From the boho coffeeshops of East London to the ramshackle squat bars of Berlin, the alternative streets of Venice Beach to the surprisingly off-beat beatnik dives of Bangkok, we go in search of the world's most counterculture, cool areas. If you've packed the drainpipes and have a penchant for craft beer, this could just be the travel list for you…
Forever close to top of the list when it comes to the world's bohemian hotspots, uber-cool Kreuzberg is the place to go for al fresco coffee shops, veggie eateries and late-night jazz joints in the German capital. You can trace old sections of the infamous Berlin Wall down the alleys, settle for cold beers on the edge of the Spree River, tread in the footsteps of Europe's most famous punk rockers, witness old Checkpoint Charlie and the beer halls of Heinrichplatz, or visit some of the city's most up-coming independent art museums. These days, Kruezberg's cool vibes also spill over into neighboring Friedrichshain, where there's graffiti art and flea markets aplenty.
Thong Lor, Bangkok
Thong Lor has been pushing the boundaries of the Bangkok trend scene for some years now. Swish restaurants have popped up next to raucous food markets, while rooftop bars occupy the top floors of the high rises, offering sweeping panoramas and long menus of creative cocktails. A distinct population of Japanese emigres has also helped to nurture the cutting-edge character of the place, giving it chichi sushi restaurants and bespoke sake joints. If you're a little tired of the sleepless vibes of Khaosan Road at the start/end of one of our Thailand tours, this one could be the perfect urban detour.
El Raval, Barcelona
Forget the tree-lined walks of Las Ramblas and the old relics of the Gothic Quarter, Spain's most popular city also has its very own boho hotspot: El Raval. Packed with age-stained tenements and large squares, it's become the de facto hub of the Catalan capital's cool folk. You'll find simple brunch and evening eateries, loads of tripping Spanish tapas places, and – a lot later on – plenty of spots to let loose and party until the early hours!
In a city that takes the meaning of hipster to all new and dizzying heights, the most hipster neighborhood of the lot can often be a little too hip to handle. Head down to Södermalm (or Söder, or SoFo as it's invariably known) to delve into the medley of quirky meatball eateries and Indian takeaways, design boutiques and art workshops. Nestled on a large island just one metro stop from the Swedish capital's much-trodden Gamla Stan (Old Town), it's not only easy to get to but also has some enticing local, off-beat vibes it's difficult not to love!
London's boho crown has shifted over the years. Where once Soho ruled the roost, and where Camden once flourished with its punk dives, the title is now firmly in the territory of East London. And nowhere is doing more in the way of fair-trade coffee joints, smashed avocado brunch menus, stripped-down industrial-chic clubs and uber-cool craft beer joints that Dalston. A fixie bike should always be your chosen mode of transport here, while a bout of vintage threads from the boutiques of nearby Shoreditch should tide you over in the eveningwear department!
Beyoglu is almost single-handedly responsible for Istanbul's new reputation as the hipster capital of Europe (sorry Berlin). A place steeped in history, it's been built on and built up since ancient times. Relics like the mighty Galata tower and the Pera Museum still draw huge crowds of sightseers and culture vultures, but it's the array of Greek-style coffee shops and raucous bars along Rue Francaise, Istiklal Avenue and beyond that keeps the cool folk coming for evening drinking sessions and bouts of scented shisha.
Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro
If you're not feeling the loud and raucous vibes of Ipanema and Copacabana on your visit to the carnivalesque metropolis of Rio, then be sure to ride the rattling tram lines on the famous yellow carriages to the top of Santa Teresa. Up there, where the tight-knit streets drape over the forested hills, there are mind-boggling displays of street art and characterful cantinas that slosh with caipirinha cocktails until the early hours. You're certain not to get bored!
Anyone planning a trip to Italy's fashion capital and eager to find all those bohemian coffee spots and chichi fashion dives would do well to make a beeline for the neighbourhood of Brera. A warren of narrow cobblestone lanes and hidden piazzas forms the heart of the district, hosting uber-swish gallerias packed with boutique jewelry and designer clothes. There are also countless beer bars and cultural hotspots, ranging from the Sforzesco Castle to the Risorgimento Museum – both must-sees!
Venice Beach, LA
Lined by swaying palms and kissed by the constant swell of the Pacific Ocean, Venice Beach has to be one of the world's most iconic coastal neighborhoods. Since its very beginnings it's been known for its eccentric character, made famous by the network of manmade canals that cut through the blocks. In the 1950s and 1960s, Venice became a hotbed for American counterculture, incubating famous psychedelia bands and surf troops. These days, it's still got its fair share of al fresco body builders, street entertainers, roadside food cooks, graffiti displays, skateparks – the list goes on.
Baixo Augusta, Sao Paulo
Pulsing with rumba and samba and sloshing sangria until the early hours, Sao Paulo's most bohemian enclave goes by the name of Baixo Augusta. There was a time when tourists would steer far away from the ramshackle area of paint-peeling homes and old colonial looking frontispieces, but that was before the reboot. These days, it's all about nocturnal bar hopping and the earthy gaucho steakhouses, the electro basement bars and the thumping house joints.
Of course, there are oodles more places for the budding hipster to travel to on their adventures. If you've encountered any boho neighbourhoods and want to let us know, be sure to add them to the comments below. Or, if you want more info on any LBW tours, be sure to head over to our itineraries page!
"Rich is a traveler, writer and filmmaker who's always after somewhere new to go. He's been hopping around the globe since 2011, from Poland to Paris, Mumbai to Ho Chi Minh. He runs several travel sites of his own, from Ski Eastern to Live Krakow to Crabs Move Sideways. When he's not planning his next trip, he's usually listening to 50s jazz, surfing in Wales, skiing in the Alps, or just swigging (too much) great craft beer."
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