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All you hear about these days is experience travel, off-the-beaten-track travel, and eco travel. But don’t be fooled – there’s still room for the good old city break. Figures might be on the decline, but it’s still estimated that as many as 48% of all UK-based travelers opted for a few days in another metropolis in 2018.
And it doesn’t even have to be for a vacation.
Some of the best cities for young adults are luring them with the promise of excitement both day and night. Museums meet art galleries to offer oodles of culture. There are festivals that showcase regional food and drink. You’ve got café scenes and art-house cinemas. And then comes the nightlife, which is surely a category where the city trumps the country time and time again.
The astronomical rise of adventure travel might have seen sailing expeditions across the Atlantic and high-altitude treks in the Himalaya come to the fore, but there’s still plenty to be said for the urban side of holidaying. You’ll also find some of the best cities for young adults attract the younger crowd with unique living situations, including jobs aplenty, cool flats, and efficient public transport as all part of the offering.
Tempted by life downtown?
You’re certainly not short of options. From the fairy-tale streets of Krakow to the boho districts of San Francisco, read on to find out the current best cities for young adults around the world.
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Top global cities for young adults
Coffee-loving, vegan-eating, retro-wearing young adults certainly aren’t short of amazing places to visit. Cities all around the globe are morphing and altering into downright awesome places to be for anyone 18-30. Deciding which of the best cities for young adults is where you want to go, whether for a new career direction or just a short city break, will depend on a myriad of things.
Do you like bumping nightlife that carries on until sunup? Are you aiming to learn a specific language? Want German sausage or American bagels for breakfast? Keen to surf urban beaches or hop cafes in hipster neighborhoods? All of the above and more should be answered by our shortlist of enticing metropolises.
1. San Francisco, USA
A perennial favorite for both city slickers and travelers, the so-called Paris of the West, rarely fails to enthrall. It rose to fame as the hallowed land in the beatnik bible that is Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (not familiar? Get familiar!), fast turning into one of America’s most liberal, open, creative, and LGTBQ-friendly towns. Young folk can mosey down to Mission for late-night techno clubs and Latino food. There are gay bars galore in vibrant Castro. And outdoorsy options abound, what with wild surf spots on Ocean Beach and the wine lands of Napa. Downsides include high rent and a competitive job market.
2. Des Moines, USA
If San Fran is looking just a little tricky to settle in, then why not consider somewhere away from the spotlight? Cue the capital of Iowa. Forget all that nonsense of the so-called Flyover States. This buzzing city is sure to raise a smile. From the medley of Greek salads and Middle Eastern mezze in the September World Food and Music Festival to the quirky new microbreweries that dot the sides of the Des Moines River, there’s certainly something afoot in this corner of the Midwest. What’s more, people looking to totally relocate will get all the job opportunities that come with a booming insurance industry, not to mention the uber-cool (and affordable) condos of areas like Historic East Village and the Court District.
3. Berlin, Germany
Some say Berlin is the king of cool. A prime example of a booming and fun-filled European capital, it has all the street-side pubs, beer taverns, pulsing techno clubs, and alt cafés you could ask for. Areas like Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg are often touted as the original bohemian hubs of the continent – transatlantic answers to NYC’s East Village. But they aren’t where it ends, because Prenzlauer Berg is a yuppie’s dream and Mitte has sleek penthouses overlooking iconic monuments like the Reichstag.
4. Krakow, Poland
While Warsaw careers headlong into the 21st century, Krakow – Poland’s second-largest city – keeps one foot in the past and the other in the future. More corporations (Google, IBM, Revolut…you name it) are setting up shop here every year, so jobs are all over the place. You’ll earn a decent wage, too, especially when you factor in that beers cost around $1 in this historic town. Talking of history, settling in the “K” means living in a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Gothic churches, synagogues, and amazing castles. Oh, and the nightlife is wild – head out past nine to check out the acclaimed Krawl and the vodka tasting!
5. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Young people are living in an age when the good old office is on the way out. This is the era of the digital nomad. We’re talking laptop warriors who can work from anywhere, whether it’s a hammock on the beaches of Bali or a ski hut in the BC mountains. Ever since the phenomenon started, Thailand’s northern hub of Chiang Mai has been at the forefront. It’s consistently ranked as one of the best places to live for location-independent workers. There are co-working hubs, oodles of eco cafes, and more condos than you can shake a Pad Thai at, most of which have swimming pools and gyms. Oh, and the cost of living is a fraction of what it is in the US!
6. Mexico City, Mexico
Tacos sizzle on open grills. Cold Coronas are cracked in sleek rooftop bars. There are moles and huevos rancheros for breakfast. The streets are lined with jacarandas and fruit trees. It can only be CDMX – that’s Mexico City to you and me. Forget the rumors of rough and tumble, this lively capital has become a real global city in recent decades. Yes, you’ll need to be careful of particular neighborhoods (Tepito, we’re looking at you!), but stick to Roma and Condesa and you really can’t go wrong in this Latin American destination. On the weekend, a quick flight to the west can take you to the surf beaches of the Pacific, or you can bus it to Pueblo to dine on fine Mexican fare and climb volcanos!
Think about what it is YOU want from your new city or city break
Some towns are great for nightlife (Berlin, Krakow, Budapest). Others are good for café culture (Vienna, Mexico City). Some have a bit of everything and style to boot (San Fran, LA). You’ll need to think about what you’re after before you set off for your new city.
Book your accommodation
Short term or long term, there’s no substitute for Airbnb when it comes to scoring a place to stay in cities all over the globe. Watch out for regulations and bans in cities like Dubrovnik and Barcelona, where booming tourist numbers have put the spotlight on the sharing service.
Touchdown and start exploring. Use local expat groups to see what’s going on and when the parties are. Chat to people in the cafés. Try the regional cuisine. This is the fun part!
About the Author
Since bagging his English and Ancient History degree, Rich has traveled from the canyons of Mexico to the surf-splashed bays of Bali, done five interrails, toured India, Indonesia, Thailand, and New Zealand, hiked in Italy and France, skied across the Alps, and lived in countless countries for a month or more at a time. Now at five continents and upwards of 50 countries (gaining a TEFL certification along the way), it’s safe to say he is a seasoned traveler.
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