You’re sick of [enter the name of bland if entirely functional British city with lots of pubs but also grey skies and grey buildings and a frustrating transport system] and you fancy a city break? Well, luckily the good folk at TravelSupermarket have compiled a list of the coolest cities in Europe for you to visit.
The aggregator has ranked the continent’s cities using variables such as, ahem, Hip Culture Outpost, Creative Capital, and Traveler Value to find the overall Hip Hangout Score and while that all might sound a bit contentious it’s quite hard to argue with the results.
Cancel a few direct debits and drum up some funds because you’re going to want to get some of these ticked off your list:
10. Norrebro, Copenhagen (Denmark)
Kierkegaard and Hans Christian Andersen are chilling in the Assistens Cemetery, long dead. They know what’s up, though – from the cemetery through to Jaegersborggade in the heart of Nørrebro, it all feels very cool. Traditionally populated with emigres from all over the world (nota bene, racists: you’ll notice that being a recurring theme), Nørrebro’s shabby feel and artsy vibes are welcoming and refreshingly natural with entire blocks populated by creative Copenhageners from different dozens of different cultures. Try visiting Tricotage, a typically minimalist clothing brand, Elsgaard Håndskomageri’s handmade-shoes shop, and loads of weird little cafe and coffee and chocolate gaffs.
9. Kalamaja, Tallinn (Estonia)
With its spare, boxy (sorry, I mean, brutalist) architecture and bleak weather, Kalamaja might seem a little off-putting on the surface. But isn’t that what coming ninth in an arbitrarily-scored list of coolest places to visit is all about? If you venture beneath Kalamaja’s hard veneer and, more specifically, head towards the area’s seaside, you’ll find the Kultuurikilomeeter and the Telliskivi Loomelinnak, which is where all the good shit happens: in the former – the Contemporary Art Museum of Estonia inside an abandoned power plant, the Linnahall building which was opened by the Soviet Union for the 1980 Olympic Games and is totally dilapidated and looks like the Incans pitched up in Estonia and is really exciting to explore. And in the Telliskivi, by the train station: nightclubs, restaurants, cafes, pop-ups, and art spaces housed in old Soviet factories.
= 8. Sredets, Sofia (Bulgaria)
Another ex-communist city that’s got this Being Very Cool thing down nicely, Sredets in Sofia is home to beautiful architecture, including the gold-domed Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and Bulgarian cultural hub the Central Military Club, home to the Bulgarian military and former home of the 2010 Chess Wold Championships. Cool, huh? There’s also cool bars (try One More Bar for cocktails) and clubs (A:part:mental has an awful name but is like a big fun house party – really, it looks like an apartment) and a thriving art scene.
= 8. Exarchia, Athens (Greece)
Packed with students and creatives taking advantage of its (relatively) cheap prices (for Athens, anyway) and energy abundant thanks to a tight-knit community of traditional Greek families and thinkers. Anarchist factions have been holed up in the Exarcheia region for decades and the area has become home to intellectuals, socialists, and anti-fascist organisations that give the area an old-school liberal arts vibe. The nightlife isn’t too shabby either with AN on Solomou Street its most popular club alongside countless little restaurants, bars like the Drugstore and the sixties-inspired Ginger Ale, and any number of spontaneous parties...
7. Grunerlokka, Oslo (Norway)
Grünerløkka is home to most of Norway’s art schools and has found itself becoming a hub for the cultured and trendy and cool (and, increasingly, expensive). With that many young people in berets carrying easels galleries are predictably abundant (with TM51 and Galleri Schæffer’s Gate 5 among the best and The Munch Museum about Mr. Scream himself, Edvard Munch, being the most fascinating) but there’s also a thriving cafe culture and the Mathallen Food Hall in the middle of town. Food and art, man: what more do you need?
