Critically-acclaimed musician Moses Sumney claims that moving to the small city of Asheville, North Carolina, has done wonders for his creative output. Below, eight other places that prove small cities make inspiring creative getaways.
“I feel really comfortable in small towns,” says Moses Sumney, whose second album, grae: Part I, comes out May 2020. “They’re my favorite sort of vibe… you feel the community more. I think the familiarity you can establish with the people and with the terrain is really special.”
While Sumney found it necessary for his creative practice to move to Asheville full time, you don’t have to uproot your entire world to benefit from a little small town life. The below destinations offer the perfect mix of artistic community, access to nature, and the option of solitude to make your next getaway a little more creative.
The 8 Most Creative Small Cities
1. Taos, New Mexico
If it’s good enough for Georgia O’Keefe, it’s good enough for any aspiring artist. Inhabited by the Taos Puebla nation for thousands of years, this long-time artist colony has for over a century drawn creatives like O’Keefe from all over the world, who find solace in the sweeping mesas and artistic community. Just an hour and a half away from the equally inspiring city of Sante Fe, New Mexico, institutions like the Harwood Museum of Art establish this Southwest American town as an artistic force to be reckoned with.
2. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Artists have been flocking to San Miguel de Allende since the 1950s, when Diego Rivera first set up shop among the Baroque architecture, cozy streets, and vibrant community. The historic city in Central Mexico is known to turn temporary visitors into full-time residents, and it’s been voted “Best City in the World” twice. It’s easy to find inspiration here, but if you need a little boost, just head to one of the best tequila tasting rooms in the world.
This small city-sized island has attracted creatives of all stripes, including the writer Mark Twain, who famously stated, “You can go to heaven if you want to. I’d rather stay in Bermuda.” The pristine waters and pink sand beaches offer the perfect respite for any getaway, but there’s also a burgeoning art scene and colorful street art to explore if you’re looking for more creative stimulation. Many creative entrepreneurs have found Bermuda the perfect place to set up shop.
4. Isla Negra, Chile
Isla Negra was one of three locations the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda retreated to in his lifetime. This beautiful seaside town is home to many contemporary artists and writers who find the waves crashing against the rocky shoreline the perfect soundtrack for their next big creative project. Isla Negra is the kind of place you go to do a whole lot of nothing—and that’s sometimes all you really need. But if you get bored, you’re not too far from Santiago or the stunning Chilean wine country.
5. Angoulême, France
Perched on a plateau overlooking the Charente River, the southwestern French town is like a little fortress of comic tradition. Host to a famous annual comic book festival, Le Festival International de la Bande Dessinée, the city is dotted with comic-inspired murals throughout that offer a contemporary juxtaposition to the ubiquitous Romanesque architecture. Also, Wes Anderson filmed The French Dispatch here. What more could you want?
6. Göreme, Turkey
Located in the Cappadocia region of Turkey, this small city is most known for its penchant for hot air balloons (we would be surprised if you hadn’t seen photos of their balloon fests on Instagram). But there’s more to this magical city if you take your gaze from the sky to the homes, shops, and galleries carved into the landscape dotted otherworldly spires of rock dubbed as “fairy chimneys.” The Göreme Open Air Museum is an architectural marvel, landing a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for the ancient monastic complex.
7. Ambon, Indonesia
While most tourists flock to Ubud for yoga retreats and rice paddy tours, anyone looking for a creative escape should look no further than Ambon. Located on the Indonesian province Maluku, the historically artistic city is known as “Ambon Manise,” which means “beautiful” or “pretty” Ambon. This slice of paradise is known as Indonesia’s “music city,” famously producing some of the country’s top singers and musicians as well as inventing traditional instruments like the ahuri (conch shell flute) and the tifa drum.
8. Essaouira, Morocco
There’s no question that Morocco is an extremely creative country, but this coastal Moroccan city is a small fortress of creativity—literally. Lined with towers and city walls along the perimeter, Essaouira has been inhabited since prehistoric times and maintains so much of its old world charm that film directors like the likes of Orson Welles have frequently used it as a setting and backdrop for period dramas like Welles’s famous rendition of Othello. Arts and crafts are abundant here, as is music. The city is host to the Gnaoua Festival of World Music, dubbed “Moroccan Woodstock.” It won’t be hard to find inspiration in this historic port city.