Five global hipster meccas even cooler than Seattle

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(Photo by Dave Sizer)

Last week hipster Seattleites shrugged indifferently at the news that our city had been named by Travel and Leisure as America’s best city for hipsters.

Seattle took the prized vegan cupcake for first place, and was lauded by the site for our brains, Mac products, coffee snobbery and unique “buttoned-down” brand of hipster.

We even beat out our ever-quirkier southern neighbors, despite Portlandia. (The ensuing roller derby standoff is bound to be fierce).

But cool knows no borders, so here is a list of global hipster enclaves that might just give us a run for our money:

Reykjavik, Iceland

Agent Fresco plays at Iceland Airwave Festival, before it was cool. (Photo by Lorganer via Flickr)

The capital of Iceland is Seattle’s sister city in the upper echelons of hipsterdom.

If Seattle ranks highest in national standing without having to consistently reach for the lime-green plaid leggings then Iceland takes international title without even having to lift a nearly-arctic finger.

Case in point: The Iceland Airwaves Festival: bringing together dozens of bands that you can’t pronounce but will still pretend you’ve heard of.

Intimate coffee shops, ample thick, patterned sweaters and the enviably hip factor of speaking a language that just over 300,000 people understand.

One blogger describes seeing a Belle and Sebastian show in a herring storage shed with strips of shark meat hanging out to dry just outside the door. Enough said.

Suddenly, the emergence of daily direct flights from Seattle to Iceland makes a lot of sense.

Zapatista Mexico

Little is known about Subcomandante Marcos (other than that he's devastatingly cool).

San Cristobal de Las Casas, Mexico

Seeking hipsters south of the US border, one might do well to move towards this colonial city nestled in the highlands of the Mexican state of Chiapas.

Potent coffee beans roasted close to the source, check. Hand-hewn leather satchels, check. Abundant NGOS, check.

But most importantly, San Cristobal is the nerve center of the Zapatista revolution. You just might run into infinitely hip poet, philosopher, anti-capitalist sex symbol Subcomandante Marcos chilling out in the town square on a break from leading the revolution.

Newcastle, Australia

Amazing story of a ghost town reborn into Bohemian paradise.

Ferries. They're just cool. I can't explain it.

Marcus Westbury, a festival director in Newcastle, came up with an ingenious tactic for reinvigorating the over 150 empty storefronts of the city’s derelict downtown.

Securing agreements from landowners he invited fledgling artists, designers and food cooperatives to use the storefronts for free, or until their businesses were stable enough to pay rent.

Dilapidated buildings turned vibrant arts district; like a hipster fairy tale come true.

Tokyo, Japan

The Tokyo Cramps play in Shimokitazawa (photo by the toe stubber from flickr)

Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa area rivals Williamsburg, Brooklyn as the hippest neighborhood in the world. Shimokitazawa is a labyinth of tiny streets filled with live music venues.

One blogger says it all: “The only way to explain Shimokitazawa – it’s what the world would be like if it was run by hipsters.”

Check out his photo blog of the vibrant Tokyo neighborhood. When new urban development threatened to overrun parts of Shimokitazawa, there was even a huge public campaign to save it.

Bangalore, India

Described as the “undisputed Elvis of South Asian megacites,” Bangalore boasts all the eccentricities needed to sustain a healthy ex-pat and local hipster culture.

Iron Maiden played in Bangalore and you missed it. (Photo by s_w_ellis via Flickr)

Maybe some of our hipster culture rubbed off during all of those calls we made to tech support centers in Bangalore.

Check out outdoor fleamarket and bazaar, the Sunday Soul Sante. One blogger writes that “anyone with more than trace elements of hipsterness” would be gleeful to rummage through instruments fashioned from junk and paper made from pure elephant dung, and get inked in sanskrit at one of the outdoor tattoo stalls.

That rounds out the top five. Any bastions of global cool that we snubbed?

Allison Barrett is a journalism student at the University of Washington and a former intern for the Common Language Project. Her work has been published by the Seattle Times, Next Door Media, Northwest Asian Weekly and several other local news organizations.

28 COMMENTS

  1. I haven’t been to Tokyo for almost 40 years. But after reading novelist Barry Eisler’s John Rain series, I can see hipsters might be attracted to that mysterious city

    I live in Bangalore now and I don’t see the hipster life here at all.

    I’ve only been here since 2010 and I’m leaving India at the end of May. I was living in Wyoming when Iron Maiden played Bangalore in 2009. But I rather doubt that this was a hip town, even then.

    Last year, I did miss a Metallica concert here, but that was two days after the band canceled its gig in Delhi for lack of security and an unsafe stage. Call me a pessimist, but I didn’t think the show would come off. (BTW, The Times of India gave the Delhi Metallica show a great review, despite the fact that it didn’t happen. Ask me sometime why I think teaching journalism in India is important. Another discussion.)

    But Bangalore as a hipster haven? I’d put my money on Calcutta or Mumbai, both infinitely more interesting than Bangalore right now. I don’t think the people who wrote this story have been to Bangalore–at least not since the present government came to power more than a decade ago. What would hipsters do at night? The police have banned live Western music in bars, although you can often bribe them to get your band on stage. The bars close at 11. (Or 11:30 with the right baksheesh.) And most of the tattoos are done in henna, not ink.

    These people call Bangalore the “undisputed Elvis of South Asian megacities”?? OK, I can almost see it. Irresponsible press reports to the contrary, Bangalore and Elvis are both dead.

