Let us be honest, despite the cacophony and congestion, all of us love the cosiness, magnificence and convenience, a city has to offer. Whether it is the splendour of high rises or the melting-pot of diverse cultures or the buzz of a flea market, we all have variety of reasons to love the confines of a city. Houaida Goulli describes the exact sentiment in a beautiful old classic song :-
“I love the city lifeeee,
I love the city airrrrr,
I love the way tall buildings look up there; the city and I make a wonderful pair,
Ohhhhhh, Give me that city lifeee.”
If one is a fanatic for the major cities of the world, there are quite a few that one MUST see. Here is my top pick!
1. Las Vegas
The city’s tolerance for various forms of adult entertainment earned it the title of Sin City, and has made Las Vegas a popular setting for films and television programs. The city bills itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World, and is famous for its mega casino–hotels and associated entertainment. Also known as simply Vegas, it is the most populous city in the state of Nevada. Las Vegas is an internationally renowned major resort city known primarily for gambling, shopping, fine dining and nightlife and is the leading financial and cultural center for Southern Nevada.
Most casinos are in the downtown area, located on the Fremont Street Experience. Fremont East, adjacent to the Fremont Street Experience, was granted variances to allow bars to be closer together, similar to the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego, the goal being to attract a different demographic than the Strip attracts. The Golden Gate Hotel & Casino, located downtown along the Fremont Street Experience, is the oldest continuously operating hotel and casino in Las Vegas; it opened in 1906 as the Hotel Nevada.
The year 1931 marked the opening of the Northern Club (now the La Bayou). The most notable of the early casinos may have been Binion;s Horseshoe (now Binion;s Gambling Hall and Hotel) while it was run by Benny Binion.
Other casinos operations include the Four Queens Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas Club and Mermaid’s Casino, which are also located downtown along the Fremont Street Experience. The center of the gambling and entertainment industry, however, is located on the Las Vegas Strip, outside the city limits in the surrounding unincorporated communities of Paradise and Winchester in Clark County.
“First Friday” is a monthly celebration that includes arts, music, special presentations and food in a section of the city’s downtown region called 18b, The Las Vegas Arts District. The festival extends into the Fremont East Entertainment District as well.
The Thursday prior to First Friday is known in the arts district as “Preview Thursday.” This evening event highlights new gallery exhibitions throughout the district.
Vegas is not just a city, it is a different experience altogether, where you discover sides of you which you didn’t know existed. That is what Vegas does to you. After all they don’t say “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” just like that!
Standing on the River Thames, London is a world cultural capital. It is the world’s most-visited city as measured by international arrivals and has the world’s largest city airport system measured by passenger traffic. London’s 43 universities form the largest concentration of higher education in Europe. In 2012, London became the first city to host the modern Summer Olympic Games three times.
London has a diverse range of peoples and cultures, with more than 300 languages spoken.
London contains four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; Kew Gardens; the site comprising the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret’s Church; and the historic settlement of Greenwich (in which the Royal Observatory, Greenwich marks the Prime Meridian, 0° longitude, and GMT). Other famous landmarks include Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Madame Tussauds and The Shard. London is home to numerous museums, galleries, libraries, sporting events and other cultural institutions, including the British Museum, National Gallery, Tate Modern, British Library and 40 West End theatres. The London Underground is the oldest underground railway network in the world.
Within the City of Westminster, the entertainment district of the West End has its focus around Leicester Square, where London and world film premieres are held, and Piccadilly Circus, with its giant electronic advertisements. London’s theatre district is here, as are many cinemas, bars, clubs and restaurants, including the city’s Chinatown district (in Soho), and just to the east is Covent Garden, an area housing speciality shops. The city is the home of Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose musicals have dominated the West End theatre since the late 20th century.
Islington’s 1 mile (1.6 km) long Upper Street, extending northwards from Angel, has more bars and restaurants than any other street in the United Kingdom. Europe’s busiest shopping area is Oxford Street, a shopping street nearly 1 mile (1.6 km) long, making it the longest shopping street in the United Kingdom. Oxford Street is home to vast numbers of retailers and department stores, including the world-famous Selfridges Flagship Store. Knightsbridge, home to the equally renowned Harrods Department Store, lies to the south-west.
