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Sustainable city initiative

The Atlanta BeltLine

It is nowhere near completion, yet already a tremendous success. The BeltLine is a car-free urban oasis created on old freight lines around Atlanta. We rented a couple of bikes and rode them past street art, trendy food markets and street musicians.

Explore the BeltLine
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Iris Profile

Text & photography

Iris van den Broek

What is the Atlanta BeltLine?

The BeltLine is a project in full development. Old train viaducts and tracks are being connected to create a circular urban park around Atlanta. The ultimate goal is for the path to form a thirty-five kilometre loop around the city, connecting no fewer than forty-five neighbourhoods. The project is very reminiscent of the popular High Line in New York City, where old freight lines have also been converted into a lively city park, but on a much larger scale.

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    Five sections are currently open, of which the East Atlanta BeltLine is by far the most developed. It is possible to borrow a bike from the Relay Bike Share racks at various points along the BeltLine. You use an app to unlock the bike and then park it at another station when you’re done with it. An electric Lime scooter is another option. We go for the bikes and ride the East Side Trail from Piedmont Park to the Krog Street Market.

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    Car-free zone

    In a city where traffic is considered nothing short of horrific, a car-free alternative is a blessing. So Atlantans are eager users of the BeltLine. Everywhere you look, you see people jogging, walking, biking or skating. And not only on the weekends. The BeltLine is also used intensively on a normal Wednesday morning. Atlanta may be hot and humid, but there’s little opportunity to become dehydrated, considering all the outdoor cafés, breweries and juice bars along the route. Although the BeltLine is primarily used for recreation, once the loop is complete, it will offer a fantastic and sustainable alternative for getting from one side of town to the other without a car.

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    Foodie heaven

    Around halfway along the BeltLine between Piedmont Park and the Krog Street Market, you’ll find another food market: Ponce City Market. This impressing building is hard to miss and is the former City Hall East. In 2014, the building was reopened as an office and apartment complex with the market in the centre. A pedestrian bridge from the BeltLine gives direct access to the Central Food Hall, a culinary dream for any foodie.

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    Top-notch chefs prepare delicious meals here daily. But it’s also perfect for a cup of gourmet coffee or glass of quality wine. The Ponce City Market is often compared to the exclusive Chelsea Market in New York, but Atlanta has done a better job. Here, for example, you will find a multifunctional rooftop terrace with miniature golf, a cocktail bar and a game park. In the summer, film nights are organised from Monday to Thursday.

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    Art-filled route

    An outing on the BeltLine offers not only recreational and culinary enjoyment, but art lovers also get their money’s worth because it’s lined with statues and other works of art. The East Side Trail, for instance, has the Railroad Workers statues made from old rail parts and a forest of rusty support columns and windmills made from old bike parts give the trail an artistic touch. And, of course, there is street art everywhere. Fantastic murals brighten up the industrial paths along the route.

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      Krog Street Market

      The Krog Street Market is a great place for a break from the East Side Trail. The market hall has been voted several times as one of the best in the United States and is housed in a restored factory from the 1920s. Here you find bars, restaurants, florists, bakers and butchers all under one roof and meals served from breakfast to dinner.

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      Colour explosion in L5P

      While taking a break from the BeltLine, it would be a pity not to have a look at one of Atlanta’s trendiest micro neighbourhoods: Little Five Points (LP5). This nearby neighbourhood is eccentric, to say the least. Purple hair, piercings and attention-grabbing outfits are more the rule than the exception. Adapting to the dress code is not difficult since, everywhere you look, there are shops selling unique clothing and funky tattoo studios.

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      The beating heart of L5P is Moreland Avenue NE, where you will find the best vintage shops, skate shops, vegan restaurants and music shops. A must-visit is Junkman’s Daughter. The eye-catching and slightly hysteric façade makes you wonder what on earth is sold inside. The answer? Everything you could possibly need and everything you have absolutely no need for. You enter the shop without any expectations and leave again full of surprise – the perfect representation of L5P.

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        Best burger in Atlanta

        Little Five Points also happens to be the location of the best burger bar in Atlanta: The Vortex. An enormous skull forms the entrance to this legendary burger bar, where every non-vegetarian Atlantan has eaten at least once. The somewhat unusual entrance was made by one of the owners, a talented artist.

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        The interior of The Vortex is equally as impressive as the bizarre exterior. The room is filled with a colourful mix of old licence plates, posters, model airplanes, neon signs and even an old BMW engine on the ceiling. After so much visual indulgence, you have to wonder if the burger will be equally as impressive. Rest assured, it will! Whether you order the Triple Coronary Bypass, Fat Elvis, Rebel Outlaw or Zombie Apocalypse, you’re guaranteed a finger-lickin’ good meal.

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