Given that no one has been able to travel for MONTHS, a review of the top 100 cities in the world seems on the face of it an insane activity. But I suppose a traveler remains a traveler at heart. It’s just been a time off kind of year I suppose.
I admit it – when I’m in an airport, I do look at the departure signs – and consider – been there, want to go there, nope – not interested.. Been doing that for years.
So here is the last 40 of the list of the world’s 100 Best Cities – taken from http://www.best cities.org. Out of the last 60 cities, I’ve been to 37 of them – or 62 % – let’s see how we do on the top 40, shall we?
First – an apology – I was so long in doing this – that the list changed! So I’m playing a bit of catch-up – I’m starting with 42 – Seoul (which was much higher in my original list – and then working my way from there, trying to avoid repeats.
42. Seoul – Amazingly beautiful city. I loved the renovation of the Canal (stream) that runs thru the downtown area. It’s below street level, but open to the sky and filled with stones for ‘crossing’ and it even has elevators. And I loved the history and the museums – even the free ones! And the food – oh, don’t get me started on the food. Korean Fried Chicken is a revelation – and while we have Korean BBQ in Montreal – clearly it’s a pale and shameful copy of the real thing. And the best thing – the subway cars have senior sections! Reserved seating for seniors – where folks play a game of – I’m older and frailer than you are. Actually – the game is the reverse – clearly you are the older and frailer one – so you need the seat. With Jill’s white hair – we were always able to sit down! I do think this might be one of my favorite cities in the world.
41. Orlando – moved up from 48 in the last post… read all about it there
40. Bangkok – My first impression of Bangkok – fresh off the plane from Montreal – was dirty, noisy, crowded, scary. But after 5 weeks of travelling thru Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, my return to Bangkok proved how wrong first impressions can be. Bangkok now seemed modern and sophisticated and lovely. So do give Bangkok a chance – it will quickly grow on you!
39. Munich – Home to Octoberfest and Helmut and Andrea – dear friends. Can’t say I thought much of Munich – we just did Octoberfest and left – but Octoberfest was fun – so I must rate Munich well for that.
38. Sao Paulo – moved up from position 44 in the last post – still haven’t been there
37. Budapest – Been there – I was 21 – can’t remember a thing
36. Seattle – drove thru on our way from Vancouver (lovely city) to Los Angeles. Do I remember it? Nope.
35. Zurich – Banking, Banking, Banking – and some decent restaurants and some really really nice hotels.
34. Miami – I’m aghast – I tell you aghast that Miami rates on this list. It’s a gold diggers, wild man’s frontier – no rules, no law, no order. A mess – with some wonderful hotels and a famous beach. Ok – and Joe’s Crab House. That’s probably good enough to put Miami on the map. But trust me – I’m not a fan of Florida in general, and Miami in particular. There are a lot nicer places to hang a hat.
33. Dublin – visited when I was 20 – which is 52 years ago now. So my memory is dim. What I do remember is kissing the Blarney Stone (hey- it’s near Cork which is in Ireland – close enough. I also remember loving Shanty’s – which are basically watered down beer – but I didn’t know that then. Most memorable was getting stuck in Limerick (ok – again not Dublin) when the plane my sister and I were flying in had an engine fire and had to turn around over the Atlantic and fly back to the UK. Limerick had the nearest large airport. We were stuck for 3 days there – waiting for the engine to be repaired. It was 1969 – these things happened.
32. Houston – Cowboys and Guns and Big Buildings and Money. Not what I’d consider a great place to visit. Go at your own risk.
31. Boston – Ah – Boston. I lived there for 4 years while at University – and I met my husband there. Boston has a very special place in my heart. It’s totally worth a visit – or two, or even try living there. I do love Boston.
30. Melbourne – nope – down under is forbidden these days
29. Hong-Kong – Moved up from 42 – doesn’t deserve it – but maybe things have changed. It has been 20 some years since I was there.
28. San Diego – been there. Don’t remember it at all.
27. Milan – been there – I was 21. So I remember almost nothing except that it was – by Italian standards – graceless and busy and industrial and lacking in the pleasures that make Italy so wonderful. Maybe a return trip is warranted?