6. Pigneto, Rome (Italy)
An effortlessly cool east Roman neighborhood spotted with intimate wine bars, hot-headed restaurants, and giant murals that span entire sides of tower blocks, Pigneto will have you digging out that 35mm camera you bought off eBay then forgot about with its endless life and colour. Already bubbling over with stereotypical Italian bravado, if you throw a bunch of chain-smoking creatives in grubby vests on mopeds and attractive couples having blazing rows in the streets before going home to their art space to Art It Out of their systems, then you get something special. Head to the area’s HQ, the Area Pedonale, to take the bars, cafes, and sweaty little music venues.
= 5. Metelkova, Ljubjana (Slovenia)
Housed in a 12,500 square meters an abandoned army base barracks, Metelkova has been called Europe’s “most successful” squat.
“Metelkova is a centre of urban culture,” mayor of Ljubljana Zoran Janković told the Guardian in 2015. “It’s a place for critical reflection, civic engagement – and with its activities it is establishing Ljubljana as an area where ideas of all generations can freely flow.”
Since then it’s only grown: home to thriving LGBT and antifa communities, as well as punk, psychobilliy, dub, and techno scenes, Metelkova’s seen as a contemporary of hippy haven Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen with its liberal attitudes and joie de m-f’ing vivre.
= 5. Sodermalm, Stockholm (Sweden)
Known simply as “Söder” by locals, the laid-back island in Sweden’s capital was Greta Garbo’s hometown and is also the setting to much of Stieg Larrson’s Millennium Trilogy, as well as being nationally (and now INTERnationally!) renowned for its fashion and food districts. Gentrification sadly moved many of the old working class residents out of the area as prices creeped cloud-wards, not helped by Vogue voting it the coolest city in Europe, but the area’s natural charm remains undimmed and its independent shops, publishers, cafes, and art spaces are all well worthy of acclaim.
4. Praga-Północ, Warsaw (Poland)
One of the oldest districts in Warsaw, much of the area escaped major damage in WWII and many pre-war attractions and accouterments can still be found dotted around town, but if old shit ain’t your bag, it’s also quickly become the country’s cool capital. Beach on the Vistula sees DJs and concerts galore during the summer months but there are also countless secret spots to stumble upon away from the crowds over the river in the Old Town.
3. Ancoats, Manchester (UK)
Get your parka on, put some stones in your adidas Gazelles, and get ready to be really-miserable-and-yet-somehow-really-friendly, because Ancoats, just next to Manchester’s traditionally cool Northern Quarter, is in the medal positions. The area’s disused red-brick textile mills are now trendy flats and host small businesses and creative ventures – including the independent Hope Mill Theatre and famed pizzeria Rudy’s and the recently shuttered Sankeys in Jersey Street, known as “the best club in the universe” (by its own admission but it still counts...)
2. Miera Iela, Riga (Latvia)
Voted European Capital of Culture in 2014 (but then again, what hasn’t?), the Latvian capital’s Miera Iela (or ‘Peace Street’) is by far the city’s coolest drag. A boho community of fashionistas and drinkers and bloggers and gallerists and artists and writers and painters and just every kind of Latvian art-school bod you can shake a pipe are wont to congregate around its eclectic selection of shops and cafes, where a burgeoning cafe culture is bringing liberal arts smarty-pants together for ginger beer and discussions about capitalist realism.
1. Kreuzberg, Berlin (Germany)
Ah, so Berlin is the coolest city? Damn. Never would’ve expected it. Damn.
For decades Kreuzberg was peninsulared by the Berlin Wall, and now its bustling community of creatives, different cultures, and cyclists have seen it come out the other side as a beacon of cool in a country long accepted as among the world’s lamest. The heart of the country’s digital economy (finally you have a use for Bitcoins, whatever the fuck they are) as well as its Turkish food boom (eat simit bagels and mixed menemen and lamacun, which is like a big kebab pizza, at La Femme and be happy), the district is chill during the day and bawdy at night with enough vintage stores and nightclubs to ensure your fill of each is sated.
(Main Image: Flickr / Susan Nilsson)