Ten Favorite World Cities
Often times people ask us about our most favorite cities that we’ve visited. Believe it or not, coming up with only ten is much more difficult that you might think. Generally I answer by creating a diversified list that combines culture, excitement, variety, charm, and budget, but the reality is that a list of top ten world cities is all those things and so much more. I guess if I had to justify my choices by putting my finger on just one thing, I would say that there is something in the way each city makes us feel. While the beauty or charm of these cities may be up for debate, each of them has found a special place in our hearts.
Here are our top ten favorite world cities in no specific order:
- Budapest, Hungary
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Washington DC, USA
- London, England
- Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine
Why We Love Them
Without further ado, here’s why these cities made our top 10 list…
I dare you to find anyone who has anything bad to say about Prague as a travel destination. In fact, the city often ends up on many travelers’ lists of favorite cities. The romance of Prague lies mostly in its charming Old Town with its fairy-tale architecture. Prague is known as the city of a thousand spires, and most of those spires can be admired from the Hrad – the hilltop castle overlooking Old Town. Whether you’re strolling along the cobblestone streets, exploring hidden alleyways and restaurants, or admiring the sunset on the Vltava River from the Charles Bridge, you’ll soon discover that Prague has become one of your favorite cities.
Istanbul exudes an oriental mystique, and rightly so. For nearly sixteen centuries following its establishment as Constantinople, it served as the capital of four empires. While remnants of the Roman and Byzantine empires still remain, it’s the Ottoman empire that has left the most permanent mark on the city. Istanbul carefully balances the exoticism of the East with the modern appeal of the West. You could spend months in Istanbul and not even scrape the surface of what it has to offer culturally, architecturally, or culinarily. As an additional bonus, it is the only city in the world that straddles two continents: Europe and Asia.
The Medina (Old City) of Tunis has a quiet, old-world charm. When we’re walking through the narrow alleys and maze of streets, it’s like stepping back in time…or even better, stepping into an Indiana Jones movie. A whiff a jasmine floats through the air as you explore the ancient mosques, souks, and turkish baths. It’s truly an exotic place. In addition, Tunis makes a great base for heading out to explore the other treasures that Tunisia has to offer.
If you are looking for an overdose of Greco-Roman history, look no further than Athens. The city is rife with ancient culture and well-preserved ruins. You shouldn’t travel to Athens expecting an entirely ancient city. In fact, much of the city is a 20th century mess and worth avoiding. For the most pleasant experience, stick to the areas surrounding the Acropolis (the Plaka and Monastiraki) where you can spend your days strolling along the narrow streets, enjoying delicious Greek eats, and soaking up the Grecian vibe. Unless you’re visiting the National Archeological Museum or Lykovitos Hill, there’s really no reason to explore metropolitan Athens. Be sure to visit in the shoulder season for fewer crowds and better rates on hotels.
Over a decade ago, the medieval city of Bruges was not on most people’s radars, and only the seasoned travelers had ever heard of it. These days Bruges attracts its fair share of visitors as tourists flock to experience the city’s quaint architecture and romantic canals. We love how the city feels small and endless at the same time. It’s one of those cities that draws back time and time again. Oh, and let’s not forget the chocolate! One taste of Belgian chocolate and nothing else will ever compare. If you happen to visit Bruges, be sure to stroll past the famous dog of Bruges and wave hello. He’ll probably ignore you, though.
Budapest has become a traveling favorite due to it being one of the most affordable (and beautiful) European capitals. The famous Danube River divides the city into its two parts: hilly Buda and wide-spread Pest. The city is picturesque, cultured, and organized. Budapest is one of those cities in which you could spend weeks exploring and still not feel likes you’ve experienced everything the city has to offer. The Hungarian people aren’t altogether friendly, but don’t let that stop you from spending time in this amazing city.
For more on Budapest, check out the following itinerary: Three Days in Budapest.
The walled old city of Chiang Mai (surrounded by a moat) is only about 1 mile square (1.6 sq km) and filled with temples, stupas, restaurants, massage parlors (both the kind you are thinking of and the other kind), and tons of places to explore. Chiang Mai exudes a certain Asian exoticism…a je ne sais quoi that Bangkok lacks. The areas outside the walled city are a bit more chaotic, but the nightlife and markets are excellent. Everything is super cheap in Thailand, making it excellent for travelers on a budget. Chiang Mai is a great base for exploring the adventure tourism locations in Northern Thailand.
Despite what you may think about American politics, one would be hard pressed not to admire Washington DC based on its virtues as a city. Washington DC is one of the only cities in the world that was designed from the beginning as a capital city, and it shows. The city is organized and easy to get around. Some of America’s best monuments, museums, and cultural amenities are available at every turn. Understand that most of the symbolic buildings and monuments represent pivotal eras in America’s past, so a mild grasp of the American history may yield to a greater appreciation of this iconic city.
One might say that London is not only the capital city of the UK, but also the capital of Europe, as well. London has some of the best culture and diversity in the world crammed into a single city. There is always something new (and old) to see. It’s home to world-famous sights like Big Ben, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey. It’s also home to world-class exhibitions and museums, like the British Museum, National Gallery, and Tate Modern. Obviously English speakers should have an affinity towards London since language is not a barrier. The only downsides? London is expensive, rainy and gloomy (most of the time).
As I said before, in order for a city to be in my top list, it has to make me feel. Jerusalem is one of those cities with so much feeling. It’s difficult to describe the emotions and thoughts that flow through you when you wander around this city. Old Jerusalem is such a fun area to explore. You can practically feel the age of the Old City. Despite being home to three of the world’s most popular religions, Jerusalem is the type of city that can be appreciated even if you aren’t religious.
What are your Top 10?
This list may change over time as we explore new places. Sound off in the comments below and list your top ten favorite world cities.