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Walthamstow, London, UK
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The 12 coolest neighbourhoods in the UK

We surveyed thousands of city-dwellers to rank the country’s coolest neighbourhoods, from Margate to Birmingham and Cardiff to Glasgow

Huw Oliver
Edited by
Huw Oliver
Written by
Time Out contributors
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Every year, we quiz tens of thousands of city-dwellers around the world about life in their hometowns. The Time Out Index is a pretty agreeable way to spend ten minutes of your time, but it’s what we do next that really gets people talking. The key question: what’s the coolest neighbourhood in your city?

This year, we’ve combined all your answers with insights from local experts to rank the world’s coolest places to live, visit and generally hang out: the places you really rate for food, fun, culture and community. And in 2022, for the first time, we’re publishing a full list of the coolest spots in the UK, with recommendations from locals of all the best stuff you should see, eat and do there.

From Manchester and Margate to Brighton and Birmingham, these areas might not be on your bucket list, but they definitely, definitely should be: here are all the coolest neighbourhoods in the UK right now.

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The UK’s coolest neighbourhoods in 2022

Cliftonville
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Cliftonville

Margate

While Margate’s Old Town delivers a good old-fashioned British seaside day out, Cliftonville buzzes with a different kind of energy. It’s home to one of the UK’s most thriving artistic communities, largely due to an influx of creative ex-Londoners who’ve flocked to the area’s affordable housing and studio spaces, plus the massive tidal ocean pool at Walpole Bay. The neighbourhood’s spine is Northdown Road, which is a block back from the coast and stretches from the Old Town to Palm Bay. Until recently a parade of charity shops and bookies, Northdown is now home to record shops, cafés and conscious groceries, as well as game-changing community-funded venues like queer bar CAMP and gallery Quench.

The perfect day Wake at the iconic Walpole Bay Hotel and walk along the beach to the Dalby Café for the town’s best fry-up. From there, explore the Margate Caves and the mesmerising Shell Grotto before grabbing an epic focaccia sandwich at Forts. Browse Northdown Road’s vintage shops and galleries, stopping for drinks at Margate Off Licence and Daisy, before a boogie at Margate Arts Club.

Plan your trip Margate Pride takes place in August every year. Not just a big party, this week-long, arts-led Pride festival sees Cliftonville come to life with one-off exhibitions, parties and events. —Sophie Brown

📍 Check out the best things to do in Margate

Shawlands
Photograph: Alamy

2. Shawlands

Glasgow

With its great parks, art, coffee and dining, Shawlands keeps Glasgow braw. The neighbouring areas of Langside, Strathbungo and Govanhill have all played their part in the Southside’s rise to eclipse the West End as the city’s best area to hang out and live in recent years – but Shawlands is the bustling nexus of Glasgow below the Clyde. The internationally renowned Burrell Collection has recently had a multimillion-pound refurb, and it’s surrounded by buzzy independent local businesses – from horticultural haven Aperçu to French-Japanese patisserie and design shop Godshot Studio – on the main artery of Pollokshaws Road, before it bisects with Kilmarnock Road in front of a beautiful Flatiron Building-esque sandstone tenement block. But explore the side streets too for delightful plant-based lattes and flat whites at Frankie, or superior sourdough from Deanston Bakery.

The perfect day Fuel yourself with brunch pancakes at Café Strange Brew, ready to scour the 9,000-plus objects (including paintings by Manet, Cézanne and Degas) at the Burrell Collection. Then snap a selfie with a Highland cow in Pollok Park before heading to Julie’s Kopitiam for no-fuss contemporary Malaysian cuisine. Catch a gig at boho vegan restaurant and arts space The Glad Café, before finishing up with late-night drinks at Phillies.

Plan your trip Taking place each May, Southside Fringe is a week-long platform for up-and-coming performers and artists. The Fringe also hosts a monthly Maker’s Fair at Shawlands Arcade. —Malcolm Jack

📍 Check out the best things to do in Glasgow

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Walthamstow
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Walthamstow

London

If you’re from London, Walthamstow has a bit of a rep. It’s where all your friends moved five years ago: the place with more prams than people, where the streets are awash with hoppy IPAs, sourdough pizza and obnoxiously expensive houseplants. But this isn’t just where people priced out of Hackney go to have kids: there’s loads to do, tons of nice people call it home, and it’s an actual creative hub, a place where stuff gets made. Over on Blackhorse Lane you’ve got the formidable Blackhorse Workshop, home to some of the city’s most creative folk, and the climbing wall-meets-yoga studio-meets-co-working space Yonder. On the other side of the neighbourhood there’s God’s Own Junkyard, the neon-sign warehouse that’s a major local attraction, and right next door the Wildcard and Pillars breweries, beer and cider taproom The Real Ale Co and artisanal gin-makers Mother’s Ruin. Local stadium Wadham Lodge is home to mighty non-league football team Walthamstow FC, making pitchside craft beer an attractive proposition. Finally, you’ve got a new comedy-centric theatre – Soho Theatre Walthamstow – opening in the old Granada cinema next year. And what’s cooler than a theatre? Nothing, that’s what.

