Planning your next vacation is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. Where do you go first, what should you eat and which photo spot should you definitely not miss? We’ve put together a whistlestop tour of 14 of the world’s most iconic destinations. From the bright lights of Toronto to the floating villages of Siem Reap, energetic Buenos Aires to ancient Varanasi – are you ready to go?
1. Berlin (Germany)
Berlin has reinvented itself over the years, transitioning from a gritty and divided city to an artsy capital. It’s fitting, then, that its best view is emblematic of this forward-looking spirit. Head to the Panoramapunkt to see the futuristic TV Tower, built to symbolize East Germany’s march to modernity, before making your way to the stately Brandenburg Gate, whose central arch was once reserved for the Kaiser’s use. Of course, no visit to Berlin would be complete with currywurst – a pork sausage covered with curry powder and spicy ketchup. It’s the perfect fuel for cycling on the Mauerweg, following the lines of the old Berlin Wall.
2. Buenos Aires (Argentina)
With its name meaning ‘fair winds,’ Buenos Aires’ position on the Rio de la Plata is just one of many draws. The view over Floralis Genérica in Plaza de las Naciones Unidas is constantly changing as the petals close in the evening and ‘blossom’ again each morning. Exuberance rules in the La Boca district, with rows of houses painted in joyous primary colors. After a day spent exploring, be sure to make time for asado – charcoal-BBQ’d beef and cured sausages. A milonga is a truly local way to end the trip, with the chance to join in a tango.
3. Cape Town (South Africa)
Cape Town boasts one of the world’s most spectacular urban settings, overlooked by the famous Table Mountain. Head to Bloubergstrand to get a shot of the mountain on the horizon across the water. To experience the bustle of everyday life, try bargaining for souvenirs at the Neighbourgoods Market in Woodstock before enjoying potjiekos, a meat stew cooked in an iron pot over an open flame. And don’t forget the Boulders Beach penguins. They’ree a must-see – but be warned that they’re known for their loud braying.
4. Dubai (UAE)
The sail-like form of the Burj Al Arab marks the skyline of Dubai, one of the most recognizable cityscapes in the world. Pop over to Palm Jumeirah for the best public photo spot. For a quick refresher, sit in the shade and try qahwa, a strong Emirati coffee served in distinctive silver pots. This is a city of superlatives, so it naturally has the world’s tallest building: the Burj Khalifa. Its observation decks are open to tourists, so you can embrace the modernity before experiencing the city’s traditional side with matchbous, or spicy lamb and rice, and a desert safari on camelback.
5. Havana (Cuba)
With winding streets and vibrant buildings, Havana is almost made for photo ops. Take some shots on your way to the Museum of the Revolution, home to Fidel Castro’s tank and yacht. A world away from politics, discover the more rustic side of Havana with its staple rice and beans dish, moros y cristianos. In this film-set-like city, a taxi ride is an attraction in itself. Many are classic cars straight out of the fifties – the result of a trade embargo that lasted 55 years.
6. London (England)
Boasting almost 2000 years of history, London is one of the world’s most-visited cities. Combine its mixture of old and new in one photograph by looking across the modern Millennium Bridge to Wren’s St Paul’s Cathedral, itself a 17th-century rebuilding of a Norman church. In Westminster you’ll find Buckingham Palace, a working residence for the Royal Family and home to opulent belle-époque state rooms. Refuel with a traditional fish and chips before heading to an even older palace, the medieval Tower of London, where traditional wardens known as ‘Beefeaters’ provide expert tours.
7. Los Angeles (United States)
‘The City of Angels’, ‘Tinseltown’ or just ‘LA’; whatever you call Los Angeles, there’s no denying its global reach. Head to Griffith Observatory for a spectacular view of the Hollywood sign before strolling the Walk of Fame to see handprints of some of the biggest stars. For lunch try tuna tartare, a fusion of French and Japanese influences that captures LA’s melting-pot culture. Less of a newcomer on the scene is Warner Bros. Studio, whose tours offer insight into the workings of a major film company.
