Cities around the world – My favourites (and the overrated)

After sitting down and having a good think in response to the question “What are your 3 favourite cities in the whole world” I think I have settled on my top 3. I am sure as soon as I have posted this I will be madly apologising to Stockholm, Melbourne and Kyoto for neglecting them. But here we go:

♥ Reykjavik

I have visited Iceland on two occasions and have spent a lot of time in Reykjavik. Why do I love this tiny city of 120,000 people? I love the locals – so friendly, helpful and fiercely proud of their heritage and culture. I love the quirky shops lining the streets, the plethora of cool bars and the locals enthusiasm on weekends for the rúntur (pub crawl). I love walking along the harbour and watching the sunset at the Sun Voyager statue. I love that it no longer costs an arm and a leg to book a bed in a hostel anymore. I love that I can get on a bus and soon arrive at numerous breathtakingly beautiful natural wonders – the Blue Lagoon, Gullfoss, Jökulsárlón. I love the awkwardly cute puffins and the small, furry Icelandic ponies. I love that when I land in Iceland my heart swells and I feel HAPPY!

♥ Tokyo

My first day in Tokyo I wasn’t sold. Maybe it was the jetlag but everything was too loud, fast and it smelt weird. Then on day 2 something just clicked and I fell head over heels for Tokyo. I love seeing the men in business suits picking up rubbish in the streets and shop owners frantically sweeping every morning (the place is so CLEAN for such a huge city). I love that despite the thousands of people swarming around stations and across crossings no one is rushing or rude. I love their respectful bowing and hearing “irasshaimase” every time I enter a store. I love their dedication and pride in their cuisine – I ate the most amazing food everyday.  I love finding a shrine in the middle of the city and temporarily escaping the hustle and bustle. I love that you can buy sexy transvestite costumes in the local department store. I love that they have cat cafes.

♥ New York

Forget the Statue of Liberty and Times Square, there is so much more to this amazing city. I love the variety of amazing food this city has to offer (the bakeries, the pizza, the bagels). I love the plethora of amazing vintage stores (seriously, Sydney is terrible for vintage shopping!) I love retreating into Central Park for a relaxing afternoon picnic. I love the nightlife – rooftop parties, hidden bars, drinks in a beauty parlour. I love that a complete stranger will tell me I have lipstick on my teeth (New Yorkers are famously direct and forth coming!) I love the mind boggling amount of art exhibitions, events and theatre that is on every night.

And the overrated…

Rome

Rome is essentially a tourist city. Wherever I turned there were hawkers trying to see me their flashing Colosseum key rings, gypsies trying to relieve me of my spare change, overpriced restaurants or a tour group blocking my path. Don’t get me wrong – the ruins scattered about the city are truly amazing and well worth a visit (after you have queued for hours). But keep your visit to Rome to a few days – see the sights and then head off elsewhere – Tuscany, Milan, Florence, the Cinque Terre… so many places to take in the culture, food and wine without the tourist hustle and bustle.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles is like a large, souless, cement suburb. Avoid the Hollywood area like the plague – not only are there unsavoury types hanging around but it’s dingy and the tourist-driven tackiness is a bit overwhelming. Whilst there are some great eating spots in LA I would much prefer to spend my time up the coast in San Francisco. The only reason you need to visit LA is for Disneyland (yep I’m a kid at heart).

Frankfurt

Frankfurt, I have visited you twice and you bored the socks off me. In fact I got so bored by you I actually returned to my hotel in the early afternoon and watched TV (something I very rarely do when travelling). If you’re in Germany I strongly suggest you go north to Berlin for it’s rich and fascinating history, art scene and night life, or south to Munich for gorgeous architecture and Bavarian culture. Frankfurt is kinda like the boring cousin no one wants to hang out with.

What are your favourite cities? What let you down? Do you completely disagree with my overrated list? Let me know your thoughts and I may give those cities another chance :)

Comments

  1. says

    Haha Frankfurt. Yes. Why did you go to Frankfurt? I did a 6 week exchange close to Frankfurt during high school and I thought it was nice. However, on my uni exchange I found it was a little boring – I was only there to recover from the jet lag and went to the Christmas market.

    Have you been to Hamburg? It is a lovely city, especially during Summer. There are lots of parks to sit in, pools, all you can eat brunches for $10 Australian dollars, interesting suburbs etc. Ah, I miss Hamburg. Berlin is also fun and there are those dodgy people outside the train stations selling second hand train tickets for free hehe.

    • Swah says

      Haha I didn’t actually choose to go to Frankfurt, it just happened to be where my plane landed and my tour started :)

      I only spent 1 day in Hamburg when I was 18. My memory was of a junkie rolling around on the footpath in the middle of the snow trying to find a suitable vein to plunge his needle into. Not the best memory! Definitely would like to visit it again, this time in the Summer!

  2. Serena says

    “But keep your visit to Rome to a few days – see the sights and then head off elsewhere..”
    What a HUGE mistake!! Don’t get me wrong, Florence,Tuscany in general,le Cinque terre,are AMAZING,(Milan, i’m sorry, not so much!); but if you come to Rome, and see just the turist places (beautiful but overcrowded expecially in high season), of course you have this image. Next time, do a little diggin before coming, ask some “ROMANO”, if you can. My advice:
    Rome has to be seen with TIME, AND CALM (Gosh, i’m sooo Italian!!) There are many fantastic places like:
    – Giardino degli aranci (You can see St. Peter from a tiny key hole) Is romantic!!
    – “neighborhood” like RIONE MONTI (My favouritee!!! I absolutely love this place, there are little vintage shops, art galleries, cafés, markets on sundays. It’s beautiful, and quiet!);SAN PIETRO IN VINCOLI or TRASTEVERE..

    And others like GIANICOLO, GIARDINO DELLE ROSE, QUARTIERE COPPEDé, the Campidoglio (at sunset, actually everything at sunset is beautiful), Villa Borghese, Villa Torlonia..

    I understand that if you come to Rome for just a few days, you can see just some places, But i hope i made you rethink about your opinion of Rome with this short(ahah) comment, and if you decide to give it another chance, you’ll see what the atmosphere of ROMA is really like.

    -Sorry for the looong speech, but you know what they say about Italians, we’re “passional”.

    • Swah says

      Hi Serena, thanks so much for taking the time to share your fav Rome spots with me! You are right that both times I have visited Rome have been in high season and mainly focused on the tourist spots (beautiful yet overcrowded as you said). Next time I plan an Italian trip I will definitely seek more local advice (and hopefully travel in a quieter period!) I am noting down all the above mentioned places for future reference :)

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