The perfect day Blackhorse Studios café is a lovely place to start the day. Swerve, if you like, the very popular William Morris Gallery and check out instead the Vestry House Museum of local history. Cineastes will want to check out the Empire Cinema, which not only shows a great selection of Walthamstow-friendly arthouse and foreign films, but is also relatively cheap. Meanwhile the lovely Etles Uyghur is a great opportunity to properly get to know one of China’s lesser-known (in London, anyway) regional cuisines. And no evening in Walthamstow is complete without a visit to the beer-and-pizza-powered Blackhorse Beer Mile.

Plan your trip Whenever they decide to open Soho Theatre Walthamstow, which should give the neighbourhood’s already formidable cultural credentials a barely needed boost. Or Christmas. Walthamstow looks really nice at Christmas. —Joe Mackertich

🗺 Take a look at our Walthamstow neighbourhood guide

🏠 Discover more great neighbourhoods in London

📍 Check out the best things to do in London

Northern Quarter
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Northern Quarter

Manchester

Despite ongoing competition from Ancoats next door, as far as we’re concerned the Northern Quarter has reclaimed the title of Manchester’s coolest neighbourhood for 2022. Stevenson Square and some surrounding streets have been permanently pedestrianised, making for a fresher stroll around the centre of the city’s café and bar culture, with its stunning mix of Georgian houses, Victorian pubs and modern hangouts. No matter what the trend, the Northern Quarter always seems to be one step ahead – whether it’s vegan dining, pop-up bars or even the street art adorning its walls and shop shutters. In fact these murals, part of the Outhouse Project supported by local art shop Fred Aldous, exemplify the neighbourhood: always changing and moving forward while remaining respectful of the past.

The perfect day Take breakfast with a strong coffee at Ezra and Gil, followed by a browse for quirky handmade knick-knacks in Oklahoma and a flick through the records at Vinyl Exchange. Spend the afternoon picking out something special in the Craft and Design Centre before heading to pioneering food hall Mackie Mayor for dinner. End the day with a gig at Band on the Wall before retiring to the best aparthotel in the city, Native.

Plan your trip Manchester’s brand-new Mayfield Park connects with the Northern Quarter to bring much-needed green space to the city centre – and in 2023 it’s due to start hosting events, so keep your eyes peeled for the schedule. Rob Martin

🗺 Take a look at our Northern Quarter neighbourhood guide

🍹 Explore the best pubs and bars in the Northern Quarter

📍 Check out the best things to do in Manchester

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Kelham Island
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Kelham Island

Sheffield

Once home to derelict warehouses and a few old-school pubs, Kelham Island has undergone a hefty transformation. Those old boozers (thankfully) remain but Kelham’s once-empty spaces are now filled by a glut of independent bars, restaurants, shops, cafés and breweries. A manmade island formed in the 1100s when a stream was diverted to power a nearby mill, Kelham Island is now a unique bit of Sheffield thanks to the beautiful waterway that runs through it. Walkable from the city centre, it has all the hallmarks of a hip neighbourhood – including street-food markets, microbreweries, Michelin-guide grub and a vegan bar run by screamo frontman Oli Sykes – without being insufferably so. It’s still a functioning working area, so in between the serene waterside beer gardens, killer tacos, amazing ale, flea markets and food halls, you’ll get a sense of Sheffield’s rich industrial history.

The perfect day Breakfast-up at Grind Café, then head off to Kelham Island Museum, grab coffee at Gaard and do some shopping (try Kelham Island Books & Music or Kelham Flea for vintage and antiques). Tuck into lunch at Cutlery Works (the largest food hall in northern England), ready for an afternoon beer run – via Fat Cat, Heist, Alder, Kelham Island Tavern, Gardeners Rest and the Riverside – and then dinner at Domo or, if you’re feeling flush, Jöro. Finish at Factory Floor where DJs play through their bespoke audiophile soundsystem and you can try their unique drip-infusion spirits.

