One year after Andersonville was crowned the second coolest neighborhood in the world, another Chicago community has joined the ranks among the world’s coolest spots.
Avondale—the Northwest Side enclave known for its Polish and Latino populations, strong dining scene and laid-back feel—earned a spot as the 16th coolest neighborhood in the world for 2022, part of Time Out’s annual ranking of neighborhoods across six continents. Curious about how the process works? Using data from the yearly Time Out Index survey—in which city dwellers vote on their city’s coolest neighborhoods, among other criteria—our global editors narrow down a list of selections to determine the final list of 51 neighborhoods, ranging from spots like Colonia Americana in Guadalajara, Mexico (No. 1) to Ridgewood, Queens in New York City (No. 4). Avondale ranks just below Neukölln (No. 15), the hip Berlin neighborhood beloved for its bustling parks and nightlife scene.
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So what makes a neighborhood cool, you ask? Each spot on this list is slightly different, but all share a few common features, including great dining and drinking options, energetic street life and a strong community atmosphere. Avondale blends those qualities in a uniquely Chicago way, combining the neighborhood’s multicultural immigrant heritage (first Eastern European, and later Latin American) and working class roots with one of the city’s most exciting and diverse dining scenes, plus a truly astonishing array of small businesses—everything from a horror-themed coffee shop and insect emporium to Polish sausage purveyors.
Also crucial to the ranking is Avondale’s genuine sense of community spirit, which has been a key driver in the neighborhood’s fight against encroaching gentrification. Longtime residents—like Liz Muscare, president of the Avondale Neighborhood Association—are quick to point out how much Avondale has changed over the past several decades, especially as industrial jobs vanished and Logan Square’s luxury housing boom started to creep northward. But in the meantime, local orgs like ANA and Palenque LSNA have rallied to maintain the neighborhood’s affordability and character, whether by staging demonstrations to call for affordable housing at the 4-acre Belmont Triangle redevelopment site (which is currently undergoing a city-led “community visioning” process) or working with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to survey residents about the changes they want to see in their community.
“Certainly we’re getting gentrification and we’re getting new businesses,” Muscare says. “But you know, we really want to keep affordability. We want to keep diversity. So that’s one of the big things we’re working on.”
You can plan a day in Avondale with the help of our neighborhood guide, which covers the best things to eat, drink and do across the area. And if you’re itching for a trip to check out some of the other coolest places in the world, you can read through the full list of Time Out’s 2022 picks here.