The problem with hidden hotspots is that they don’t stay hidden for too long. When the excitement of sharing the coolest secret bar you’ve boozed in becomes too much to keep hushed up, quickly the name on the door passes from your lips to your bestie’s, to their cousin’s best friend’s boyfriend, and soon the world and his wife will be wetting their palette there.
While you’re at university, you usually try to live a bed-roll away from campus, but free time is another matter. The oath every hipster takes at their coronation is to ensure they will only tread would-be trendy laneways and scout out the up-and-coming establishments long before they become known, and sometimes that will require travelling. So if you too want to live in the hippest places before they become too crowded, check out the 12 hippest neighbourhoods in Europe for students.
1. Marvila, Lisbon
One of the oldest capitals in Europe and the country’s largest city, Lisbon is vibrant, boasts a strong culture, and has many cool corners to escape to. Amongst the ones you need to see, Marvila is an up-and-coming neighbourhood that cannot be missed.
Located on the northeastern banks of the Tagus river, the once derelict warehouses that used to line the area are now home to a thriving port stop full of fanciful spots to eat, drink and be merry, and several startups that add creativity and colour to the working class riverside neighbourhood.
Check off one of the area’s four contemporary art galleries that have based themselves in Marvila or sip a latte at Café com Calma before trying your hand at hardcore parkour at Spot Real. For evening entertainment, head to Dois Corvos, the city’s best craft brewery that draws pints and plentiful parched people daily.
2. Cedofeita, Porto
The second largest city of Portugal, the river city and World Heritage Site of Porto has long competed with the capital for recognition as the cultural hub, and taking on Marvila for the title of Portugal’s hipster hotspot, Porto’s Cedofeita packs quite a punch. Located close enough to the city centre to be within walking distance to the main attractions, it’s also home to several secret spots known only to locals.
Follow the pulse of the neighbourhood that originates in the Praça Carlos Alberto at the Porto Belo street market on Saturdays, where you can tickle your taste buds at the birthplace of the city’s first coffee house, Moustache, before heading to the multicultural district at Rua Miguel Bombarda. Home to art galleries and concept stores guaranteed to awaken your senses, the entire artistic atmosphere dressed in jewellery and furniture stores, hairdressers and galleries will have you not wanting to leave the city.
3. Friedrichshain, Berlin
Berlin has long been the bohemian bed of the continent, and while its trendy Kreuzberg is well-known is a hip hangout, the neighbourhood of Friedrichshain is home to all the cool without the crowds. Formerly part of East Berlin, the district famous for high-profile relics such as the East Side Gallery, has in recent years experienced gluttonous gentrification.
Unique bars and boutiques lining the Revaler Strasse create a loud nightlife, while bustling cafés, restaurants, cinemas and green spaces add colour to the expressive east side and invite visitors during the day. It’s not Berlin if there’s not great food, and you’ll find that in vast quantities along Simon-Dach-Strasse, where curious cuisine influences come to life to satisfy all cravings at comfortable costs.
4. Glockenbach, Munich
The capital of Bavaria, famous for the Oktoberfest and breakfast, is also home to some of the best universities in the country and neighbourhoods packed with personality. Of the best, you must visit the up-and-coming Glockenbach.
Being close to the river, the picturesque district disguises its alternative edginess, which comes alive at the eclectic gay bars — and the same-sex pedestrian traffic signals — that light up the early hours of the morning on Müllerstrasse.
Head to Hans-Sachs-Straße for a full flavour of Glockenbach and pop into one of the many boutique stores, sit back in the sun on Café Sax’s terrace, or visit X-cess Bar on Jahnstrasse, where women are greeted with lollipops and men with Russian Air Force hats. Bizarre or ravishingly beautiful? You decide.
5. Isola, Milan
An urban island cut off from the city surrounded by the beauty of Milan — what’s not to love? The district of Isola translates to “island” in Italian and celebrates its strong sense of community from its origins as a post-war working class district where small shops and local trattorias still survive and rub shoulders with some of Milan’s coolest isolated hangouts.
Organic delis, fusion restaurants, and swanky bars line the all-natural neighbourhood while an incredible array of creative hangouts have helped to develop the vicinity into one of Milan’s most vibrant enclaves. Patchwork Art Nouveau buildings are sewn together to create an artistic tapestry where exquisite bars, such as the graffiti clad Frida, find expression without a heavy price tag.
6. San Lorenzo, Rome
When in Rome, do as the Romans do and visit San Lorenzo. You won’t be disappointed. Shedding the city’s image as a historical artifact, the district of San Lorenzo is home to the city’s bohemian vibe and houses a rich nightlife, tantalising food, and an enigmatic atmosphere to create the perfect combination for an escape from the norm.
The shabby-chic region with a lot of street art and the student population of Sapienza University has transformed the former post-industrial railway worker residence into an glowing avant-garde hub with a young soul.
