Photo by Kyler Trautner

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, you instantly feel a change in the energy from Manhattan’s Financial District to Brooklyn’s transformed industrial spaces now serving up coffee, cutting-edge art and design stores, and authentic slices of borough pride—and unquestionably good pizza.

Around the world, cool neighborhoods are those special areas where a city sheds some of its formality and gets a bit closer to the way locals actually live, from lesser-known chapters in history to overlooked side streets. Go with AFAR partner Context Travel and you can tour these bastions of cool on private, custom, and small group tours led by experts in their fields, such as architects and art historians, who put these neighborhoods—and maybe even some of their grit—into context. It’s like having a really well-connected friend show you the places you might not find or fully appreciate on your own.

Here are some of the places you can explore with Context.

Photo by Thomas Peham

Alfama, Lisbon With their dizzying inclines, Lisbon’s steep hills are more like urban mountains. On this private or small group Alfama Walking Tour, get an insider’s perspective on the city’s oldest neighborhood from a local archaeologist or art historian. Soak up the panoramic views of the River Tagus and discover local gems, including the São Jorge Castle, Lisbon Cathedral, and Miradouro das Portas do Sol. With its rich Moorish influences and colorful, tile-covered walls, the neighborhood’s name derives from the Arabic word al-hamma, or baths.

Photo by Jorge Ramirez

Condesa and Roma, Mexico City Along with its much buzzed-about food scene, Mexico City is on the design radar. Whether you were captivated by an award-winning film set in 1970s Roma or have a craving for authentic tacos al pastor, the private or semi-private Mexico City Architecture Tour: Condesa and Roma shows you these colonias, or neighborhoods, through the eyes of an architect while stopping at some of the city’s most impressive Art Deco, Art Nouveau, and Modernist buildings, as well as green parks, galleries, and even former indigenous settlements.

Photo by Josh Wilburne

Brooklyn, New York In the past decade, Brooklyn has been largely credited with inspiring a global movement of craft cocktail-making, urban farming, and fixed-gear biking. Starting with a walk over the iconic Brooklyn Bridge, you’ll delve into what is arguably the most interesting borough in New York City with an urban historian. On this private or semi-private Brooklyn Walking Tour, you’ll spend three hours wandering through DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Brooklyn Heights, and some of the city’s oldest Federal-style brownstones.

Photo by Eduardo Sanchez

La Boca, Buenos Aires One of the most stylish cities in South America, Buenos Aires is perhaps best known for the tango—a style of dance that grew out of a once-marginalized neighborhood and red-light district populated by immigrants and poor porteños in the late 19th century. On a private Buenos Aires Tango Tour: La Boca and Beyond, learn the ins-and-outs of tango society with a local dancer—or, if you want to actually dance, the tour can be customized with a dance lesson at an evening milonga.

Photo by Mao Yuqing

Södermalm, Stockholm From interior design to unexpected food pairings, Scandinavia has been at the forefront of what’s trending. Made up of 14 islands, Stockholm is easily one of the hippest locations on earth, and Södermalm is its epicenter of cool. On a private Hidden Paths & Hipster Headquarters tour, explore this onetime working-class neighborhood with a sixth-generation Stockholmer or scholar who will walk you through the area’s layers of history—with plenty of time for a fika, or coffee and cake break, at a stylish café.

Photo courtesy of

Akadimia Platonos, Athens The subject of a recent off-Broadway play in New York City, Socrates is a figure whose philosophy still resonates today. To its credit, ancient Athens produced some of the most brilliant minds history has ever seen—even though it wasn’t particularly big, powerful, or organized. Join a local classicist or philosophy scholar in pondering Socrates, Plato, and the Pursuit of Happiness on a private tour of the side streets where these urban geniuses developed their views on life, including the ruins of Plato’s Academy.

Learn more about Context Travel and use code AFAR10 at checkout for 10% off your first group or private tour!

Context Travel

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