Where have all the creatives gone? If you live in a city like New York, Paris, London, or Los Angeles, you’ve probably noticed a lot of people moving since 2020. A mass exodus from major creative capitals that started with the pandemic and continues due to factors like inflation and the desire for a better quality of life is happening, just as suburban development led to the white flight phenomenon in the 1950s and 1960s.
Arts and culture publicist Lindsay DeSantis moved from New York in January 2022 to Santa Fe, New Mexico. “I lived in Pennsylvania with extremely minimal city experience before moving to New York and working in PR for eight years, so after all of that dizzying hustle, I had a hankering for the opposite,” said DeSantis. “Bare feet in the grass kind of thing.” Director Gillian Zinser lived in New York for eight years before she left for Mexico City in July 2022 “in search of greater quality of life, lower monthlies, [and] more affordable freedom to create.” Consultant and publisher Megan Wray Schertler lived in New York for 15 years with stints in Europe before she left New York in March 2022 for Berlin. “I wanted to anchor myself somewhere where the quality of life was much better and where my entire life doesn’t have to revolve around making money,” said Wray Schertler.
It’s no secret that inflation has been plaguing the world’s creative capitals. In New York, the average price for a Manhattan apartment rental was $4,241 in April 2023 — up 8.1% over from April 2022. Brooklyn and Queens fared worse, surging by 14.8% of 12.8% respectively over the last year, according to a report by Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel. In London, rents shot up 20% from 2022, reports flatshare site Spareroom. With inflation rates the worse than they’ve been for decades, creatives are ditching major global creative capitals like London, Paris, Los Angeles, and New York for destinations that offer a lower cost of living, a slower pace of life, and a higher quality of life in cities like Detroit, Athens, and Lisbon.
Cities like New York, Paris, Los Angeles and London continue to be creative capitals that show no signs of slowing down, but Zinser, Wray Schertler, and DeSantis are among the 2 million Americans who left the country’s largest cities for greener pastures. Here’s a rundown of some of the cities around the world that are causing creatives to ditch places like New York, Los Angeles, London, and Paris.
THE APPEAL In 2023, Spain started offering a digital nomad visa that allows foreigners to work remotely legally in the country as long as they are employed by businesses in their home country. Barcelona offers warm weather, magical structures by architect Antoni Gaudí, and music festivals like Sonar.
THE SPOTS Bar Cañete, If you come late enough to the tried-and-true tapas spot and restaurant, you’ll be surrounded by local Catalans. Carrer de la Unió, 17
AVERAGE RENT €1,087 on average, according to Catalan News.
THE TESTIMONIAL “In general, I'm interested in discovery, beauty, and connection. As for connection, people, in general, are happier here, and it shows in the way they treat me and each other day to day. As for beauty, being able to run to the Mediterranean Sea and on the way pass by a 1000-year-old cathedral is unbelievably stimulating to me. Being faced with such beauty on a daily basis is fresh air to me. And yet that very evening I am still able to DJ at a proper club or simply go for a dance with friends at venues with solid sound systems. It's a city that truly values the experience of electronic music, and with that comes venues with good sound.” — Oscar Zabala, Director/New Media Artist, who lives between Barcelona and New York.
THE APPEAL Relatively affordable rent, delicious food, and amazing culture, need we say more? With a creative legacy that includes Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivero, Luis Barragán, Roma, and more — stimulation is all around.
THE SPOTS Maximo Bistrot, Pujol may hold the crown, but countless foodies think highly of Maximo Bistrot (some say it’s better than Pujol), helmed by an ex-con who is a Pujol alum. Avenida Álvaro Obregón 65 Bis
Carla Fernández, This Mexico-based clothing label celebrates the craftsmanship indigenous and mestizo communities. Álvaro Obregón 200 bis. Colonia Roma and Calle Marsella 72, Colonia Juárez
Kurimanzutto, Mexico City’s leading gallery shows a number of artists, including Gabriel Orozco, Adrián Villar Rojas, and Bárbara Sánchez-Kane. Gobernador Rafael Rebollar 94
AVERAGE RENT The average rent for a one-bedroom in a neighborhood like Condesa or Roma will go for around $800 to $1,000 a month.
THE TESTIMONIAL “I’m originally from here, came to visit my sister and my nephew and felt a creative energy that reminded me of New York City in the early 2000s.” — Creative consultant Hector Meza, who lived in New York for 12 years and L.A. for two years before returning to Mexico City.
“It just feels like a town rather than a huge city somehow. People make out in the streets. people enjoy themselves more. time moves slower. I wake up to birds, not traffic. The sun is always shining. My stress levels are so much lower here than they were in New York.” —Gillian Zinser, Director
THE APPEAL thriving contemporary art scene, countless archaeological sites, low-priced real estate, an affordable cost of living, and the close distance to the Greek islands make Athens an ideal relocation city.
THE SPOTS Seychelles, Contemporary Greek food at a great price. Make sure to try the pappardelle with kavourmas. We promise you’ll be impressed. Keramikou 49
Cantina Social, Step inside and discover a bar and massive outdoor space that features great DJs and a cool atmosphere. Leokoriou 8
AVERAGE RENT The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Athens is about €650/month.
THE TESTIMONIAL “[My favorite things about Athens are] warmth (both the weather & in people), the sea, weather, and my studio.” —Hin, Artist who moved from London to Athens.
