Recently I shared Part 1 in a series where fellow travel bloggers share their favourite cities and what they love about them.
Today I’m sharing the next 20 cities, from Cancun to Istanbul.
I hope you’ll find some inspiration for planning your future travel!
Cancun is a city in Northeast of Mexico, well-known for its long stretch of white beach and all-inclusive resorts. This famous Mexican city is a popular destinations for North Americans. And for a reason. It ticks off everything you need in a city: tons of shopping options, crazy nightlife, long history that goes back to Mayan era, adventures, amazing food and endless supply of white beach in Caribbean!
The city is also a quick drive from the other gems of Yucatan and Quintana Roo peninsulas, making it an ideal base if you want to visit Chitzen Itza and other Mayan ruins, the cenotes and the famous historical and coastal towns of Tulum and Playa Del Carmen along Riviera Maya. And although Cancun gets too crowded and some people don’t like it because it is more Westernized than Mexican, one thing that can’t be denied is Cancun offers a totally different world. It’s a contrast of many things; it’s modern and old fashion at the same time and it’s a concrete jungle yet it has amazing seascapes. And these are only few reasons that makes Cancun special.
Cape Town, South Africa
We love nature and usually try to avoid cities when traveling, but Cape Town in South Africa is an exception to the rule. This city has the best of both worlds: bustling city life with colourful neighbourhoods, world-class restaurants and shops, great tourist attractions, and a nice laid back atmosphere. But the reason why I love Cape Town so much is its incredible location and some of the most beautiful scenery that you can wish for.
Whether you are visiting for a weekend or two weeks, there’s plenty to see and do in and around the city. Not to be missed is a visit to the top of the iconic Table Mountain. Robben Island, where the former South African president Nelson Mandela was jailed for 18 years, is another must-do while in Cape Town. Make sure to also visit the spectacular Cape Peninsula and the Cape of Good Hope – the place feels like the end of the world. My other favourites include driving the scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive and Victoria Road / Twelve Apostles close to Camps Bay, seeing penguins in their natural environment at Boulders Beach, or having a picnic at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
Cape Town offers lots of activities for children, making it a very family friendly destination.
One of the best of many spectacular weekend escapes in the San Francisco Bay Area is a drive down the scenic coastal-route Highway 1 to Carmel. I’ve done it many times and just enjoyed it once again a few weeks ago.
It is among my favorites because it is a small sea-side, village-like city, just a mile square, with a stellar beach and fun unique shops and art galleries. We took a half-day hike at beautiful Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, where we saw pelicans above and whales below, and had dinner at a splurge-worthy restaurant, Anton & Michel, where we ate cherries jubilee for the first time ever. They are both don’t-misses.
Tie this in with sweet lodgings, coffee shops with sunny outdoor seating, and the cutest dogs you’ve ever seen – Carmel is the dog-friendliest place ever – and it is a no-brainer that you’ll want to come back.
There’s something about Chengdu, Sichuan, China that always makes me want to come back to it. Maybe it’s the food or the atmosphere, maybe the culture…
The symbol of Chengdu is the Giant Panda, those big, soft, lazy creatures who like to eat and sleep as often as possible, maybe that accounts for the legendarily laid back attitude and lifestyle of the locals. People in Chengdu like to take their time, and that’s probably why so many tea houses sprawl throughout the city, but what they love even more is food, and Sichuan cuisine never disappointing. Known for its fiery taste and the amount of chili one uses in a dish, you’ll find out fast enough that there is a lot more to it and a complexity of flavours in each dish.
If that’s not enough to convince you to visit then Chengdu’s culture might: fire breathers, face-changing, tea ceremonies and Buddhist retreats are all an important part of the scene, and around this city of abundance high mountains and staggering landscapes await.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
If you want to explore a place that is always changing, yet stays the same (yay contradictions) then you’ll love Chiang Mai, like I do. I’ve returned to Chiang Mai countless times, and not just because of the budget-friendly prices.
The ease of everything is great, with endless restaurants, cafes, bars, 7/11’s, and accommodation options ensuring you don’t have to work to hard to do anything. The English across the city is great where I know I can order what I want, and despite how long I go in between trips, the staff remembers me and you can’t help but smile as theirs beams back at you in delight.
The city is also surrounded by mountains. They are like a safety blanket for me. The one somewhat still undiscovered place you must visit? The Sticky Waterfall, about an hour outside the city.
Jub blogs at Tiki Touring Kiwi.
Colombo, Sri Lanka
What makes Colombo a perfect city break destination is that, unlike many other cities around the world, the capital of Sri Lanka really doesn’t require more than a few days to be explored.
In fact, many tourists skip it altogether and go straight to the hill country or pristine beaches. But there’s one big reason to spend a few days in Colombo – all the delicious local food. If you love gastronomic travel, then Colombo is a perfect destination for a short getaway.
