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MJ’s Favourite Cities; to Date

On social media, I put out a request for topics people would like me to write about. One of the top suggestions was travel. Therefore, I decided this week to write about my top 10 favourite cities to visit…of the ones I’ve visited so far.

Keep in mind when you read this list that food and shopping are not high on my travel to-do list. Therefore, they were not considered at all in this ranking. Though many of these places are known for both of those attributes too.

You might wonder what did I considered important when making this list?

  • Culture: this is always one of the main attractions for me to a city. It is fun to see and learn about the various cultures, even in cities very close to each other. For example, The Hague and Amsterdam have completely different feel, accents, history, and architecture.

  • History: when I travel, I like to learn more about the history of the place. It helps to understand so much more about the people in the city and how the city developed.

  • Architecture: I love the various aspects of seeing different architecture when I travel (though I know very little about architecture). For example, the Catholic arches of Paris, or the more conservative architecture of the Protestant countries. One of the best tours I ever did was an architecture tour of Rotterdam. It helped me understand so much more about the importance of modern constructions in Rotterdam.

  • Art: most of you who read my blog already know I really enjoy art exhibitions. Especially if I can manage to take a tour of the exhibition. Art is often one of the reasons we end up in a city.

  • Safety: I think the key is to be able to travel in a safe manner. Therefore, it isn’t just that the city is safe, it is that there are options to make it safe for tourists. For example, a trusted tour company or access to a means of transportation that makes it safe to actually get out and see the city.

  • Fame: okay, sometimes we have ended up in places only because we had heard so much about them. Depending on the city it can be a good thing, but sometimes we have regretted it.

  • Landscape: It is always interesting to see the different landscapes. The flat view from a high rise in Edmonton or the mountains that surround Geneva.

For each of these attributes, I gave every city a ranking between 1 to 5 and the city with the highest total was my number one city. Of course, it is still a subjective list.

Without further ado, here are the results!

Aerial view of New York City

10. New York City: The only time I have been to NYC I was told that was where we were going and I was appalled at the price. Turns out I love NYC. I would go back in a heartbeat if the opportunity arose. I’m only surprised it didn’t end up higher on the list. We all know that New York is known for its art, culture, fame, and who hasn’t read a book that took place in New York City?

View of Nyhavn, Copenhagen

9. Copenhagen: This was our first Scandinavia city for the family and everyone loved it. Colourful Nyhavn, the modern architecture, just the city vibes are amazing. One of my family’s favourite things was renting the electric bikes that come equipped with a GPS. The GPS had options for various tours and we chose the architecture tour. We all agreed we ended up on one of the most spectacular bike bridges in the world.

8. Lucerne: This is just a beautiful city to see. A day spent wandering around Old Town and Chapel Bridge is a day well spent.

Suleymaniye Mosque

7. Istanbul: It was a given in my mind that this one would be on my list, I’m only surprised it wasn’t closer to the top. This is one of those cities I will go to every time I get the chance. The Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul Old Town, and the Grand Bizarre are all worth exploring, more than once. Even the Turkish Bath was surprisingly enjoyable. The only reason I tried one was I had asked many friends what to do in Istanbul after seeing the main sights. The vote was unanimous, a Turkish Bath.

6. Prague: This was our first foray into Eastern Europe and it wasn’t our last. The setting of Prague is so beautiful. We ended up there in late October and the colours of the leaves were spectacular. Of course, Charles Bridge is a must-see, and especially at sunrise (though I was surprised at the number of people up so early in the morning). Hiking up to Petřín Gardens was a highlight for all of us. Also, if you get a chance to listen to Petr Spatina play the glass harp on the bridge or the street consider yourself very lucky.

The Louvre, Paris

5. Paris: Of course, it’s famous as a tourist destination, its volume of amazing art, and how many books take place here helped to rank this city so high. There is just so much to see and do. The Louvre alone would take months to see everything on display at my limited museum capacity of 2 hours a day. There are also areas that aren’t as touristy to explore such as La Defense (make sure you look for the Mitoraj artwork as you walk around).

4. Berlin: Berlin surprised me on our first visit there. I didn’t expect to fall in love with it but felt it was an important place to see. In the end, it was amazing. It was a city where the Hop on Hop off bus was amazing. As well as walking along the Berlin wall and seeing both sides of it. Learning some of the stories of people on the west side assisting people who managed to escape from the east side was so inspiring. Then there was the audio tour of the Reichstag Building (the parliament buildings): German engineering at its best. The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is worth wandering through both inside and out. It is such a historically important memorial and it was so emotional.

Sphinx and Giza Pyramids

3. Cairo: Again, a city everyone knows from school, Despicable Me, photos… There is nothing like visiting the Giza and Saqqara Pyramids. Standing inside these ancient monuments is a feeling like no other. Seeing the Sphinx, the Nile, and the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities are so amazing to see in real life. If there is a next time I need to make it to Luxor.

2. Rome (including Vatican City): I only ended up in this city thanks to a friend who wanted someone to join her on a road trip she had to do. Once in Rome, she toured me around the major sites and I actually cried when I saw Trevi fountain. I even managed to spend a few hours in Vatican City. The day and a half I spent there was not nearly enough time. The city has so much history, art, culture, and literature to explore. Like Paris, it would take months to discover all it has to offer.

1. Amsterdam: I fear this one ended up as number one because of my experiences living so close to it and having the time to explore it in such depth. The number of tours I have had of Amsterdam or the museums of Amsterdam, all based on different topics is rather large. The books I have read about Amsterdam and then ventured into the city to explore are also a hefty number. I even wrote a self-guided tour blog of Amsterdam based on the book The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. There is just so much to see from art and history museums, the Red-Light District, to the Streets of Nine, the list is endless really.

Views on Damrack, and a statue in Amsterdam (my photos)

There will always be other cities that I think should have made the list and didn’t. As an example, Seoul was a city I really loved. Sadly, not one of my favourite Canadian cities made the cut? In fact, the only North American city was NYC though I suspect New Orleans lost out due to safety. It was definitely a place I didn’t feel that safe visiting. Really, I need to see more of the US cities, such as San Francisco, and Chicago. As well three continents are missing completely; Oceania, South America, and Antarctica. Hopefully, sometime in the future, I can make it to those.

I would love to hear what your favourite cities are and why. Feel free to share in the comments or message me.

To give credit where due all but the photos of Amsterdam came from I’ve provided links to the photographer in each photo.

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Karen Houlding
Karen Houlding
Nov 15, 2021

Fun travel list! You have had some amazing travel opportunities. I have only been to 3 on your list (Rome, Istanbul, New York), but would like to see some of the others! My favorite international cities that I have been to (I love the history, architecture and scenery!) are Edinburgh, Venice, Rome and Barcelona. Local city favorites are Seattle, WA and Vancouver, BC - the mountain and sea scenery is stunning, especially from our view through the lens of our kayaks!

Karen Houlding
Karen Houlding
Nov 15, 2021
Replying to

I also forgot to put Washington D.C. on my list! Beautiful city with so much history and endless museums. It's a must-see!

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