London is home to designers Vivienne Westwood, Galliano, Stella McCartney, Manolo Blahnik, and Jimmy Choo among others; its renowned art and fashion schools make it an international centre of fashion alongside Paris, Milan, and New York City. London offers a great variety of cuisine as a result of its ethnically diverse population. Gastronomic centres include the Bangladeshi restaurants of Brick Lane and the Chinese food restaurants of Chinatown.
There is a variety of annual events, beginning with the New Year’s Day Parade, fireworks display at the London Eye, the world’s second largest street party; the Notting Hill Carnival is held during the late August Bank Holiday each year. Traditional parades include November’s Lord Mayor’s Show, a centuries-old event celebrating the annual appointment of a new Lord Mayor of the City of London with a procession along the streets of the City, and June’s Trooping the Colour, a formal military pageant performed by regiments of the Commonwealth and British armies to celebrate the Queen’s Official Birthday.
Situated on the Seine River, in the north of the country, Paris is located at the heart of the région parisienne (“Paris Region” in English). In 2013-2014, it received an estimated 15.57 million international overnight visitors, making it the third most popular destination for international travellers, after London and Bangkok.
Paris is the home of the Louvre, the most visited art museum in the world, with outstanding collections of European and ancient art; the Musée d’Orsay, devoted to 19th century French art, including the works of the French impressionists; the Centre Georges Pompidou, a museum of international modern art, and the Musée du quai Branly, a new museum devoted to the arts and cultures of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania; and many other notable art museums and galleries. It also is the home of several masterpieces of Gothic architecture, most notably the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-de-Paris (12th century) and Sainte-Chapelle (13th century). Other notable and much-visited landmarks include the Eiffel Tower, built in 1889 to celebrate the centennial of the French Revolution; the Sacré-Cœur Basilica on Montmartre, a Neo-Byzantine style church built between 1875 and 1919; and Les Invalides, a 17th-century hospital and chapel built for disabled soldiers, where the tomb of Napoleon is located.
Paris is a global hub of fashion and has been referred to as the “international capital of style”. It is noted for its haute couture tailoring, its high-end boutiques, and the twice-yearly Paris Fashion Week. Many top designers have their flagship stores in the city, such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior’s 1200 square foot store and Sephora’s 1500 square foot store. Printemps has the largest shoe and beauty departments in Europe. Sonia Rykiel is considered to the “grand dame of French fashion” and “synonymous with Parisian fashion”, with clothes which are embraced by “left bank fashionistas”. Other well-known brands are Cartier and Guerlain, with their original stores located here.
On every anniversary of the Republic, the Children of the Fatherland festival is held. Also, Bastille day, a celebration of the storming of the Bastille in 1789, is the biggest festival in the city, held every year on 14 July. This includes a parade of colourful floats and costumes along with armed forces march in the Champs Élysées which concludes with a display of fireworks.The Paris Beach festival known as the “Paris Plage” is a festive event, which lasts from the middle of July to the middle of August, when the bank of the River Seine is converted into a temporary beach with sand and deck chairs and palm trees.
Paris is renowned for its haute cuisine, food meticulously prepared and presented, often accompanied by fine wines, served and celebrated by expensive restaurants and hotels. A city of culinary finesse, as of 2013 Paris has 85 Michelin-starred restaurants, second in the world to only to Tokyo. Many of the world’s leading chefs operate restaurants serving French cuisine in Paris such as Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon. As of 2013, Paris has ten 3-Michelin-star restaurants, the most coveted award in the restaurant business; these include Ducasse’s Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Alain Passards’s L’Arpège, Yannick Alleno’s Le Meurice in the Hôtel Meurice, Eric Frechon’s restaurant at Hotel le Bristol, and Pierre Gagnaire.