Walk around Galle Face Green, an ocean-side urban park, and try Sri Lankan street foods like kottu, isso vadai or spiced fruits at the many food stalls. Spend some time at the Good Market, a farmers market in Colombo city center, where you will find naturally produced and organic goods from all over the country. Or, if you prefer a high-end experience, stop by one of the luxurious hotels like Hilton or Galle Face to experience a colonial tradition of drinking afternoon tea with petite cakes. Colombo is also great for shopping. In stores like Barefoot and Lakpahana you can find beautiful fabrics, delicate china, home decorations, and Ayurvedic cosmetics all created by local craftsmen.
Copenhagen is such an easy city to love! When I visited for the first time in June, I was surprised at how easy and relaxed everything was, from the frequency and cleanliness of public transportation to the friendliness of the people. It is a busy city but doesn’t feel rushed or stressful, unlike New York City, which is where I’m from. It was such a nice reprieve from the chaos.
It is a perfect city break destination because of how relaxing and beautiful it is, but also because of how easy it is to get around and explore. You can cover a lot more ground and see things efficiently due to the ease of getting around!
One of my favorite things to do in Copenhagen was wandering around the Botanic Garden. Exploring the Instagram-famous Palm House and basking in the sunshine in the gardens was pretty magical. If you’re headed to Copenhagen soon, the one thing I would recommend is the free walking tours! I learned so much about Copenhagen’s history, made friends, and visited many spots I probably wouldn’t have thought to seek out on my own. Copenhagen is such a beautiful, friendly city – I highly recommend checking it out.
When winter hits down south in Australia – all icy winds and chilling rain – we Southerners start fantasizing about tropical warmth, food and laid-back lifestyle. Tropical warmth, landscapes and activities in the great outdoors. And did I mention warmth?
If that’s what you want, then be a Darwin dry season drop-in during winter when the daily maximum is around 30º C, and successfully avoid the wet season, tropical cyclones and the worst of its heat.
This balmy Top End tropical paradise – Australia’s northernmost capital city – lets you suck up the serenity while you thaw out AND chill. Try a harbour cruise; sample fresh seafood on the wharf; buy souvenirs (and totally pig out!) at Mindil Beach sunset markets; check out the local fauna at the Territory Wildlife Park or on a Crocodile Cruise; feed the fish at Aquascene; get a pic with a real B52 Bomber at the Aviation Museum; take the ferry across the bay to Mandorah; and relax in a thermal pool.
Yes, visit Darwin – reinvented twice after almost total destruction following World War 2 attacks and Cyclone Tracy – and I bet it’ll become one of YOUR favourites too!
Red Nomad aka Marion Halliday blogs at Redz Australia.
Cities have personalities and cities have hearts which beat. They cast a spell with their magic and you return to them again and again as if drawn by a string tied to you. Delhi is one such city where we head to for a break from wherever we are and whenever we can.
Delhi, the Capital of India and also one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, is literally and figuratively the heart of India. The sheer range of sights, experiences, and flavors that the city has on offer is mind-boggling. The vibrancy of the city gives a spring to our steps as soon as we set foot on it. Delhi is a city where the past, present, and future seem to seamlessly blend into an exquisite mosaic which is at once beautiful and intriguing. Delhi is indeed pure indulgence for the senses.
While history in the form of the Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, and Red Fort takes you back to a fascinating chapter in time, Gandhi Memorial, India Gate, and Birla Mandir bring a lump to your throat. The National Science center takes you on a fascinating journey into the past and the future while places like Akshardham and the ISKCON temple cater to your spiritual senses. Chandni Chowk excites your gastronomic senses as you indulge in street food. Food is another reason why we return to Delhi again and again. The food which ranges from the ubiquitous Chhole Bhatura to a melange of dishes curated from across the country is a delectable Delhi experience that is sure to leave one satiated but still asking for more.
It’s no secret Denver is having a moment. As one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., it’s consistently voted one of the best places to live for its stellar work-life balance, mild climate, and incredible outdoor recreation, which all make it a great place for visitors to explore.
Especially bike and pedestrian friendly, the hip and happening city attracts millennials by the droves with it’s exploding craft beer scene (often called the “Napa of Beers”), vibrant street art, and green reprieves at one of the many urban parks. The food scene is on the forefront of the food hall trend and markets and food trucks can be found just about everywhere. But if we’re being honest, most visitors come to Colorado for easy access to the mountains. Whether it’s summer or winter, hiking, mountain biking, and snow sports are plentiful in the Rockies. The skiing and snowboarding are simply second to none.
Whenever I think of a city to take a break in, my mind immediately goes to Edinburgh. Nowhere else have I felt more at home. The city is full of old architecture, museums, churches and castles. There are green parks everywhere, including the massive Meadows next to the university and Holyrood in the center of town where you can hike up to Arthur’s Seat and get a gorgeous panoramic view of Edinburgh.
