They say it’s the people that really make a place, and where the people are in the modern world is cities. Here are five countries with some of the most rewarding and exciting urban centres in the world.
Samuel Johnson once said: “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” A bold claim, but it remains true that if you can’t find what you’re after in London you probably can’t find it anywhere; history both noble and sinister; shopping both upmarket and humble; music of every genre; and a disproportionately high number of Michelin starred restaurants; 69 to be exact, offering a truly international range of cuisines. The Harwood Arms is the only pub to have achieved Michelin status. The UK’s small, so explore outside the capital and head north to Liverpool and Manchester, two towns key to England’s modern musical heritage – The Beatles, Oasis, The Smiths, The Stone Roses and Joy Division all hail from this region. Then there’s football; Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United – three of the most famous and successful clubs in the world. North of the border is Edinburgh, Scotland. With its castle atop a dormant volcano, it’s one of the most visually striking capital cities in the world, as imposing as it is elegant.
Check out our suggested city trip template for UK here
In the US one city always stands out: New York has everything expected of a modern metropolis and more. Aside from the sheer potential for exploration NYC boasts some of America’s most recognisable landmarks: The Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge and The Statue of Liberty. NYC’s West coast rival Los Angeles has a different vibe, here it’s all about sun, beaches, taco trucks and movies! Snap a shot of the Hollywood sign, browse the names on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and visit the iconic Universal Studios. Want to avoid the bustle? Cruise along the Venice Canals then wander through Griffith Park. Travel northwards to another Californian icon, San Francisco. First up is surely the Golden Gate Bridge, then book a package tour of the infamous Alcatraz prison. Visit the Castro neighbourhood, the spiritual home of America’s gay pride movement, then bear directly West and watch the might of the Pacific from Ocean Beach. In the evergreen state of Washington is Seattle, home of the 90s Grunge explosion and the iconic space needle. Outside of its musical heritage the historical Pike Market is a great place to browse artisan produce and to purchase the freshest fish directly from the Pacific Ocean. Seattle’s true asset though is its geography; be sure to explore the lush forests, mountains, inlets, and bays that fringe the city.
Check out our suggested city trip template for the United States here
Toronto, Canada, is tantalisingly close to Niagara Falls, and there’s a variety of day trips available from the city. In Toronto itself there’s the modern architectural wonder of The Royal Ontario Museum. For ice-hockey fans the Hockey Hall of Fame is a must. Did you know Toronto has its own castle? Casa Loma is a magnificent structure overlooking the city. Montreal, in French-speaking Quebec province, has its own distinct charms. Positioned on the Saint Lawrence River there are various river cruises available. The Gothic revival Notre-Dame Basilica is a visual marvel both in and outside it’s doors. Meanwhile, take a stroll along the cobbled streets of Montreal’s old town in search of a plate of the city’s famous poutine. On the West coast is the seaport of Vancouver, British Columbia. Surrounded by mountains, the city’s status as a winter sports launchpad is unrivalled, with Whistler resort an hour or two away. Various companies offer whale watching tours and day trips. Try May to October for orcas, and March and April for Pacific Gray whales. Calgary, Alberta, is still referred to as “Cowtown” due to its cattle-trading history. A main attraction remains the Calgary Stampede, a rodeo and agricultural show taking place every July. For a taste of the Canadian Rockies take a day trip from Calgary to nearby Banff National Park.
Check out our suggested city trip template for Canada here
Every region of Spain has its own unique character, and so do the cities within them. Madrid is one of the most architecturally spectacular European cities. Enjoying some tapas and a glass of something in the Plaza Mayor is a must, meanwhile the Prado National Museum and Royal Palace showcase the true beauty of the city. Madrid’s main rival in Spain is of course Barcelona, capital of the Catalunya region and steeped in its people’s culture. The unique stylings of the Gaudi-designed Sagrada Familia and colourful Park Güell are both highlights. Take a stroll among the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter before heading to what Madrid doesn’t have, the beach! Further North is the rugged green of the Basque Country. Bilbao, its capital, has transformed from scuzzy port town into a cultural and artistic mecca, thanks largely to the famous Gugenheim Museum. The old town is contained enough to enjoy some fantastic bar hopping, taking in a “pintxos” and cider or two in each stop!
Check out our suggested city trip template for Spain here
With its intercity bullet trains Japan is the ultimate destination for city hopping. Tokyo, the largest metropolis on earth, is a must. The Akihabara District is a mecca for video games, electronics and manga enthusiasts, with multi-floor arcades and dozens of speciality stores. For a more peaceful experience head to forested Meiji Shrine and nearby Yoyogi Park. For both tranquillity and a sense of history The Imperial Palace East Gardens should also be sampled. Hop on the bullet train to Osaka and head to the 15-acre Nishinomaru garden to take in some of the most enchanting cherry and plum blossoms in all of Japan. Located in the same garden is the spectacular and quintessentially Japanese Osaka Castle Tower. Osaka is known as a top-class shopping city, the best of which is located on Shinsaibashi-suji Shopping Street. Former capital city Kyoto, meanwhile, is a must for historians and spiritualists. Shrines, temples, and pristine gardens are what Kyoto’s known for. The Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine is the most famous. It’s as huge as it is captivating. Try also Gio-ji Temple, smaller than the former, but known for its verdant bamboo, rock, and moss-filled garden.
Check out our suggested city trip template for Japan here
Five countries, numerous cities, all with their own unique traits, cultures, and quirks. Why not a pick a country or two and link together a few urban escapades of your own?
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