Some of the most excitement in the world comes from large metropolises, from art and fashion, to food and music, to technology and media. Innovation is booming in these urban spaces while continuing to nod at the history and culture of the past. So whether you’re just curious, are planning a vacation, or are looking to relocate, here are ten of the most interesting cities in the world, complete with fun facts and recommendations of what to do while you’re visiting these great places.
London is the place to be. It’s a cultural leader, a creative powerhouse, and a trend-setter, thriving on diversity as one of the most iconoclastic cities in the world. Market shopping and the street scene take precedent in London even though the city’s museums houses some of the most important art collections in the world. London holds its history close but also continually renews itself with subcultures, which makes it incredibly interesting. What other destination has such high prices and cringe-worthy weather yet draws visitors back time and time again? The pub scene was practically born in London, and with such varied residents from all around the world, it’s also one of the most interesting scenes today. All the music, fashion, and design coming out of London hits the international stage, making waves all over the world.
Hamburg might not be an obvious choice as one of the world’s most exciting cities but upon closer inspection, it definitely fits the bill. As the largest port and second biggest city in the country, the thriving commercial center is refreshingly bold as much can be said about almost every scene in Hamburg, from art to food and especially the nightlife. The maritime spirit can be felt throughout Hamburg from squawking gulls to restaurant menus to architecture. Multiculturalism is exemplified through diverse neighborhoods and cuisine. Boho-chic Schanzenviertel and Grossneumarkt Square offer epic nightlife entertainment with waterfront venues pumping out the best of electronic and live music.
Everything about Barcelona is captivating, from its history and architecture to its cuisine and natural attractions. Gaudi’s masterpieces are magnificent, but the art scene goes far beyond them with artisans throughout the lively El Born district, Consell de Cent’s uptown galleries, and exhibitions throughout Eixample. Bohemian, carefree, and trendsetting, Barcelona’s diverse restaurants run the gamut from fashionable tapas bars to hole-in-the-wall food stalls and the bar scene is just as eclectic. Start in Las Ramblas and good luck keeping up with the locals as they drink their way around the city. Wander the Gothic Quarter for hip and almost-hidden hotspots, get a taste of sophistication in trendy El Born, take in the edgier scene in Raval, or imbibe in the trendy barrio Poble Sec. And you’ve never witnessed a group so rowdy as when the city’s football team has a match at home, so plan to see a Barcelona FC game if you’re in the area!
New York, United States
New York City in America sets the bar for excitement – there is literally never a dull moment in the city that never sleeps. As the largest city in the United States, New York has grown into itself, and then some. It’s filled with architectural marvels, amazing restaurants, world-class shopping, and a nightlife scene so lively it rivals almost every cosmopolitan city around the world. Performance arts include world-famous Broadway shows, an outstanding music scene, and different boroughs each uniquely defined. High fashion is as big a part of New York as vintage shops, food trucks as popular as upscale restaurants, and the mish-mash of people from all around the world creates an unbeatable vibe. Home to Manhattan, which is ripe with world-famous attractions, visitors will get a taste of a city within the city and enjoy the endless things to see and do.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai is a rare and ambitious city leading the charge in the development of the Middle East. With a massive expat community intermingling with Emirates nationals, the landscape is filled with interesting faces and innovative spaces. Charming, distinct, and definitely exuding its very own character, Dubai is often compared to Paris for the allure and love of all things luxurious. Majestic deserts contrast with state-of-the-art buildings and Dubai offers an interesting mix of backgrounds, making it a unique and compelling destination to explore. Despite Dubai’s urbane nature, Arabic culture and a rich heritage is prominent. It also seems to be the antithesis of growing Western lifestyles, though the two distinctly different cultures seem to coexist harmoniously. Beautiful mosques and traditional souks blend in with contemporary skyscrapers and massive luxury shopping malls, creating a diverse and interesting city unlike any other in the world.
Berlin is one of the most transformative cities in the world, changing slowly and continuously since reuniting in 1989 after thirty years of separation. The reunion of East and West Berlin has created a brand new identity, and one that’s far more exciting. Germany’s newly established capital has moved on to become a modern metropolis and a leader in the arts, architecture, shopping, and entertainment. Berlin’s people have maintained an anything-goes attitude, exemplified in their fiery underground scene and hedonistic after hours. In fact, the city has carved out a reputation for having the most provocative nightlife in Europe. But nightlife is not the only thing to get excited about. Explore newly gentrified districts, peruse evocative artwork, and find your inner rock star amid the incredible and iconic music scene, and all for a bargain.
Paris is just as exciting as cities like Tokyo or Bangkok in an entirely different way. Legendary architecture, endless artistic wealth, and iconic historical landmarks offer unforgettable experiences for both locals and tourists. The dining, nightlife, and shopping scenes are phenomenal too, with plenty going on to suit all tastes. With so many recognizable landmarks, Paris can seem almost familiar to those visiting for the first-time, giving it a very amiable quality. There are scores of areas to check out, like the lively backdrop around Rue de Charonne and Rue de la Roquette in the center of Bastille – the short stretch is brimming with restaurants and bars filled with students, locals, and expats creating a fun social setting. Here, the streets are void of velvety-roped lines, perfect for barhopping, and the food goes far beyond French, with Italian, Thai, and Cuban on offer.
Bangkok will send your senses reeling. Each district offers something different – there’s definitely no lack of entertainment so it’s best to dive right in instead of getting overwhelmed with the grandeur. One of the biggest thrills is watching a live Muay Thai match surrounded by passionate Thai people. By day go surfing at Flow House in Sukhumvit or head to the Peppermint Bike Park for extreme cycling. Eat your way across a city filled with family restaurants, street food stalls, and cutting edge dining spots. By night, experience one of the world’s most intense party scenes. You can find scores of relaxing bars or pubs and take it easy, but the real party starts after sunset in Sukhumvit, the city’s most adventurous nightlife district.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Pair happy-go-lucky locals with the sounds of samba on a coastal backdrop and you’ve got Rio. Sharp granite pinnacles vault from the ocean amid long, sandy stretches; historic colonial buildings nestle in between modern skyscrapers; and dense emerald forests push their limits at the city’s edge. The central area of the city is overwhelmed by the mountaintop Christ the Redeemer, an unmistakable and defining statue and skyline attribute. A large chunk of the coast, including the iconic statue, is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage designation. In Rio, there are three obsessions that fuel Brazilians’ love for life: Carnival, the beach, and football, but if you’re looking to kick it up a notch, head to the Sao Conrado district, rent a hang glider, and dive from Pedra Bonita rock into stretches of sky that give jumpers endless ocean and lofty mountains views. This place is the perfect to play, whether you’re travelling alone, with a partner, or kids.
Hitting the streets of Tokyo for the first time is like stepping into a weird and wonderful dream or a fast-paced sci-fi video game filled with neon lights. The city is ripe with tradition, but also charges forward with edgy trends, exhibiting a culture that, as a whole, happily embraces both ancient heritage and the changes that come with modernization. Tokyo is so overwhelming you could stand and stare for hours at the constant goings-on. “The Scramble” at Shibuya Station is the best example of Tokyo’s undeniable fast-pace: it’s the busiest intersection in one of the most populated cities in the world where the ceaseless mill of people is a remarkable spectacle. If you’re looking for something out-of-the-ordinary, Tokyo’s where you’ll find it, and in spades. Some of the most curious restaurants (think ninja and video game themes), most varied and thrilling nightlife, and tallest buildings are found in Tokyo, so there’s always something to do in this ultra interesting city.