Lagos has once again gained international spotlight by making the top 40 coolest cities in the world and enhancing the tourism potentials of the state.
According to timeout.com, a survey carried to determine the 40 coolest neighbourhoods in the world highlighted Opebi, a part of Ikeja district on Lagos Mainland as one of the serene places bubbling with activities.
Last year, a report by CNN listed Onikan, a Lagos neighbourhood, as one of the coolest places to visit in the world.
According to atqnews.com, “The central neighbourhood on the Lagos Lagoon is home to some of the city’s most important cultural offerings, including the Nigerian National Museum and Rele Gallery, which focuses on contemporary art.”
Timeout.com says, every year, it surveys thousands of people around the globe to discover the world’s coolest neighbourhoods: the places that represent the spirit of the greatest cities on earth.
These are the places to be for food and fun, art and culture, atmosphere and personality. Every year, there’s plenty of debate and lots of love. But in 2020, our neighbourhoods have taken on a whole new importance.
Over the past months, billions of people have found themselves spending way more time close to home. Lockdowns and safety measures have hollowed out business and shopping districts but local neighbourhoods have thrived. Places that used to be dormitory districts are buzzing all day long.
The shop on the corner and the local takeaway restaurant have become vital lifelines. Neighbours have stepped up to help each other through hard times and banded together to protest around Black Lives Matter. A strong sense of community and unique independent businesses have always made a neighbourhood great, but now they’ve become indispensable. So, in a year like no other, we’re doing things a little differently.
As ever, our shortlist of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world is based on the opinions of locals: the 38,000-plus city-dwellers who answered our annual Time Out Index survey, telling us which bits of their city they loved. And once again, we’ve consulted our global network of Time Out editors and experts to weigh up the candidates and make the call on their city’s number one hotspot.
But right now, more than ever, it’s cool to be kind. So 2020’s coolest neighbourhoods are still the ones with a fascinating mixture of people, innovative and inclusive food, drink, arts and culture, affordable rents and living costs, and that hard-to-define buzz that draws people from across the globe. But this year, more than ever, they are the areas where people, community and businesses have helped each other through shared tribulations: places that represent the soul of the city.
From outlying suburbs finding their place in the spotlight to creative districts fighting back with culture, and even some city centres experiencing unexpected renaissances, these are the 40 coolest – and kindest – neighbourhoods in the world in 2020.
1, Esquerra de l’Eixample, Barcelona
Barcelona’s sprawling Eixample district is split into two distinct sections – and although the Dreta de l’Eixample normally gets all the attention, with its dazzling luxury shops and spectacular modernista buildings, in 2020 all eyes are on Esquerra de l’Eixample.
Residential and down-to-earth, this left side of the Eixample has a characteristic architecture where each block of flats features its own interior courtyard. During Barcelona’s strict lockdown, these spaces became focal points for the city’s energy – as in the pop-up Hidrogel Sessions, in which residents dressed up in costumes and organised mass dance parties from their balconies.
Meanwhile, a local Mutual Support Network was created to help the most vulnerable, and Ada Parellada from the well-known Semproniana restaurant started cooking for health workers. These are just a few demonstrations of the humanity shared by an authentic Barcelona neighbourhood – one which was a pioneer in providing space for LGBTQ+ businesses (thus earning its nickname of the ‘Gayxample’).
Community spaces such as the Fàbrica Lehmann, the urban garden of the Espai Germanetes, the Ninot market and the Joan Miró park are among many others that you’re unlikely to find in many guidebooks. This year of all years, it’s the Esquerra de l’Eixample that points the way toward a future Barcelona where locals, not tourists, rule the roost. —Borja Duñó, Time Out Barcelona
2, Downtown, Los Angeles
There’s a version of this year in L.A.’s resurgent city centre that would’ve only been about how MOCA – the Museum of Contemporary Art – dropped admission fees and the new Hoxton hotel stacked hazelnut pancakes. How coveted co-working space NeueHouse moved into the mezzanine of the beautiful Bradbury Building while the Donut Man readied its legendary strawberry-filled doughnuts across the street at Grand Central Market.
But instead this became the most painful year in L.A.’s recent history – and in a city with no single, central gathering place, Downtown became its supportive soul. Following the shocking death of Kobe Bryant, wreaths, candles and a quiet togetherness swallowed the L.A. Live plaza. When the pandemic kept us doomscrolling at home, the Broad museum brought us a bit of virtual Infinity Room calm, while the now-shuttered Broken Spanish restaurant vacuum-sealed tamales and fed undocumented restaurant workers.
And when the killing of George Floyd made injustice too loud to ignore, Downtown was the place for Angelenos to speak up. It wasn’t without strife, but there was a palpable pivot toward unity the day that thousands streamed through Downtown’s streets. In a year of isolation, DTLA – like no other neighbourhood – has consistently brought us closer to our community. —Michael Juliano, Time Out Los Angeles
3, Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong
One of the oldest districts in Hong Kong, known for its textiles industry, Sham Shui Po has recently been reinvigorated by young creatives. Traditional street-vendors, historical buildings and fabric shops – frequented by international designers like Versace and Calvin Klein – still stand, alongside Michelin-recommended eateries like Kung Wo Tofu Factory and third-generation family-run noodle shop Lau Sum Kee Noodle. The neighbourhood gets busy during the weekends as Hongkongers flock here to eat, drink and check out the art scene.
Old fixtures exist harmoniously with contemporary cafés and creative hubs like Phvlo Hatch: a three-storey former textile shop now housing sustainable coffee shop Colour Brown plus Phvlo, a fashion design platform promoting sustainability through fashion upcycling, and Hatch, a local NGO dedicated to empowering the underprivileged.
