London CNN  — 

This year we’ve all been spending more time than expected in our own neighborhoods.

While lockdown and safety measures have hit our city centers hard, in many places local communities have been thriving.

The staff of Time Out, which has publications in cities all over the world, put together an annual list of the world’s 40 coolest neighborhoods, based on local intel from more than 38,000 city-dwellers.

Proclaiming that “It’s cool to be kind,” the magazine’s focus this year is on places where neighborliness is king, and communities and businesses have pulled together and prospered during this toughest of years.

Here are the top 10.

10. Pilsen, Chicago

The local Mexican-American community presence also means you’ll eat well, with tasty huaraches and tortas on seemingly every corner.

“A true melting pot,” it boasts what might just be Sydney’s most eclectic food scene, where you can pick up world-class Vietnamese food along Illawarra Rd, tuck into plant-based pizza at Pizza Madre, then wash it all down with a brew from one of the district’s many, many craft beer companies.

Marrickville doesn’t hold the monopoly on Australian cool, though: There’s another Aussie entry later in the top 10.

9. Embajadores, Madrid

Time Out’s editors note that “No other neighborhood in Madrid is as lively and diverse as Embajadores, which spans the multicultural barriada [low-income neighborhood] of Lavapiés and the site of El Rastro, the city’s historic flea market.”

“To Parisians, it feels like this neighborhood practically invented the cocktail bar,” says Time Out, so visitors are recommended to sally down its winding streets and investigate joints like the Little Red Door speakeasy and Bisou (French for “kiss.”)

8. Astoria, New York

The highest point of Alexandra Park offers views north to Ben Lomond mountain.

Several buzzy boutique hotels – like The Paper Factory and The Boro – have opened in the area in the last few years, providing high-end design and amenities at a lower price than Brooklyn and Manhattan hotels.

“Yet the tide of redevelopment is coming in slow,” says Time Out, “and its charming blonde and red sandstone tenements remain affordable to most.”

Editors single out the Zero Waste Market, “a refill grocery shop that prepped handy boxes of food essentials during lockdown,” and Alexandra Park’s Food Forest: “where locals of all backgrounds meet to plant and grow.”

7. Strasbourg-Saint-Denis, Paris

Not sure where to start? Time Out’s editors recommend Le Syndicat, a cocktail bar who snagged a spot on the World’s 50 Best list and focuses only on French alcohols.

You’ll still find traditional lane houses and old-school noodle shops, but now you can scoot along to an all-day roller skate bar, Riink, or quaff natural wines at the laid-back SOiF.

4. Wedding, Berlin

No, don’t have bridal gowns on the brain. Wedding is a neighborhood in the northwest section of Germany’s capital.

Though the city is known as a place for 24-hour partying, Wedding’s side streets are quiet enough to guarantee you’ll get a good night’s sleep once you’re done hitting the beer halls.

By day, you can enjoy the great outdoors at Plötzensee lake and woodsy Volkspark Rehberge.

5. Yarraville, Melbourne

Yarraville: "The cross-section of food, drink and things to do here is pretty remarkable," says Time Out.

The central neighborhood on the Lagos Lagoon is home to some of the city’s most important cultural offerings, including the Nigerian National Museum and Rele Gallery, which focuses on contemporary art.

Skater Belle Hadiwidjaja has been roller-skating through the neighborhood in an array of costumes to keep families entertained on their daily strolls, while local Lee Smith-Moir cheered up residents by adding “happy signs” on the area’s walking tracks.

2. Shimokitazawa, Tokyo

This Brooklyn neighborhood of Victorian brownstones this year became, according to Time Out, “New York’s greatest incubator of the future.”

During the Black Lives Matter protests, it served as a main hub, and as the city was gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic, “it gave birth to mutual aid networks like Bed-Stuy Strong to protect its most vulnerable members.”

3. Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong

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Sham Shui Po: Hong Kong's new cultural capital?
02:56 - Source: CNN

CNN Travel called it back in 2018, when it described this working-class neighborhood, whose rustic vibe had been attracting creative souls from street artists to coffee artisans, as “Hong Kong’s new cultural capital.”

Alongside this, however, the city is home to some of Hong Kong’s most deprived communities and has been a key battleground in the 2019-2020 protests.

2. Downtown, Los Angeles

“This became the most painful year in L.A.’s recent history,” says Time Out, “and in a city with no single, central gathering place, Downtown became its supportive soul.”

It was in this resurgent city center that shocked residents gathered to mourn after the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant.

And it was here that Angelenos came to make their voices heard after the death of George Floyd. “It wasn’t without strife,” says Time Out, “but there was a palpable pivot toward unity the day that thousands streamed through Downtown’s streets.”

1. Esquerra de l’Eixample, Barcelona

Catlan enginer Ildefons Cerdà was a pioneer of urban planning.

“During Barcelona’s strict lockdown,” says Time Out, the courtyards of Esquerra’s apartment blocks “became focal points for the city’s energy – as in the pop-up Hidrogel Sessions, in which residents dressed up in costumes and organised mass dance parties from their balconies.”

Time Out’s full list of 50 coolest neighborhoods

50. Dorćol, Belgrade

2. Downtown, Los Angeles

3. Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong

4. Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York

5. Yarraville, Melbourne

6. Wedding, Berlin

7. Shaanxi Bei Lu/Kangding Lu, Shanghai