The weather tends to be a bit on the cold and rainy side, but there’s something magical about that weather which I really appreciate. The food options include local staples like fish and chips, bangers and mash, and haggis – none of which I’ll ever get tired of. Otherwise, the city has a truly international cuisine to choose from. If I need an excursion, there are dozens of attractions nearby. Last of all, it’s easy to live on a small budget.
I fell in love with this city while sitting on Calton Hill in a gentle rain, looking out over the city at dusk and just getting a wonderful sense of calm. Everything seemed to be perfect in Edinburgh. Soon I plan to make it my home base for my travels.
Why Gdansk? More like why not? With plenty of affordable flights from all over Europe, it’s worth a weekend break, and you never know, this relatively unknown city might just surprise you! Gdansk is often overlooked as the long-lost cousin of bigger destinations like Krakow and Warsaw. Sitting at the top of Poland up near the Baltic Sea, Gdansk is the largest city of the Tricity area.
With access to a large port, Gdansk been historically significant for centuries. It’s known for being the location where the first shots (Battle of Westerplatte) were fired that lead to the start of World War II. More recently, a protest at the local Gdansk Shipyard back in 1980 was the catalyst for the Solidarity Movement which resulted in the end to the Communist Eastern Bloc.
When planning a weekend visit to Gdansk, don’t miss the Old Town. The Hanseatic city was completely destroyed following World War II and it was subsequently rebuilt. Spend time admiring the colourful facades of Long Market.
There’s loads of other experiences we’d recommended: the Amber Museum focuses on the fossilised tree resin known as Baltic gold. In the warmer months, party with the Polish at the beaches in Sopot, just a commuter train from Gdansk’s main train station.
If you’re at all interested in history, make time to visit the European Solidarity Centre. This extensive museum runs over five floors and really breaks down the influences and impacts that resulted in the fall of the Berlin Wall. – Say yes to the audio guide!
In Poland, don’t forget to eat! What to eat? Pierogi, a Polish staple, boiled or baked potato dumpling filled with meat, cheese and topped with a sprinkling of crisp fried onions.
George Town, Penang, Malaysia
George Town, the capital of Penang, Malaysia is one of my favorite places in Asia. More specifically, the old area of the city which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Famous for its multicultural architecture, it is also popular in Asia as a street art destination. Not to miss as well, are the multitude and diverse local food that Penang offers. Not to miss food dishes are Char Koay Teow, Wantan Mee, Nasi Kandar, Assam Laksa, and Chendol.
Indeed, those are the main reasons why Penang gets a lot of visitors each year. But what makes this an even more worthy destination are the locals. I had the opportunity to get to know more of Penang through the local Couchsurfing group, which is still active until now.
You can reach Penang via local flights from the Asian flight hubs such as Bangkok, Singapore, or Kuala Lumpur and the flights are cheap. You can also reach Penang via bus and train from Kuala Lumpur. You can explore the historical center by foot or via the free Rapid CAT bus.
A few years ago I hadn’t even heard of Ghent until I read about it in a travel guidebook. Quite quickly I became intrigued with this fascinating city… A city that was the most powerful in Europe during the Dark Ages (and bigger than Moscow or Cologne at the time) was definitely something I had to go and see for myself. And I wasn’t disappointed!
Ghent is the perfect city break destination as you’re able to skip the crowds of visitors who usually opt for the more well-known cities of Bruges and Brussels. A university city, Ghent has a relaxed vibe and is not overwhelming in size for a short city break.
You can uncover what life was like for medieval Ghent at Gravensteen Castle, sample the delicious local fruit beers at Vrijdagmarkt, admire the gorgeous architecture in Patershol and step back in time to the 7th century at St Bavo’s Abbey. A must when visiting Ghent is to discover the city by canal cruise. Seeing Belgium’s gem from this unique perspective makes for some wonderful photo opportunities as well as learning more about the history of her iconic landmarks. Be sure to add Ghent to your next Belgian itinerary!
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and the perfect destination for a city break, especially for those on a budget. Glasgow means ‘dear green place’ and with over 90 public parks and gardens, you’re never far from open space to enjoy a stroll or a picnic. My own
favourites are Pollok Park and Kelvingrove Park.
There are lots of museums to visit and most of them are free. I recommend Kelvingrove Museum and the Riverside Museum, although there are museums for all interests.
If you enjoy history then take a walk through the medieval district to Glasgow Cathedral and the oldest house in the city, also free to visit.
Glasgow is one of only five UNESCO Cities of Music in the world. From pubs to concert venues, there are always plenty of music events on. In the city centre find buskers on Buchanan Street or take a music walking tour.
