Paris? Passé. Barcelona? Blah. London? So last decade, darling. If you’re on the hunt for a cutting-edge European city break destination, you’d be better off looking to Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, and… Manchester.
That’s according to new research ranking Europe’s coolest neighbourhoods, at least. Holiday price comparison site TravelSupermarket has just released its index of the most up-and-coming districts in European cities – and several well-established tourist destinations didn’t make the cut.
Instead, hipster boroughs in cities like Copenhagen, Athens and Warsaw have been pegged as the places to be, with one Manchester neighbourhood taking the UK’s only top 10 spot.
TravelSupermarket’s ‘hip hangouts’ index looked at the ratio of residents to trend-setting and creative industry indicators in each area, such as independent coffee shops, vintage fashion stores, vinyl record shops, vegan cafes, independent bike shops, co-working spaces and art galleries and studios.
Neighbourhoods with high numbers of chain brands like Starbucks, Costa and Pret a Manger were deemed to have reached “Peak Hipster”, and had cool points docked as punishment.
“The destinations on the list are those buzzy areas, unspoiled by commercialism, where locals love to hang out,” says Emma Coulthurst, travel commentator at TravelSupermarket. “They offer an eclectic range of food and entertainment away from the tourist throngs.”
Coulthurst insists that the researchers “didn’t base the rankings on beard-to-face and pints of craft beer ratios”, instead looking at “the things that set a hip destination apart from the rest of the pack”.
Searching for a minibreak destination that hasn’t been done to death? Read on...
10. Nørrebro, Copenhagen (Denmark)
You’ll find high-end restaurants as well as endless kebab shops in multicultural Nørrebro. Cycle over Dronning Louise's Bro (Queen Louise's Bridge) and head to Superkilen, a multi-coloured urban park that seems designed specifically for Instagram, or the magical Assistens Cemetery, where fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen is buried.
9. Kalamaja, Tallin (Estonia)
Estonia might not be an obvious choice for a holiday destination, but its pint-sized capital city, Tallinn, offers a captivating blend of medieval history, trendy neighbourhoods and vibrant nightlife.
A former Soviet border zone, the industrial district of Kalamaja was once closed off to visitors, but it’s now packed with bohemian cafés, bars, galleries and flea markets. Stop off at the Contemporary Art Museum Estonia before walking the Culture Kilometre – a 2.5km seaside route that covers Kalamaja’s most interesting bits.
8 (joint). Sredets, Sofia (Bulgaria)
You’ll find beautiful architecture, churches and Roman ruins in this district in Bulgaria’s capital city, as well as several theatres, art galleries and museums.
Tuck into vegan and vegetarian dishes at Made in Home, a Middle Eastern-influenced ‘slow food’ restaurant on Angel Kânchev, and try to talk your way into nearby Hambara – a tiny speakeasy-style bar favoured by the Bulgarian intelligentsia during the communist era – for a candlelit nightcap.
8 (joint). Exarcheia, Athens (Greece)
In joint 8th place on the cool rankings with Sredets is Exarcheia. This central Athens neighbourhood made headlines for all the wrong reasons back in 2008, when Greek police shot and killed 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos and triggered bloody riots lasting three weeks.
But don’t let that put you off. Exarcheia might not be as classically pretty as other parts of Athens, but it’s not dangerous for tourists, and its left-wing bookshops and student-packed bars and cafés are well worth checking out.
7. Grünerløkka, Oslo (Norway)
Described as Oslo’s “hipster hub”, industrial Grünerløkka is one of the Norwegian capital’s trendiest districts. And it’s the place to go for galleries, thanks in part to the area’s proliferation of art schools.
6. Pigneto, Rome (Italy)
A once-gritty district where tourists feared to tread, the suburb of Pigneto in eastern Rome is now one of the city’s hippest areas. Start with a stroll down the pedestrianised Via del Pigneto, popping into the many neighbourhood boutiques and cafés en routes.
Co.So., a hip bar on Via Braccio da Montone, is worth visiting for its eye-opening Italian-themed cocktails alone – fancy a Carbonara sour (vodka, pepper and egg)?
5 (joint). Metelkova, Ljubjana (Slovenia)
It’s safe to say that Metelkova isn’t your standard tourist destination. An “autonomous social centre” (the Guardian calls it an “urban squat”) in the middle of Slovenia’s capital city, the area was originally ‘settled’ by squatters in the early nineties.
Today, the street art-covered neighbourhood is a hub for underground music and art, with more than 1,500 alternative events – from punk concerts to theatre performances – hosted in its illegally occupied buildings every year. Don’t be nervous about visiting in the evening: Metelkova is renowned for its welcoming, vibrant atmosphere.
5 (joint). Södermalm, Stockholm (Sweden)
Vying for fifth position in the rankings of Europe’s coolest district is Scandinavian shopping heaven Södermalm. This inner-city island in central Stockholm is covered in vintage shops and so-cool-you’ll-freeze boutiques, including iconic second-hand emporium Lisa Larsson and the flagship Swedish Hasbeens store.
Shop until you’re almost ready to drop – then head to the beautiful wood-panelled Pelikan for classic Swedish dishes, from meatballs to spring lamb and mashed turnips.
4. Praga-Północ, Warsaw (Poland)
Despite being one of Warsaw’s most historic areas, edgy Praga Północ tends not to get as tourist-heavy as the Old Town across the Vistula River. But there’s plenty to see and do here, from the Beach on the Vistula – where DJs and concerts play during the summer months – to the beautiful Zoological Garden. Check out the brilliantly named Lysy Pingwin, a sort of pub/club/cultural centre all in one, and make sure to fit in a visit to the Neon Museum.
3. Ancoats, Manchester (UK)
The only neighbourhood in the UK to make it into the top 10 rankings, this small slice of inner-city Manchester is currently undergoing something of a regeneration.
2. Miera Iela, Riga (Latvia)
Riga, Latvia’s historic capital, was voted European City of Culture in 2014 – and Miera Iela, or ‘Peace Street’, is known as the city’s coolest district, with a proliferation of galleries, shops and bars to keep you busy.
Fill up on cake, ginger beer and local berry wine at Miera Café (a cute and cosy place where the door handle reads “thank you for being peaceful”) before visiting the jaw-dropping Laima Chocolate Museum, dating back to 1870.
1. Kreuzberg, Berlin (Germany)
Hands up who’s surprised that Berlin tops the list of hippest places in Europe? We didn’t think so. You might have thought that the German capital was teetering on the edge of being overhyped, but – thanks in part to rent control laws that help prevent creatives being forced to the city fringes – it remains the epitome of cool.
Main image: Agostino Zamboni/Flickr Creative Commons. Other images: iStock, Rex Features, Getty Images.