26. Prague – been there. My food memories are of Beer (which the Intrepid Traveler will not drink) and Sausages. I loved the bridges, and we rode the buses everywhere with our guide books open. You can see a lot of a city with a good bus map and a guide book with pictures…. Just saying.
25. Beijing – been there. The Intrepid Traveler and I went there just before the Olympics and were shocked at how completely the city was being remade. Entire neighbourhoods that had survived for hundreds of years were being completely emptied and razed to make way for the new modern China. Condos were being built to house the folks tossed out of their traditional homes in the thousands – with little or no respect. Many of these new ‘condos’ were still ghost towns, places waiting for folks who might never come. But China is China – and we did love the Forbidden City, the ceaseless natural rhythm of the nights, and the wealth of options for entertainment – some really upright, some debatable. This is a wild and wooly place – the Wild West on Steroids in a foreign language.
24. Vienna – been there. I was 21 – that was 52 years ago – I remember very little – except I went to the Opera – standing room for $5 – and loved it. Hey – I was really really young…
23. Istanbul – been there. Multiple times. It’s a cross-roads from East to West – and really a nifty place. Two strong memories – the magnificent Topkapi Museum – which needs two days, and we only had one to give it. Among other must-see items is the staff of Moses, and the arm of John the Baptist. His head as a child is in another museum in case you wondered. We managed to not see the famous Haram – we simply ran out of time. I think the advantage of having a tour guide would be that they move you along. As the Intrepid Traveler and I are wont to do – we moved slowly… My other strong memory is more unique (everyone knows to visit the Topkapi). We were eating an outdoor lunch in a large park and a couple walked by. The woman was in traditional Muslim covered dress – but still posed for pictures! We found that so interesting. We were less thrilled with the food – I think we just never found exactly the right restaurant – but I’m sure there was one that would have made us happier. But I would go back in a heartbeat. It’s a wonderful city.
22. Washington, D.C. – been there, lived there for 2.5 years. Magnificent gardens, glorious homes, frighteningly poor ghettos (yeah – still). But of course it’s the museums that will bring you back over and over again. There is never ever enough time to see them all.
21. Las-Vegas – been there. Several times. Always a bit sorry I went. Once it was with my Dad, about 4 months before he died. He was in a wheel chair, but basically feeling ok – so we just ‘rolled’ him here, there, and everywhere. Because of the wheel chair, we had to park and get him into the wheel chair and from there into the hotel. So we discovered the fact that it is impossible to get from a parking lot into a hotel in Las Vegas without going thru the Casino. No way! Once we were going from point A to point B – and I had to stop for a ladies break. I left my Dad sitting near the entrance to the ladies room in the Casino area and disappeared to do what was needed. When I returned, he was chatting gleefully with a gal wearing nothing but tail feathers and a head dress. She was doing that bunny stoop that shows off the best features – and my Dad had a grin from ear to ear. Only in Las Vegas.
20. Berlin – been there (one of my favourites). The Intrepid Traveler and I visited for a week, my husband and I for a few days. I found the city completely stunning. The food was incredible – although I most fondly remember just a roast chicken we bought near our lodging from a Turkish Roast Chicken Place. The museums are incredible. The Germans were great at taking ‘souvenirs’ back from abroad – entire Altars, Walls, and such. And they keep them safe and tourist friendly. Amazing. I most enjoyed a very adorable private museum on life in East Berlin – and the History of the rise and fall of Hilter is a must do (and needs a strong stomach). Give the Germans credit for coming clean on how and why things went so wrong. The Eastern part of the city was more interesting – when you go (and you definitely should) – see if you agree with me on that perception.
19. Sydney – haven’t been – and since they are completely shut down – not even the top ranked Tennis player in the world can get in – I don’t think I’m going any time soon. Oh well.
18. Toronto – been there. My daughter lived there for a year, and they have a really good bridge club, and hosted a National Bridge Competition one year. So I’ve been in and out many times. It’s a modern North American City with a very diverse population, some excellent museums, and as I learned when I went with my sisters for my 65th birthday – a very loud, very in your face – Rainbow community.
