My top 5 favorite cities you should visit!
There are a lot of wonderful places to visit in the world, and there are some amazing cities in every country. For this blog post I decided to highlight some of the cities and towns that have left a lasting impression for me for one reason or another. These are all places I think everyone should make an attempt to visit at some point in their life. If you ever make it to one of these great places, I hope that you end up having a similar experience!
Lets begin with a city that always comes to my mind first when I think of my favorite city.
Valparaiso, Chile, South America
Valparaiso finds itself sitting on the western coast of Chile, about an hour west of the capital city of Santiago. Valparaiso is an old historic port city that has been around forever. There are so many things that make this vibrant port city so unique. What stands out most likely in this city is the colors all of the buildings and houses that cling to the cliffsides next to the sea. I can't imagine the difficulty of constructing this wonderful city.
From what I was told, the colors that make up the structures in this city are due to the resources that were available to the citizens of Valparaiso. Being a port city, often much of the supplies they had on hand were related to the ships in the port. Ship paint was plentiful and citizens took to painting their homes with the same paint. It worked well with the harsh salt air coming from the ocean that homes and buildings in Valparaiso would experience. Thus, these colorful buildings became a trade mark of Valparaiso.
Over time, Valparaiso began to gain another trademark, it started to be known as a city known for its art.. It began to be known for its artists, painters, poets, musicians, philosophers and more. You will begin to notice this when you wander around the winding maze like streets of the city. In many portions of the city, you will find street art and graffiti everywhere. It really adds a lot of character to this cultural city. I really enjoyed wandering around the often steep city streets of Valparaiso to see examples of this unique display of street art.
Aside from the colorfulness of this city, it has a wonderful selection of restaurants, shops, bars, and more. I felt like wandering around the city it was not difficult to find a small bar or brewery, or live music. If you find yourself here, I challenge you to just wander and explore some of these cool spots. I found myself enjoying some traditional Chilean dancing and music one night on a venture with some other travelers in the hostel I was staying at. It was a great experience.
Valparaiso has been referred to as the Jewel of the Pacific due to its importance, history, popularity, and culture and for good reason! There is so much history to this city. If you want to read more about Valparaiso, I wrote another blog post specifically on my time spent in this beautiful place. Click here to read that article!
Istanbul, Turkey, Europe/Asia
Bright lights, big city. One of the best ways to describe one of the largest and oldest cities in the world. As far as history goes, not much else compares to this East meets West giant. Istanbul is such an amazing city for so many reasons. This historic city, which has also been formally known as Constantinople among other names before that, has been around for a very long time.
Within this city you can find a mix of modern society, and you can also step back in time to the olden days if you are exploring 'old' Istanbul. The size of this city is incredible. It expands for what seems like forever. That would make sense when it boasts a population of roughly 15.5 million people and is the 5th largest city in the world.
There is so much to say about this city which is rich in culture and history. I found myself here for several weeks in 2012 and did not nearly have enough time to explore all of which Istanbul had to offer. Some of the most notable things to see in Istanbul are the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
I felt like there was always something going on in this city that appears to never sleep. The abundance of restaurants, historic sights, late night bars/clubs, and shops is overwhelming. Also don't forget to check out the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market.
I can remember many fond memories of this trip, along with many memories I don't remember so well (Thanks to the alcohol, by the way I still struggle with drinking the country's staple alcohol, Raki. Think of it like drinking black licorice, Yuck!)
I stumbled around the cobblestone streets of this city many nights in a row, both hungover, drunk, and sober. I wouldn't take back any of those memories and hangovers in this upbeat city. If you are looking for a good cultural city, historic city, great food and drinks, you should definitely plan a trip to Istanbul.
Even better yet, the people of this country are amazing. While on this trip, I had met many friendly people along the way. Don't let the stories and media distort your views of this country and it's people. I felt very welcome in this city and it was truly one of my first far away from home adventures that I had. I look back to this trip as being my influence for what would later become an expensive addiction to world travel, so thank you Turkey for giving me that experience.
If you are heading to Istanbul, try stepping out of your comfort zone and experience the hostel traveling lifestyle, you might meet some very cool fellow travelers! I would also recommend polishing up your bartering skills as when shopping and even when ordering food, almost everything is negotiable for price. Give it a shot, even if it is only a few coins (or 25 cents US ) that you get discounted over cold french fries!
If you would like to learn more about Istanbul I have another article I wrote on my experience there, and you can read that article by clicking here!
By the way, the street food is amazing in Istanbul, make sure to find some vendors! Until my recent trip to Italy in October 2018, Istanbul and Turkey were my top foodie destination! It still comes in at a close second though.
Reykjavik, Iceland, Europe (Sort of)
Where to begin with Reykjavik... I am not sure. The land of fire and ice. I only spent a few nights here (In Reykjavik) as the true great experience of Iceland is the wonderful countryside that totes some of the most crazy landscapes in the world. The landscapes of Iceland have got to be some of the most unearthlike scenery I've ever seen. The stunning landscapes and waterfalls of Iceland are what I remember most, but the capital city of Reykjavik still holds a special place in my heart for the fun times I experienced while staying there.
