For most of us, Seoul is simply known as the largest metropolis in South Korea and the country's capital.

A city that pops up in the news mostly when referencing tensions with North Korea, or perhaps to discuss one of its corporate giants such as Samsung, Hyundai or Kia, it's a destination that remains somewhat hazy or undefined.

The wildly popular 2012 song Gangnam Style is probably the most vivid recent cultural association most have with Seoul, thanks to South Korean musician Psy and those amusing dance moves that became a pop phenomenon.

But ask a hipster, and he will describe an under the radar culture in some of the city's outlying neighborhoods that involves a thriving and funky coffee shop scene and a constantly changing fashion industry, where clothing can be purchased on the cheap in back alley shopping or discount malls.

There's also a fascinating night market culture, where travelers can sample dried squid on sticks and indulge in night time culinary tours.

"Hongdae is where all the coffee shops are. It's just insane - there's neon billboards everywhere and all the very, very hip people are there," says James Treacher, of the London-based Touriocity, a company that specializes in developing custom travel opportunities. "There's loads of coffee shops on every corner. It's the place to go for hipsters." 

"Gangnam is where you go for shopping," he adds. "It's like the Rodeo Drive of Seoul, high-class shopping, a lot of women in high heels. It's all very glitzy and glamourous. But if you go off on the side streets, there's tons of cheap places, and that's where you will find the hipsters."

Seoul, its coffee shop culture and its fashion industry represent just one example of a growing movement known as "hipster holidays," which was identified in the 2015 World Travel Market Global Trends Report.

The report primarily focuses on the European version of the trend, involving visitors to the continent's most popular destinations looking beyond mainstream tourist sites such as Paris's Eiffel Tower or Rome's Colosseum and instead opting to spend vacation time exploring alternative districts in the world's notable cities, areas typically popular with local hipsters.

The sort of trendy, under-the-radar neighborhoods that would meet such criteria have been expanding throughout global cities, the report states, with young professionals increasingly opting to live in areas that were once deemed undesirable, but are now up and coming.

A small but growing segment of visitors have been clued into the existence of these districts and are embracing them, seeking to experience the hipster culture.

With all that said, perhaps it's worth pausing for just a moment, to define exactly what a hipster is (at least according to the WTM report).

The report's very academic definition of a hipster describes someone who follows the latest trends and fashions, particularly those outside the cultural mainstream. Hipster neighborhoods meanwhile, are typically places filled with pop-up restaurants, vegan cafes, independent shops and art galleries.

Interestingly, Airbnb is given a great deal of credit for playing a key role in opening up such areas to tourists, because many hipster neighborhoods lack hotels (at least for now), and private rentals are often the only option.

Among Europe's leading hipster capitals are Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood, District VII in Budapest and the Malasana district in Madrid, to name a few.

Adam Groffman, a Berlin-based travel writer, is a stereotypical hipster when it comes to his vacation choices and how he arrives upon them.

When the 31-year-old year visits a new place, it's often after doing research on Instagram or perhaps searching for someplace that hosts a good film or music festival. In other words, if you're reading between the lines here, the days of purchasing a staid or traditional guidebook issued by Fodor's or Lonely Planet, are perhaps fading among the hipsters.

"Finding places through social media is a great way to stay abreast of cool places," Groffman says. "Scour social media. On Instagram, you can search by location, and you find photos of different cities and places and you see things that look cool. It can become addicting."

Foursquare is another social media platform that Groffman suggests when on the hunt for intriguing new places to visit in a foreign city.

"Also, when I'm in a new city and I don't know where to go and what to do, I tend to look for record stores because usually they're going to be somewhere that's more edgy and alternative," he says. "And I talk to the people in the record store about the neighborhood, because they usually know about the alternative scene in the city."

Good to know right?

Groffman's travel blog, Travelsofadam, was actually referenced in the WTM report as one of the leading guides to hipster haunts, one that lists up-to-date reviews of the planet's ever changing hipster scene. Among the hipster destinations topping his list are Berlin's Neukolln neighborhood (just south of the city's center) and London's Dalston and Hackney communities.

Likealocal was also highlighted as a site to use when seeking information about such neighborhoods.

Some travel companies are also starting to jump on the bandwagon, offering hipster tours of specific city districts, often led by local residents to enhance the authenticity. Vayable is one such company highlighted in the 2015 trends report.

But ultimately, having a hipster travel experience simply comes down to being able to immerse yourself in a local, non-touristy, community, or its customs, events or traditions when traveling, having an experience that leaves you with some sort of unique and lasting knowledge to take home.

"Hipsters want to learn something or take something away from a holiday. And they want to want to have experiences with local individuals that they can take back," Groffman explains. "Its about being able to take this knowledge and incorporate it into your life readily, whether its new music, coffee of food. I went to this totally hipster music festival in Sweden, that was attended by all Swedish hipsters. It was very cool to just be in that community for a while."

