There’s something so romantic about a place and time in which collectives of artists come together to share an unorthodox way of life. Paris in the ’20s, for example, is one to which we’d most readily time travel, should that technology ever become available. (Our first choice would be the future, obviously, when women rule and men are the ones objectified on billboards and forced to do things like wear makeup and Spanx.) While it may seem that no modern-day bohemian enclave exists to rival the one where Hemingway, Picasso, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Dalí, Man Ray and the like rubbed elbows regularly, there will always be artistic pockets of the world, some of which history may eventually reveal to have been just as rich. Here, seven such neighborhoods, towns and cities we think are worth visiting right now.
The World's Coolest Neighborhoods
Brief History: After WWII, the London neighborhood received an influx of Afro-Caribbean immigrants whose culture remains a major influence today. Racial tensions erupted into riots in the '80s and '90s, but now young people of all stripes are flocking here for some relief from exorbitant housing costs elsewhere in the city. Increased demand has raised prices, and gentrification has begun its inevitable takeover of the neighborhood. Still, this is where the cool kids live ... for now.
What To Do: Shop Brixton Village, a community of vintage traders and artisan sellers, catch a flick at Ritzy Cinema, eat at Salon, grab a Guinness Punch at Black & White Cafe and stop by the David Bowie mural, which has now become a protected shrine (he was born in Brixton).
Brief History: This obscure area of Montreal has become a haven for those priced out of Mile End, its nearby neighbor and established hipster haven. It was officially dubbed Mile-Ex in 2012, thanks to a restaurant with the same moniker.
Brief History: If you think Tulum is cool, you're behind the curve. Sayulita was first discovered by surfers in the '60s and '70s, and it's quietly attracted artists and expats of various stripes ever since. Only recently has the trendier set discovered the laid-back enclave, which means it's only a matter of time before it's overrun by tourists—go, fast, now.
What To Do: Stay at Petit Hotel Hafa or Villa Amor, shop at Pachamama and Evoke, eat at Don Pedro's and Naty's Cocina and drink (a michelada) at Bar Don Pato or (a chocolate banana milk shake) at ChocoBanana.
Brief History: Asheville was quietly attracting artistic types from all over the US when the lid blew off the nation's best-kept secret and suddenly it's ranking on every list from Travel + Leisure's Best Cities in the US to Thrillist's Best US Cities to Spend a Weekend.
What To Do: Drink beer! Asheville is known by some as Beer City USA—it has more breweries per capita than any city in the US. Try Asheville Brewing, Wedge or Burial. Also, see a show at The Orange Peel, eat at Buxton Hall BBQ and Biscuit Head and try the Pre-Hangover Tonic at Sovereign Remedies.
Brief History: If you're not from LA, you may think Venice or Silver Lake are the city's bohemian meccas. You're not wrong, but they've both gentrified, Venice nearly beyond recognition, which means that the true starving artists of Los Angeles have had to move elsewhere. The Highland Park neighborhood has been buzzing for a couple of years now, but it's definitely the It LA address du jour.
What To Do: Strike out at LA's oldest bowling alley, Highland Park Bowl, eat at Good Girl Dinette, The Hi Hat, Folliero's and Antigua Bread, shop at Urchin (sister store to Los Feliz vintage haven Squaresville) and Possession Vintage, and drink at The Hermosillo and La Cuevita.
Brief History: You might recognize Södermalm as the setting of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and it's also the hometown of Greta Garbo. Its SoFo neighborhood (south of Folkungagatan—a main drag) is probably the coolest and quirkiest seven blocks, replete with vintage shops, organic restaurants and art galleries.
What To Do: Stay at the SoFo Hotel, eat at Meatballs For the People and Urban Deli, shop at Grandpa and Lisa Larsson for vintage threads, pop into Stalands to ogle Scandinavian furniture at its best and drink at Pet Sounds. On SoFo nights, which are the last Thursday of every month, shops stay open late and offer massive discounts.
Brief History: Pigalle, or South of Pigalle in the ninth arrondissement, to be more accurate, was once filled with brothels and sex shops. Then the bobos (bourgeois bohemians) moved in, and gritty began to give way to trendy. Still, this is where you'll find some of the city's coolest kids and all the requisite trappings—from dive bars to trendy clubs—that follow them wherever they go.
What To Do: Stay at Le Pigalle, Maison Souquet or Hotel Amour, eat at Le Pantruche, Peco Peco or Buvette, drink at L’entrée des Artistes, Glass, Lulu White or La Machine de Moulin Rouge, shop at Spree, Curiosity and Retro Chic, and listen to Pigalle Paris Radio.