3 European Neighborhoods for Hipsters
We walk through three of the most alternative and at the same time hip neighborhoods of our all-time favorite metropolises of Europe, which are definitely worth discovering on your next winter city break.
1. Trastevere, Rome: Bohemian Italy
We could call it Italy's Montmartre or Europe's New Orleans... Woody Allen chose it for his popular film “In Rome With Love”, sent Alec Baldwin wandering through the cobbled alleys and set the tone of this neighborhood. Fortified behind its natural boundaries, the Tiber (from Ponte Sisto bridge you can cross to the "other side"), Trastevere is one of the few places where you hang out at one of the various cafés and let your senses feel the grandeur of the Eternal City.
Not far from the historic center of Rome - and very close to the Vatican - Trastevere was formerly the ghetto of the working class and later an infamous district but, in recent years, it has evolved into a district of artists, while maintaining its old atmosphere. It was the reputation of the region, including Audrey Hepburn and Ennio Morricone's glamour, what attracted many foreigners and art lovers who decided to settle here. Since 1950, the Cinema America on Via Natale Grande, as well as Nanni Moretti's Sacher Cinema have been part of the culture of this neighborhood. Nowadays the medieval narrow streets are getting busy by the many American students, who are studying at Trastevere's university and learning all about the Italian culture by living it. During the afternoons, street performers add to the atmosphere while dozens of cyclists enjoy a stroll through the district and the bridge of the island Isola Tiberina.
Here you will find sophisticated cafés and bars, such as “Da Augusto” and “San Calisto” (which begins to serve with the first light of day), “Griot” a bookstore devoted to African culture and, of course, the Sunday market at Porta Portese. Not-to-miss is the antiques' flea market at Viale di Trastevere. Remember that Trastevere's habitues don't seem to give in to each tourist caprice. However, in its multiracial streets,you will come across a side of the Italian culture that you never imagined you would find anywhere in Rome.
Beautiful district, beautiful people, beautiful music
2. Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin: East and creative
With the rich “aroma” of the past and a vibrant creative mood, Prenzlauer Berg district of former East Berlin, offers the opportunity for a unique travel experience. There is no place else in former East Berlin that can convey the atmosphere of the era as strongly as Prenzlauer Berg. The building, mostly built in the early 20th century, might not have anything spectacular about them, however, along the main street Schönhauser Allee and the elevated U-Bahn tracks, their revamped pastel colors highlight them. The smaller streets carry strongly the marks of time and the past, when the inhabitants weren't multinational nor as well-off as they are today. Despite its humble social origins, the Prenzlauer Berg has always played an important role in general development, attracting artists and intellectuals and exuding creativity and a dynamic personality. It is these contradictions that make it so charming, along with the ongoing dialogue with its past without a trace of nostalgia or controversy. Thankfully, the area didn't suffer any serious damage during the Second World War.
This year, the oldest building on the No. 77 Kastanienallee is celebrating 164 years of life. A bit younger is the brasserie «Prater», hangout of great political figures of the Interwar period, like Rosa Luxemburg and August Bebel. Today it is a popular place for those who want to enjoy their beer in a historic - and rather noisy - environment. To the same generation alsobelongs the old brewery Schultheiss Brauerei AG in Schönhauser Allee, which since 2000 has become the cultural park Kulturbrauerei and attracts a large crowd due to a rich program of artistic events and the striking water tower at the beginning of Rykestrasse. With its majestic buildings that are constantly being renovated and the largest synagogue in Germany, Rykestrasse deviates significantly from the usual working-class district, for which Prenzlauer Berg was initially planned, thus justifying its name (street of the rich). Antique shops, clothing stores, sophisticated cafés and tiny, very cozy bars open till the early hours are only some of the reasons to visit.
As for Kollwitzplatz square, the zero point of Prenzlauer Berg's conversion to the bohemian neighborhood that is today, is Knaackstrasse. For authentic French dishes make a stop at the colorful brasserie «Poulette». If it's Thursday or Saturday prefer snacking from the stalls of the popular market at the square, famous for its irresistibly delis. The streets surrounding the square are particularly suited for those who prefer to dine away from the crowds.The tapas of «Lafil» or the Israeli hummus of «Zula Hummus Café» are only two examples of the variety of flavors available in the district. Don't forget to take a look at the blue building on the corner of Kollwitzstrasse and Knaackstrasse, where the artist Käthe Kollwitz used to live (famous for her social sensitivity that also inspired her work). Before leaving, enjoy your drink at the relaxed and elegant «Scotch & Sofa».
