October 28, 2014
I strongly believe that our exposure to different cultures helps shape us, and knowing about the experiences and places a person has been is part of that exposure. I also think you can gain insights about a person based on their favorite places. So, here is my list of top 10 cities I have visited. Creating this list was harder than I thought. I had to try and figure out why I liked a place and then try to rank it. So, I learned about myself in doing this, which is the intent of these posts. Keep in mind that I have not been to that many cities, so I don’t’ have a lot to choose from.
Number 10: Valetta, Malta – Medieval
The city takes you back in time. Cars are banned from the city, so you do not get all of the noise and traffic of other cities. A walk down the streets gives you a feel for what it might have been like 500 years ago. It is unbelievable for such a small place, how many churches there are. Finally, I have heard it said that pulling into Malta on a ship at sunrise is one of the most beautiful things you will see – I agree.
Number 9: Tokyo, Japan – Tradition with the new
The Japanese culture is unique, and I am glad that the people of Tokyo have worked so hard to preserve it. I enjoy going down the street and seeing a rickshaw come by among all the cars. It is also great how the ancient temples are right there with the modern skyscrapers. I think it is so cool when someone bows at me. This place, like no other, has found a way to respect and honor the past while living in the present.
Number 8: Hong Kong, China – Opportunity
This city has the most amazing skyline of anywhere I have ever been. A skyscraper here is as common as a house in any other city. The city is filled with energy and opportunity; call it a capitalist’s dream. If I were going for the big business deal, which I sometimes still dream of doing, this is where I would want to be. The city is amazingly clean. I saw some leaves fall off a tree in a slight breeze, and workers were immediately cleaning it up. Some of my favorite activates were riding a sampan in the harbor at sunset, taking the tram to Vitoria peak and looking out over the city on a clear day (sadly, I did not have a clear day), watching the skyscraper light show from the Kowloon waterfront, and hiking to the temple of 10,000 Buddha’s.
Number 7: Venice, Italy – Colorful
With its colorful buildings and beautiful canals, Venice is a photographer’s dream. I wish I could spend a week photographing every street and canal at all the different times of day. I highly recommend taking a water taxi along the Grand Canal.
Number 6: Cinque Terre, Italy – Inspiring
If I were a writer needing peace and inspiration, this is where I would want to be. This place is so quaint with all of its houses stacked up the mountain and narrow streets. There is a treat around every corner.
Number 5: Rome, Italy – Ancient and amazing
I am amazed to think of what happened here 2000 years ago. When many of the great cities in the world were still towns, Rome was already great and pushing the pushing advancement forward. I love the numerous and amazing churches here, any of which would make a city famous by itself. There is also the Colosseum, Forum, fountains, and so much more. And maybe this is cheating to include, but right next door is Vatican City.
Number 4: Paris, France – So much to see
There is more to see here than any other city and you want to see it all. Also, contrary to what so many told me before I ever went to Paris, the people are friendly and nice. Maybe those that that had bad experiences were not very friendly themselves. I recommend getting a pass that lets you go to the museums, Versailles, The Arch of Triumph, the top of Notre Dame, and a lot more.
Number 3: Auckland, New Zealand – Picturesque
I guess I really didn’t see much of Auckland. I was at the airport and spent a couple of hours at an outdoor market. Most of my time was spent outside the city on the north island. The north island is probably the most scenic place I have seen in the world. Every place looks like a beautiful post card. Surreal. I walked on a beach with thousands of seashells, saw glowworms on cave walls, explored a Maori village, and saw incredible landscapes everywhere I went. One thing I did not see an overabundance of were people, which was just fine, in fact, more than fine.
Number 2: Sydney, Australia – I wanna be Aussie
I love the people. They are incredibly active with getting around on public transportation, swimming in one of numerous outdoor pools or the ocean, jogging along miles and miles of shoreline trails, sailing in Sydney Bay Harbour, or numerous other activities. The people are also the most friendly and easy going of any place I have been. The weather and food here suit me too. The place just feels comfortable and fun. I love seeing the Sydney Opera House from a distance and up close. I also enjoyed riding on the ferries that provided amazing views of the city. What I wish I could afford to do was hike to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and go to the top of the Sydney Tower. There is also tons to do outside the city. If I had a second home, this would be it.