At the centre of the neighbourhood’s revitalisation is Wontonmeen, a hostel that normally houses clued-up tourists and artists exhibiting in the area. Since the pandemic, it’s been converted into a studio allowing musicians to record videos and perform online gigs. Parts of the hostel also run as a shelter for the homeless, gravely affected by the outbreak, and its downstairs café, Runners’ Foods, regularly cooks for them too. —Tatum Ancheta, Time Out Hong Kong
4, Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York
Bed-Stuy is a neighbourhood cloaked in history, with leafy residential streets that pulse with a sense of community and tradition: lively conversations between neighbours on stoops, blocks that feel like extended families and rows of ancient Victorian brownstones. However, this year, the area became New York’s greatest incubator of the future.
Long a cultural centre of the city’s Black population, Bed-Stuy served as a main hub for Black Lives Matter protests. In the face of devastation brought on by Covid-19, it gave birth to mutual aid networks like Bed-Stuy Strong to protect its most vulnerable members.
Meanwhile, local businesses have opened their doors to the streets, melding private and public space and building bonds of togetherness in a new urban social compact. Peaches HotHouse serves hot fried chicken in an outdoor dining area on Tompkins. Harold and Maude Vintage sells vibrant clothing for all genders off a rack on Lafayette. The Billie Holiday Theatre stages brilliant, socially-distanced theatrical productions for masked crowds, keeping art alive during a pandemic. The brownstones of Bed-Stuy may be from the past, but their doors all open to tomorrow. —Will Gleason, Time Out New York
5, Yarraville, Melbourne
Sorry, Sydney: Melbourne has always been the cultural capital of Australia. But going through two tough lockdowns in 2020 has meant many of the city’s cornerstones – live music, café culture, world-class arts and restaurants – have been put on hiatus. On the other hand, Melbourne’s community spirit has never been stronger, and the neighbourhood that best embodies that is the westside suburb of Yarraville.
Two lockdown stories sum it up. Firstly, Yarraville local Lee Smith-Moir started adding adorable ‘happy signs’ on walking tracks in the area to cheer up locals during the state’s second lockdown. Then there was skater Belle Hadiwidjaja, who has been roller-skating through the streets in rotating costumes to keep families entertained on their daily walk.
Not only that, but for a relatively small suburb, the cross-section of food, drink and things to do here is pretty remarkable, ranging from landmark, Art Deco cinema Sun Theatre to restaurants like the Indigenous-owned restaurant Mabu Mabu and tiny, contemporary Australian fine diner Navi. With an epicurean edge and a perfect balance of residential and recreational, right now there’s no place like Yarraville. —Rebecca Russo, Time Out Melbourne
6, Wedding, Berlin
Berlin neighbourhoods like Neukölln, Kreuzberg and Mitte are known for their here-today, gone-tomorrow carousel of faddish restaurants and shops, but in Wedding, the slower pace is here to stay. North-west of the city centre, its multicultural, multigenerational community stays loyal to local businesses, from independent grocers to upstart street food spots. Alongside longstanding faves like Asia Deli on Seestraße, newcomers like vegan-friendly Italian Sotto, homestyle Taiwanese joint Cozymazu and Ernst (which used lockdown to renovate its premises and revamp its Michelin-star menu) have fast established themselves as popular local hangouts.
The neighbourhood is also changing with the times: after years of campaigning by activists, the streets of Afrikanisches Viertel (the African Quarter) will soon lose their colonial-era names. Book a RevolutionaryBerlin Tour from Mitte’s Brandenburg Gate out to Wedding for a deeper understanding of how both Berlin and this very down-to-earth neighbourhood came to be. —Nathan Ma
7, Shaanxi Bei Lu/Kangding Lu, Shanghai
A hundred years ago, this sleepy neighbourhood in Jingan district was part of the Shanghai International Settlement. Fast-forward to now and it’s quickly morphing into a buzzing destination of new cafés, bars and restaurants. Among its low-slung lane houses and old-school noodle shops you’ll now find petite natural wine bar SOiF (already a smash hit, with Friday-night queues for its skin-contact vintages and platters of charcuterie) and Japanese-Americana mash-up Lucky Diner, with more openings slated for the coming months.
One of the most exciting arrivals is the newest iteration of all-day roller skate bar Riink. It’s the creation of Ting Ting Liang, owner of the five-year-old community LBTQ+ bar Roxie nearby, and it’s opening in the new food and drink complex Shankang Li. Formerly an industrial market for construction materials, the renovated compound will be the Shanghai hangout this autumn, pulling in much-loved local brands like New York-style pizza place Homeslice and the latest iteration of long-running Latin American restaurant Azul. Although the International Settlement is long gone, the area still feels like a cultural crossroads. —Time Out Shanghai editors
8, Dennistoun, Glasgow
Bordered by the Necropolis, the M8 and railway lines, Dennistoun feels like a secluded island in Glasgow’s East End. Over the last decade or so, an influx of young people – mainly students from nearby Strathclyde University – has altered the demographic of this low-key, historically working-class neighbourhood. Yet the tide of redevelopment is coming in slow, and its charming blonde and red sandstone tenements remain affordable to most.
East Coffee Company and Mesa battle for the brunch pound across buzzing central artery Duke Street. Redmond’s pub does mean homemade grub and craft beer. The pandemic has disrupted exhibitions at artist-run Market Gallery and live music and comedy at Drygate Brewery, but the area’s flourishing cultural life will one day return.
Community spirit is fostered by initiatives like the Zero Waste Market – a refill grocery shop that prepped handy boxes of food essentials during lockdown – and Alexandra Park’s Food Forest, where locals of all backgrounds meet to plant and grow for a more sustainable future. Easygoing Dennistoun has a sense of independence unlike any other corner of this city. Now more than ever, it’s thriving.—Malcolm Jack
9, Haut-Marais, Paris
Less touristy than the Marais proper – and beaucoup, beaucoup cooler – the Haut-Marais, just to the north, has seen a huge influx of uber-stylish addresses over the past couple of years.