THE APPEAL A low cost of living, laissez-faire attitude, bohemian vibe and decades-old techno scene make Berlin an ideal spot to relocate for artists.
THE SPOTS Berghain, You may wait in line for six hours only to get rejected at this legendary Berlin nightclub, so make sure you know somebody or have the right look before you attempt to partake in the debauchery. 70 Am Wriezener Bahnhof
AVERAGE RENT Although rent is increasing in Berlin, it’s still more affordable than London or New York with rent averaging €1,700 a month.
THE TESTIMONIAL “I love being based in Berlin and using it as a base to travel. The city has such a vibrant intellectual creative community which means constantly meeting interesting people.” —Megan Wray Schertler, Consultant and publisher
THE APPEAL Artists like Larry Bell, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Judy Chicago have been setting up shop in New Mexico for decades due to the breathtaking desert landscape and laid-back vibe.
THE SPOTS LA MAMA, Friends Jen Turner, partner at The Mighty Union; Sara Moffat, founder of L’Ecole Des Beaux Arts; and Anna Sheffield, founder of her namesake brand and Bing Bang joined forces to Santa Fe’s first café, grocer, and natural wine bar, situated in a 2,715 square-foot craftsman from 1914. 225 E. Marcy Street.
AVERAGE RENT $1,694/month.
THE TESTIMONIAL “Life here is much, much slower, with a large emphasis on quality of life. It's less about business, too, so I'm finding that my friendships aren't about work or working together, but more about personal interests and personality matches. If it's not obvious, you usually find out what your new friend does later in the conversation. I thought that was cool. I also love all the space here (while I'm rural); I hardly ever have to pull out a dog leash. We (my dogs and I) are usually outside. We love swimming holes and hot springs, and traveling to other cities and states. I love unglamorous local restaurants, bookstores, and farmers markets.” —Lindsay DeSantis, Arts and culture publicist.
THE APPEAL Detroit may have hit a rough spot when it earned the reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States, but it’s on its way up, thanks to brands like Bottega Veneta and Gucci setting up activations and shops, an edgy art community, and don’t forget about its Motown and techno roots.
THE SPOTS Spot Lite, Are you into techno music? Head over to Spot Lite, one of Detroit’s hottest clubs that’s a co-working space, café, and record store by day before it transforms to one of the city’s coolest nightlife destinations after dark. 2905 Beaufait St #4
Barda, Jarvier Bardauil opened Barda, the “first and only authentic Argentinian and Latin American-inspired” restaurant in Detroit to great acclaim. It was even named a finalist for the 2022 James Beard Awards. 4842 Grand River Avenue
Flowers of Vietnam, Helmed by Detroit native, chef, and owner George Azar, Flowers of Vietnam is hands-down one of the city’s best restaurants. Bon Appetit even thought so when it named it one of the Top 50 New Restaurants in America in 2018. 4440 Vernor Highway
AVERAGE RENT A one-bedroom apartment in Detroit goes for $1,005 a month on average.
THE TESTIMONIAL “The food scene is multicultural, very good chefs are dragging people back to the city, and restaurant and bars are the hook to experience different areas that Detroit has to offer, there is a strong sense of community between chefs that will drive Detroit to become a food city in the near future,”—Javier Bardauil, Chef and owner of Barda, who moved to Detroit from Buenos Aires in 2019
“I feel like I can breathe a bit more in Detroit. The energy of the dense populations of New York or L.A. can be draining. Detroit feels looser, more free and open. I have space and time and more opportunities to take risks with projects I want to realize. Feels like a swirl of possibility. I will probably always have a foot in the door in LA though — it’s important to me to stay connected to my friends and community of artists.” —Kim Swift, Designer
THE APPEAL A warm climate, close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, A Golden Visa enables foreigners to earn EU citizenship after investing in real estate, but since 2022, Portugal has placed restrictions on foreigners acquiring real estate in major Portuguese cities like Lisbon and Porto.
THE SPOTS Vago, an architectural project by studio DC-AD designed for performances and music lovers housed in a basement featuring brick ceilings and banquettes in the same hue. R. Gaivotas 11A
Da Noi, Tomás Blades and Michael Lonodjine, the restaurateurs who opened this Lisbon gem, wanted to emulate the feeling of lounging in a living room while dining on dishes like white beans cacio e pepe and crunchy pork belly. R. Machadinho 44
Embaixada, a prime shopping destination for Portuguese art, fashion, and design housed in a 19th-century neo-Moorish palace. 26 Praça do Príncipe Real
AVERAGE RENT A one-bedroom apartment goes for €650 to €670 a month on average.
THE TESTIMONIAL “Everything feels more personal and business wise is full of opportunities. I love it’s sunny almost all year round. I can go for lunch and a swim in the middle of the week and then come back to work. It’s a small city so I can walk everywhere. The vibe is super chill and I love the smell of the city. The food is so good. It’s full of creative people. The prices are way lower than other main cities in Europe. I love going to sit at Jardim do Principe Real and having a beer at the kiosk or Praça da Fores to get some wine or ice cream. Dinner at Da Noi is my favorite. Saturdays if I’m in town I’m at the beach at Princesa having the best grilled fish. For weekend brunch I love Seagull Method and some Sunday boogie at Stories.” —Lucia Picasso, Entrepreneur who moved from Milan to Lisbon in 2021
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