A former parking garage turned dance club, a café alongside a skate park, a secret rooftop venue with a view… from Montreal to Athens, London, Barcelona and Tokyo, here are the top 20 places we discovered around the world in 2017. We highly recommend you check them out in the new year. And to tide you over until our newest city guide comes out, we’ve even included a sneak peek from Indie Guides Valencia.
La Station / Gare des Mines, Paris (France)
Outdoor live shows
Believe it or not, you will find one of the boldest and best-curated concert venues of the city beyond the borders of Paris proper. In 2016, Collectif MU began renovating a former coal storage station located at the crossroads between Paris, Saint-Denis and Aubervilliers. They’ve managed to turn the abandoned space into a major scene, putting on outdoor live shows several nights a week throughout the summer, giving La Station permanent festival vibes. But don’t worry, the party doesn’t stop in the winter. When it gets cold, they just move the shows inside.
Pit Caribou, Montreal (Canada)
A microbrewery at the edge of the world
Until recently, if you wanted to try the full range of Pit Caribou beers, you had to travel 600 miles from Montreal to Percé, located at the very tip of the magnificent Gaspé peninsula. It goes without saying that sitting on a patio with your feet in the water, taking in the view of Bonaventure Island is a pretty idyllic setting for enjoying these local brews. But unfortunately, it’s not the easiest place to get to. As of 2016, however, you can enjoy the flavors of the Gaspé peninsula right in the heart of Montreal at Pit Caribou’s pub located in the Plateau neighborhood. In addition to their own brews, the establishment also serves up a variety of beers from other Quebec microbreweries, including the renowned Orval label (founded by a former Pit Caribou brewer). And on the menu, you’ll find a delectable selection of Gaspesian specialties, like trout rillettes, yak jerky, and pickled whelks.
La Fabrica de Hielo, Valencia (Spain)
A repurposed factory by the beach
La Fabrica de Hielo has so much going for it, it’s undoubtedly one of the coolest spots in the city (and not just because it used to be an ice factory!). Formerly used by local fishermen to keep the day’s catch cool, the space is now home to a cultural center and bar located right by the beach. Inside, you’ll find bare walls, concrete floors and metal structures that give this Cabanyal neighborhood space definite Berlin vibes. Come by for a drink, to eat paella with your family on Sundays, or to enjoy the many cultural events: concerts, movie nights, art markets, and more.
Elsewhere, Brooklyn (United States)
The renaissance of one of Brooklyn’s hippest venues
Not so long ago, Williamsburg’s hipster epicenter was based on Kent Ave. It was a time when the best of the international indie scene passed between two neighboring warehouse spaces: 245KENT and Glasslands. Five years since closing down, Glasslands has risen from the ashes as Elsewhere. The former Glasslands founders took over a 24,000-square foot building in Bushwick, transforming it into a concert venue with a rooftop (set to open in 2018), gallery and café. Elsewhere picks up where Glasslands left off, with live shows nearly every night, a bold concert calendar, and a genuine intention to keep the local art community thriving.
Zebulon, Los Angeles (United States)
From Brooklyn to LA
Zebulon is dead… long live Zebulon! Those of you who knew Zebulon from Brooklyn will be thrilled to learn that the iconic Williamsburg bar and venue is now enjoying a second life in Los Angeles. Located in the Bohemian neighborhood of Frogtown along the banks of the LA river, Zebulon is a giant 6,000-square foot venue that would make its predecessor proud. With live shows every night of the week, a roomy patio, food trucks, and a hopping dance floor, you’re sure to turn into a Zeb-head along with the rest of us. And for those of you who are nostalgic for the Brooklyn venue, you can cozy up to the exact same bar that used to be in New York!
Latraac, Athens (Greece)
Skate park & café
Greek architect and skater Zarchos Varfis has transformed a patch of land in the cosmopolitan neighborhood of Kerameikos into a skate park and café. Access to the ramps is free, so the café’s offerings bring in the money necessary to maintain the park. Even better, Latraac often puts on live concerts and other performances right in the skate bowl.
TOPO, Lisbon (Portugal)
Rooftop with a view of São Jorge Castle
You have to climb all the way to the top of a little shopping center near Praça Martim Moniz to find Topo. With its stunning views of São Jorge castle, the Mouraria and Graça neighborhoods, and the panoramic Belvedere of Our Lady of the Hill, it doesn’t get much better than this. And to top it all off, their cocktails and small plates (gyoza, smoked pork sandwiches, and more) are absolutely delicious!
The Know, Portland (United States)
Portland’s “new” punk spot
In 2016, Portland’s underground scene was disheartened by the closing of The Know, a punk bar that had been a gem in the Alberta neighborhood for eleven years. But good news: The Know found a new home in early 2017, and they are still located in North-East Portland. They’ve kept the spirit alive with cheap beer and punk rock shows every night of the week. If you come to Portland, this place is a must.
Bellwoods Brewery, Toronto (Canada)
Every local’s favorite microbrewery
This microbrewery has brewed somewhere between 150 and 175 beers in just five years! It is therefore impossible to tell you what you will find on the menu at any given time. But one thing’s for sure: you’re sure to be very satisfied indeed with whatever ends up in your glass. IPAs with extremely hoppy aromas, imperial stouts, dry Belgian beers and original barrel-aged creations are always on the list. In case you haven’t heard, Bellwoods Brewery’s first location on Ossington Avenue was so successful, they had to open a second location on Hafis Road in April 2017.