Sandwiched between Rambuteau, Temple and Saint-Sébastien Froissart metro stations, the area draws foodies with upscale restaurants like the Enfants Du Marché, set within the historic walls of the Marché des Enfants Rouges. Visitors are also set for culture, with world-leading contemporary art galleries like Suzanne Tarasieve, Emmanuel Perrotin and Thaddaeus Ropac setting up shop here. For affordable-ish gifts, sprawling concept store Merci is eternally on-trend. Stop by Jacques Genin boutique and café, whose proprietor donated 500kg of posh chocolate to frontline health workers earlier this year.
And at night… well, it’s difficult to choose where you should start. To Parisians, it feels like this neighbourhood practically invented the cocktail bar. Little Red Door, Bisou, Candelaria: head down any one of the Haut-Marais’s winding streets and you’ll find mindblowing drinks that’ll make every night out feel like an occasion.—Houssine Bouchama, Time Out Paris
10, Marrickville, Sydney
Sydney can be a pretty tribal city, with specific ’hoods defined by their cultural niches: China Town in Haymarket, Little Italy in Leichhardt, the backpacker bubble in Bondi, the gay village on Oxford Street. Marrickville, on the other hand, is a true melting pot, and this diversity is surely the X-factor behind its ascent as Sydney’s trending suburb.
It’s a place of surprising dualities, where the artisan bakers at Two Chaps and the stylish sommeliers at Where’s Nick share the same curb as a no-frills Vietnamese sandwich shop like Marrickville Pork Roll (the best damn bánh mì in the city) and the dive-bar vibes of the Marrickville Hotel. Waves of Portuguese, Vietnamese, Italian and Greek migrants have added to the richness of Marrickville’s culture, spearheading the emergence of perhaps the most eclectic food scene in the city. Streets lined with Federation-era houses and leafy enclaves protect the suburb’s all-are-welcome essence.
As per the typical rules of gentrification, artists and queer creatives have also been key in turning this once-industrial corner of the city into a highly desirable postcode – but the twist is that these communities have stuck around even as middle-class families have increasingly embraced Marrickville as home. Despite its proximity to the eye-wateringly pricy inner city, Marrickville has managed to remain affordable and inclusive, largely thanks to the continuing absence of soulless high-rise developments and juggernaut hospitality franchises. Long may it last.—Maxim Boon, Time Out Sydney
11, Verdun, Montreal
When the pandemic hit, this southern Montreal arrondissement was four days away from rolling out the tenth edition of one of its biggest parties: the urban lumberjack and sugar-shack festival Cabane Panache et Bois Rond. Instead, large banners announcing the event were left to dangle above the cold, empty streets. But when the time came for locals here to dust themselves off and go out again? Les Verdunoises did it with a massive display of local pride, making the most of the place they call home.
Crowds flocked as the main thoroughfare of Wellington Street was pedestrianised, allowing comfy perusals of restaurants’ long, street-side patios and independent retailers’ giant, summer-long outdoor sales. The opening of Verdun’s new urban beach made it a destination for people from across the city to escape blistering heatwaves. If a new business arrived, it was embraced with open arms – and, amazingly, more opened than closed. The street’s non-profit economic development organisation invited local musicians to play hot jazz and performers to put on dazzling marionette dances by day and by night. Even the street’s public parking garage found space on its top floor for a responsible open-air party spot.
If it wasn’t for masks, hand-sanitiser stations at every doorway and folks staying two metres apart from one another, a visitor would never have guessed that a pandemic was happening in the first place. Despite renewed lockdown restrictions hitting the city in October, Verdun’s continued rallying cry of local flavours, sights and sounds in the face of uncertainty demonstrates how Montreal – and cities everywhere – can and will get through this.—Jean-Pierre Karwacki, Time Out Montreal
12, Kalamaja, Tallinn
Kalamaja is a curious-looking part of town. Cutesy wooden houses and post-Soviet industry mix in this harbourside neighbourhood that’s helped put Tallinn firmly on the cultural city-break map. Everything’s centred around Telliskivi Creative City, where F-Hoone delivers brilliant (and budget-friendly) modern Baltic cuisine and Sveta Baar puts on always-raging alternative music nights.
Estonia has a reputation for its tech-first economy, so it’s no surprise digital nomads have taken over this once village-like part of town – notably in co-working spaces like Palo Alto, housed in an old factory building. During spring, a company called Garage48 even set up an online event called ‘Hack the Crisis’ that brought together more than 800 tech-sector workers across the neighbourhood and nearby areas to help the country get a grip on the pandemic. Relatively speaking, Estonia has still had very few cases, and that’s thanks in no small part to this youthful, chilled-out neighbourhood.—Tom Tonks, Hidden Tallinn
13, Hannam-dong, Seoul
With its embassies, contemporary art museums and luxury fashion retailers, Hannam-dong may appear all glitz and glamour on the surface. But dig deeper into this neighbourhood, spread across the hillside between Seoul’s Hangangjin and Hannam stations, and you’ll discover a tight-knit jumble of red-brick family homes, cosy dessert cafés and an abundance of plant and flower shops.
The area began attracting arty types in 2015, when both the D Museum experimental art centre and vinyl archive Hyundai Card Music Library opened their doors. However, it’s only properly flourished in the past year or so – no doubt thanks to the fact K-pop celebrities like RM (from BTS) and G-Dragon have recently moved into the area. For the full Hannam-dong experience, you’ll want to browse the reasonably-priced collection at Still Books, dine on chicken barbecued over oak charcoal at Semegae and order a cocktail from elegant airplane-themed bar Pussyfoot Saloon.—Hahna Yoon
14, Bonfim, Porto
Many locals feel that Porto’s genuine identity is beginning to disappear in more central areas of the city – but it is still very much alive in Bonfim. With a strong spirit of community and local commerce – now more important than ever – it’s a neighbourhood whose small cafés and shops include some of the most traditional restaurants in the city (A Cozinha do Manel, Rogério do Redondo, Casa Nanda), but also cutting-edge kitchens such as Euskalduna Studio and Pedro Limão.
