Which are the least bohemian cities?

Johan Almenberg writes to me:

I have a blog request: a list of the top ten least bohemian cities in the world. Why are some cities more conducive to bohemian lifestyles than others? Does rent control result in more or less of this? I would love to read your thoughts and hopefully so would other people.

Writing this from rent-controlled Stockholm which I believe deserves a place on the top ten.

I won't give him ten, but how about Kuala Lumpur as the world's most non-bohemian city, counting the free world only?  (Otherwise Pyongyang wins.)  It doesn't have much to do with rent control.  Dubai is an interesting choice but I don't think it counts as part of the free world.  Santiago, Chile does not strike me as very bohemian.  Better not nominate Prague!

In the United States, I would name San Antonio as the most non-bohemian major city, or maybe El Paso, with Atlanta as a runner-up.  Might there be somewhere very non-Bohemian in northern Florida?  Does Richard Florida have an index for this somewhere?

What are your picks?


No way. I've got Pyongyang beat. Buraydah, in Al-Qassim Province, just north of Riyadh. The Saudis themselves consider it wacko conservative. It's the font and center of all things Wahhabi.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

I'm a fan of Singapore, but bohemian it is not. Everyone here has a 'real' job!

Columbus, OH

Indianapolis, IN

Charlotte, NC

Jacksonville, FL

Salt Lake City?

Irvine, CA ?

Quebec has got to be a contender for the top bohemian cities. They gave the world circ de soleil for god's sake.

Santiago de Chile man, maybe you are not bohemian or your Spanish is not good enough, but Santiago have a great bohemia. It is not like Valparaiso, one of the most bohemians ever, but in Santiago you can have fun, a "bohemian" style fun.

Luxembourg? Just guessing.

Washington, DC is definitely the least bohemian major American city I've lived in or near. Although there is a bohemian undercurrent in DC, I think they all have very square day jobs that require them to seem respectable, show up on time, avoid drug addiction, and shower every morning.

Free world? What the hell are you talking about?

"all have very square day jobs that require them to seem respectable, show up on time, avoid drug addiction, and shower every morning."

Try crossing the Anacostia.

Perhaps...um... Prague, the capital of Bohemia?


I think you spent to much time with academics during your trip to Santiago. The city is quie diverse and you probably missed the bohemian scene, which is quite decent for international standards. In addition, in accordance with my gay friends, the gay scene is very fun in Santiago; even better than Buenos Aires, they claim!

Least bohemian definitely Brussels.
Most bohemian could be Zatec (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zatec), for two reasons - people there cannot live without Beer even for a day AND its in the Bohemia :)



Actually, the city that gave us "Slackers" (Austin) has seen a tremendous uptick in housing costs, which is having an effect. All those musicians are moving WAY out to find housing. I think that the Bohemian poseur segment is fast-growing here.

In the mean time, San Antonio wages are 10% lower than Austin. It will be interesting to see if this leads to a new trend.

I think it's important to separate the BOBOs from the bohemians. BOBOs dominate places like NY and DC.

I would say the least bohemian places can easily be sniffed out by their lack of a night life. (e.g. Charlotte, NC, Jacksonville, FL.) I don't see Atlanta in that category at all. The housing is relatively affordable and the music scene is great.

"New York has gone in the last fifteen years from reasonably bohemian to almost completely non-bohemian."

Clearly you misunderstand the question and/or don't spend a lot of time in Brooklyn.

A "non-bohemian" definition of DC requires ignoring Adams-Morgan. I think Adams-Morgan is probably enough to place it above, say, Indianapolis or Cleveland.

The canal cities of Upstate New York: Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse have never struck me as Bohemian.

Northern Florida has Gainesville, one of the (mercifully) most bohemian cities in the region.

I have friends in Jacksonville, and can assure you they are living la vie boheme (albeit they have money, whereas most of us in Gainesville do not). The sprawl of the city does put an upper limit on it, but it certainly doesn't deserve top 10.

I wonder why Tyler was guessing that. Try Orlando or Ft. Lauderdale. There are some soulless cities.

Chicago has always struck me as a very non-bohemian. Of course, it's so large that it has a lot of bohemians in an absolute sense....but still, probably a very low percentage of area residents.

I'd put Dallas and Houston ahead of San Antonio. Having lived in the four largest TX cities, there are bohemian sub cultures in each, but whereas they are visible and celebrated in Austin and San Antonio, in Dallas and Houston they are largely marginalized.

People need to look a little deeper at Orlando. True, on the surface it is nothing but a hodge podge of strip malls, extensive zoning regulations, massive government roads, giant highways, and gated building communities. However, there are some lovely bohemian-ish parts like Winter Park, Thorton Park, and College Park.

