Travel guide to the coolest neighbourhoods in Asia: Nagore Square, Garosu-Gil, 798 Art Zone and more
Cool kids on the block
We love us a cool neighbourhood. Other than the undeniable (and superfluous) fact that they are aesthetically pleasing on our Instagram feed, there is always something intriguing about these neighbourhoods — that is if you delve a little deeper. Whether it be appreciating colourful street art in alleyways or café hopping to find the best cup of coffee, we round up these snazzy neighbourhoods in Asia worthy of your next trip.
Nagore Square, Malaysia
Nagore Square is the hidden cool gem of Penang that you need to know. Lined with two-story Nyonya shophouses, what started as a gathering space at Pik Nik to express creativity in the form of graffiti, which soon propelled into an international street-art project called Urban Xchange. Today, you can find colourful murals in every corner and a buffet-spread of alfresco fine dining and casual hangouts. Hop from What the Duck for Asian fusion cuisine that specialises in duck dishes to the holy trinity of Nagore Square's nightlife — Paraiso, Inside Bar and ColorCube for cocktails and good music. Be sure to stop by FourEye Studio to browse through locally produced and imported vintage eyeglasses.
Sheung Wan, Hong Kong
Owning the moniker as Hong Kong's coolest neighbourhood, you can expect old-meets-new charms throughout the entire area. From alleyways filled with graffiti and cafés to streets entirely devoted to traditional medicine and dried seafood. Start your morning at Cupping Room for a cup of freshly roasted coffee and egg benedict with smoked salmon. Spend the rest of the day visiting Man Ho Temple, one of the oldest in Hong Kong and PoHo, the vibrant little hood filled with street art and trinket shops. If the rowdiness of Lan Kwai Fong is a little overwhelming for you, Sheung Wan boasts a slightly more tempered offering with hidden bars and dance clubs.
The gingko-lined street is also known as artist street — not without good reason. Boasting charmingly decorated coffeeshops and designer stalls, Garosu-Gil has attracted much of the young and trendy crowd. Coffee-lovers can jump from Korean cafés chains like Coffeesmith and Homestead Coffee to bakeries and bistros. Forget Instagrammable street art here, curiously decorated shop fronts are Insta-worthy and have become notable photo spots in the area. If you love falling autumn leaves, visit this pretty lane during that season as that's when the golden Gingko leaves begin to fall.
798 Art Zone, China
What used to be an industrial area saturated with Chinese-style factories, is now an art district in Beijing for exhibitions, design studios, restaurants and bars. Over the years, the area has expanded from the local art scene to international with over 400 cultural organizations from all over the world. In spite of the modernism that has taken place, there are still a lot of Bauhaus-style factories left — Old Factory resides in one of them that offers a wide range of modern Italian-inspired dishes while still keeping elements of the factory such as old furniture and machines. Make your way to the first art gallery in China dedicated to photography — at 798 Photo Gallery where you'll find exclusive photos on exhibit.