The presence of Porto University’s Faculty of Fine Arts and galleries like Senhora Presidenta and Lehmann + Silva make Bonfim the city’s artistic underworld. The music plays loud and proud at CC Stop, an old shopping centre transformed into studios and rehearsal rooms for hundreds of musicians, from jazz to heavy metal. And now that Bonfim is becoming more and more pedestrianised, it’s more inviting than ever to explore the neighbourhood on foot, through streets chock-full of traditional architecture and into the Nova Sintra water gardens, with their lofty views over the Douro river.—Ana Patrícia Silva, Time Out Porto
15, Ghosttown, Oakland
Once part of the stomping grounds of the original Black Panthers, this tiny neighbourhood within walking distance of MacArthur BART station still exemplifies the punkish charm that Oakland was once known for (and is increasingly hard to find in the San Francisco Bay Area).
No one can quite agree on how Ghosttown got its name, but it’s feeling increasingly lively, and while the g-word has definitely reared its ugly head – renovated Victorians and newly built condos are popping up on MLK Boulevard – the vibe remains friendly. Locals mingle with newcomers over a cheap beer and a game of pool on the smoky patio at Eli’s Mile High Club; chow down on house-smoked brisket at Stay Gold Deli, and pick up new titles at Marcus BookStores, the oldest independent Black bookstore in the country.
The newest arrival is Blk Girls Green House, a sweet little plant nursery and outlet for Black-made home goods. The residential streets are dotted with art galleries and urban farms, and you’re far more likely to see punks riding skateboards or a long-time resident inviting you to his backyard birthday party (true story!) than bump into the next Mark Zuckerberg.—Sarah Medina, Time Out USA
16, Chula-Samyan, Bangkok
The neighbourhood around Chulalongkorn University used to be a decaying, half-forgotten area, home to ancient grocers and food stalls and ramshackle auto-parts stores. Now, thanks to the efforts of the university’s property agency, its spaces have been decluttered, empty shophouses have been refashioned into vibrant galleries and eateries, and there’s a new, massive, architect-designed public park.
A clutch of old street-food joints has relocated to line Ban Tad Thong, making the road a new cheap-eats destination. Offbeat new mall Samyan Mitrtown has a 24-hour bookstore, a cinema dedicated to indie films and a public rooftop garden, and it’s attached to Triple Y: a hotel that’s big on promoting local art and design.
All that activity (plus prices a lot cheaper than conventionally hip areas like Ari and Thonglor) has brought new faces to the ’hood: Chinese old-timers and college students still prowl its streets for all things cheap, but now they’re joined by art admirers, movie lovers and foodies. Samyan is enjoying a resurgence that it hasn’t seen in years, maybe decades. And although Covid-19 has hit this neighbourhood-on-the-rise quite hard, the community has bonded over art, as the district’s galleries have united for exhibitions and activities under the banner of Pathumwan Art Routes.—Top Koaysomboon, Time Out Bangkok
17, Alvalade, Lisbon
It’s increasingly hard to find long-time Lisbonites in the centre of Lisbon, but up in Alvalade, you can still feel the pulse of neighbourhood life: familiar faces, community events and spaces.
The area’s welcoming vibe is apparent at A Mariazinha – a delicious-smelling tea and coffee specialist with more than 60 years under its belt – and at the traditional Mercado de Alvalade, where artists affected by the pandemic have been working in rotating residencies since August. But you’ll also find it at The Wave Factory, a restaurant, bar and co-working space with an actual indoor wave you can surf.
Then there’s Alvalade’s rock ’n’ roll history: this was the centre of Lisbon’s rock scene in the ’80s, and its echoes are still to be heard at Popular Alvalade, the RCA Club and gothic hangout Noir Clubbing, which moved here from the city centre in March. That’s just one part of a bubbling cultural scene which also includes a literary festival and the Traça film series, showing long-lost home movies shot in Lisbon.—Vera Moura, Time Out Lisbon
18, Noord, Amsterdam
In the buzzing borough of Amsterdam-Noord, shipyards have become cultural playgrounds and wide-open spaces beckon young families, artists, brewers and entrepreneurs. Hop on the free ferry from Centraal Station, in the opposite direction to most international visitors, to reach NDSM Wharf: the centre of Amsterdam’s street art scene and home to Europe’s largest monthly flea market at IJ-Hallen (these days with increased stall spacing and one-way route markers).
On this side of the River IJ, Noord’s young creatives have built a flourishing community of multi-concept businesses, like the cinema-slash-waterfront restaurant at FC Hyena (now with added drive-in theatre), SkateCafe – where you can take a break from the half-pipe for a meal and a glass of natural wine – and the urban beach at Pllek, with its airy organic restaurant built from old shipping containers.
The angular Eye Filmmuseum, Noord’s most iconic modern building, lies just a short bike ride from traditional villages lined with gabled wooden homes. Then, for a dose of adrenalin (plus an awesome view of the entire neighbourhood and the rest of Amsterdam beyond), brave Europe’s highest swing, perched atop A’DAM Tower.—Christina Newberry
19, Centro, São Paulo
Over the past decade, São Paulo’s Centro has gone from a rough-around-the-edges neighbourhood to be avoided to hands-down the coolest corner of South America’s biggest city. The decadent, ’60s boom-era buildings in this downtown area are now filled with cutting-edge cultural spaces, like the Casa Elefante (a record store that has evolved into a bookshop, café, gig venue and vintage shop all in one) and SESC 24 de Maio: a community centre designed by Paulo Mendes da Rocha featuring a museum, theatre and picturesque rooftop pool.
The neighbourhood’s rebirth was led by Jefferson Rueda’s award-winning pork-sandwich bar A Casa do Porco, and a whole host of top restaurants and bars that soon put down roots here too. All woman-run Fel is possibly the classiest cocktail joint this side of the equator, while the 24-hour Estadão diner is a rite of passage on any night out.