  2. I haven’t been to Tokyo for almost 40 years. But after reading novelist Barry Eisler’s John Rain series, I can see hipsters might be attracted to that mysterious city

    I live in Bangalore now and I don’t see the hipster life here at all.

    I’ve only been here since 2010 and I’m leaving India at the end of May. I was living in Wyoming when Iron Maiden played Bangalore in 2009. But I rather doubt that this was a hip town, even then.

    Last year, I did miss a Metallica concert here, but that was two days after the band canceled its gig in Delhi for lack of security and an unsafe stage. Call me a pessimist, but I didn’t think the show would come off. (BTW, The Times of India gave the Delhi Metallica show a great review, despite the fact that it didn’t happen. Ask me sometime why I think teaching journalism in India is important. Another discussion.)

    But Bangalore as a hipster haven? I’d put my money on Calcutta or Mumbai, both infinitely more interesting than Bangalore right now. I don’t think the people who wrote this story have been to Bangalore–at least not since the present government came to power more than a decade ago. What would hipsters do at night? The police have banned live Western music in bars, although you can often bribe them to get your band on stage. The bars close at 11. (Or 11:30 with the right baksheesh.) And most of the tattoos are done in henna, not ink.

    These people call Bangalore the “undisputed Elvis of South Asian megacities”?? OK, I can almost see it. Irresponsible press reports to the contrary, Bangalore and Elvis are both dead.

  3. Fun read, thanks Allison! I’m tempted to suggest Pai, Thailand, which is branded as “hip” but feels a bit tacky and yuppied out. It’s not that bad I guess, and I just realized it’s a pretty small town and not a city so maybe that doesn’t count for your list. Perhaps there’s some part of Bangkok besides Khao San road that’s a hipster haven.

  4. Fun read, thanks Allison! I’m tempted to suggest Pai, Thailand, which is branded as “hip” but feels a bit tacky and yuppied out. It’s not that bad I guess, and I just realized it’s a pretty small town and not a city so maybe that doesn’t count for your list. Perhaps there’s some part of Bangkok besides Khao San road that’s a hipster haven.

  5. Don’t forget our friendly neighbor to the south, Portland! And Shoreditch in London… those guys really make apathy look cool in torn lace and grandma sweaters.

  6. Don’t forget our friendly neighbor to the south, Portland! And Shoreditch in London… those guys really make apathy look cool in torn lace and grandma sweaters.

  7. So I guess the extraordinary poverty and other forms of injustice (suffered through the incursions of global finance incl. tourism) faced by people in San Cristobal de las Casas and Bangalore is just another thing that makes them cool?

  8. Newcastle, NSW as a hipster city?! wow.

    no really… wow.

    When the hipsters head up the F3 from Bondi to Newie, I want to see what happens, as that shit will be fucking awesome. seriously. fucking. awesome.

  9. 95% of Australians will always look down their nose at Newcastle as being nothing more than Sydney’s dirty little northern brother – a place to bypass on your way to Queensland.

    Frankly that suits Novocastrians. We know this is the best city in Australia and we don’t want our secret to become common knowledge.

    Newy is cool!

  10. has the author of this article ever been to the town of newcastle? I think not… Its a seriously dead town stil. Marcus (whom i know) initiated renew newcastle and its a great idea. I do think that you render your publication a bit of a joke by such outrageous statements. Perhaps in another 10 years when the BHP people’s children grow up.

  11. Newcastle? We live in newcastle and i dont agree with you. Thats why you used the stockon ferry as the image for newcastle town? Wish that it was more happening. The most exiting thing here is drunk teenagers breaking beerbottles on the sidewalk where people walk off the beach. Perhaps your idea of hip is unique…

  12. How lucky am I to have lived in Seattle from 2000 to 2007 and now in Newcastle since then. Both places are pretty hip I must say. If anyone is visiting Seattle there is a great bed and breakfast place on Capitol Hill called 11th Avenue Inn (http://www.11thavenueinn.com/) that is affordable, comfortable, in a great location, with friendly staff and fabulous fresh home cooked breakfast everyday.

  13. You have quite a collection of the “hipster cities” all around the world. I am from Vancouver and I would definitely call it a “hipster friendly” city. There are so many bars, restaurants, areas that are full of the hip crowd. You can often see full Hipster guides of Vancouver where to go and definitely be a part of the crowd. It get crazy sometimes!

  14. Go Newy. Awesome lifestyle here; super cool and relaxed. Not sure about the ‘hipster’ label, but there’s definitely a great art/music/film culture here; with the added bonus of beautiful beaches. Not to mention we have the hunter valley, watagan mountains, and port stephens all at our doorstep. All you haters just aren’t out there in amongst it, or perhaps you’re looking for more refined culture.. which in my opinion ceases to be ‘hip’ and is instead pretentious.

  15. Cape Town, South Africa. We are so much more hipster than most of those places, but you’ve probably never heard of us. Just Google it or something.

  16. I disagree with Bangalore, India being the hipster capital…yes it is laid back and very similar to SF in being tech savvy and awesome weather but there are other spots in India that are more Hipster-ish.

    I think the hipster capital of India is actually in Delhi – rooted in a village called Hauz Khas, we based a collection on it: http://seat14a.com/hauz-khas-hipster

    Thanks for the article.

    Jas

    • Oh come on, no one can be bothered trampling hipsters in Newcastle. Maybe a smirk and a headshake, but that’s about where it stops.

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