I love that Glasgow is a very walkable city with the subway (known as the clockwork orange) connecting the cosmopolitan city centre with the trendy west end.
There is so much to do in the city and the people are super friendly with a great sense of humour, don’t miss the Duke of Wellington with his traffic cone!
Guangzhou is so much more than a busy trading town, which is what I expected to see. I was pleasantly surprised by how clean and green Canton was and there is plenty to see and do for all sorts of travellers. I would recommend it as a great city break in China just for the lovely parks and hikes it offers.
Two of my top spots in Guangzhou were Baiyun mountain and Shamian Island, however there is no dearth of pretty spots away from bustling city madness.
Cute cafes are all around and the “Smelly cat” aka F.R.I.E.N.D.S Café based on the popular TV sitcom, was surely the highlight for me. It was made exactly similar to Central Perk where the sitcom stars used to hang out – if you are a F.R.I.E.N.D.S fan, you would want to pay this one a visit.
With a stunning skyline , Guangzhou makes for the perfect urban landscape for your next city break!
How can I not fall in love with Hanoi? This city’s special ambience is a curious combination between age-old Oriental traditions and modern Western cultures.
Walking around the Sword Lake in Hanoi’s city center, you will find old ladies practicing taichi with a speed slower than that of someone pronouncing Vietnamese characters for the first time, alongside hippie teenagers dancing their hearts out to the latest hip hop songs. This coexistence of different values is what truly makes this city special.
When visiting Hanoi, also don’t forget to try as much local food as you can! Besides the famous Pho, there are also many other mouth-watering dishes such as Bun Ca (rice noodle soup with fish), Nem Cuon (Spring rolls), Che (Sweet porridge) and Egg Coffee. Bun Cha, which consists of grilled pork, fish sauce and rice noodles, is my most favorite dish in Hanoi. Even Obama tried it himself during his visit to Vietnam in 2016.
If you’re also a culture enthusiast and food lover like me, you’ll also be charmed by this city’s unique characters and amazing dining choices for sure!
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) holds a special place in my heart, it was the first city I arrived in on my honeymoon. I had the opportunity to share that knowledge with our 3 kids, 11 years after our first visit. I enjoyed imparting my knowledge to be brave, walk at a steady pace, don’t run, don’t stop, just like others had told me. I loved taking them back there and retracing what we did on our honeymoon but the city had so obviously changed.
Nearly gone were all the bicycles, replaced with motorbikes but so many cars that weren’t there before. HCMC has come up the ranks, many a new flash hotel has been built replacing the small independent type hotels that while very economical don’t have all the bells and whistles.
The French left a real imprint on HCMC and you can see the influence in architecture and especially the food. My favourite area in HCMC is around District 1, which includes HCMC Town Hall, Saigon Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Reunification Palace. This is the best place to see where Vietnamese and French cultures have immersed and created something really beautiful.
You can’t miss the Ban Thanh Market is a great place to witness the craziness of Vietnam and explore some new tastes and flavours. If you have time make sure you take a short day trip to Chu Chi Tunnels and see how the VietCon managed to take control of the war.
Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong is a city you wouldn’t give effort on loving, loving it will come to you naturally. The vibe of Hong Kong is just full of positivity and energy. Everybody loves walking, everybody loves talking, everybody loves eating.
Food is absolutely amazing with many local and international dishes to choose from and the skyline is just divine, you will love looking at it all day long. High rise architectural landmarks and buildings are also few of the main reasons why I love this city. It’s been a haven for architectural enthusiasts and people who love design and craft.
If you love bars and clubs, then Hong Kong is a great place to do all and explore all that. If you’d like to try new dishes, food stalls are available almost anywhere. If you want to unleash the small kid in you, I would recommend you doing a trip for a day or two to Hong Kong Disneyland, you’re never too old to enjoy! You shouldn’t miss these or you miss half of your life when you stay in Hong Kong!
Istanbul is the perfect city break location because it’s well connected by airlines, making reaching it affordable. The city has amazing architecture and fascinating history, and there’s lots to see and do in your time there.
Stroll along Istiklal Avenue, try your hand haggling at the Grand Bazaar, try an authentic Turkish bath, stand in awe of the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace, and be sure to tour the Basilica Cistern- these are just a few suggestions for your city break.
Also, be sure to leave time for a walking food tour of Istanbul — Turkish food is seriously some of the best and most underrated food ever! I especially love the Turkish breakfast, it’s one of my favourites. Also, the stuffed mussels squeezed with fresh lemon are addictive!
I’ve visited Istanbul several times and it feels like a city I could always return to and never grow tired of. Just wandering around aimlessly always leads to discovering interesting new neighborhoods.
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Thank you so much to my fellow travel bloggers for their contributions. I hope you enjoyed this second set of 20 as much as I did and are looking forward to the next installment of 100 Fantastic Cities. Find Part 1 here.