Number 1: Amsterdam, The Netherlands – Tranquil
Why do I love this place? Is it the canals? Yes, I never tire of crossing the bridges and looking down the canals. I especially enjoy viewing the city from the canals. Is it the people? Yes, the people are some of the friendliest in the world. Is it the bikes? Yes. There are more bikes here per capita than any other big city in the world and I love it. Life truly revolves around the bike here. Bikes put you so much closer to people, and since the Dutch are so awesome, this is great. I highly recommend going native and biking the city. Amsterdam just feels right; it feels comfortable; it feels peaceful; it feels like a home; and it is beautiful. On top of all of this, Amsterdam is where I first fell in love with art. A few hours at the Van Gough museum has changed me forever. This is also where the horrors of the holocaust finally sank in. A few hours at the Anne Frank house has also changed me forever. For all of this, and more, I love Amsterdam.
To get a better feel for how the above rank, here is a partial list of some famous cities I have been to that did not quite make the top 10:
Prague, Czech Republic
St. Martin, The Netherlands & France
St. Petersburg, Russia
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
Montego Bay, Jamaica
Miami, United States
Orlando, United States
Los Angeles, United States
Las Vegas, United States
St. Thomas & St. John, US Virgin Islands
Maui, United States
Key West, United States
Juneau, United States
San Francisco, United States
Update: September 2, 2016
Well, it has been quite awhile sine I originally posted my Top 10 list, and since then I have added a few more cites to my list of places I have been. with these additions, I re-evaluated my list to see if I wanted to make any changes. The more I thought about it, the more confused I became on what criteria I was really using and if these criteria were valid. In the end, I have decided to just go with a gut feel. So, here is my 10 favorite cities in the world as of 2016. Following each city in parenthesis is what the city ranked when I originally created my list two years ago.
Number 10: London, United Kingdom (new)
I have changed my mind about this place and put it on the list. I think I originally left it off the list because I thought it was too much like home, but I think i confused comfortable with like home. London is really not that much like home. It is so international and has so much to see and so much history. To make room for London and Salzburg, which is later on the list, I had to remove Venice, Italy and Valetta, Malta. I still love these places and they pack a lot of appeal for their size, but they are kind of small and can’t quite stack up to the others on the list.
Number 9: Tokyo, Japan (9)
Number 8: Hong Kong, China (8)
Number 7: Cinque Terre, Italy (6)
If I needed a beautiful, quiet, and peaceful place for inspiration, I would be hard pressed to find a better place than Cinque Terre. This place makes you feel like you have been let in on a secret magical place and you don’t want to share it with anyone else.
Number 6: Rome, Italy (5)
What city has had a greater impact on the history of the world than Rome? Maybe several, but Rome is right up there with any of them. History is not only on every corner, it is on every block and every street. I can’t help but be in awe each time I think of what the Romans accomplished and they did it over 2000 years ago.
Number 5: Paris, France (4)
As far as big cities go, it is impossible to beat Paris. What else could you ask for: amazing architecture, the best museums, shopping (if you care for that kind of thing), great food (if you care for that kind of stuff), and friendly people.
Number 4: Auckland, New Zealand (3)
New Zealand is amazing with it’s postcard worthy countryside. Also, because New Zealand is so uncrowded, it feels like you have an outdoor paradise to yourself. I rally want to go back and bike the south island some day, a day when I have a lot more time than I have had lately on vacations.
Number 2: Sydney, Australia (2) and Salzburg, Austria (new)
Yes, it is a tie for number 2 between my previous number 2 and a brand new city. I haven’t been back to Sydney, but I still have the awesome memories of the people and lifestyle. Salzburg vaults to the number 2 spot because it is a perfect combination of amazing old architecture and incredible countryside. Throw into the mix the Austrian Alps and the nearby city of Halstat and I almost have anew number 1, even with th city closing down at about 9:00 every night. Hopefully Mozart and the Von Trapp family knew how good they had it.
Number 1: Amsterdam, The Netherlands (1)
I have been there twice now and it is still number 1. The canals are beautiful. The city is beautiful. The people are beautiful. I feel so comfortable and at peace here. It probably doesn’t hurt that so many of the people speak English. I also continue to love how everyone gets around on bikes. And my new discovery, the people can bike through crazy traffic and text at the same time!