As an island girl who was raised on a farm and rarely visited anywhere larger than Aberdeen as a child, I’m not much of a city person. Things have clearly changed, given that I’ve lived in two cities in the past year, but still – give me a mountain or island any day, or even a small town.
As I started to gain confidence traversing London’s underground until you could almost mistake me for a city slicker, I began to warm to concrete jungles and bustling streets and tall buildings. I long to visit Tokyo, and cities like Hanoi in Vietnam have managed to steal my heart despite being totally overwhelming in every sense.
There are a whole bunch of amazing cities around the world and I really do love some of them. Whether it’s history or architecture or food or culture, cities have so much to offer that you can’t get anywhere else.
So here’s a nice wee list of the best ones I’ve been to.
Yeah I know, who saw THAT coming?! As you probably know, we are now living in Edinburgh and plan to probably spend a large chunk of our lives here because we love it that much. In fact, I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love Edinburgh (legitimately probably the most consistent opinion I’ve ever seen of a city, unless you include everyone hating LA). It’s a bloody great city.
If you haven’t been to Edinburgh, you’re probably wondering why it’s so highly thought of. Well, I could be here all day, so here’s a list if you want to narrow it down.
The buildings are beautiful, the main shopping street has a view of a blimmin’ castle, cobblestone streets are everywhere, there is a wonderful, magical atmosphere everywhere, every corner has a history, it has beaches, a bridge so epic that it’s officially a UNESCO site, adorable neighbourhoods, great food, quirky bars, a whole bunch of fantastic museums, wonderful people, epic hikes literally from the city centre, nature, there are Harry Potter things EVERYWHERE (it was written here and J.K. Rowling lives here). It also has more great hostels than you can shake a stick at (including some of my favourites), churches on every corner, and, well, I live here so obviously that gives it a shiny little bonus point.
So… umm… anyone won over yet?
Read more: My Highlights Of Edinburgh
Here’s another one that won’t come as any surprise to you. Vancouver is hands down the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to, and has a whole load of awesome stuff going on to boot.
It’s also one of the cities I’ve felt the most safe in, it’s full of absolutely wonderful people, it’s surrounded by mountains, it has beautiful beaches, it’s one of the most eco-friendly cities in the world, it’s easy to get around and I honestly loved every day of my life there.
Vancouver has definitely stolen a piece of my heart which I will never get back.
Read more: Why I Love Vancouver
I was always really, really excited about visiting Vietnam. Something stirred inside me every time I read something about it, and I knew I was going to love it. But I really didn’t expect to fall in love with Hanoi as much as I did. For such an overwhelming, bustling city, it definitely has a huge heart.
I know that Hanoi isn’t for everyone, but there’s something charming about the streets packed with vendors and bikes, and have you TRIED the bakeries?!? The French influence doesn’t count for nothing!
Add in the fact it’s one of the cheapest places I have EVER been, and you’ve got one epic destination. Put it this way – I could have stayed there for a month, and it would have cost me less than £100.
Read more: We’re Gonna Miss You, Hanoi
I think you pretty much know if you’re going to love Melbourne. And it ticked ALL the boxes for me – fun, quirky, artsy, full of great people and lots of great neighbourhoods. In fact, it ticked a box I didn’t even know I needed – IT HAS PENGUINS!!!
I always planned to live in Melbourne for a while, and to be honest as soon as we visited, I sort of assumed we’d be back on a long-term basis, but it never happened. And honestly? If it had, there is so much awesome stuff to do that we wouldn’t have saved any money whatsoever and probably wouldn’t have had any of our post-Australia travels on that trip. So swings and roundabouts, I guess. I wouldn’t change our time in Brisbane for a thing, not even the chance to live in a place as amazing as Melbourne.
Read more: Three Days In Melbourne
San Francisco, USA
When I thought of writing this post, I really hoped San Francisco would make the cut. It had been on my bucket list for so long, and it’s one of the first places I’ve visited that I’ve REALLY had high expectations for for a long time.