This year has hit the city hard, but Centro is steering its return to normality, with pavements across the neighbourhood transforming into popping outdoor dining spaces. In the São Paulo downtown of 2020, it felt almost inevitable. How times change.—Euan Marshall
20, Holešovice, Prague
Only slightly removed from the historic centre, Prague’s Holešovice district teems with bars, cafés, cultural venues and some of the city’s most beloved green spaces, including many an overflowing beer garden. Spurred on by a mix of artists, young families and even a gaggle of cyberpunks, the area’s recent revival comes thanks to a big package of support from the progressive local government, and its rebranding as the Czech capital’s official ‘art district’.
Letná Park, the neighbourhood’s focal point, is home to Prague’s most picturesque beer garden and a huge cultural complex that thrives in summer, as well as a 75-foot-tall functioning metronome marks the spot where the world’s largest Stalin statue once stood. Don’t miss DOX, an impressive 3,000-square-metre contemporary art gallery, complete with its own wooden zeppelin. And for bonus novelty points, grab a coffee at Paralelni Polis, the first café in the world to accept payment using solely bitcoin.—Amanda Bell
21, Lavapiés, Madrid
Named by this list as the coolest neighbourhood in the world a couple of years ago, centrally located Lavapiés is still cherished by Madrileños – and even more so recently, thanks to a renewed spirit of solidarity emanating from its community groups. During these tough times, immigrant aid associations such as Inmigrantes Senegaleses de España and Valiente Bangla continue to selflessly provide help to those who need it, immigrants or not.
Despite a second lockdown looming, Lavapiés has striven to get back to normal, with the smell of filter coffee once again flooding the modern Hola Coffee, the famous zapatillas sandwiches cooking on the grill at Melo’s and the curtain rising again at the Pavón Kamikaze Theatre – albeit with reductions in capacity, social distancing and mandatory mask-wearing. Lavapiés is the most telling reflection of Madrid’s new normal, where a vibrant cultural life cuts through troubles, and neighbours do their best to help each other out.—Marta Bac, Time Out Madrid
22, Opebi, Lagos
Social distancing isn’t easy in Lagos, but in the mainland neighbourhood of Opebi, part of Ikeja district away from the hustle and bustle of Lagos Island, time feels a little slower and things a little calmer. The friendly locals, spacious houses and apartments and fruit and vegetable stands on every street corner make Opebi immediately feel like home.
During lockdown, neighbourhoods like Opebi stood still: barely any people ventured out and about, traffic was nonexistent, and even the business-minded hustlers you’ll see on a daily throughout the city were absent. But as the city comes back to life, Opebi is once again a vibe – whether you’re hopping to the higher-end Barrel Lounge for a cocktail and some small or large chops (finger food) such as yam fries, fresh fish and goat meat, or grabbing tantalising local specialities from Mama Cass, where two of you can order a tableful of traditional food for less than $10. It all adds up to make Opebi a friendly, inexpensive and surprisingly tranquil side of this buzzing megacity.—Hannah Ajala
23, Narvarte, Mexico City
If you’re walking around Mexico City and you catch the delicious scents of baking bread, freshly ground coffee and hoppy craft beer, you’re probably in Narvarte: a neighbourhood that is emerging as one of CDMX’s best places to live and visit. Follow your nose to discover the bread at Costra, the coffee at Almanegra and the beer at La Perdida – and know also that Narvarte is a mecca for taco-hunters.
But this area isn’t just trading on its foodie credentials. If goodwill, sympathy and solidarity were a fragrance, they would be part of Narvarte’s scent too. We noticed the area’s community spirit after the earthquake of 2017, and again this year when lockdown began. BBQ hotspot Pinche Gringo rallied locals with live streams on Facebook – DJ sets, yoga sessions, drag bingo and more – under the name of #StayAtPincheHome (#StayAtGoddamnHome). At the same time, local taproom Hop The Beer Experience 2 united fellow breweries across the Mexican capital to deliver fresh beer to health workers.
Meanwhile, a nearby hospital has become famous thanks to Harley: a one-eyed pug dressed in PPE, who went viral for his efforts cheering up first responders. That’s right: Narvarte’s fellow feeling even extends to the animal kingdom.—Anaid Ramírez, Time Out Mexico City
24, Uptown, Chicago
Walk to the intersection of Broadway and Lawrence Avenue in Chicago’s Uptown neighbourhood, and you’ll spot the weathered façades of 1920s theatres and the neon sign of a jazz club once frequented by Al Capone. Nearby, on Clifton Avenue, a Black Lives Matter mural created by 18 local artists covers the pavement. That pretty much sums up the chronological juxtaposition that this neighbourhood embodies.
Perseverance has been a defining theme in Uptown’s history, and now the neighbourhood is slowly roaring back to life after lockdown, with honky-tonk bar Carol’s Pub and drag club the Baton Show Lounge putting on live performances once again. Ethiopian restaurant Demera and Chinese barbecue spot Sun Wah continue to feed both their local community and hungry city-dwellers in far-flung nabes.
The vibrant Argyle Street restaurant scene and breathtaking lakefront scenery will draw you in, but it’s the mélange of cultures and tangible remnants of the area’s history that makes Uptown feel simultaneously like a slice of Chicago’s past and a vital part of the city’s future.—Morgan Olsen, Time Out Chicago
25, Little Five Points, Atlanta
An artsy neighbourhood where creatives and free spirits live next to eccentric tattoo parlours and lively dive bars, Little Five Points is beloved by Atlantans for its vibrant and intimate community. It has all the upsides of city life – access to MARTA, walkability – without the insane parking prices and head-throbbing traffic of life in downtown Atlanta.
