Saturday 27 December 2014

The world's hippest 'hoods...

City breaks are well and good, but more and more neighbourhoods are inspiring trips in and of themselves... here are four of the best.

Published 06/06/2014 | 02:30

Cycling in Norrebro, Copenhagen. PHOTO: Visit Copenhagen

City breaks are fun, but they can be exhausting. That's why savvy travellers are starting to make neighbourhoods like Norrebro (Copenhagen), Red Hook (NYC), Peckham (London) and the Haut Marais (Paris) the sole focus of their visits.

Copenhagen: Nørrebro

No room at Noma? No worries. Nørrebro (pictured above) is Copenhagen's neighbourhood on the turn, a brilliantly multicultural district to the northwest of the city. It's famous as the site of some of Denmark's worst riots, but the whiff of cordite has long since been replaced by craft beer and coffee.

Start with this street ...

Jægersborggade is almost as difficult to describe as it is to spell. What was once a dodgy urban backwoods is today a slick strip hosting Michelin Star restaurants like Relæ (restaurant-relae.dk), tasty shops like Ro Chokolade (ro-chokolade.com) and hip eateries like Manfred & Vin (manfreds.dk), serving rustic nosh alongside wacky wines suggested by a sommelier who looks like a young Grizzly Adams. Don't worry though, the dive bars and off-radar boutiques remain despite the gentrification.

Make like a local ...

Its constant procession of dapper Danes makes the whole of Copenhagen seem like a catwalk. If you want to join them, browse your way through the small design shops of Elmegade. Hooha (hooha.dk) is good for sneakers, with Foxy Lady (Elmegade 2) doing what it says on the tin. Afterwards, show off your new threads over a summer picnic in Assistens Cemetery.

A drink with a difference ...

Mikkeller & Friends (Stefansgade 35, mikkeller.dk) is a micro-brewery on a mission to convert patrons to the pleasures of craft beer. Up to 40 brews are set up to taste on tap, there are some salty snacks and dried meats to keep the thirst up, and the fit-out is pure Scandinavian chic. A worthy alternative to the Carlsberg brewery tour's more corporate spiel (visitcarlsberg.dk).

Travel Tips ...

Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com); SAS (flysas.com/en) and Norwegian (Norwegian.com) fly direct from Dublin to Copenhagen. For more on what to do, see and where to stay in the city, see visitcopenhagen.com.
 

Paris: The Haut Marais

The Haut Marais ('Upper Marais'), hailed as Paris's "next great neighbourhood" by Travel + Leisure magazine, lounges around the northern reaches of the third arrondissement. Think old mansions, new boutiques and a star rising quicker than the Eiffel Tower elevator.

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Start with this street ...

It's Soho with French flair. Boulevard Beaumarchais has a bunch of fun places to explore, including Merci (merci-merci.com) – a multi-label concept store popular with fashionistas. It has a great streetside cafe for people-watching, a cosy library for tea and chats, and an Avoca-esque canteen.

Several hip French unisex stores have recently moved in – APC, Sandro, Ami, and French Trotters among them – and you can grab a fix of posh pizza and cocktails at No. 91 in Grazie (graziegrazie.fr). Bon appétit!

Make like a local ...

A zigzag away on rue de Saintonge, Isabel Marant's groupies can get their satisfaction in a store set in an old boulangerie (isabelmarant.com). "Maje (maje.com) mustn't be missed for perennially cool stock at more high-street prices," adds Yvette Dolan, an Irishwoman living in Paris. "Royal Cheese on adjacent rue de Poitou (royalcheese.com), at the intersection with rue de Turenne, is a recent addition, with great gear for guys."

A drink with a difference ...

Paris ain't famous for its Mexican food, but there's a real buzz about Candelaria (53 rue de Saintonge; candelariaparis.com). Join its international crowd for a hot mix of tostadas, tacos and cocktails ... the margaritas are rimmed with a mix of salt and hot pepper flakes. Brunch is served on weekends from 12.30pm to 4pm, but there are no reservations.