Reykjavik is definitely a cool city (literally too). I hate to say it, but I don't remember this city as fondly for its food, which I haven't heard a lot of people refer to Iceland as a foodie destination, but I know there are some great places to eat here regardless. My favorite part about this city is how clean and modern it was, as well as the prominent, well known church, Hallgrímskirkja. (Yeah I had to Google that for proper spelling, I can't spell anything correctly that's in Iceland)
The nightlife here was some of my most favorite from everywhere I've been in the world. There are a lot of bars and clubs to visit late at night when the city's partygoers hit the street. And they go all night long too. I had a few late nights of partying here that I roughly remember, and had some pretty crazy experiences those nights.
If you do spend some time in Iceland, save a night or two to explore this wonderful capital city. There really is a lot of cool places to visit here including some interesting museums, the giant tower church (Hallgrímskirkja) that looks like a Bond Villain's lair, and more. It's known to be a pretty hip and progressive city, so strap in and prepare to have some great experiences in this city thriving with world famous nightlife.
If you want to learn more about Iceland and the Ring Road, I have an article I wrote on what I commonly refer to as my favorite road trip ever! Click here to find that article.
Iceland was the destination of my first solo abroad trip, and it was a wonderful time. I was not alone at all (despite going solo, knowing no one) the entire trip and met some great fellow travelers on this journey. I often recommend Iceland as a great destination for a someone's first solo trip. It is a very safe country to explore on your own despite your gender, age, sexuality, or beliefs.
Reine, Norway, Europe
Reine is one of the most picturesque cities or towns in the world. The landscapes around this Arctic Norwegian fishing town in the Lofoten Islands are incredible. It is a difficult to get to destination, but the difficulty is truly worth it. I could only imagine what waking up to the fairytale landscapes of Reine every morning would be like.
I only spent a short time in Reine during a 10 day road trip throughout Norway, but I would gladly return again. The crisp arctic air and old world feel of this sleepy fishing village were just what I was hoping for. It was everything I had wanted this destination to be and more.
You can find a decent amount of things to do around the Lofoten Islands in Norway and in Reine. There are plenty of great sights, restaurants, hikes, and other activities to do. One of my favorite experiences was chartering a local fisherman to bring my friend and I out to do some 'deep sea' fishing along the coast. I only wish I had that kind of luck when fishing back home in Minnesota. I walked away with a large black trash bag filled with Atlantic Cod.
If you ever find yourself in Norway, I would say that you NEED to visit the Lofoten Islands and Reine. I honestly think this is one of the most beautiful towns in the world.
For more information on Reine, I have an article I wrote on this destination that can be found by clicking here.
Word to the wise, PLEASE DO NOT SPEED in the Lofoten Islands, or anywhere in Norway as a matter of fact. Even going 6 MPH over may result in you paying a citation of $750, over the course of the next year due to the draconian laws of Norway.
Bled, Slovenia, Europe
Bled was an interesting city. I'm sure at one point or another, you have seen the famous picture of Lake Bled which has a small island within it. On that small island is a very recognizable church. It is a really unique feature of Bled, and part of the reason why I chose this as a resting place for a few days during a road trip throughout Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, Austria, and Croatia that I did in 2018.
The city of Bled and the surrounding area sort of felt like a mystical place, hidden away from the world and all of its problems. It had an old world feel to it, medieval even, or maybe that was just because of the giant castle (Bled Castle) that overlooked lake and surrounding city of Bled.
If you find yourself in Bled, make time to explore the wonderful downtown area which has a lot of good restaurants, bars, and shops. But most importantly, take a morning or evening stroll around the lake. The lake has a great path around its entire length, which takes about an hour and a half to complete.
This completes my list of some of my most favorite and memorable cities in the world that I have been to so far. There have been plenty of other great places I have been to, but these were the ones I wanted to share the most with people, and encourage people to get out there and see the cities for themselves!
Some honorable mentions......
Torshavn, Faroe Islands, Denmark, Europe (sort of)
Which translates to Thor's Harbor. This is the capital city of the Faroe Islands, and really one of the coolest chain of islands I have been too (I have been to a few now!) For more information on the Faroe Islands, I have an article that focuses on them as a whole. Really a unique and spectacular place in the middle of nowhere on this amazing planet we live on. Click here to find that article on the Faroe Islands!
Banff, Canada, North America
One of the most trending and hottest (not literally) destinations in Canada. Truly a hip and cool city in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Just a bit north of Glacier National Park in the United States. Banff is a nifty combination of a unique little tourist city and a hiking mecca of Canada. Plan ahead for this one, its a bustling and busy destination! Go in early spring for better wildlife encounters!
Also while you are there, check out one of my favorite breakfast joints at Tooloulou's . A delicious Cajun breakfast spot that features quite a large menu, and most importantly, one of the best hot sauce selections in a restaurant I've ever seen!