10 skate cities to shred before you pile out

Check our guide to the finest skateboarding cities on the planet, from the famous to surprising.
By Gaston Francisco

Skateboarding is predominantly an urban expression. Street skateboarding was created and developed on the slopes and pavements of cities, and the relationship between the urban sprawl and restless, thrill-seeking youth is at the core of the genesis of our beloved activity.

To this end, we thought we would pool our collective experiences of skating around the world to choose ten global cities which we can recommend to any skater looking to bust out and see somewhere new. 

Naturally, there will be some about which you will already be somewhat familiar, but we also tried to give it a little twist by adding some less obvious skate meccas which can easily qualify as great skate destinations.

Hopefully this feature might be of some help in planning your next city-bound skate trip, rolling down memory lane, or just bugging out to some of the concrete planet’s finest terrain!

#BestSkateCities

Barcelona – the mecca

Walker Ryan, Ollie in Barcelona by Gaston Francisco
Walker Ryan - Ollie © Gaston Francisco

What is there to add about the most famous skate city on the planet? Barcelona started being heavily noticed during the late 1990's; some of the Transworld videos portrayed incredible lines in an amazing spot with the best ground and ledges. That spot was Macba, and it remains to this day one of the most iconic skate spots in the world.

Blessed with mild weather and the most innovative architects, Barcelona has been in the limelight of skateboarding for over a decade and always evolves, adding new spots to existing ones or transforming classic spots in new ways. A city with a very intense nightlife, easy and relaxed lifestyle, and a beach filled with beautiful human beings, it is every skater's dream city.

Berlin – a summer’s must

Farid Ulrich, Wallie in Berlin by Hopfensperger
Farid Ulrich - Wallie © Florian Hopfensperger

At the beginning of the new millennium, Berlin emerged as the go-to European city. Heavy reconstruction which has been ongoing since reunification in 1989 has brought a lot of new and impressive spots to the most diverse city in Germany.

Such diversity also makes it a very open-minded place where street artists, skaters and young people in general have found a place to call home.

Come in the summer months and enjoy the virtues of one of the most beautiful cities in the world with a very relaxed ambience while scouting for some unique spots. Do not miss the Kulturforum, which is the equivalent to Barcelona's Macba.

Los Angeles – where it all started

Mason Silva, Backside Smithgrind, Los Angeles, by Sam McGuire
Mason Silva - Backside Smithgrind © Sam McGuire

A staple classic. The streets are lined with immense palm trees which flourish under the ever-present blazing sun. One of the cradles of skateboarding and to this day home of the skate industry and a large percentage of professional skaters, LA has always been on every skater’s bucket list and for several good reasons.

Over time, it has become harder and harder to skate the streets of this beautiful city but the infamous school yards are still everybody's meeting point on the weekends, when the kids leave school and the elder guys with their skateboards start jumping fences. J-Kwon is a must on Sundays, but keep your eyes open for police strolling by every now and then.

Guangzhou – the Asian skate Eldorado

Nick Garcia, Crailslide, Guangzhou, by Sam McGuire
Nick Garcia - Crailslide © Sam McGuire

Looking for an affordable skate trip with some of the best spots in the world? Consider China's third largest city Guangzhou for your next skate destination. This massively sprawling city is practically made of marble, with hundreds of amazing marble plazas scattered throughout the city; even a lot of the handrails have a perfect marble approach.

If you get tired of the perfect plazas worry not, as the city is also filled with plenty of other unique spots like the famous ribbon quarter pipe as seen in just about every skate video from 2014. The city is very affordable, getting around is easy and cheap via the subway system or taxis.

An expensive flight, depending on your location in the world – but once there you and your crew can go and live like kings on a shoestring budget, all while enjoying some of the best dim sum on earth. Combine that with it being just a short ride to Shenzhen and Hong Kong, and it is no surprise that Guangzhou is heralded as one of the best cities for skateboarding in the world.

San Francisco – where history was made

Jack Curtin, Switch Crooked Grind, San Francisco, by Dave Chami
Jack Curtin - Switch Crooked Grind © Dave Chami

What remains to be said about the mother of all skateboard cities? Before Barcelona, before Berlin there was San Francisco, home to Thrasher magazine, Deluxe distribution and more skate folklore per square metre than anywhere else in the world.