L5P is where eccentric music venues and diverse outfitters coexist, so that a walk down Euclid Avenue might reveal a streetwear-clad college student on her way to edgy boutique Wish ATL to purchase a pair of Yeezys, a burgeoning band smoking outside of Aisle 5 before their first public performance, a hippie couple grabbing a smoothie at Arden’s Garden after a successful evening of thrifting, or a local rapper shooting a video in Moods Music, a great Black-owned record store.
Although individual expression seems to pump through the veins of every Little Five Points resident, this is also a rich, tight-knit community, whose epicentre – the five-way junction at the corner of Euclid and Moreland – regularly holds bar crawls, art sales and impromptu sidewalk jam sessions.—Joshua Robinson
26, Wynwood, Miami
Talk about whiplash. Wynwood closed out 2019 celebrating the tenth anniversary of its globally regarded Wynwood Walls outdoor museum, and began this year hosting the city’s coolest Super Bowl LIV parties and concerts. And then lockdown happened. The bustling neighbourhood went silent as its galleries closed, the Walls shut its gates and the tourists stopped coming. For a while, the only exciting thing happening in Miami’s arts district was protesters marching down NW Second Avenue in support of the Black Lives Matters movement.
Without an influx of out-of-towners and a strong residential community to sustain it, Wynwood’s business owners stepped up to keep the ’hood’s cultural mission alive. SWARM, the event producers behind Wynwood’s major block parties and annual festivals, launched a radio station in June as a way to keep the public engaged and their roster of DJs employed. Custom playlists by the same folks we were used to grooving with IRL now provided the soundtrack to countless at-home dance parties.
Around the same time, the Wynwood Business Improvement District helped restaurants turn street parking into outdoor seating, pioneering the programme with critically acclaimed (and longtime EAT List member) KYU. And art flourished everywhere. From fun diversions like the Tiger King mural on NW Fifth Avenue to serious, thought-provoking graffiti in honor of BLM to topical exhibitions highlighting the effects of climate change at the Museum of Graffiti, creativity and innovation proved to be the local antidote to a global crisis.—Virginia Gil, Time Out Miami
27, Phibsboro, Dublin
After being knocked from its perch by neighbouring Stoneybatter last year, Phibsboro is back on top in 2020 – and with good reason. While the pandemic has hollowed out parts of Dublin city centre, this northside area has valiantly weathered these truly bizarre times.
Combining old-school charm and contemporary buzz, Phibsboro feels at once lived-in and lively. Locals are spoilt for choice with an abundance of coffee shops, restaurants and pubs right on their doorstep. Neighbourhood café Bang Bang is a one-stop shop for brunch burgers and political tote bags. Sports bar The Back Page serves pizzas named after some of Ireland’s greatest athletes, while Victorian boozer The Hut slings ‘pints of plain’ (Guinness) by the armful.
What sets the area apart, however, are the local fixtures that are so quintessentially Phibsboro: the Bohemians FC murals, the snooker halls, the punk collectives, the brutalist behemoth that is Phibsboro Shopping Centre. If you’re looking for signs that Dublin’s heart is still beating, look no further than this brilliantly unhurried, unvarnished part of town.—Amy O’Connor
28, Nørrebro, Copenhagen
A diverse, multiethnic community just north of the Copenhagen’s famous Lakes, Nørrebro has a never-sleeps sort of atmosphere, where treks through weekend flea markets seep into meals at thriving Middle Eastern and African restaurants then rounds at a pared-down dive bar.
In a city known for its culinary excellence, this is the area where locals actually come to eat and drink. Natural wine bars like Pompette are revolutionising environmentally-conscious wine drinking. Grim – meaning ‘ugly’ – is a tongue-in-cheek organic veg delivery service that works to eliminate food waste and really came into its own during lockdown. Selfish is your best shout for sushi, Ma’ed offers tip-top Ethiopian sharing platters, and Ranee’s is all about flavourful, fish-heavy northern Thai dishes.
In a normal year, street celebrations including annual dance music bash Distortion and the city’s jazz festival would take over squares like Balders Plads, while Pride and social justice marches usually get properly going here too. For the perfect morning-after reflection, you’ll want to head to the Assistens Cemetery where fairytale king Hans Christian Andersen rests. We have a feeling he’d be pretty taken with this truly magical neighbourhood right now.—Alexandra Pereira
29, Bugis, Singapore
Before Singapore was a modern metropolis with high-rise flats, people would live in small villages known as kampungs. They’d come together to share food, crowd around a single television and keep an eye on each other’s children. There were no locked doors, just a tight-knit community living together, trying to make ends meet. While these villages are no longer a common sight in the city, the ‘kampung spirit’ lives on in Bugis.
Over on Haji Lane (the name comes from the Muslim migrants who first settled here during the 1800s), Good Luck Beer House has been lending a helping hand to fellow food and beverage businesses on the street. It opened up its online delivery site to neighbours like Blanco Court Prawn Mee, a heritage hawker that otherwise might not have survived the drop in footfall during the ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown. Gelam Gallery opened just last year and is Singapore’s first outdoor art gallery, a timely complement to all the other street art and independent galleries dotted through the ’hood.
Art makes its way on to the plate as well when you paint a canvas of rice at one of the area’s many nasi padang stalls or order a stunning tipple at Atlas, housed in an equally breath-taking Art Deco-inspired space. It’s places like Bugis that prove Singapore is about far more than skyscrapers.—Dewi Nurjuwita and Nicole-Marie Ng, Time Out Singapore
30, Gongguan, Taipei
It may seem bizarre in this year when so much city life has paused, but the studenty area of Gongguan has never felt so alive. Taiwan controlled the situation pretty much from the get-go thanks to speedy government action and proactiveness among the public in staying home and wearing masks, making any lockdown pretty much unnecessary.
Naturally, though, outdoor attractions have proved particularly popular over the past six months. Gongguan wins out here, being bordered to the east by the leafy campus of Japanese-era National Taiwan University, and to the west by the riverside park with its medley of cyclists, dog walkers and a string of lively alfresco bars (The Poutinerie & Snack Shack serves an unrivalled Captain Morgan and coke, fyi).