So for those who'd like to get in on the hipster holiday trend, here's a look at a few other notable hipster hotspots. And remember, social media is the new guide to hipster travel.

Chippendale neighborhood, Sydney, Australia

South of Sydney's central business district, Chippendale is a small inner city suburb, wedged between posh Surry Hills and seedy Redfern. Referred to as "Chippo" by those in the know, it was once a blighted neighborhood full of row houses, factories and the scars of industrialization and economic decline.

But the area is remerging and has reinvented itself as a design and culinary hotspot. It is home to a Frank Gehry-designed business school, an inventive gallery scene and some of the city's most notable restaurants.

Still, lacking the beachfront that Sydney's best known for, it is clearly a place travelers have to do some research to find, or they have to know someone, who knows someone.....

Cassandra Lovett, a representative for the area's newest hotel, The Old Clare, which opened in September, says Chippo's crumbling alleyways serve as the petri dish of Sydney's burgeoning art scene and coffee culture. It's a place with a strong sense of community, and one pervaded by creativity.

"This has been a popular local neighborhood with hipsters for a few years now due to its central location, cost of living, and budding Millennial scene," says Lovett. "It's recently gained momentum with tourists as well. It was just waiting to be reinvented."



Dalston, East London

This East London neighborhood is on Groffman's list of top hipster haunts. A culturally diverse and down to earth place, it offers much in the way of adventurous eating and people watching.

"In Dalston, along Kingsland Road, there's lots of Vietnamese restaurants," Groffman explains. "A lot of immigrants live there, and you get a lot of authentic cuisine. There's also an African market that has a little bar in it that turns into a late night club. It's basically a pedestrian street that during day is a market and in the evening turns into turns into a club."

Dalston is also a neighborhood with vibrant street murals, charming gardens, and notable street feasts. In particular, the Dalston area of Hackney has attracted immigrants for years and is home to a large Caribbean community. Their presence is still visible in the many Caribbean food businesses at the Ridley Road Market.

Dalston is such an interesting place that many have already discovered it and have moved on to the next hot, undiscovered neighborhood, says Groffman.

"If you ask hipster Londoners, they will say it's already over," Groffman says with a laugh.


Sodermalm area of Stockholm, Sweden




This neighborhood, recognized by both Groffman and the 2015 Global Trends Report, is actually a large island, on which there is a specific area that attracts hipsters, known as Sofo.

"This neighborhood is very local, there are a lot of parks, lots of cafés and restaurants, and a ton of vintage thrift stores," explains Groffman.

In Sofo, a particularly quirky community, you will find cafes that sell clothing and also vintage clothing stores with in-house barbers, says Groffman. There's also hotels that sell their own furniture. And Nytorget park is a great place for people watching.

Stockholm in general is a city that oozes cool and is a magnet for the hipsters, Sodermalm and its Sofo neighborhood, is just one great, concentrated example.

South Tel Aviv, Israel


Rustic gourmet restaurants, open-air tapas bars frequented by musicians, art galleries and trendy nightclubs are just some of the offerings in this emerging destination.

Ross Belfer, an area resident, likes to describe the neighborhood as something akin to New York City's lower East Side in the 1980s.

"It is a melting pot that is going through a renaissance of creative culture," begins Belfer, who is the founder of Eager Tourist, a hyperlocal concierge service that curates and creates niche experiences and offers tours led by local artists, designers and tastemakers. "Ten to 12 new art galleries have opened here. The neighborhood itself is very interesting. There are a lot of artists living here, upwards of 100 different artists with private studios living here. And a lot of them are street artists so they do murals or graffiti in the area. The entire neighborhood is like a living art gallery."

South Tel Aviv is a place where restaurant menus offer everything from Moroccan influenced meals, to Israeli and general Middle Eastern cuisine.

Alla Rampa is the place to go if you want to dine with local musicians; located in an industrial strip of south Tel Aviv, the restaurant is known for offering innovative vegetarian options, cocktails and weekly performances by local musicians.

Halutziym 3 is an Israeli-rustic gourmet restaurant located within the Levinsky Market. Described by locals as a first of its kind in the neighborhood, young Chef Eytan Vanunu cooks up eclectic dishes such as honey pork-stuffed challah and polenta with veal and red wine reduction.

In terms of art galleries, many of south Tel Aviv's newest art offerings are located in a giant, industrial-like, nondescript complex on Shoken Street, across from Alla Rampa. On Thursdays, the galleries regularly host exhibition openings.

"The neighborhood is developing but it's very unique because it's not commercial yet," says Belfer. "There's no chain stores yet. It is all very local, and still a little fringe."

 

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