For an alternative night out to the drinking dens of Testaccio, check out Centro Sociali’s underground bars, such as Rome’s first and only Jamaican pub, Jamrock; immerse yourself in the independent meetups that organise regular film screenings, live music and dance classes around Via dei Volsci; or grab a bottle of beer and mingle with the locals at the main meeting point of Piazza dell’Immacolata.
7. Camberwell, London
Shoreditch, Dalston, Peckham and Tottenham are long gone. The hippest neighbourhoods in London are now Clapton, Walthamstow, Deptford and Camberwell.
In the latter, gentrified Georgian homes nestled amongst chicken shops, cosmopolitan cafés and the atmosphere of long forgotten grandeur nurse a growing, unsuspecting urban movement that is beginning to find its feet, all the while retaining its proud sense of self, untainted by the temptation of popularism.
Church Street is the borough’s main artery and where you’ll find host of quirky pop-ups, charming pubs and small galleries like the South London Gallery, which add to the effervesce spirit of the area, while the thriving population of students and artisans drawn in by Camberwell’s College of Arts and Goldsmiths keeps Camberwell’s youthful identity at bay. Stop by the unmissable Camberwell Fair, a one-day event in July with a mix of street food, live music and a pop-up cocktail bar.
8. Canal St Martin, Paris
In the northeastern hamlet of Paris lies Canal Saint-Martin, a picturesque district with a 19th century waterway. Bright boulangeries built for unshaven thinkers, day dreamers and angsty students flank the canal while the neighbourhood’s utilitarian flat buildings make for the ideal backdrop for an urban picnic.
If you’re the outdoorsy type, be sure to venture to Quai de Valmy and Quai de Jemmapes on a Sunday when the city reserves the area for pedestrians and cyclists to set a peaceful alternative to the city famed for high octane, hedonistic adventures.
9. Nørrebro, Copenhagen
One of the ten official districts of cosmopolitan Copenhagen, the northwest neighbourhood of Nørrebro has evolved into the quirky headquarters thanks to its thriving multiculturalism.
The old working class district peppered with colourful buildings and a buzzing atmosphere has naturally attracted an array of boutiques, cafés, restaurants, and even the only Thai Michelin restaurant in the world, Kiin Kiin. This all culminates at Sankt Hans Torv where the carefree spirit is visible in the streets.
A short walk past the Lakes from the station, you’ll find Jægersborggade, a cobbled street filled with cultural cafés, quirky shops and the close-by evocative Assistens Cemetery, the final burial place of Hans Christian Andersen.
10. Neubau, Vienna
Being home to Mozart, scrumptious biscuits and an elegant dance, Vienna doesn’t exactly come to mind when you think of edginess. In the underbelly of the city, however, another Vienna subtly lives where distinctive subcultures thrive. The seventh district of the city is such a place.
Delightfully rough around the edges, Neubau borders the expansive Museum Quarter of the Inner City and the recently revived Spittelberg quarter. The Museumsquartier, lovingly called MQ, stood once as the emperor’s guard’s stables, and now houses modern museums, cultural institutions, shops, cafés, and clubs a plenty. The Spittelberg, on the other hand, has become a fashionable favourite amongst students and creatives alike — you’ll find many graffiti-hunting hotheads snapping away vehemently.
Drinks and films at the Topkino, located off Mariahilfer Straße, is where you’ll find all the cool kids on a Sunday while climbing the flak tower at Esterhazy park — it has become an unofficial rite of passage.
11. Leith, Edinburgh
There isn’t much of Edinburgh that remains to be uncovered, but of all the neighbourhoods in the bonnie Scottish city, the port district of Leith is finding resurgence. Originally an independent port village that was assimilated into the north of the city, the once industrial area is now a pleasant place to explore at leisure.
Take a walk along the Firth of Forth shores where the wondrous fusion of contemporary and old architecture will leave you spoilt for choice. The multiple restaurants and bars boost a reputation for being the best in the country, and after all your gastronomic desires are fulfilled, you can investigate the wealth of independent shops draping the area.
12. Amsterdam-Noord, Amsterdam
Every neighbourhood in Amsterdam is arguably effortlessly cool, but some parts of the city offer that extra oomph. While artists, intellectuals, and budding thinkers have long hung out in De Pijp — and even though that trend doesn’t seem to be bucking anytime soon, as loads of undergrads frequent the district’s free-spirited flair semester upon semester — the new kid to watch out for is the happening district of Amsterdam-Noord, or Noord for short.
Jam-packed with cool cafés, ethnic eats, and jazzy little clubs, Noord is what NYC’s Williamsburg used be: a cutting-edge hub for artists where the artsy green agenda establishments and organic, locally-sourced eateries have won over the hearts of the avant-garde.
There’s plenty to do in your free time, whether it’s watching an indie film at the EYE film museum, drinking a craft beer at the Oedipus brewery, or admiring the industrial landscape at NDSM-Werf shipyard.
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What other cool neighbourhoods do you know in Europe? Let us know in the comments. And remember: if you need student accommodation you’ll find the perfect student home on Uniplaces, including in some of these neighbourhoods!