Plan your trip Be here on first weekend of the month for Peddler Market: a market that merges street food from across the UK with live music, DJs, craft stalls, artisan beers and cocktails. —Daniel Dylan Wray

📍 Check out the best things to do in Sheffield

Ouseburn
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Ouseburn

Newcastle

Once known as the cradle of the industrial revolution, Ouseburn is these days considered Newcastle’s cultural quarter. With its vibrant mix of family-friendly activities, a thriving arts and culture scene and a flurry of independent shops, along with some of the city’s best food and drink, you’re very, very unlikely to get bored here. There are plenty of green spaces – the Ouseburn Trust works to preserve the area’s rich widllife – but it also retains its industrial history and heritage, making it a fantastic all-rounder of a neighbourhood to explore.  

The perfect day Grab breakfast at Cook House and visit Ouseburn Farm (it’s totally free). A guided tour of Victoria Tunnel is a must, as is coffee at Northern Rye, and the thali at Arch2 Brewpub makes an excellent lunch. Head to to Biscuit Factory for an exhibition, and to Kiln for small plates at dinner. Round off your day with a gig at Cobalt Studios.

Plan your trip For This Is Tomorrow (May 26 to 28 2023), the largest music festival in the North East. Of course, even if you don’t make it down then, you’re sure to be able to catch a good concert or DJ set at any other time of year, too. —Daniel Dylan Wray

📍 Check out the best things to do in Newcastle

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Llandaff
Photograph: Colin Burdett / Shutterstock.com

7. Llandaff

Cardiff

A true village-within-a-city just 11 minutes from the centre of the Welsh capital, Llandaff offers up all the magic of Cardiff in an altogether more serene setting. The marvellous Llandaff Cathedral is at the heart of it all, but there is plenty more to catch the eye, from lavish mansions to gorgeous walks and some of the best pubs in Wales. Llandaff is just a short walk from Pontcanna and Canton, but its proximity to Llandaff Fields is the big pull, offering more verdant space than anywhere else in the city. Llandaffs centuries of history revolve around its religious roles and responsibilities, but since 1922 it has been an integral part of the ebbs and flows of Cardiff life.

The perfect day Start with a cup of the good stuff at Coffi Lab, a three-minute walk from Llandaff Cathedral. Give it plenty of attention before heading back up the high street and nipping into the Off the Wall Gallery, admiring the ruins of Llandaff Castle along the way. The Heathcock is the place for dinner (be sure to reserve a table) and The Maltsters Arms doubles up as a charming pub and comfortable hotel.

Plan your trip Insole Court Farmers’ Market runs on the last Sunday of every month, offering visitors the chance to pick up delightful produce in a gorgeous setting. John Bills

📍 Check out the best things to do in Cardiff

Baltic Triangle
Photograph: Philip Brookes / Shutterstock.com

8. Baltic Triangle

Liverpool

After being heavily bombed during World War II, the area now known as the Baltic Triangle was largely neglected. That was until Liverpool was named the Capital of Culture in 2008. Creatives looking for affordable venues and accommodation found that the derelict buildings in the neighbourhood had a lot to offer. Now its warehouses are home to some of the coolest bars, restaurants and cultural spaces in the North West. It’s no surprise that it’s such an attractive area for young people – especially graduates and people new to the city who are looking for a great night out (and a safe walk home).

The perfect day Start your day at the Baltic Bakehouse with a homemade pastry and then indulge in some shopping at Red Brick Market and Mary Mary Florals. Lunch is at The Baltic Market, where you can try an array of food from some of the city’s best independent restaurants. Take in golden hour with a goblet of Liverpool Gin at the Botanical Gin Garden and then go for a game of bingo at Camp & Furnace, the original home of Bongo’s Bingo, before heading back to the newly opened boutique Baltic Hotel. If you’re not quite ready for bed, 24 Kitchen Street puts on some of the coolest dance events in the city and it’s just around the corner.

Plan your trip There’s always an excuse for a party in Liverpool and St Patrick’s Day tends to be the best excuse of all, especially in the Baltic Triangle, which hosts an annual festival dedicated to all things shamrocks and debauchery. Alice Porter

📍 Check out the best things to do in Liverpool

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Southside
Photograph: Ludovic Farine / Shutterstock.com

9. Southside

Edinburgh

Thanks to its proximity to the university’s central campus, Edinburgh’s Southside is a pretty student-friendly part of town. With the Meadows at its heart, Arthur’s Seat not far away and numerous stylish and well-liked pubs, bars, cafés and restaurants in the area, it feels suitably lively and laidback. The varied architecture, ranging from towering Victorian tenements to the 1998-built Edinburgh Central Mosque, give the Southside its unique character. This is only amplified further by events like the annual volunteer-run Meadows Festival, the bustling row of charity and vintage shops along Nicolson Street and Clerk Street, and community hub Lighthouse, Edinburgh’s queer-owned and women-led radical bookshop.

