Urban centers inspire creativity. New York, Paris, and L.A. offer more than enough proof of that.

But in spite of their creative cultures, these longtime leaders have their challengers. All over the world, cities are being transformed into trendsetting hubs of design innovation, producing and attracting some of the most promising young creative talent we’ve seen yet.

Here are five creative cities that are reshaping the global art and design scene.

1. Berlin, Germany

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When work and lifestyle resource Teleport released its list of the 5 best creative cities in the world for designers last fall, Berlin was at the top. Based on factors like price, rent index, and concentration of art galleries and museums, Germany’s largest city was found to be “the city best suited for the art-minded.”

Berlin is home to domestic design studios agencies like ZEITGUISED, Hort and More Sleep. It also happens to be a leading choice among American creative firms looking to expand into Europe, like leading interactive agency Razorfish. Creative industries like fashion are thriving: Berlin’s wide array of established and emerging fashion designers include Bobby Kolade, originally from Sudan, and local designer Annelie Augustin, co-founder of womenswear label Augustin Teboul.

Berlin is making its mark on the photography scene, too. Recently, commercial photographer Sebastian Spasic partnered with website Pixartprinting to create Berlin Lines, a photographic series on Berlin’s subway system in which he captures citizens in stations that hold personal meaning to them. Spasic told The Guardian that Berlin is “an eclectic city with a youthful and tolerant mentality,” adding, “It’s best experienced and not explained.”

2. Montreal, Canada

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Montreal turns 375 years old this year, and its creative legacy — which spans music, journalism, art, dance, theater, and food — continues to grow. This creativity is in large part a product of Montreal’s diverse culture: More than half of Montrealers are bilingual, and many speak a third language as well. French-Canadian folklore blends with Irish, Italian, Greek, and African culture in this cosmopolitan city, and the result is an exciting melting pot of traditions and ideas.

Montreal is where Leonard Cohen, Vice Media, and Cirque du Soleil got their start, and it hosts the world-renowned Montreal International Jazz Festival and Just For Laughs comedy festival, among countless others. Award-winning filmmaker, actor, and costume designer Xavier Dolan is doing his part to keep the city’s reputation as an epicenter of creativity intact, and the same can be said of direct and writer Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival).


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Recently named the world’s best city for students, Montreal inspires young creatives of all kinds, from street artist and skateboard designer Chris Dyer, who learned illustration and design at Montreal’s Dawson College, to McGill University grad and logo artist Chris Soueidan, who founded Montreal-based visual-design studio Loogart in 2011. Expect more talent to come flooding in, as the city was recently chosen to house a co-working community offering 1,200 new office spaces in the downtown core. “Montreal has a cultural richness which is something we look for in communities. It’s artistic, and there’s a lot of growth right now in innovation and tech,” WeWork, the company behind the project, has said.

3. Mexico City, Mexico

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Mexico City was recently named the World Design Capital for 2018 for its use of design for social, economic, and cultural development. But even before that, Mexico’s capital — the 12th most-populated city on Earth — was recognized as a “future city” by The Economist Intelligence Unit. That honor was based on its “burgeoning arts and culture sectors,” which encompass art museums, Mexico’s film and TV industry, and many redesigned pedestrian streets, parks, and plazas.

Between Mexico City Fashion Week and festivals like Ambulante Film Festival and Festival del Día de Muertos (the Day of the Dead), Mexico City actively celebrates its culture and artistic community. It has been steadily attracting influential design and advertising agencies, PR firms, and social media companies, including Edelman, Twitter, and international branding and architectural firm Anagrama.”All of the big hitters in the creative industry have offices in Mexico City,” Sebastian Padilla, creative director of Anagrama, has said.

That also includes Facebook, which worked with design firm Gensler and a local artist named Sego to create an office inspired by Mexico City’s “rich textures, crafts, color and vegetation,” along with its “history, legends and urban complexities.” Sego and fellow street artists incorporate many of those same uniquely Mexican themes into street art that infuses the city with even more color and life.

4. Chicago, Illinois

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It may not come as a surprise to find Chicago on this list, given that it’s a longtime epicenter of architecture, literature, music, and theater. Chicago gave rise to architects Daniel Burnham and Frank Lloyd Wright, as well as Edgar Rice Burroughs and L. Frank Baum, authors of the Tarzan series and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, respectively. It is also the birthplace of Chicago-style jazz and Chicago blues, styles of music that made legends out of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Buddy Guy (Chicago is also the birthplace of house music). It’s the home of improv comedy group The Second City, which kickstarted the careers of comedians like like Bill Murray, John Candy, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert.

Today, Chicago is “in the midst of a creative revolution,” according to Chicago Magazine. It appeals to photographers, designers, and painters who are inspired by the city’s history of pioneering creativity. The city has contributed to the glitch art trend through new media festival glitChicago, and supports the photography community with efforts like the Filter Photo Festival. Next year, it will host Art Design Chicago, a massive art exhibition that will showcase both past artists like social-realist painter Charles White, and trailblazing contemporary photographer Kenneth Josephson. When it comes to creativity, the second city is second to none.

5. Hong Kong, China

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Besides being “a new hub for creativity,” according to CNN, Hong Kong has become a go-to destination for artists and digital creatives. The Hong Kong design industry has been growing rapidly since 2009, with the majority of creative professionals working in multimedia, visual/graphic, interior, and industrial design.

A few years ago, the city launched a development project in the West Kowloon Cultural District with the hope of “attracting and nurturing the creative workforce our cities need to succeed in the ‘new economy.'” The district is expected to become one of the largest cultural and art hubs in the world, but already Hong Kong is nurturing major creative talent, including furniture, housewares, fashion, and jewelry designers increasingly recognized for their interpretation of the city’s “East meets West” aesthetic. Throw in some groundbreaking art and photography exhibits, like Hong Kong Upside Down by French photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze and Hong Kong photographer Tugo Cheng, and it’s easy to see why this is one of the new creative cities. Like Berlin, Montreal, Mexico City, and Chicago, Hong Kong will be setting art and design trends for years to come.

Top image by canadastock