Paris is home to the association football club Paris Saint-Germain FC and club Stade Français. The 80,000-seat Stade de France, built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, is located in Saint-Denis. Paris hosts the annual French Open Grand Slam tennis tournament on the red clay of Roland Garros every year as well.
4. New York
New York City, the most populous state of the United States is one of the most populous urban agglomerations in the world. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important centre for international diplomacy and has been described as the cultural and financial capital of the world. It is consolidated of 5 Boroughs (the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island) as it is one of the world’s largest natural harbours. As many as 800 languages are spoken in New York, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world.
Major tourist destinations include Times Square; Broadway Theatre productions; the Empire State Building; the Statue of Liberty; Ellis Island; the United Nations Headquarters; museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art; green spaces such as Central Park and Washington Square Park; Rockefeller Centre; the Manhattan Chinatown; luxury shopping along Fifth and Madison Avenues; and events such as the Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village; the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; the lighting of the Rockefeller Centre Christmas Tree; the St. Patrick’s Day parade; seasonal activities such as ice skating in Central Park in the wintertime; the Tribeca Film Festival; and free performances in Central Park at Summer stage. Major attractions in the boroughs outside Manhattan include Flushing Meadows-Corona Park and the Unisphere in Queens; the Bronx Zoo ;Coney Island, Brooklyn; and the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.
The city is the birthplace of many cultural movements, including the Harlem Renaissance in literature and visual art; abstract expressionism (also known as the New York School) in painting; and hip hop, punk, salsa, disco, freestyle, Tin Pan Alley, and Jazz in music. New York City has been considered the dance capital of the world. The city is also widely celebrated in popular lore, frequently the setting for books, movies, and television programs. New York has also frequently been ranked the top fashion capital of the world on the annual list compiled by the Global Language Monitor, the city’s fashion industry provides approximately 180,000 employees with $11 billion in annual wages.
New York City has more than 2,000 arts and cultural organizations and more than 500 art galleries of all sizes. Also, forty of the city’s theatres, with more than 500 seats each, are collectively known as Broadway, after the major thoroughfare that crosses the Times Square Theatre District, sometimes referred to as “The Great White Way”. Lincoln Centre for the Performing Arts is home to 12 influential arts organizations, including the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, New York Philharmonic, and New York City Ballet, as well as the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, the Juilliard School, Jazz at Lincoln Centre, and Alice Tully Hall. The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute is in Union Square, and Tisch School of the Arts is based at New York University, while Central Park Summer Stage presents performances of free plays and music in Central Park.
New York City’s food culture includes a variety of international cuisines influenced by the city’s immigrant history. Central European and Italian immigrants originally made the city famous for bagels, cheesecake, and New York-style pizza, while Chinese and other Asian restaurants, sandwich joints, trattorias, diners, and coffeehouses have become ubiquitous. Some 4,000 mobile food vendors licensed by the city, many immigrant-owned, have made Middle Eastern foods such as falafel and kebabs popular examples of modern New York street food. The city is also home to nearly one thousand of the finest and most diverse haute cuisine restaurants in the world, according to Michelin.
New York, birthplace of the New York Yankees and the New York Mets and also known as the “Capital of Baseball” is not only home to the headquarters of Major League Baseball, but also to the headquarters of the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer. The New York metropolitan area hosts the most sports teams in these five professional leagues. Four of the ten most expensive stadiums ever built worldwide (MetLife Stadium, the new Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden, and Citi Field) are located in the New York metropolitan area.
The Big Apple, as it is also known is the described as the cultural capital of the world.
In describing New York, author Tom Wolfe said, “Culture just seems to be in the air, like part of the weather”.
Tokyo is often referred to and thought of as a city, but is officially known and governed as a “metropolitan prefecture”, which differs from and combines elements of both a city and a prefecture; a characteristic unique to Tokyo. The city is considered an alpha+ city—as listed by the GaWC’s 2008 inventory—and in 2014, Tokyo was ranked first in the “Best overall experience” category of Trip Advisor’s World City Survey (the city also ranked first in the following categories: “Helpfulness of locals”, “Nightlife”, “Shopping”, “Local public transportation” and “Cleanliness of streets”). In 2013, Tokyo was named the third most expensive city for expatriates, according to the Mercer Consulting Firm and according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s cost-of-living survey. In 2009 Tokyo was named the third Most Liveable City by the magazine Monocle. The Michelin Guide has awarded Tokyo by far the most Michelin stars of any city in the world.
