Just recently, I stumbled across a highly dissatisfying list of the coolest cities to live in for young people. Unfortunately most of the named places were super-expensive and far from spectacular – so us Travelettes got together and worked on our own list of dream cities. We’re already scattered across the Europe and the US, but if you ask us, we could spread out even further.
Our selection is based on criteria like affordability, coolness/quirkiness, food scene & nightlife, proximity to adventure & nature and its cultural landscape. A typical Travelettes city has a cool vibe with loads to do in the city, but has also plenty of close-by weekend getaways. Not all of them are dirt-cheap, but they are certainly vibrant, rich in culture and perfect for young people who want to live ‘la dolce vita’! Psyched for the list? Here are ten of our favorite cities to live in.
Right, so I will have serious trouble keeping this short. Berlin, also lovingly referred to as Hipster Central is a ridiculously Traveletty city on more levels than I will ever be able to describe. Despite the much-debated gentrification, living costs are still relatively low compared to other European cities. Summers in Berlin make me want to live forever, winters… not so much. There are different open air festivals, beach parties, warehouse parties and barbecues everywhere. May 1 is also something like a public holiday here where some serious hippie and indie vibes abound all over Kreuzberg and Neukölln. The different Kieze (neighborhoods) around the Spree are home to many (increasingly international) creatives, freelancers and a lot of other people who are busy finding themselves. That is hugely inspiring – and leads to legendary parties, great exhibitions, indie book fairs, pitch nights and everything your artsy heart could possibly wish for.
As the region around Berlin is large, you can have said barbecues at different lakes (Wannsee, Plötzensee) or hike up a mountain to find yourself (Teufelsberg), all of which is reachable by train within 30-60 minutes. The street food scene has been given a face-lift in recent years; Markthalle Neun for example started to host regular breakfast and street food markets, and normal restaurants have started to be a bit more experimental and international too. Summing up, there’s never been a better time to start a new life in Germany’s outrageously cool capital.
It’s the underdog of Scottish cities, and yet – or maybe just because of that – I love Glasgow. While the tourists flock to Edinburgh in larger numbers than its small Old Town can handle, Glasgow is still fairly far off the beaten track. Mind though, the city has lots to offer. Affordable living costs, a thriving start-up and creative entrepreneurial scene and a different art, culture or food festival for every calendar week.
Glasgow has several universities (read: many budget-friendly eateries and free things to do), a famous art school and has been named the UK’s most vegan-friendly city. It’s edgy, but not intimidating; its people can be hard to understand, but friendly and welcoming; and the beautiful landscape of the Scottish Highlands are at your doorstep. After nearly 4 years in the city, I can’t imagine a better place to play in the city and switch it up with some mountains or lakes on a sunny day.
London forever has a special place in my heart and I doubt it can ever be replaced (not even by Berlin). The (only) downside is the cost of living: Earning minimum wage by far isn’t enough to afford the kind of cultural and social lifestyle that you’d want. On the other hand, once you get past the numbers, there is barely a better place to climb higher on the career and life experience ladder. London unites so many different worlds from around the globe that sometimes it’s hard to distinguish the ‘British’ element and easy to fall in love with the diversity of our planet. Weekend markets, world-class exhibitions and plays and an ever-evolving art scene in East London make it an extremely stimulating place for fashionistas, designers, artists, writers and just about anyone else.
There’s a certain New Yorkesque “Anything is possible” vibe going on in the big smoke because you’re in the middle of it all. If you fancy getting out of that huge bubble, the Tube can get you to a lot of quieter green spots like Richmond or Hampstead Heath (a personal favorite). London’s transport system is efficient and well-organised and – like the rest of the city – full of wise strangers who are waiting to tell you their life story.
Melbourne is a place that captured my heart and my spirit, as it’s a place that never rests and constantly brings the fun. It’s one of the top most livable cities for a reason, and its accessibility, variety and taste allows it to claim this title! From the impeccable cafes that never fail in coffee quality or brunch offerings, to the vibrant art, fashion and culture it nurtures; there’s always something to do regardless of what your style is. The city center hides secret cocktail joints and rooftop bars in alleyways, and the inner suburbs provide nightlife and vintage shopping that will panic you as you’ll want to buy/do/see everything!
Accessibility is super important to me and the fact that trams can whisk you from north to south in a flash, or you can jump on your bike and cruise the safe bike lanes, equates city freedom that I love. Recline by one of the many outside pools before attending an art gallery opening that transforms into a warehouse and street rave, and you’ll be living the Melbs life.
Iceland is anything but cheap – I have to admit that. But there is something about this city that hasn’t loosened the grip on my heart ever since I spent five months there to study abroad in 2010. Other than London, New York or Paris, it is tiny and yet, the city seems to be a world in itself. From the colorful wooden houses in the city center, to the public heated pools and surrounding hills, Reykjavik will steal your heart.