The perfect day Start your day with a cake from 101 Bakery or a vegan doughnut from Considerit, accompanied by a speciality coffee from Cult or Fortitude. Along the way, you can admire the fine work of the folk behind the Meadows Community Gardens. Come evening, you could check out theatre, music, art and more at Summerhall, the Queen’s Hall or the Festival Theatre. If you’re hungry, Nile Valley Café and Kim’s Mini Meals both come highly recommended, as do The Royal Dick, Dagda and The Doghouse for a pint.

Plan your trip As well as being home to year-round arts complex Summerhall, the Southside is the vibrant centre of the Edinburgh Fringe. For the month of August, you can expect some of the festival’s busiest venues appearing in locations like George Square Gardens and the Meadows, with plenty of pop-up bars and food stalls to enjoy too. —Arusa Qureshi

📍 Check out the best things to do in Edinburgh

Chapel Allerton
Photograph: Eddie Jordan Photos / Shutterstock.com

10. Chapel Allerton

Leeds

Leeds has plenty of lovely, leafy suburbs that feel village-like while remaining close to the centre – see also Meanwood – but Chapel Allerton is especially vibrant. Despite its serene nature, with nearby woods and one of Europe’s largest parks not too far, it’s also a hub for independent businesses spanning art, culture, food and drink. Community is key and organisations such as CA Spaces are making Chapel Allerton greener and more colourful through commissioned street art, tree and wildflower planting, and public vegetable gardens.

The perfect day Start with breakfast at House of Koko, followed by a stroll through Gledhow Valley Woods. Have lunch at the Mustard Pot, then check out some local art at Seven Artspace (also a 100-seat venue for music, dance and theatre). Come evening, grab drinks at Further North and finish off with pizza at The Woods.

Plan your trip For Chapel Allerton Arts Festival, an annual three-day celebration of local food, drink, art and music in September. It’s just as fun and feelgood as it sounds. Daniel Dylan Wray

📍 Check out the best things to do in Leeds

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Stirchley
Photograph: Electric Egg / Shutterstock.com

11. Stirchley

Birmingham

Once seen as little more than a thoroughfare betwixt south Birmingham and the city centre, Stirchley has enjoyed something of a renaissance. Its high street is now an enticing foodie mile of craft beers, artisan pizzas, handcrafted fudge and freshly baked loaves, and is probably the city’s most up-and-coming food destination. The neighbourhood is a 15-minute train ride from Birmingham New Street Station and both shares a train station and straddles a border with Bournville, a village known the world over thanks to Cadbury. It’s largely populated by young families and creative working professionals, which makes for a cooperative community with its best interests at heart. Proof of this comes with the Stirchley Co-operative Development, a soon-to-open affordable (and eco-friendly) residential and retail premises with several indie retailers signed up.

The perfect day Hop on a train to Bournville and get to Caneat for their famous seven-minute eggs. Follow the waft of baked goods to Loaf for a sweet treat afterwards. Check in at Artefact for a coffee while browsing the local art, before joining a tour of Birmingham Brewing Company. Stirchley’s best dinner is at Eat Vietnam and perfectly precedes a crawl along its beer mile via Attic Brew Co, Wildcat Tap, Cork & Cage and the British Oak, before a nightcap at pub with rooms, the Bournbrook Inn

Plan your trip Any time is a good time to visit Stirchley, but with another wave of cool openings coming soon, including Japanese cocktail bar Ikigai and Thai street food restaurant Buddha Belly, early 2023 seems wise. —Richard Franks

📍 Check out the best things to do in Birmingham

Seven Dials
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Seven Dials

Brighton

Ignore the call of the sea and turn inland when you arrive in Brighton. The reward is Seven Dials, a neighbourhood centred on a small roundabout built in 1925. Set atop a hill and replete with white-washed Victorian villas, the South Downs visible on the horizon, this is the place to be, especially if you’re after some respite from the hectic seafront. Architecture buffs will love the majestic townhouses along Clifton Road from pretty Powis Square, where a pair of vintage phone boxes host the Dog And Bone Gallery from local artists Liv and Dom. Head towards the roundabout for a wealth of brilliant shops and a great line-up of cafes.

The perfect day Grab a coffee at local fave Small Batch, before exploring Vernon Terrace and Montpelier Crescent. Pick up some house plants from the wonderful Hi Cacti and vintage clothes from Salvage and Sawdust, then get lunch at The Cow. Try the sweet treats from Hellenic Bakery and stroll down Dyke Road to the sea before heading back for dinner at L’Atelier du Vin. Spend the night at the Artist Residence, a short walk away on Regency Square.

Plan your trip Head to Seven Dials between May 11 and 13 2023 for Brighton’s annual Great Escape festival, which showcases the best new bands from across the UK. Joe Minihane

📍 Check out the best things to do in Brighton

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