As you probably know, it didn’t disappoint in the slightest when we finally made it there in October. It catapulted itself into the position of Clazz’s Favourite US City quite comfortably, and if nothing else it’s definitely one of the most unique cities in North America.
But there is plenty else – from the sea lions at Pier 39 to the food in Chinatown to the street art in Mission to the colourful neighbourhood of Castro. There’s the instant landmark of Golden Gate bridge and the surrounding beaches and the cable cars and don’t even get me started on the houses (okay, you can – I have a whole post dedicated to them!).
San Francisco – when can I go back?!
Read more: The Perfect Day(ish) In San Francisco
Wellington, New Zealand
I always said that if we ever do a working holiday in New Zealand, we would be heading straight for Wellington. It’s like a much smaller version of Melbourne, so it makes sense that it captured our imaginations in the same way Melbs did.
We only spent a couple of days in Wellington, but it quickly captured our imaginations. We were extremely lucky that one of our days was an absolute belter weather-wise, and it hardly mattered that the other day was full of rain because Wellington has arguably the best museum in the southern hemisphere.
We also made it to the Weta Workshop which houses all the Lord Of The Rings props and costumes, and that was an absolute highlight. I promise I don’t judge places on whether they have Harry Potter or LOTR connections!!
I feel like this is a bit of a cheat, because Reykjavik doesn’t feel like a city. In fact, its population is little more than 120,000, which is a fifth of Manchester and about half of the next smallest city on this list! (Wellington, if you’re wondering, with a population that surprises me at just over 200,000)
I am also not sure if I even have the authority to include it, because we only really spent a day there. I mean, we were there for three nights, but we barely spent any time in the actual city itself.
But I absolutely loved every minute that we DID spend there, and we passed a ton of cool cafés. Everyone we met was friendly, and I have fond memories because we have two friends there.
New York City, USA
For someone who just admitted that she’s not a fan of cities, it might surprise you that one of my favourite cities is actually one of the most famous, bustling, overwhelming ones of them all. There’s just something about the magic of New York City – I think it’s because it’s so famous and recognisable and exciting that something just stirs inside me every time.
I just visited for the second time (or fifth, however you look at it) and I’m happy that it’s earned itself a spot on this list, because the first time I visited it (and the other three), I was a naive little teenager on my first ever solo trip, and while it was overwhelming, I loved it. But I was always interested to see how I perceive it now that I’ve travelled to far more overwhelming places.
It’s got so much to do that I’m really excited for whenever I make it back there – I’ve done most of the “big name” tourist activities now, so I’ll be using future visits to delve into off-beat places (or as “off-beat” as you can get in NYC) and local haunts.
Read more: A Layover In New York City
Oh, the old Prague vs. Budapest debate got me thinking here. Rome was pushing in for a fight from the west, too. But when it comes down to it, Budapest has everything going for it. Great architecture, baths, nightlife, good food. It’s cheap. It offers so many unique activities, from drinking in the ruin bars to caving underneath the city.
The parliament building is one of my favourite buildings in the world, and I loved the fairytale-like Fisherman’s Bastion, too. There is so much interesting history and I’d love to go back to explore more.
Read more: Adventures In Budapest
I found it hard to keep Brisbane off this list – in fact, it just beat Brighton, my favourite city in England, and I’m surprised London hasn’t even made it. But having lived in Brissy for six months, it feels like my… third or something home. And the truth is, a lot of backpackers bash Brisbane because it’s not as “cool” as Sydney or as “hip” as Melbourne, but we absolutely loved it!
And so does everyone I’ve met who’s lived there, because I think it’s one of those cities you can’t just fall in love with in a day’s visit; you have to spend some time getting under its skin. There are a lot of things to discover, it’s close to a lot of great places, and I had some of my favourite experiences in Australia there, which I probably wouldn’t have done if I’d just been passing through for a couple of days like too many people seem to do.
It’s also a really laid-back city, which gave us exactly the vibe we wanted from Australia.
Read more: 10 Things To Do In Brisbane
What are your favourite cities? Are you a city person, or do you prefer smaller towns or being out in the sticks?!