At Oderbergerstrasse, one of the most representative streets of the neighborhood, will attract you interesting stores, like “Not A Wooden Spoon” that sells furniture made of old floor boards, or Paul's Boutique, with used designer clothes. The “Bonanza Coffee Heroes” confirms the Berlin's reputation as Europe's Mecca of coffee. Here you can also visit the Mauerpark to see the piece of the Wall that separated Prenzlauer Berg from the French Sector or to wander the Sunday flea market. If the toys you discover there look too outdated, visit the toy store Katalka or the equally exciting Glaube und Wahrheit.
Three fashion stopovers are Eisdieler, with cool clothes and one of the most beautiful collections of vintage sunglasses stored in a space that used to be ice cream, the Anne Wolf with stylish coats, dresses for special circumstances, wedding dresses in simple lines and retro style, as well as very special accessories and children's clothes, and finally, the Vatata with stylish children's clothes made of 100% organic cotton.
For a good taste of the everyday life of this district watch a movie on the tiny Lichtblick-Kino or if you feel like theater, go to one of the English-language comedies of Kookaburra. Otherwise, the Prenzlkasper's puppets don't have any linguistic prerequisites, as do the dance shows and visual art exhibitions at the experimental Ballhaus Ost. For drinks, walk five minutes until you reach the “Wohnzimmer”, a representative sample of contemporary Berlin-cult. The bar “8MM” won't disappoint you, but you will absolutely love the canteen “Konnopke's Imbiss”, underneath the U-Bahn, a canteen serving since 1930 the most popular curry wurst (sausage with red sauce and curry) in the city!
3. Born, Barcelona: A taste of art and chocolate
From Picasso and the chocolate sculptures to the idiosyncratic young Spanish designers, Born is a miniature of Barcelona's temperament and eclecticism. Very few neighborhoods in the world combine internationally renowned museums and intoxicating Mojitos in a medieval background that once hosted historical horse-battles. Stylish and artsy by day, sinful by night, Born (officially part of Ribera) makes appointments with historians and night owls, families and young bohemians at the crossroads of art and joie-de-vivre.
Number one destination, the Picasso Museum will welcome you to the atmospheric Carrer Montcada with rather horrendous queues. Fortunately, it is located in a photo-oriented medieval street with residential palaces that will keep you good company - especially if you happen to overhear the exciting stories shared by tour guides in the area. If on the other hand you feel impatient, you can choose from a lively palette alternative. The new European Museum of Modern Art, housed in a restored palace-jewel of 1792, hosts paintings and sculptures inspired by the realistic portrayals of teachers of the past. Equally realistic but a lot tastier sculptures - from Tintin to the Sagrada Familia – can be found at the Chocolate Museum, where kids' workshops are organized and excellent hot chocolate is served.
The shopaholics will discover the new trends imposed by Spanish designers (definitely take a look at the shoe collection Como Agua de Mayo), while for those who insist on vintage clothes or gadgets, “La Lentejuela” is perfect for discovering little treasures hiding in the trunk. The Barcelona Reykjavik bakery offers very tasty breaks (I recommend the organic apple cake with ginger), while the owners of the little coffee shop called «Lilipep» prepare homemade German-Catalan delicacies accompanied by the music of Chavela Vargas, (Pedro Almodovar's muse). Two doors down, the quaint restaurant «Nou Cellar» goes local and serves paella, sausages and snails.
However, the heart of the region beats louder at the Passeig del Born. Sprawling languidly between the impressive historic market Santa Catarina and the magnificent church Santa Maria del Mar (a Gothic masterpiece), it offers during the day a few moments of deceptive tranquility- unless you stumble upon a wedding! You will need those moments before your nightly adventures in a district where once were jousted horsemen and gladiators. Nowadays the locals do endurance races with cocktails. Chic choices at «Coppelia», jazzy at «Miramelindo», Caipirinhas and Mojitos at «Cactus»...Born smiles and winks at yesterday.