8. Paris (France)
Paris is one of Europe’s most elegant cities, with sweeping Haussmannian boulevards and monumental public structures. The most famous is the Eiffel Tower, best viewed from Place du Trocadéro. If museums are your thing, you won’t want to miss the Musée du Louvre’s extensive collection, including the Mona Lisa and Michelangelo’s Dying Slave. Take a short break to enjoy a macaron, a patisserie favorite, before heading to the Catacombs, which hold over 7 million bodies reinterred from cemeteries in the 1780s.
9. Serengeti (Tanzania)
The Serengeti is a nature lover’s paradise. This Tanzanian national park harbours some of Africa’s most famous game species. Looking to photograph big cats? Head to the moru kopjes, whose shade and height attract lions, cheetahs and leopards. Serengeti’s most famous event is the wildebeest migration; catch sight of 1.7 million of them crossing the Mara River in Seronera. Sample nyama choma, or grilled meats, then head out for a nighttime safari to see animals that prefer the nighttime cool, including hippos and lions.
10. Siem Reap (Cambodia)
Siem Reap is synonymous with ancient ruins and traditional culture – and it’s no wonder, given its proximity to Angkor Wat. This grand temple complex, over 800 years old, is a masterpiece of Khmer architecture. Experience the old way of life by taking a boat to the floating village of Kompong Khleang, with stilted buildings offering the perfect setting for a bowl of kuy teav, Siem Reap’s typical noodle soup. Finish your trip by climbing up Phnom Bakheng to watch the sunset between the towers of Angkor Wat.
11. Sydney (Australia)
Australia’s most well-known city, Sydney makes for the perfect combination of keeping active and relaxing in the sun. First, though, you’ll want to head to Mrs Macquarie’s Point for your own photo of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Hit the waves at Bondi beach in the eponymous suburb, then take a break to enjoy a lamington, Australia’s famous coconut and chocolate dessert. For a bit more adrenaline, turn back to Central Sydney to climb the Harbour Bridge; scaling the upper truss offers an unbeatable panorama.
12. Toronto (Canada)
Toronto is one of Canada’s most vibrant metropolises, but the best place to get your first glimpse of the city is from the quiet of Humber Bay Park. Look across the water to the famous skyline, including the CN Tower, and take photos in front of the ‘Toronto’ sign. Then dive into city life at the eclectic Kensington Market, with its jumble of vintage stores and cafés. Stop for a hearty peameal bacon sandwich before experiencing the national winter sport of ice hockey at a Maple Leaf’s game.
13. Varanasi (India)
Varanasi is one of India’s greatest spiritual centers. Nab a photo of its traditional architecture at Ramnagar Fort’s gate, a Mughal construction with a typical arched entryway and domed towers. Further upriver find Dashashwamedh Ghat, used by pilgrims bathing in the sacred River Ganges, and visit one of the numerous city vendors selling kachori – traditional fried dough balls stuffed with dhal or peas. As night falls, watch Ganga Aarti, a dramatic ceremony where pilgrims and priests offer fire to Shiva and the Ganges.
14. Venice (Italy)
With renaissance architecture lining its many canals, Venice is like a living museum. Start off at the Rialto, a symbol of the city with its arched span crossing the Grand Canal. For a bird’s-eye view, head to the Campanile tower and look out over the church of Santa Maria della Salute to the lagoon. Visit Doge’s Palace to recall Venice’s storied past and see masterpieces by Titian and Carpaccio, then feast on sarde in saor, or marinated sardines, which recalls Venice’s more humble origins. Take a final gondola ride to see the city at its best – from the famous canals.
These are some of the most popular visitor destinations on the planet. If you’re planning a vacation, why not visit one of these cities to really take in the sights and stories that inspired the nicknames?
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- Varanasi (2017). Dashashwamedh Ghat. varanasi.org.in
- Basilica San Marco (2017). Campanile. basilicasanmarco.io
- Graphics by Squareship