Queues form around the block for family-run Mo Chao, a hole-in-the-wall bubble-tea vendor, while large groups fill the many affordable hotpot and Thai restaurants off the main drag. If you’re struggling to choose, go for Sara Thai, decked out all in purple, which serves some of Taipei’s finest coconut curries. And after the sun sets, things really heat up at the night market that occupies a patchwork of lanes surrounding Gongguan metro station.—Dinah Gardner
31, Soho, London
In central London, there are tables spilling out on to the streets of Soho again. The reason for this sudden renaissance? A disastrous turn of fortune at the hands of the pandemic.
Nowhere in London has suffered like Soho. By the second month of lockdown, its grid of streets – formerly known for sleaze, latterly for media companies and record stores – teetered on the edge of extinction, shuttered and lifeless. And then out came the tables, and with them the bohemian spirit of central London’s gloriously dark heart.
The neon of the red-light district may have dimmed since its heyday (you won’t find the likes of Francis Bacon staggering around after a long lunch any more) but this year has revealed the huge love that Londoners still have for the restaurants, bars, shops and personalities that make Soho so vital. Old Compton Street’s gay bars have a new street-side identity; locals and visitors raised £80,000 to keep age-old pub The French House pouring its demi-pints; legendary jazz club Ronnie Scott’s is back doing (socially-distanced) shows.
Can you live there for a non-extortionate amount of money? Of course not; it’s Soho, you donkey. But without Soho, London – and probably many other cities on this list – wouldn’t know what a ‘cool neighbourhood’ should even look like. It has always stood apart, a palimpsest of immigration and influence. Now it deserves for us to rediscover its charms.—Time Out London editors
32, Binh Thanh, Ho Chi Minh City
Immersive, local and yet conveniently central, Binh Thanh district is a standout corner of frenetic Ho Chi Minh City. It’s easy to get lost in its maze of alleyways, but that’s a good thing: the atmosphere is electric, locals friendly and tourists few.
On Phan Van Han street, a bustling strip on the border with District 1, established street-food stalls rub up against higher-end spots such as SuShi Nhí, Captain Phook and Here and Now. Similarly, the Saigonese culture of streetside coffee shares space with upper-end options such as Café Tartine, Café Cơ and Nhà Saigon.
The food scene also thrives near Landmark 81, the tallest skyscraper in HCMC – head up to the seventy-fifth floor to hang out at café-bar Blank Lounge. There’s more after-dark fun to be had at Birdy and Nong Trai Khoai on Pham Viet Chanh and atmospheric cocktail bar Cọ. And for the morning after, Van Thanh Park is a welcome green oasis.—Zoe Osborne
33, Melville, Johannesburg
Melville is a joyous, everyone-knows-everyone kind of place. Just north of the city centre, this largely residential neighbourhood’s tree-fringed main road brims with coffee shops, restaurants and bars that spill on to the pavement. Antiques fan out in front of family-run stores. Artists hawk their creations on street corners. Very few parts of Johannesburg, in fact, are better for a casual mooch than the area’s commercial centrepiece, 27 Boxes – once Faan Smit Park, now a 51-store shopping complex comprising colourful stacked shipping containers.
Since lockdown, neighbourhood staples (and our personal faves) Xai Xai and Nuno’s have merged to serve their distinctive Portuguese and Mozambican-inspired plates in a single, larger establishment. (Yes, it’s all still very delicious.) Kwoffee Shop, meanwhile, has been delivering some of the city’s best coffee.
Yet for the clearest insight into this thoroughly pally, community-centric ’hood, it suffices to find out about the Viva Foundation’s Melville Food Parcel Program. Led by Melvillians Tanya and Sean Gardiner, this excellent initiative involved a network of local volunteers handing out 300,000 meals to the less well-off during the four months of ‘hard lockdown’. Such is Melville’s sociable and solidary spirit, if you lived here, you’d almost certainly want to get stuck in too.—Iga Motylska
34, Kabutocho, Tokyo
Nihonbashi is no stranger to the spotlight: it was both the bustling commercial centre and the cultural heart of Tokyo right up until the mid-twentieth century. Following a decades-long decline, today the area is resurrecting itself with a distinctively Japanese blend of tradition and modernity.
Within its maze of alleyways, dotted with stately neo-baroque buildings and humble traditional shops, you’ll find a heritage washi paper store inside a geometric black cube; a hundred-year-old eel restaurant that has become a craft beer bar; and a 1,200-year-old shrine sitting quietly in the shadow of a ritzy department store. And every year in summer, you can catch one of Tokyo’s liveliest traditional festivals: the Nihonbashi-Kyobashi Matsuri, with thousands of dancers in dazzling outfits parading along the main Chuo Dori avenue.
But the centre of Nihonbashi’s reinvention is the Kabutocho area, where the Kabutocho Revitalisation Project is injecting excitement and fresh minds to a stuffy area once known as the ‘Wall Street of Tokyo’. The former headquarters of Japan’s first bank has been transformed into K5, a boutique hotel with an exciting line-up of new restaurants, cafés and bars. Despite all this new energy, though, Kabutocho still retains its laidback vibe. It’s hard to be cool without being ostentatious, but Kabutocho (and Nihonbashi in general) manages it effortlessly.—Time Out Tokyo editors
35, Porta Venezia, Milan
Milan was hit first and hardest among European cities, and yet the only lasting change you’ll see on the streets of Porta Venezia is the newly legalised alfresco tables. In a regional capital that thrives off of sunset aperitivi, that’s made the city’s LGBTQ+ district – with its huge rainbow welcoming you as you exit the metro – just as loud and lively as usual these past few months.
