Today, I go into my second top 10 list: my top 10 cities. Again, these are just my opinion and I only included major cities in my list so nothing too far off the beaten trail but still some surprisingly amazing cities that everyone should visit.
Top 10 cities
If you read my last post, you know that Spain is my favorite country to travel to. After visiting Lisbon, I may have to just include the entire Iberian Peninsula. Lisbon is the capital and largest city in Portugal. With a population of almost 3 million people, the city itself seems small for the size because of the hilly terrain and the Tagus River separate portions of the the city and give Lisbon a beautiful surrounding landscape. The city center is littered with white buildings with red tops which gives a classically European skyline which we enjoyed with a nice beer on a hilltop along with the local millennials. The food in Lisbon is delicious and affordable and the wine adds a nice touch to every meal.Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, and one of the oldest in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris, and even Rome by centuries. You can really feel the history walking around Castle Hill but still see the modern elements of a vibrant city.
The Pacific Northwest is known for its beautiful summers and that beauty extends just across the border to Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver is the third most populous city in Canada but has the highest population density. It also has the most diversity of any cities in Canada with a large Asian population. We picked a great time to visit Vancouver, late July, when the days are nice and sunny but not too hot. Down by the harbor is the beautiful Stanley Park, a public park with a walkway(Seawall) that borders downtown Vancouver and the waters of Burrard Inlet and English Bay. Stanley Park is a beautiful green forest area with many forest trails, beaches, lakes, children's play areas, and other attractions. We recommend renting a bike and exploring the park. Vancouver also has some amazing seafood and some delicious Asian restaurants. If you are ever looking to escape the summer heat, we highly recommend visiting Vancouver.
It's hard to look at pictures of Dubrovnik and not imagine King's Landing of Game of Thrones. The city of Dubrovnik is actually a UNESCO world heritage site. The city springs up from the Adriatic Sea and is also known as the "Pearl of the Adriatic." Surrounded by beautiful blue water and large stone walls, you almost feel transported back in history or transported into the world of GOT. We took a short boat tour around the city and the view from the water was just as nice as the view from above and we got the added bonus of swimming in the beautiful blue water surrounding the city. We would love to return to Dubrovnik and stay closer to the city. Our AirBnB was a little outside of the city and it was a process going back and forth every day.
Singapore may not completely qualify since it is both the city and a country but I have it here as number seven on my list because I just couldn't leave it off based on a technicality. Singapore is a wonderfully modern city that reminds me of Coruscant from Star Wars as a beautiful mix of technology and nature. Probably the most prominent display of these two aspects are found in the Gardens by the Bay which includes the Supertree Grove, the Cloud Forest, and the Flower Dome. While Singapore is an extremely expensive city, one of the most expensive in the world, you can find some wonderfully delicious and affordable food throughout the city, like the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world.
If you love the food and culture of Tokyo but don't like the expensive price tag, Osaka is the place for you. Osaka is a bustling city and is known as Japan's kitchen. Centrally located in the country, Osaka is extremely convenient for seeing different parts of Japan. Kyoto and Kobe are short train rides away and provide fantastic experiences in their own right. We had some of the best shabu shabu we've ever tried in Osaka and the sushi was fresh and delicious and half the price of Tokyo sushi. If we ever decide to return and live in Japan for a few months (which we are planning to do in 2022) we will choose Osaka as our home base of operations.
5.) Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)
Saigon is the most populous city in Vietnam with a population of 8.4 million (13 million in the metropolitan area) as of 2017. If you've ever walked on the streets of Saigon, it feels like all 13 million people are on the street either in a car or scooter. I don't think that there is another city that has a better combination of delicious food and cheap prices. Our tour of the Mekong Delta was a lot of fun and getting to explore the Viet Cong tunnels outside of the city was an eye-opening experience. My only regret of Saigon, was not eating more.
4.) Hong Kong
Hong Kong is in the news a lot lately as they are trying to maintain their independence from China. While protests are currently shutting down the city, we really enjoyed the energy and sides of Hong Kong. The city wins my award for “Best Skyline view” for our honeymoon. The view from Victoria peak is great during the day but I feel it’s even better at night. Be prepared, however, that the tram closes down shortly after sunset and it’s a long wait to get on the buses back into town. We had our favorite meal of the entire trip in Hong Kong in an amazing high-rise restaurant which also had an incredible view from the other side of the city. Not everything has to be so fancy and expensive though, the brisket restaurant revisited was delicious and relatively cheap. A financial powerhouse city, we felt a little underdressed walking around downtown Hong Kong where the typical uniform uniform is power suits and professional attire. If you get tired of the busy city, Macau is just a short ferry ride away. East meets West in this beautiful modern city and I would love to go back and spend more time enjoying the city.
Sydney is the most populous city in Australia and is also the most beautiful in my opinion. While the opera house gets a lot of well-deserved attention, the entire Sydney harbor area is well worth the day. While I wish we did the harbor bridge excursion, there are lots of shops and ferries that will take you around the harbor to give you even more views of the opera house in downtown Sydney. If you want to get out of this city, Bondi Beach is a wonderful getaway spot and the walkways along the beach will give you terrific views of the coast. While we stayed in a campervan, there are lots of wonderful spots around Sydney for you to stay and enjoy the city. Despite its size and population, Sydney is actually very walkable and I highly suggest doing one of the free walking tours to get a better sense of the city.
Budapest is a city so nice we visited it twice in 2016. I still think about the first time I saw its beautiful parliament building from the river and on some stressful days, I think about relaxing at Széchenyi Thermal Bath. With all the physical beauty of the city, I still think my favorite part is the food, especially Comme Chez Soi. We saw Budapest in the winter and in the summer and while I prefer to avoid the cold, I have to admit that the fresh snowfall in winter really made the buildings around Budapest’s look spectacular. No matter what time of year you go, I highly suggest Budapest.
Cape Town is my number one city may have to come with an asterisk. We actually didn’t spend that much time in Cape Town proper. However, the surrounding area and natural beauty of Cape Town makes it my number one. While I didn’t get to climb Table Mountain, the views from the city are spectacular and make for a beautiful backdrop. The wine country outside of Cape Town is just outstanding and delicious and a perfect romantic getaway. For those animal lovers and thrill seekers, day trips around the Cape of Good Hope and to the great white shark diving in nearby Gansbaai are top experiences. While Cape Town might not be world renowned for its food, we had some very good meals there were also fairly inexpensive. The one downside to Cape Town is that it’s not close to many other major world cities so it’s a pretty long flight to get there but is well worth the plane ride.
Let me know if there any cities that I snubbed this for this list. It was very hard to narrow it down to 10. As a note, you may notice that there are no cities from Spain, my number one country. While I love Barcelona, neither Madrid nor Barcelona could break into this list and my favorite city of San Sebastian, Spain I felt was too small to be considered in this list.