posted by Tom Hall of Lonely Planet | 0 Comments
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It remains a source of astonishment to me that no matter how popular a city gets with tourists, everyone sticks to a few well-established sights. Stroll from Venice’s Santa Lucia train station to St Mark’s Square, or amble around near Notre Dame in Paris and you’ll feel like you’re on a conveyer belt of camera-toting tourists.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The smart visitor explores further, and very quickly leaves the crowds behind. Here are my suggestions for six neighbourhoods that sum up the best of their cities, where you’ll find local life and surprises in abundance.
North of the City of London financial district, Clerkenwell heaves with history. Medieval gates, Victorian streets and Georgian squares hide quiet pubs, hip bars and an ever-changing set of independent shops. To see the best of it, aim for Exmouth Market, which bustles with charming small shops by day and draws a cool crowd on summer evenings.
Cross the Golden Horn to find Istanbul’s modern heart. Once known as Pera, the Genoese trading enclave across the water from Constantinople, Beyoğlu has recently enjoyed a comeback to something approaching its glory days. As Istanbul’s star has risen to join the big league of city destinations, Beyoğlu has seen harbourside renovations, edgy art spaces like SALT and a fast-emerging night scene to reward those venturing off Istikal Caddesi, the area’s main thoroughfare.
Norway’s capital is itself under-appreciated and the hip neighbourhood of Grünerløkka is worth a visit on its own. Offering a laid-back retreat from the city’s growing number of cultural powerhouses, this area to the north of central Oslo is home to affordable bars and restaurants including the quirky Aku-Aku Tiki Bar, a kitsch tribute to the Polynesian wanderings of Norwegian cult explorer Thor Heyerdahl.
Amsterdam has a pretty compact centre, so it pays to aimlessly amble. If you need a goal, then a good final destination is the Noorderkerk, the largest church in the Jordaan. This western district of Amsterdam vies for the title of the best in the city, with compact alleyways and small museums to explore. If you’re visiting during summer, look out for the opening of historic hofjes (courtyards). These beautiful spaces are usually for residents’ eyes only, so peering inside is a real treat.
Bairro Alto, Lisbon
Lisbon is a city of neighbourhoods, separated by steep hills and linked by rumbling trams and rickety elevadores (lifts). Top of the spots is the Bairro Alto, or Upper District, an area for which the word ‘bohemian’ could have been invented. Its sloping streets have boutiques, bars and clubs offering both traditional fado music and modern sounds. The area is at its liveliest at night but wandering these streets on a sunny afternoon was the highlight of my visit to the city.
What's your favourite neighbourhood in Europe?Photos courtesy of Beyond the Lens , Jaako and yhanewzealand. All images used under the Creative Commons license.
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