There are little cafes to cozy up on a stormy day, a flourishing craft beer scene and a vibrant nightlife reminiscent of the cult film Reykjavik 101. Literally every person is in a band or does some other art. It is a country of strong entrepreneurial character and there are many opportunities, increasingly for foreigners to settle and start their life over here. Many people leave Reykjavik too quickly to notice its quirkiness, but if you give it some time, you might just fall in love too!
6. Buenos Aires
“Buenos Aires. I’m new, I wanna say I’m just a little stuck on you. And if ever I go too far, it’s because of the things you are. Beautiful town, I love you.” – Madonna
I can’t argue with the wise words of Madonna. Buenos Aires is a fascinating city that combines the vibrancy and passion of Latin America with the beautiful architecture and heritage of Europe. The people who live here, known as porteños, are charming and exuberant and always keen to chat. There’s a thriving creative scene, with regular film festivals, every type of class you could possibly imagine from feminist literary workshops to pottery, and an inspiring kaleidoscope of graffiti on the streets. The night life is outstanding. You can party in the clubs listening to cumbia until 8am in the morning or, if you prefer a more relaxed vibe, there’s an abundance of bars with roof terraces where you can sip cocktails on balmy summer evenings. The city is famous for its red wine and steak and these are both amazing AND cheap. Beyond this, there are closed-door restaurants run in chefs’ own homes, hipster burger joints, and high-end tasting menus. On the weekend while away your time wandering the streets of Palermo, which are filled with designer boutiques, cult concept stores and cool new cafes. If you’d prefer to escape the city, you can take a one-hour ferry across the River Plata and wander the cobbled streets of UNESCO heritage site Colonia in Uruguay.
The downside of Buenos Aires is that living costs are high but it is possible to find relatively low-cost accommodation in barrios other than the popular Palermo. And on the plus side, transport is absurdly cheap – a 30-minute train journey will set you back less than 50 cents!
I was spoiled after living in Charleston, South Carolina for so long. The heat and humidity became part of my routine, and never kept me from doing what I love to do best – walking around, enjoying the sites and sounds of my neighborhood. Charleston looks like a place where time has stopped – all of the buildings are old-fashioned and charming, the restaurants celebrate Southern and Soul Food cuisine (especially brunch), and even the people talk a little slower, smile a little longer, and are happy to pour you a glass of Sweet Tea. There is a great arts scene, including live theater and some great music hear everywhere from Marion Square Park, to East Bay Street, and even into the up-and-coming neighborhoods of North Charleston. And with lots of new tech startups, Charleston is beginning to retain a perpetual “Millennial feel” which makes it a great place for young people to visit and move to. If you enjoy history, architecture, unique dining, lively arts and southern comfort, Charleston is where it’s at.
– former Travelette Katka
8. Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is a feast for your taste buds, your eyes and your camera. The city has rightfully become a hub for international and local creatives who are searching for inspiration and the perfect Chakchouka. Once you dive into culture there and get a feel for the many bars and clubs that aren’t listed on TimeOut, Tel Aviv’s night life will make you feel like you’re having the adventure of your life. There’s nothing, I’m telling you, nothing, that’s comparable to having pizza outdoors in February while a band is playing in a backyard and you end up making about 20 friends.
Of course, Tel Aviv is also a place of diversity, complexity and politics that we won’t get into now. But I’ve found it to be a fantastic place if you’re looking for “more”, whatever that means. If you’re hooked by Mediterranean culture, meaningful conversations (doesn’t mean you’ll have them with everyone) and morning runs by the beach, Tel Aviv is for you.
A city that never sleeps. Literally never. If you wonder where you could move in order to have a great night out even on a Monday, Istanbul is the place to go. But Turkey’s secret capital of hearts has more to offer. Bridges, ferries and high rising buildings offer breathtaking panoramas over the Bosphorus separating Europe from Asia. Istanbul is a city where the old and traditional meet the modern and progressive. Costs of living are considerably lower than elsewhere in Europe and travelers will be happy to hear that the local airport is incredibly well-connected to the rest of the world.
There are vibrant neighborhoods like Taksim and Galata in Beyoglu with bustling shopping miles and hip hang outs to choose from at any day or night time. Rooftop clubs and hidden cafes lure you in at any time of the day, and Turkish hospitality does the rest.
10. Cape Town
Mandela’s legacy of a rainbow nation is practiced in Cape Town like nowhere else in South Africa. While the left over issues of apartheid are still present everywhere, Capetonians are generally a happy bunch, embracing different cultures and nationalities.
Cape Town is a fabulous city to live in whether you enjoy being active in nature & fancy a swim with penguins or prefer a glass of chilled wine with your view. You have the choice of ocean or mountain view, both easily satisfied in most locations. A land of milk and honey not only for foodies, but also for art and design lovers. Being voted the World Design Capital 2014 was only the beginning and the creative scene in Cape Town is thriving, making for an eclectic mix of old and new, tradition and future, all with a distinct African flavor.
Of course this list ends way too early. Bukarest, Chiang Mai, New York, Austin, Sydney, Bangkok – the world is full of places where we’d love to move to. Now tell us,
What is the city of your dreams?