These places are largely upper middle class-yuppie but there is a bohemian-hipsterish element to these old Orlando suburbs.

Check out Orlandoweekly.com. It is the bohemian journal of record for Orlando.

Dont knock Orlando because of your initial perception. There are some pockets of culture here.

When it comes to Orlando I always tell people to go NORTH! Stay away from South Orlando. It is the part of Orlando that gets all the press because of Disney but it is truly soulless.

It is funny that you mention San Antonio. Just 1 hour north, Austin, would top my list for the most bohemian. (I just ran across town lake in Austin and saw at least a dozen "bohemains" sleeping on the trail).

Chicago? That's crazy! Try Logan Square or Ukranian Village.

Least Bohemian, I'll go with Charlotte, Frankfurt, Las Vegas, and Bordeaux.

I've never been to El Paso, but if I were to pick a Texas city, it would be Dallas, not San Antonio.

I already mentioned Chicago.

I'm going to add another controversial pick. What about Toronto (again, giving some weight to proportion of population).

For a major world class city, it's not very bohemian.

Non-Bohemian: In U.S.: Almost any city in Virginia (preppy is opposite of bohemian). Jekyll Island, GA (golfing is opposite of bohemian).

I dislike bohemians and their behaviour (let's call it "lemming chic"), so I'm keen to know where I should go to avoid them. Why dislike them? Because they get up languidly at 10, groom themselves fastidiously so they look fashionably ungroomed, and then pose around latte-bars quoting -- most likely -- postmodernist philosophers (my apologies, "theorists"), affecting an air of rakish nonchalance. Chances are, furthermore, that they will be in love with themselves, intellectually incurious (especially about economics and history), and very left leaning.

Is Helsinki safe for me? Or perhaps Hamilton?

What about the European industrial cities with large Islamic populations? Marseille? Leeds? If by "bohemian" you mean culturally-rich and hedonistic white poverty, these can be difficult places to maintain that lifestyle, even if rents are low. In contrast, boring middle-class cities at least have bored middle-class kids. We spend more time in leisure than Americans, so obviously low-end American cities will beat low-end European cities on this scale on average.

Definitely nominating my current city, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Second largest city in the state, about 250-300,000, half a million in the metro area. No night life to speak of, though if you wanna get hammered on a Wednesday night, the Neon Armadillo has a $5 cover, $0.25 longnecks, and a coin-op breathalyzer. There is one decently classy jazz club, but it's largely patronized by the 35+ set. Here, "young professional" means "30-35, married, one or two kids," and the only colleges in town are essentially glorified community colleges where local kids go for a year or two before transferring to IU or Purdue. The only mass transit are busses which take you downtown and back. Which would be okay if there was anything happening downtown after 5PM.

In short, Fort Wayne is full of people who were born here with no intention of leaving, who left with no intention of coming back, or are wondering how in heaven's name they stumbled into this godforsaken but inoffensively pleasant hellhole. I fall into the third category. This is hardly the sort of stuff of which burgeoning artistic and cultural cities are made, though if you like cheap housing, have an aversion to getting mugged, and don't particularly need a job, we can hook you up.

There is a significant ethnic population--but it's composed almost entirely of Burmese refugees, most of whom do not speak English and are living on federal assistance of some sort. That population is actually a fairly significant social services problem rather than a cultural asset.

But Indianapolis is actually okay in places. The Broad Ripple neighborhood is alright.

Count me as one more Texas resident who thinks San Antonio isn't even one of the least bohemian cities in Texas, let alone the world. Dallas or Fort Worth, Houston are fair straighter. You don't have to get too far away from the Alamo & other tourist attractions to find slackers of all ages in SA.

Actually, in the DC area, if I were to pick the most bohemian neighborhood, it would be Mt. Rainier, MD. In particular, the area around the Glut food co-op at 4005 34th Street.

I'd say Montreal is reasonably boho but this has nothing to do with Cirque du Soleil, one of the most un-boho entities in the world. Completely crass and cheesy, Disney/Vegas in spirit.

Staying with Canada, and sticking with the larger, growing cities, Toronto is definitely not bohemian. I live here, so I have a bias I supposed, but there's nothing particularly interesting or culturally vibrant here (and no one pipe in with Kensington Market or West Queen West because you obviously haven't got a clue what bohemian is)

As a former resident of Brooklyn, I must concur that those that say NYC has lost its bohemian appeal spend too much time there trying to live like Carrie Bradshaw. Brooklyn, Queens, etc. still have large communities where they do their own things. I truly believe it to be "the furthest from the gov't you can get." If you want to take over old buildings, convert them to art spaces, lived in commercially zoned areas, have loud bands play to all hours of the night, illegally smoke, sell booze without a license in a place that completely disregards all safety codes, all without the cops ever batting an eye, move to NYC (just not Manhattan). It really is about as libertarian as you can get.

