1.University Quarter, Brussels
Residents of all ages congregate in this area of Brussels, easily accessible by public transportation yet off the beaten tourist path. Whether it’s an African immigrant launching his first restaurant or a septuagenarian Belgian pub owner, you’re sure to meet someone interesting. New talent and investment have been drawn to the city’s student population, which includes the city’s leading French and Flemish institutions. There is a pushchair-friendly café, a velodrome, and a weekly organic market at the red-brick old army barracks just north of the Etterbeek railway, tram, and bus stops, as part of the See U project until the end of 2020.
2. El Cabanyal, Valencia
A Bilbao-like transformation of Valencia took place in the early 2000s. Still, the municipal council had a dislike for the fishing area of El Cabanyal, which is located only 5 kilometers east of the city center. There are 1,600 residences, many of them ornamented with unique art nouveau tiles, which were demolished to make way for a fancy new road. Despite its designation as a “listed area of cultural interest,” the neighborhood faced compulsory purchase orders and demolition until local activists’ protests resulted in a court injunction blocking the plan.
El Cabanyal has had a resurgence in recent years, but most visitors are still unaware of this real corner of the city. Incomers appreciate the area’s original character and preserve it, rather than displacing it, and the new businesses that are cropping up everywhere tend to appreciate and adopt the vernacular architecture. The metro makes it easy to get here, and the flat terrain makes biking around fun.
3. Neukölln, Berlin
South-east Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood was formerly considered a backwater, a wasteland outside the hipster heart of the city. Once the neighborhood’s low cost of living and gritty atmosphere was found, foreign students and creatives moved in among the Turks, Kurds, and Arabs, creating the area we know today. You can find everything here: kebab stands and fine dining, shisha lounges and shabby-chic dive bars, underground art galleries, and commercial casinos.
Go to Sonnennallee on the main thoroughfare for cheap, tasty Palestinian food; stroll south-west to villagey Rixdorf, passing stone churches and cobbled streets as well as the lovely Comenius botanical garden; hit up hip Weserstrasse for late-night drinks, and Kreuzberg (Kreuzkölln) is the place to go for lavish brunches and vintage shopping. This exciting, fast-changing neighborhood is located near Tempelhof Park, the site of the historic Berlin airlift and the city’s airport, where you can land surf and bike and rollerblade down the former runway.
4. Holešovice, Prague
There’s a laid-back vibe to Dorol, which is nestled between the famous Skadarlija district and the massive Kalemegdan fortification and the Danube River banks. However, the city’s pubs and restaurants have traditionally followed its lead. One may find the typical Belgrade mix of early 20th-century villas and Tito-era apartments in the tree-lined alleys of Gornji (Upper) Dorol, the southernmost area of Belgrade. Strahinjia Bana, Kneginje Ljubice, and Kralja Petra are just a few of the bars you’ll find in this area, which is a mix of new and established establishments.
Head into Dornji (Lower) Dorol toward the Danube. Things grow grittier, with weird tiny cafés and craft brewers taking over run-down industrial buildings for art galleries and street art. Despite its unsightliness, here is where things are getting going.