There's no formula, of course. But experts say certain factors make an "It" destination easy to predict.
Berlin, 1997. Eight years after the fall of the wall, Germany’s biggest city was still struggling to integrate lopsided halves, its derelict industrial districts a post-Soviet scar on the landscape. Berlin, 2017: Twenty years later, the city is arguably the hippest in the world, anchored by inventive, artsy nightlife, funky (yet affordable) hotels, a thriving LGBT scene, and a glut of concept stores. After London and Paris, Berlin is Europe’s third-most visited city.
But how did that transformation happen? Why has Berlin earned repeated accolades as the Capital of Cool, instead of face-planting, a city still stuck trying to “make it”? Bigger still, what characteristics does it share with other destinations that have proved equally nimble at navigating the same perilous path to popularity? Take Iceland, which has gone from a footnote to Scandinavia to a well-established must-see. Or Lisbon, long one of Europe’s overlooked capitals, it’s now helping Portugal hit record visitor numbers: In 2015, those stood at 10.18 million, a ten percent rise over the previous year. According to experts, the answer lies in five key factors, which, taken together, create a rough formula that generates an It district, city, or country.
Think of the first of these factors as nixing the 9 to 5, says Jonah Disend of innovation firm Redscout; he specializes in creating buzz around new products, services and even places. “There’s a difference between the places you want to go, versus the places you have to go, so it can’t be a destination you’d go to for work,” he says, whether an off-duty city (Berlin, rather than the financial center of Frankfurt) or a less-trafficked, biz-driven ‘hood like Fountain Square in Indianapolis. Put more simply: a patina of cool comes from a sense of clocking off, not punching in.