For a €3 spritz, family-run tobacco shop-cum-billiard bar Picchio is the place. After meatball pasta at Trattoria Sabbioneda Da Romolo or Alhambra’s vegetarian vittles, modish Milanesi head to Bar Basso for the ’60s décor and the famous Negroni Sbagliato, invented right here by the father of current owner Maurizio.
Just off Milan’s main shopping drag – out with the car horns, in with laughter and bicycle bells – this northern neighbourhood is where locals head for the city’s finest antiques (Seconda Vita) and vintage clothing (Bivio). Teatime happens at La Teiera Eclettica and ice-cream hour at Out-of-the-Box. La dolce vita? It never went away in this fun-loving pocket of Italy’s second city.—Isobel Gooder
36, Taman Paramount, Kuala Lumpur
While more affluent areas of Kuala Lumpur like Damansara and Taman Tun Dr Ismail try hard to impress with their high-rise buildings and hyper-stylised spots, the cooler side of KL is found in Taman Paramount: a quaint little neighbourhood where locals go to let off steam.
Despite its distance from the city centre, people have started flocking to Taman Paramount for a dose of nostalgia. The landmark cube that until recently housed the Giant hypermarket was once a much-loved cinema; decades-old eateries and hawker stalls are long-established favourites serving up Malaysian must-eats such as nasi lemak and Sarawak laksa; while mom-and-pop sundry shops are comforting features in the area, their shelves stocked with childhood snacks, dry goods and household items.
At the same time, the local stretch of Jalan 20/13 is fast finding favour with bright-eyed young creatives and entrepreneurs – the past couple of years have seen a string of great new openings like Ilaika (a concept store curating ‘random, beautiful things’ by local designers and makers), craft beer bar Monster and Beer, the one-stop film lab Zontiga, gallery spaces hosting pop-up exhibitions and markets – and of course some great cafés and restaurants.—Ng Su Ann
- Allston, Boston
Given that international travel from the US has all but ceased, Bostonians are fortunate they need only travel to buzzy Allston to see the world. While the neighbourhood has always hummed with youthful energy thanks to a heavy student and post-grad population, recent waves of out-of-towners have infused the area with new spirit, as evidenced by the immigrant-owned eateries that continue to pop up year after year.
In this cheap-eats haven, there’s something for whatever you’re craving. Maybe you fancy Middle Eastern at Garlic ’n Lemons or Korean at Coreanos, or perhaps you want to nosh alongside the hipsters at Lone Star Taco Bar, or party with foreign students over cold beers and hot pot at Shabu-Zen.
One thing’s for sure – this well-worn, enduring neighbourhood will always be home to an eclectic assortment of only-in-Allston characters. Just stop by one of the longstanding haunts like the Silhouette Lounge, Model Café or Carlo’s Cucina Italiana to see them in action.—Eric Grossman, Time Out Boston
- Bandra West, Mumbai
For the better part of 2020, all non-essential movement was forbidden throughout Mumbai. With the constant hum of traffic, the usually-bustling streets of this charming historic area felt a great deal quieter than normal.
But the locals of Bandra West – known for its elegant seventeenth-century architecture and uber-chic restaurants – found ways to live it up in this incredibly weird new normal. While restaurants in these parts remained closed, chefs turned their homes into makeshift kitchens. Bandra resident Hena Widhani sold moreish set meals, with proceeds going to a charity feeding the less fortunate. Seefah Ketchaiyo of Seefah, Pack-A-Pav’s Rohan Mangalorkar and Anand Morwani from Brewbot teamed up to keep their culinary creativity flowing amid all the madness. And among the many tipplers missing their neighbourhood bar or pub, breweries found a burgeoning market for craft beer growlers.
The roads may have emptied out, but as you’d expect in Bandra, it’s still been surprisingly easy to make merry – albeit largely within the confines of our homes.—Kasturi Gadge
39, Arnavutköy, Istanbul
Away from Istanbul’s hectic inner city, the waterfront village neighbourhood of Arnavutköy has come into its own this year. It was already known for its legendary community spirit: some years ago, its inhabitants successfully protested against being the axis of a major new bridge. The same fighting spirit has seen its residents through 2020 relatively unscathed, and the surge of new restaurants and stores that have set up shop on its backstreets over the past few years have also picked up where they left off.
Local staple Antica Locanda serves up Italian flavours to a loyal clientele, while the impressive menu at A Bit of Eggo makes it a city-wide draw for breakfast. For afternoon tea, there’s Chado Tea Shop, with its global selection of chai – anything from Taiwanese formosa oolong to hojicha tea from Japan. For something more spirited, there’s always Alexandra Cocktail Bar with its exciting cocktail menu and lovely terrace.
But Arnavutköy’s biggest strength in 2020 is its timeless waterside tranquillity. In the wake of Istanbul’s lockdown, a health-giving stroll along the Bosphorus feels more vital than ever.—Seda Pekçelen and Leyla Huysal, Time Out Istanbul
40, Banjar Nagi, Ubud
It’s no secret that Bali’s economy relies heavily on tourists. So what happens to a small neighbourhood a few minutes away from central Ubud when visitors stop streaming in? They take care of each other.
With its undulating paddy fields and the call of crickets filling the air, Banjar Nagi is a hip, low-key alternative to the booming beach clubs of Kuta. In the wake of this year’s travel restrictions, resorts like Viceroy Bali have hired people who live around the area and provided financial support for the community. Apéritif, the hotel’s European-Indonesian restaurant, has moved hospitality staff to work in gardening or renovations so that nobody loses their job.
Many in the community have come together to donate rice, eggs, Indomie noodles and soap to those who need it most. Locals also continue to support their favourite warungs (casual, family-owned businesses) like Warung Sunda for karedok, a raw vegetable salad with peanut sauce, and Warung Surabaya for ayam bakar: iconic Indonesian charcoal-grilled chicken with rice.
Banjar Nagi is still Bali’s serene, secret escape – but more importantly, it remains a safe oasis for those who live there.—Nicole-Marie Ng, Time Out Asia