True, the Embarcadero and other iconic spots may have fallen victim to their own popularity and been re-developed beyond skateboarding use, but in 3rd and Army you have arguably the greatest street spot of all time, and the city’s status as bohemian Eldorado remains despite the skyrocketing rents caused by the influx of digital revolutionaries.

The hills remain terrifying to traverse on any wheels, the tram tracks are still a bigger ollie than you would like to do at the speed required to clear them, and the Mission district burritos are still bigger than one person should eat. Put simply, SF has to be done if for no other reason than to realise how much skate history was made here.

Brasilia – made to skate

Felipe Gustavo, Flip Frontside Noseslide, Brasilia, by Gaston Francisco
Felipe Gustavo - Flip Frontside Noseslide © Gaston Francisco

Brasilia is a very special city. It was one of the few cities in the world that was designed and built before any people where living in it. The renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer was involved in the project and it was built to be the federal capital of Brazil.

Brasilia has also been the birthplace of Felipe Gustavo and it holds some of the best spots in Latin America. Brasilia is geographically remote, but the trip is absolutely worth it if you are in the region and looking for solid skate spots with little bust probabilities.

Melbourne – down under spot galore

Chris Joslin, Backside Flip in Melbourne by Sam McGuire
Chris Joslin - Backside Flip © Sam McGuire

As a rule of thumb when it comes to cities, the second one is usually the interesting one. Principal cities tend to take first bite of everything and become predictable as a result. Second cities (and third, and fourth) tend to be more liveable, less showy and better loved as a result.

Melbourne is the textbook example of this; while Sydney does of course have Bondi, the Opera House and Bowlarama, Melbs (as locals seem to refer to her) is the skateboarding hothouse scene of Australia, and almost everyone will tell you it is Australia’s coolest city by a country mile.

Why? Simple city layout, terrific food, groovy arts scene, open urban planning and 20 skateparks within a 10-mile radius including not one but two outdoor vert ramps mean that while San Francisco may be the most storied city in skateboarding’s history, Melbourne is the world’s most skateboarding-est city today. Plus, Australians are overwhelmingly decent skins who look after visitors like their own, so you can’t lose, really!

Copenhagen – eco and skateboarding friendly

Tommy Fynn, Backside Overcrooks, Copenhagen, Gaston Francisco
Tommy Fynn - Backside Overcrooks © Gaston Francisco

Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark. This bicycle friendly city is also one of the greenest in the world and plans to be carbon-emission free by 2025. Copenhagen made a big impact in the skateboarding world with a little help from the CPH Open contest, one of the best events in Europe which resembles the laid-back contests of the 90's. The spots here are pretty futuristic, the people that inhabit the city are very progressive.

If you make it out here, rent a bike, go watch the contest and visit the district of Christiania which holds the infamous wooden bowl immortalised by Tom Penny.

Moscow – Eastern marble block

Thaynan Costa, Frontside Tailslide in Moscow by Gaston Francisco
Thaynan Costa - Frontside Tailslide Into Bank © Gaston Francisco

The Russian capital boasts Soviet architecture which makes it very different to most cities of the world, and one of the few where you actually can escape globalisation and feel that you are in different place. The marble monuments depicting grandiose moments from the Soviet epoch are all over the place and produce some of the best spots you have ever seen.

The traffic can be intense, and it is not the safest place to be, but the reward for taking such risks are worth it. Jump on the Metro and be stunned by its luxury and go all the way to Victory Park to skate one of the most famous spots this country has to offer.

Local skaters are very friendly and open to showing visitors around provided they are respectful of their customs.

Mar del Plata – Latin America’s skateboarding cradle

Madars Apse, Backside Flip, Mar Del Plata, by Gaston Francisco
Madars Apse - Backside Flip © Gaston Francisco

This small, laid-back beach town in Argentina is a perfect place to escape winter in the northern hemisphere when it becomes summer down there – and this city goes off in summertime. Home to Milton Martinez, the city is filled with smooth spots that overlook the ocean and it also has some of the best and oldest transition spots in Argentina.

This is one of the the first places that saw skateboarding in Latin America as you can tell by watching the older generations that still rip the concrete parks.

Go to a restaurant, try some steak and hang out with the locals who will show you a great time skating during the day – and an even better one once night falls and the city comes to life.

#BestSkateCities

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