17. St. Petersburg – been there. The Intrepid Traveler and I spent 3 weeks in St. Petersburg – enjoying ourselves immensely. You can check out my more detailed blog report elsewhere on this site. The trick to St. Petersburg is to avoid like the plaque (Covid or Black) the crowds from the cruise ships. I watched in horror as one lady took out another for getting in the way of her ‘shot’ in a museum. And saw another man lift his iphone over his head to aim at the tiny but incredibly famous painting of the Benoit Madonna. There was a crowd of about 25 people in front of him – so he took his shot – and went on to see other things. We just avoided the famous sections of the Hermitage until the cruise ship passengers left (around noon), and then had the entire place to ourselves. Crazy city but really good food if you are willing to go where the normal folks eat and avoid anything smacking of tourists. And you can get incredible Georgian Wines at the local quick market for around $2. Now that’s worth visiting a city to experience.
16. Amsterdam – been there. Canals are amazing, buildings are amazing, food is expensive but really really good – and there are interesting museums. I did enjoy visiting the Anne Frank house – crowds aside, it’s worth doing. When I visited with my husband, we even checked out the red light district. Interesting. Can’t say much more though – but I’m glad I did it so I can say I did. I did not, I admit, participate – not there, and not in the Canabis houses. Not my thing. But certainly part of the life of the city.
15. San Francisco – been there. It’s hilly
14. Abu-Dhabi – kinda maybe sort of want to go. Know nothing about it though
13. Chicago – been there. I must say my memories are mostly of our hotel – the Trump Palace. I got a Hotwire discount rate – and simply couldn’t resist. Location was perfect – and since this was in the days before he was President – I didn’t much mind taking advantage of a lovely 5-star hotel in a great location. Not sure if I’d easily stay there again, but there you go. My other memory is of our abortive attempt to see a play. We made reservations, got to the theatre to discover that someone had stolen the computer that powered the lights. And without that – the play couldn’t go on. But the Magician that was the ‘star’ decided to offer a free magic show to the very disappointed customers – and that was great! We also had a fabulous dinner in one of the 5-star restaurants – a tiny place open only to 4 tables a night. Meal was great – company even more fun. Chicago is pretty cool.
12. Doha – in Qatar – I looked it up. Never been there
11. Rome – been there. If you have not – why not? What are you waiting for? Have you not read the guidebooks? I’m asking seriously – to not have seen Rome is to not have traveled. It’s a must. If only for the Pistachio Gelato.
10. Madrid – been there. There are some great museums – and some lovely parks. The problem with Madrid is that the rest of Spain is so amazing – it kinda loses it’s thrill because you can’t wait to get on to the rest of your tour. Too bad too – because I think Madrid might be worth a much closer look – I just never had the time. Barcelona on the other hand… sigh.
9. Barcelona – been there, been thrilled. The Gaudi homes, parks, and Cathedral are literally beyond belief. And it doesn’t surprise me one wit that Barcelona is higher on the ‘great cities’ list than Madrid. It literally has everything. Great food, a beach, a proper city, an old city, and all the Gaudi stuff which alone is worth the visit. And it’s driving distance from the justifiably famous Salvador Dali Museum. And home to Museums featuring works by Miro and Picasso. I think it’s the lighting that inspires so many famous artists to call Barcelona home.. the city has a glow about it that is quite the stunner. Anyway – it’s well worth a visit. Or two. Or three.
8. Los Angeles – been there. Not that thrilled – So Sorry. I actually lived in Los Angeles for 3 months – on the beach – in Venice. Which at the time (early 70’s) was cheap and dirty and full of outdoor workout ‘gyms’. The beach was large and flat – and honestly, not that thrilling. I was in my ‘hippie’ days – and spent most of my time selling drift wood sculptures and just hanging around. I had neither the money nor the interest in doing much exploring. Do you think I should plan another visit?
7. Singapore – Ok – I’m going to say been there – but in all honesty – I was only in the airport. But I was in the airport for a really long time. I think that counts. Of course I hated it. Dirty and crowded and no where comfortable to sit. But I watched ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and I think I’d like to go back with someone to tour around with. Maybe when the intrepid Traveler and I plan our next trip to Taiwan…
6. Tokyo – been there several times. Went on business with my husband, and for pleasure with the Intrepid Traveler and her son. This is a massive, massive, massive city with the cleanest subway toilets in the world. And I should know. I’ve visited lots of them. Yes it is expensive – and Yes – I had to go without coffee when I was there with the Intrepid Traveler – but still, it’s amazing. And folks in general are very friendly. I love the museums, I love the people, I hate the crowding and I got seriously scared in a subway station when massive of folks just swarmed thru at the same moment. Moral learned – steer clear of the subways during rush hour.