Many tourists visit the various downtowns, stores, and entertainment districts throughout the neighbourhoods of the special wards of Tokyo; particularly school children on class trips, a visit to Tokyo Tower is de rigueur. Cultural offerings include both omnipresent Japanese Pop Culture and associated districts such as Shibuya and Harajuku, subcultural attractions such as Studio Ghibli anime centre, as well as museums like the Tokyo National Museum, which houses 37% of the country’s artwork national treasures.
There are many theatres for performing arts. These include national and private theatres for traditional forms of Japanese drama. Noteworthy are the National Noh Theatre for Noh and the Kabuki-za for Kabuki.
There are many festivals that take place every year in Tokyo; major events include the Sannō at Hie Shrine, the Sanja at Asakusa Shrine, and the biennial Kanda Festivals that feature a parade with elaborately decorated floats and thousands of people. Annually on the last Saturday of July, an enormous fireworks display over the Sumida River attracts over a million viewers. Once Cherry Blossoms bloom in spring, many residents gather in Ueno Park, Inokashira Park, and the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden for picnics under the blossoms.
Tokyo features many internationally famous forms of modern architecture including Tokyo International Forum, Asahi Beer Hall, Mode Gakuken Cuckoo Tower, NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building and Rainbow Bridge. Tokyo also features two distinctive towers: Tokyo Tower and the new Tokyo Skytree which is the tallest tower in Japan and the second tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Sydney is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. It has been ranked amongst the top fifteen cities in the world for tourism every year since 2000. Popular destinations include the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Watsons Bay, The Rocks, Sydney Tower, Darling Harbour, the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Royal National Park, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Taronga Zoo, Bondi Beach, the Blue Mountains, and Sydney Olympic Park.
One must definitely visit the Australian Museum, which is Australia oldest natural history museum. Also the Museum of Sydney, which recounts the story of the development of the city. The Sydney Opera House is the home of Opera Australia and Sydney Symphony. It has staged over 100,000 performances and received 100 million visitors since opening in 1973. The Sydney Conservatium of Music is located adjacent to the Royal Botanic Gardens and serves the Australian music community through education and its biannual Australian Music Examinations Board exams.
Sydney is the host of several festivals throughout the year. The city’s New Year’s Eve celebrations are the largest in Australia. The Royal Easter Show is held every year at Sydney Olympic Park. The Sydney Festival is Australia’s largest arts festival. Big Day Out is a travelling rock music festival that originated in Sydney. The city’s two largest film festivals are Sydney Film Festival and Tropfest. Vivid Sydney is an annual outdoor exhibition of art installations, light projections, and music. Sydney also hosts the Australian Fashion Week in autumn every year. The Sydney Mardi Gras has commenced each February since 1979.
Sydney’s Chinatown has had numerous locations since the 1850s. It moved from George Street to Campbell Street to its current setting in Dixon Street in 1980. The Spanish Quarter is based in Liverpool Street whilst Little Italy is located in Stanley Street. Popular nightspots are found at Kings Cross, Oxford Street, Circular Quay, and The Rocks. The Star is the city’s only casino and is situated around Darling Harbour.
Sydney has the seventh-largest percentage of foreign-born individuals in the world. The three major sources of immigrants are the United Kingdom, China and New Zealand, followed by Vietnam, Lebanon, India, Italy, and the Philippines. Sydney is an important entry point for many new arrivals to Australia, and many migrant communities including the Lebanese, Fijian and Korean communities are focused in disproportionately large numbers in Sydney. Due to this it is highly multi-lingual and cosmopolitan in nature and is considered to be the biggest city in Oceania.