Now, if you want to live in a place where the pressure to dress, talk, pray, and vote the same way is palpable in nearly every aspect of a life. A place where you get nickeled and dimed, where you can't really eat or shop at a place that isn't a national chain, where you can't even park a car without someone extorting money from you, then move to nearly any one of the big cities in Texas.

If I were to walk outside my door right now I'd wager than 40-50% of the women I'd see would be wearing EXACTLY the same shorts (only in different colors). Its just one of the more visible signs of the pressure for conformity. Texas, from my few years here, is definitely the least bohemian place I've ever lived in the US.

Baltimore is plenty bohemian. Combine JHU and some art schools with lots of cheap housing and Baltimore has plenty of bohemians.

Stockholm would be a hell of a lot more bohemian if it were easier & cheaper to get a beer.

I think that in general, that you can almost rate the bohemian-ess of a city on the price/availability/cultural acceptance of beer/liquor and drinking in public.

Houston should snag a spot in the top ten, though thanks to sheer size there are a few counterculture types who make it their home...

Any city in Switzerland.

What's bohemian? It's a town where someone from somewhere that's too constricted can breathe and live. If you are from North Platte, maybe Omaha is enough of a change. It's big enough so that there's room for most kinds of people. What's not bohemian? Smallish places where everyone knows your name. East St Louis? Winnetka? Palos Verde? New Bedford?

@ryan: glad to see fort wayne pop up here. i'm from there, now living in brooklyn. (the breeder part, not the bohemian part.)

there used to be some bohemian-ness in fort wayne. my brother was all over it in the 80s and 90s. there was a food co-op too. it's a cheap place to live, so you can live in a way that life makes little demand on you.

Bangkok Bohemian. Thailand not free.

TC's take on Kuala Lumpur could not be further from the truth. I wonder whether Bohemians are more visible in places where they are subsidized by governments. KL has a remarkably vibrant arts community that is self-supporting. It is also very engaged politically and social satire is alive and well. That it does not have the legal protections enjoyed by people in western democracies makes it operate smarter, and the people who do it do not live conventionally. Tourists won't encounter this side of KL, or Malaysia. http://universes-in-universe.org/eng/nafas/articles/2010/art_spaces_in_malaysia

Bohemians hide in South Africa. The small towns in S.A. are suprisingly BOBOish.

If Detroit has a more vibrant underground art/music scene, good for Detroit. I'm not sure that makes it more Bohemian, but if "underground art/music scene" is the only criteria, Chicago does very well. Tons of art shows in abandoned apartment buildings or old chuches or warehouses. Lots of avant garde and visionary music being played, both underground and above ground clubs (Empty Bottle does great things in this regard with its free Monday nights; cheap recording spaces help). Cheap beer and cheap rent in lots of parts of the city... Christ, SAIC alone keeps the city out of the top ten... All that said, most other parts of the city are indeed very serious, blue collar places. The city that works...

Ottawa. I'm not sure Hull (the French Canadian city across the river) is really bohemian either, as opposed to a little bit run down.

Toronto has been steadily losing its bohemian edge as gentrification sweeps away neighbourhoods. Still there, but 95% of the surface area of the Greater Toronto Area is economically segregated suburbs and residential neighbourhoods. The downtown is glass and steel condos and offices and homeless people. Some of the 'boho' areas like Queen West are looking pretty gentrified by now. The Jane Jacobs homeland of Yorkville and the Annex (where she moved to after saving Greenwich Village) is now on phase 2 of extreme gentrification: the construction of condos and the arrival of high end retail chains. Even the professors at the adjacent university are priced out.

Ed: Manhattan is non-Bohemian (not sure what you'd call 125th Street, though, black ethnic?).

However Queens and Brooklyn (and the Bronx) retain bohemian edges.

William Barghest: Buffalo has acquired a certain cachet of late, with artsy professionals -- cheap housing of a very high Victorian standard.

Houston is greatly misunderstood. Austin is a relatively tiny city with a huge university, and so the bohemian culture is conspicuous. Houston is a massive city with many elements - China/Asiatown on Bellaire, Neiman Marcus types at the Galleria, cowboys and rednecks out in suburbia, corporate oilmen downtown - and if you visit those areas that might be all you see. But I lived in the heart of Montrose (itself in the heart of Houston) and it was like the West Village/Williamsburg - but MORE BOHEMIAN than either! In fact, because the cost of living in Montrose is so low and the quality of life so high, I often thought that more artsy folks from around the country would love moving there.