Travel Tips ...

Ryanair and Aer Lingus fly direct from Dublin and Cork to Paris. For more on what to do, see and where to stay, see uk.rendezvousenfrance.com.
 

London: Peckham

Peckham is having a moment. Yelp voted it London's next hot neighbourhood ("It's the new Brixton"), and Time Out has also got its trumpet out. "Is Peckham the new Shoreditch?" it asks. The answer of course, is that it's neither. It's Peckham, with all the raw charm that entails.

Peckham.jpg 

Start with this street ...

Peckham lies within the borough of Southwark in South East London, and Bellenden Road is the first stop. Threads (twitter.com/threadspeckham) does a good selection of retro and vintage; you can get a fix of Thai street food at The Begging Bowl (thebeggingbowl.co.uk), and local chocolate shop and café The Melange (themelange.com) offers chocolate-making workshops throughout summer. There's a little bit of everything.

If you simply can't do without that Portobello mushroom and haricot bean burger, then pop around the corner to The Montpelier (themontpelier.net) on Choumert Road. It's a gastro-pub with its own back-room cinema. Fittingly enough, 'The Irish Pub' is playing until June 11th.

Make like a local ...

The PeckhamPlex is a dingy, old-school cinema (think of ye olde Stella in Rathmines, only with more screens) showing a mix of indie hits and blockbusters for around £5. The Peckham Bazaar (thepeckham bazaar.com) is another local fave, re-opening this month after a refurb. It specialises in "grilled things and mezze from across the Balkans".

A drink with a difference ...

The Bussey Building (aka the CLF Art Café) is London's self-titled "21st Century Church of the Chill" with a rocking programme of music, art, theatre, dance, workshops and club nights on Rye Lane (clfartcafe.org). The mix of club nights is especially astonishing ... try the South London Soul Train, which runs till 5am two Saturdays a month for all of £5/7 (€6/8.40).

Travel Tips:

Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com), Cityjet (cityjet.com) and Ryanair (ryanair.com) fly direct from various Irish airports to London. For more on what to do, see and where to stay in the city, see visitlondon.com.
 

New York: Red Hook

Park Slope is so 10 minutes ago, baby. Right now, one of the hottest neighbourhoods in New York is the brilliantly-named Red Hook ... reached by subway, bus or, best of all, a free, 20-minute water taxi ride from Lower Manhattan.

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The street to start with...

Tucked along an industrial waterfront in Brooklyn, Red Hook offers surprising views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty and an idiosyncratic splatter of bars, restaurants, art shows and boutiques.

Start with Van Brunt Street. The Good Fork (No. 391; goodfork.com) does American classics with a Korean twist (check out the steak and eggs with kimchee); Fairway Market (No. 489-500; fairwaymarket.com) sits on the water with views of the Statue of Liberty, and stores like Erie Basin (No.388; eriebasin.com) and Pier Glass (No. 499) offer everything from antique 18th century jewellery to handblown glass.

Make like a local...

Locals love the pier at Louis Valentino Junior Park. Summer movies are shown on Tuesday nights too, with foodie treats from local faves like Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies (stevesauthentic.com) and Hometown Bar-B-Que (hometownbarbque.com).

A drink with a difference...

It would be rude not to have a drink in Red Hook Bait and Tackle (redhookbaitandtackle.com). Located at 320 Van Brunt St, this place mixes down-to-earth beers, live music and food in an interior that feels like a dive bar wedged into a hunting lodge. In further proof that the Irish run the world, its owner, Barry O'Meara, cut his chops at his parents' pub in Killimor, Co. Galway.

Travel tips...

Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com), United (united.com), American Airlines (americanairlines.ie) and Delta (delta.com) fly direct to New York. For more on what to do, see and where to stay in the city, visit nycgo.com.

Check out more travel tips from Pól Ó Conghaile on www.poloconghaile.com.

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent
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