Asheville is certainly a place for those seeking an alternative to traditional southern culture, but its neighborhoods are incredibly diverse so it’s not all about the New Age and hippie vibes that have made the city’s funky reputation. From cosmopolitan food and drink scenes to cool architecture and outdoor activities, each neighborhood is different. Here are Asheville’s top neighborhoods if you want to experience the city’s chill atmosphere and local history — on either side of the French Broad River.

Street in downtown Asheville, North Carolina

Photo: MilesbeforeIsleep/Shutterstock

Downtown — Downtown Asheville is the heart and soul of the granola culture that many associate with the city. The neighborhood has a strong nightlife scene, excellent live music venues, and colorful street art. From the nun cycling around to the Friday night drum circle that meets in Pritchard Park, downtown Asheville has the hippie vibe that we all need as a respite from reality from time to time. There are many restaurants offering cuisine from all over the world, from Indian to Ethiopian to Korean, and we suggest you try them all. Make sure to stop at the Double D’s Coffee and Desserts — sit upstairs inside the red double-decker bus for a unique coffee experience.

West Asheville — West Asheville is mostly comprised of narrow streets filled with gorgeous historic homes, but the area is not all residential. Hit trendy Haywood Road for eclectic dive bars such as the Desoto Lounge and delicious restaurants like BimBeriBon and Biscuit Head. Stop in one of the many shops filled with pieces of local art before walking among the brightly painted bungalows with plant-filled porches that line the streets splintering off of Haywood Road. Due to its proximity to the French Broad River, which separates West Asheville from downtown, outdoor activities like kayaking and rafting are readily available. Visitors can rent from local businesses to partake in these beginner-friendly water sports on the slow-moving river.

River Arts District — East of the railroad tracks, alongside the French Broad River, the River Arts District (RAD) is the former industrial center of Asheville. Now an artist hub filled with studios and galleries for mediums ranging from glass and pottery to paintings and jewelry, the neighborhood is young and trendy as the home of college students and more than 200 aspiring artists. Mills that were once busy with life have found a new chapter as converted spaces that now serve as breweries, shops, and studios.

The Chemist in Asheville, North Carolina

Photo: The Chemist/Facebook

South Slope — Also known as Asheville’s Brewery District, South Slope is clearly the place for craft beer enthusiasts, with as many as 10 beer companies already located here or scheduled to open in the area soon. This neighborhood connects the River Arts District to downtown, and is very walkable, making a taste at each of those breweries even easier. When the drinking munchies hit, stop by local favorite Vortex Doughnuts for a sweet bite. Just because beer is the main focus here, don’t miss craft distiller, the Chemist, which is a recent addition to the neighborhood.

Biltmore Village — Biltmore Village is the township just outside of the Vanderbilt’s former home, the Biltmore House. Filled with historical landmarks such as the Cathedral of All Souls, this touristy part of town that inspires a nostalgia for old world Asheville. With a restaurant in a former train depot, the Village Wayside Bar & Grille, and contemporary stores like Lilly Pulitzer, the community is an unusual juxtaposition of old and new.

Montford Area Historic District — Where Biltmore Village sometimes appears forced and touristy, Montford Area Historic District is the real deal. Surrounding the beautiful Omni Grove Park Inn resort, Montford Historic District is also home to many beautifully designed homes, many of which date back to the high times of pre-Depression Asheville. The cozy neighborhood is not lost in the past, however. Trendy cafes like The Waterbird and bakeries like City Bakery keep the area’s lifeblood pumping.