The world’s most fascinating city neighbourhoods to explore include everywhere from off the beaten track quarters such as the Dorsoduro, Cannaregio and Castello in Venice.

Our decision to not spend our time on our grand tour ticking off top ten tourist sights, saw us happily, and often aimlessly, exploring off-the-beaten-track neighbourhoods – 100% guilt-free. These are the world’s most fascinating city neighbourhoods we found on our world tour.

We spent a lot of hours ambling around backstreets, taking in the atmosphere of places and seeing how people live their lives, continually delighting in the extraordinary contrasts and nuanced differences in the ebb and flow and rhythm of life of communities around the world.

The world is not the same. People lively differently to each other from country to country, city to village, street to street, and from house to house. Rush through a place in a few days and you probably won’t notice but settle in for a while, and you’ll appreciate the subtle differences that make everyday neighbourhoods such fascinating places to explore. These are my favourites:

The World’s Most Fascinating City Neighbourhoods to Explore

New York City

New York City boasts many of the world’s most fascinating city neighbourhoods to explore but our favourites are the East Village and the Lower East Side for the colourful characters, arty eccentrics, and committed activists who keep the gritty neighbourhoods real; for the urban oases that are the neighbourhoods’ secret community gardens and the passionate locals who tend to them; and for the immigrant history of the Lower East Side that has made this area one of the New York City’s most compelling.

Paris

Paris is undoubtedly home to some of the world’s most fascinating city neighbourhoods to discover, such as the arty, bohemian ‘village’ of Montmartre, one of the city’s most widely misrepresented and misunderstood quarters. We also love the city’s nearby multicultural neighbourhoods, just over the hill, with their exotic Middle Eastern and North African vibe, and we love the area for the ordinary Parisians who come here to continue to enjoy their city in simple ways – reading books, going for strolls, picnics in the parks – despite it being overran with tourists.

Venice

Easily home to some of the world’s most fascinating city neighbourhoods to explore Venice is so much more than San Marco. We love Venice for the ease with which it’s possible to still get off the beaten track in areas like the Dorsoduro, Cannaregio and Castello in one of the world’s most touristy cities; for the exquisite architectural details and artistic beauty that are everywhere, even in places you don’t expect them to be; for the local markets where the Venetians shop (including the city’s chefs and restaurant owners) for fresh produce every morning; and because it’s possible to live in an everyday neighbourhood even on an extraordinary waterway such as the Grand Canal. Locals have bought seafood, sipped a spritz, met their friends and gone home before most tourists have finished their hotel breakfast.

Tokyo

Some of the world’s most fascinating city neighbourhoods to explore can be found in Tokyo. We love For the neon lights of its village-like neighbourhoods successfully masquerading as big city suburbs; for the atmospheric alleyways of yakitori eateries in Omoide Yokocho (Memory Lane) in Shinjuku; for the gritty lanes lined with teensy late night bars in the Golden Gai; and for the quaint ‘shitamachi’ quarter with its antique wooden houses and little old ladies in aprons watering plants in leafy Asakusa.

Marrakech

Marrakech has some of the world’s most fascinating city neighbourhoods to explore. We love: the fact that we can still get wonderfully lost in the old medina’s dusty lanes, even after countless visits; the frenetic market street of Rue Bab Doukkala and the surrounding neighbourhood that was our home for two weeks on our last trip; and the main square, the Djemaa al Fna, with its smoky food stalls, storytellers, and snake-charmers, that is the locals’ nightly amusement park.

Istanbul

Istanbul is home to some of the world’s most fascinating city neighbourhoods to explore but we love the quarters between Taksim and Galata the most, particularly those on and around Beyoğlu’s Iskiklal Cadessi, Istanbul’s entertainment, shopping and cultural centre. We asore it for the hundreds of pedestrian lanes that lead off it, lined with shops, markets, restaurants, cafés, bars, pubs, clubs, music venues, theatres, and galleries, and for the backstreets that come alive after dark when backgammon boards are packed away, Turkish coffees are replaced with beers, the tables outside the bars fill with friends, and the narghile guy starts to really earn his living.

Buenos Aires

Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires boasts many of the world’s most fascinating city neighbourhoods to explore, but we adore the barrios of Palermo, Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood their bohemian-chic vibe; for the vibrant street art that enlivens drab walls; and for their abundance of parks and gardens across the city that get the locals outside and on the grass, picnicking, sunbathing and snoozing the moment the sun comes out. We love the fascinating markets across the city in cobblestoned quarters neighbourhoods like Palermo Soho and San Telmo; and for the civilised local lifestyle that involves plenty of lingering in cafés and bars, late dinners, and long nights out right across Buenos Aires.

Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro boasts some of the world’s most fascinating city neighbourhoods to linger in, the highlight of which for us is the laidback beachside suburb of Ipanema, where locals spend their days on the sand, sipping coconuts and working on their tans and evenings in the classic botecos, everyday neighbourhood bars, snacking on tasty, affordable food, chatting to friendly staff and listening to low key live music. Then there are surprises such as the small neighbourhood street festivals (though they’re no Carnival) that spring up unexpectedly. In Rio, there is always something going on, you just have to know where to find it.

Mexico City

Mexico City is home to some of the world’s most fascinating city neighbourhoods to explore but I have to confess that my favourite isn’t some cool emerging hood, but rather its the city’s old heart and historic quarter. We love it because the old city’s main plaza, the Zocalo, always has something happening and hasn’t given way to tourists in the way that so many other main squares around the world have. We love the historic heart for the street food stalls, smelling of corn tortillas, that are located in the old centre and liberally sprinkled throughout the city. We adore Plaza Garibaldi, home to the city’s mariachis, that makes for one of the best night’s out. And we love that everywhere is off-the-beaten-track in a way in one of the world’s most underrated metropolises.

Berlin

Berlin easily boasts some of the world’s most fascinating city neighbourhoods to but one of our favourites is laidback bohemian East Berlin ’burbs like Prenzlauer Berg with their vintage clothes stores and retro furniture stores, and the neighbourhood’s countless, speakeasy-style late night bars and clubs with their easygoing locals propping up the bars. We love Prenzlauer Berg’s lively Sunday fleamarket in the Mauerpark with its vinyl record stands, Soviet memorabilia, and, in the warmer months, karaoke concerts.

Marrakech

Marrakech has some of the world’s most fascinating city neighbourhoods to explore. We love: the fact that we can still get wonderfully lost in the old medina’s dusty lanes, even after countless visits; the frenetic market street of Rue Bab Doukkala and the surrounding neighbourhood that was our home for two weeks on our last trip; and the main square, the Djemaa al Fna, with its smoky food stalls, storytellers, and snake-charmers, that is the locals’ nightly amusement park.

End of Article

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