Libertine, Barcelona (Spain)
The trendiest hotel bar in Barcelona
The Libertine defines itself as “la casa de comidas y bailes,” or the house of food and dance. In truth, The Libertine is just the lobby of a hotel. Open from 7pm to 2am weeknights, and until 3am on weekends, this place has it all. You can have breakfast or grab a “hellishly good” coffee from Satan’s, savor unique soul food tapas prepared by Argentinian chef Estanis Carenzo, or enjoy a craft cocktail while dancing to Italian disco. But to be honest, nighttime is when The Libertine really shines, with their perfectly-curated events. From album-listening sessions to documentary film nights, concerts and DJ sets, even the biggest culture snobs will appreciate their sophisticated program. The Libertine hosts events all year long, but even if you don’t make it over for one of them, the space itself is just as remarkable.
Metelkova, Ljubljana (Slovenia)
The oldest squat in the city
You’ve heard of Christiania in Copenhagen, right? Well if you like Christiania, check out Metelkova in Ljubljana. This city within a city is home to art galleries, bars, artist studios, cultural organizations, clubs, concert venues, and more. You can see a show, watch an experimental film, and dance the night away in a gay club without ever having to leave Metelkova.
Yayoi Kusama Museum, Tokyo (Japan)
A museum out of a dream
You might not realize it, but you already know Yayoi Kusama. The popular Japanese artist, sculptor and painter is best known for her obsession with repeating patterns and exaggerated colors. We’re pretty sure you’ve at least seen someone post one of her giant polka dot pieces on social media. Or maybe you’ve been lucky enough to take a selfie in one of her infinity rooms. As of October 2017, Yayoi Kusama fans can now explore an entire museum dedicated to her work in Tokyo. But be warned, you have to make a reservation in advance to enter.
MIR, Rotterdam (Netherlands)
Where all the local bands hang out
This is a spot you’d never happen upon by accident. Located in the south of Rotterdam (far from the city center) since 2016, MIR is primarily a recording studio and practice space for local bands. But several times a month, the space also puts on live shows featuring both local and traveling artists. A great place to get a feel for the local scene. Follow them on Facebook to check out their concert calendar.
Aufschnitt, Berlin (Germany)
A fake butcher shop invented by a vegetarian
Aufschnitt is the kind of indefinable concept store you can only find in Berlin. At first glance, you might think you’re at a butcher shop or deli. But take a closer look, and all the cuts of meat and sausages are pillows (that look exactly like meat!) Aufschnitt is the delightful invention of textile designer and vegetarian Silvia Wald.
Cafe Regatta, Helsinki (Finland)
Barbecue in a traditional chalet
This place is so good, we’re sure to put it on our list of places to check out every single year… In the middle of nowhere, between a residential neighborhood and the Baltic sea, lies a tiny mökki (log cabin), typical of the region. Café Regatta is the place to go—grab a sausage at the counter and cook it outside on the grill, which is the best way to experience Finnish cuisine, après-sauna style! If you’re feeling brave, you can even go for a swim in the sea afterward. The coffee here is self-serve and the cinnamon buns are divine. If you prefer to stay inside where it’s warm, their afternoon snack menu is highly recommended—cuddle up with a warm drink and gaze out at the icy sea.
Trenta Formiche, Rome (Italy)
Party until dawn!
Even though nightlife in Rome has suffered in recent years, a few establishments have resisted the trend, keeping the underground scene alive year after year. Trenta Formiche is one such place. Making a home in various underground spaces throughout the city, Trenta Formiche keeps Rome’s cultural scene bustling, putting on art shows, film screenings, DJ sets and concerts that bring in music lovers from far and wide. Their parties are almost always popping. Follow them on Facebook or check out the website to find out when the next one is coming up.
Arkaoda, Istanbul (Turkey)
A secret garden with a hidden agenda
Just imagine: you’re partying on the famous Kadıköy strip in Istanbul, far from home. You decide to enter a random bar. You look around, and suddenly you feel right at home! Arkaoda means “the back room” in Turkish, so you can count on plenty of chances to see great shows here as it is one of the premiere indie venues of Istanbul. In addition to its cozy interior, Arkaoda also sports an open garden which is frequently packed with regulars waiting to see one of the many jazz shows, DJ sets, or film screenings being put on at the bar.
Gray Area, San Francisco (United States)
Eclectic performances in a historic art-deco theater
It’s impossible to walk down Mission Street without noticing Gray Area. The art deco sign spelling out “GRAND” can be seen from blocks away. This non-profit organization located in San Francisco’s historic Grand Theater uses art and technology to promote positive social change through education, incubation and public events. Tending toward the avant-garde and experimental, their programming is an exploration of all forms of expression, from music to digital art, performance, immersive cinema, and more.
Ghost Notes, London (United Kingdom)
A parking garage turned dance club
Along the train tracks of Peckham Rye station, you’ll find one of London’s favorite nightlife spots. If you loved the Bussey Building for their artsy programming and Rooftop Cinema Club, or Bold Tendencies and Frank’s Bar on the roof of the old parking lot on the other side of the tracks, it’s time to check out Ghost Notes. This new club with a penchant for electronic music opened in December 2017 on a lower level of the parking garage, and it’s quickly become a hub for artsy adventurers in the city.
Mercado de San Ildefonso, Madrid (Spain)
A must-see market for foodies
Following in the footsteps of New York, London and Lisbon, Madrid has been offering up its own gourmet market since 2014. Every day after work, you can find Madrid locals gathering in the Malasaña neighborhood at Mercado de San Ildefonso, enjoying a drink and sampling savories from the many street food stands. From fresh shellfish to hamburgers and pintxos, there’s something here for everyone! With three whole floors of vendors and an outdoor patio, this place is a necessary stop for any foodie.
Discover our favorite cultural and alternative spots all around the world with our city guides Indie Guides.
Article translated and edited by Andrea Perdue