, when people simply rock up and graze, hopping between cafes.


Chippendale, Sydney

sydneySydney district Chippendale, which has undergone a big-money transformation. Paul Lovelace / Alamy Stock Photo

Once a nondescript suburb in a no-man’s-land between the central business district and the hip Inner West, ­Chippendale has undergone a big-money transformation. Part of the rise has been organic. Lots of galleries and artists’ studios have sprung up around the brilliantly arresting White Rabbit ­Gallery, which shows off some of the very best contemporary ­Chinese art. At the other end of the scale is One Central Park, a bold Jean Nouvel project that combines a shopping mall, cantilevered plant houses and plants climbing up the glass tower. Next to it is Spice Alley, a U-shaped laneway that has been turned into a pan-Asian street-food hub, dotted with simple stools and tables. ­Chinese lanterns and garishly painted tuk-tuks add to the vibe, and dishes vary from ­Malaysian and Thai to Korean and Japanese.


Karaköy, Istanbul

Istanbul’s Beyoglu district has been hip for some time, but it look a while for the water-­hugging stretches near the ­Galata Bridge to catch up. But now the scene has moved to this former port ’hood, now called Karaköy. The resurgence started in 2004 with the opening of the Istanbul Modern art gallery, but the pace has properly picked up in the last few years, with several contemporary, conceptual galleries such as Space Debris Art and Global Karaköy coming to join it. The made-over 16th-century Kılıç Ali Pasa Hamam is a masterpiece of luxurious restoration, but the real thrill comes with the cafe scene. Dem Karaköy boasts more than 60 types of tea, while Ops Cafe is a loungey breakfast spot with weird decor including rope ladders dangling from the ceiling.


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