1. Shanghai For aspiring Masters of the Universe, there is only one place to go: China’s hyperbolically bustling financial capital. “Everyone sees China in Bloomberg and Time and Le Monde and The Guardian and wants to be part of it,” says Ryan Barrett, a 25-year-old who’s been working in business development here since 2003. A few years ago, Shanghai was little more than a “frontier outpost,” says Barrett, but now living here means shopping at Marc Jacobs, dining at Jean Georges, and driving a Lexus. Not that Shanghai is simply Wall Street East—it’s an intensely Chinese city, where it helps to speak not only Mandarin but Shanghainese as well.
2. BudapestForget the city’s sleazy “Budaporn” reputation—the skin industry is shifting to Prague, and the Hungarian capital is attracting legit businesses, says Bill Sheridan, vice-president of international HR at the National Foreign Trade Council. “As it happened in places like Ireland, the Philippines, and India more recently, Hungary is trying to set up call centers and IT back rooms,” he says. Although managing telemarketers isn’t exactly sexy, the rest of Budapest still is: nineteenth-century architecture, communist-kitsch nightclubs, and the summer Sziget music festival (2005’s acts included Franz Ferdinand, Nick Cave, and Sean Paul).
3. PittsburghIf Philadelphia is our “sixth borough,” then Pennsylvania’s second city is Philly’s West Village. “It’s more gay-friendly than Manhattan,” says Coldwell Banker relocation specialist Mark Rutigliano, who moved here (with his partner) from West 11th Street. It’s not just that Queer As Folk is set here—a serious performing-arts scene thrives downtown and the city hosts the annual International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Of course, Pittsburgh’s appeal also lies in its affordable real estate: $300,000 gets you a three-bedroom house. And if you do get homesick, there’s an upscale gay bar called New York, New York.