Austin is great, but if you're used to big cities it feels very, very small. In fact, I think Austin is more comparable to Asheville, NC or Boulder, CO than a true metropolitan area and there's no way I'd want to live there once I'm past 25.

NYT article on Montrose:

Fort Worth, Texas. Hands down

For Charlotte's size I think most folks would find NoDa pretty disappointing. Greenville, SC has Charlotte beat for artistic content in my opinion, which is a pretty strong statement. But I'm pretty confident a generation from now bankers' kids will get tired of Charlotte's lameness and spruce it up a bit.

Tel Aviv should be in the top 5 for sure, for anyone who knows the city.

My picks are go to a NOT_CITY

unfortunatly for those who fetishise the peasatry's promonarchialism, you need to go to a sub-30k town for that.

I grew up there, and i visit my parents often.

Thats were you'll avoid the goddamn hipsters.

The internet makes it worse. Pretty much anyone can start listening to immoral antiwar lesbians if they want.

Above that level, you can't.

Its like asking for largest island w/o vertabrate life. The answer is really small, even if you dislike it.

Only the people in those small towns know their place.

Santiago's Barrio Brazil and Barrio Belles Artes are pretty bo-ho and currently very popular spots to go for people from all over the city.

Least Bo-ho that I've ever seen is probably ªanlıurfa in Turkey, near the Syrian border, also one of my favorite cities.

You can rule out the Front Range cities of Colorado. All have significant bohemian populations. Maybe it's the libertarian attitude out here in the Rockies.

This is an easy one...Nassau.

100% Bahamian.

San Antonio has a pretty strong arts scene, and a unique local culture with a lot of history. There may not be as many people who work full-time in "bohemian" jobs there as in other cities, but it's a pretty rich place culturally.

Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, involving musical, artistic or literary pursuits, with few permanent ties.Its been generally the French word.

When travelling to Santiago stay at Bellas Artes area. It is very cosmopolitan, like a small NY Soho.
Check it out: http://www.rentapartmentsantiago.cl/

New York has increased over the last fifteen years of bohemian almost entirely reasonably not bohemian. perceptions of the population have not achieved probably because there are not many cities in the U.S. bohemians.

I don't think 'alternative' and 'tattoos' are defining factors for bohemian.
These suggestions are mostly disappointing so far.
Portland is now a parody of itself.
And liberal politics is also not the same as bohemian.
Sadly, most of these cities are full of poseurs now-in part b/c the alternative lifestyle is currently trendy, whether green, organic, artsy, tattoed, 'microbreweries',etc...so it's a very superficial scene for the most part.....not alot of great art being generated, nor great living for that matter. Eschewing 'customary' society does not mean one is homeless or any of the other stereotypes portrayed.

Definitly not salt lake city. The mountains give a refuge for bohemians, and in the winter time Ed have a large snow bird population. Also sundance film festival brings a dash of Bohemian every year.

In the United States, I would name San Antonio as the most non-bohemian major city. Here you list top 10 least bohemian cities. I think it is a funny information for me.

I think so this are the best bohemian cities: Dallas, Singapore, Houston, PhoenixKuala Lumpur, Frankfurt, Duesseldorf , Jacksonville, Monaco, Santiago

Malaysia has grave problems with liberty of belief and of the press, and the use of defensive custody and the assenting actions towards the Malay bulk are often ill-treated at the expense of the Chinese-Malay minority. The rights of migrant are also highly limited.

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I do not think China will like Free World, but certainly it takes about 20 seconds to reach 10 not bohemian Chinese cities. An American city can still get a reputation for being bohemian in this way in the past.

It is not that there are no bohemians in Stockholm, but that the overall vibe of Stockholm is wanna-be upper-class.

The city is quie a different and probably lost a bohemian scene, which is quite reasonable international standards. Moreover, according to my gay friends, gay is great fun in Santiago, even better than in Buenos Aires, support!

The Lass Angle is great city.

Thanks for posting such a nice article. I love the way you have described the whole article. Thanks and keep posting new things.

The least bohemian cities are Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Washing DC and other city.

The apparent it is annihilation but a hodge podge of band malls, all-encompassing zoning regulations, massive government roads, behemothic highways, and gated architecture communities. However, there are some admirable bohemian-ish locations like Winter Park, Thorton Park, and College Park.

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