5. Dubai – nope – not really interested
4. Moscow – oops – want to go
3. Paris – been there. Unfortunately – this is probably my least favourite city on the entire list of 100 cities. I have been there many many times, starting when I was just 16 – and I even have a tiny bit of French so I can handle menus and most signs. But the folks that call Paris home are so universally snobby that I just can’t enjoy the place. One memorable trip featured a subway strike forcing us to walk miles and miles to get back to our lodging. Another trip included one of my worst meals ever – eaten at a 3-Star Michelin Restaurant that should have known better. Yes the pastry shops are delightful – and you can easily get coffee, so I suppose that’s in Paris’s favour. And I’ve been there on Free Museum Night – which was wonderful. But honestly – there are better cities out there folks. Trust me.
2. New York – been there. Like Paris – I’ve visited many many times. I have family that actually own homes in the city, and the Intrepid Traveller has friends that live there as well. So it’s not for lack of a local vibe that New York tends to annoy me. It’s just dirty. For years my mantra was – never wear white in New York City – for obvious reasons. I will admit that during my last visit, the efforts that have been made to clean it up did seem to be having an impact – and I found the High Line really really nice. Green space on a former elevated railroad – that’s a concept I can put my head around. Anyway – I’d take New York over Paris – but I’d take Berlin or Barcelona or London or Montreal over either of those!
1. London – been there – and here right now. As I write this blog I’m actually sitting looking at the traditional January Grey London sky. Not cold enough to be really cold (snow STOPS this city – big time), not dry enough not to be chilly, barely tolerable weather really. And Covid has made London hurt. The theatres are open, but suffering. The Covid numbers (on Jan 7, 2022) are sky-rocketing – everyone knows at least someone who is sick, and hopefully not living with them. 3/4 of my daughter’s team were sick with Covid over the Christmas run-up – which made getting product out the door rather challenging. And now with Christmas sadly behind them, Londoners are slogging their way thru to Spring. But aside from Covid – I do love London. Not as much as Barcelona – it’s the weather that hurts London it that comparison – but it’s got a sweet, kinda anything goes if you are polite about it, vibe. And almost everyone speaks English. Not generally American/Canadian of course – but English. One does wonder why underwear are pants, why dessert is pudding, and why bonnet refers to the engine space on a car, but in general, it’s polite, it’s friendly, they have decent food, and if you ignore the exchange rate – the prices aren’t horrid. London is a good city to top the list
And there you have it – out of the top 100 Cities of the world – I’ve been to 70 of them – that’s an easy calculation – 70%.
How did you do on this list? Do you agree with my descriptions? I think the list has issues – but the folks that created it used a scale that they developed – not a been there, remember it well analysis. So I guess that’s that.
Hopefully some day we shall be able to travel again. Think Positive I say! And Travel safely and be healthy! Signing off to plan for my very scary flight back to Park City Utah from London…. The Soup Lady
It’s clear that this list served a purpose for your recollections and personal recounting. I must. however, question such a list that can change from year to year (based on what criteria?) and the fact that Hongkong has risen from 42 to 29 (since the NSL and lockdowns) calls into the doubt the validity of the entire ranking. That’s disappointing that you don’t recall anything about Budapest. Do you recall how long you stayed or why it was part of your itinerary?
Haha! I do enjoy these roundups. Just for the view into your youth sometimes (WHAT HIPPY PERIOD?! Drift wood sculptures? Who IS this person??)
I have a friend who grew up in Abu Dhabi – so I do want to go, but definitely only if he deigns to show me! Same with Singapore. Not that I have a friend there, but if Crazy Rich Asians might teach anyone about the city, it would seem the key is to visit with a local!
By the end I could tell you’d written this post several months before posting. But it might be pertinent now to add in an asterisk on St Petersburg about the War… I doubt it will be a safe or welcoming or probably even an option for Western tourists now, and possibly not for many years to come…