Top Ten Big Cities

Having traveled a little through North America, Europe, Oceana, and Asia (see where we’ve been on our Travel Log), here’s our top ten favorite big cities from the trip!

10. Toronto, Ontario

Toronto has the beach city vibe, located on the shore of Lake Ontario. From wandering the streets, checking out the markets and art to sunbathing on a beautiful city park beach (on a nearby island, no less!), this was an amazing city to visit. The transportation around the city was easy to use, the people friendly, and the beaches beautiful. We topped off our day in Toronto with a visit to the Distillery District and tried some great local craft beer.

Toronto Skyline

Toronto Skyline

Toronto Beachtime

Toronto Beachtime

Artwork around Toronto

Artwork around Toronto

9. Portland, Oregon

This is the city with the most personality and fun spirit. It is a fun hippie-ish environment around this city, where business owners are more likely to support each other instead of being cut-throat and, where, if you’re not careful, you’ll run back in time to the 1990’s. There’s a river that runs through it and some nearby gorges to explore/climb. Mostly, it’s the beer and the plaid I remember best about this city.

Beer and Plaid in Portland

Beer and Plaid in Portland

Portland City Skyline

Portland City Skyline

8. New York, New York

Aww New York, New York. What can I say about this city that hasn’t been said or sung? I like visiting this city because you never know what side of the city you will see. In past trips, I’ve seen the bright lights, art, memorials, and been blown away by the shear size of it. This time, I was blown away by the bouldering in Central Park. This is a city that should be seen and experienced first hand.

New York City

New York City

In Time Square

In Time Square

Boulder in Central Park

Boulder in Central Park

7. Vancouver, British Columbia

This city long ago won over my heart and did so again on this trip. From the amazing Stanley Park to Granville Island and exploring the artsy neighborhoods, there’s a lot to see and do in Vancouver. In Stanley Park, you can get lost on a trail and forget that you are near a city, let alone in a big one. On this trip, we even got to try out one of the local beaches and dip our feet into the Pacific. Plus, as a climber and occasional snow boarder, this city gets bonus points for being close to Squamish (for amazing climbing) and Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains (for snowboarding).

Vancouver, British Columbia

Vancouver, British Columbia

Morning run in Stanley Park

Morning run in Stanley Park

Nearby Squamish

Nearby Squamish

6. Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is beautiful romantic city that inspires one to sit down and write poetry. The entire city is photogenic and full of friendly lively people. This is a city where poets lived, dreamed, and drank and its easy to see what attracted them to the city. The architecture is amazing and diverse, between the European medieval castle to the mimicked Greek ruins in the park and jumping forward in time to the more modern twentieth century style buildings. From around the city, you can see beautiful Scottish hillside outside the city. I wished we had more time to explore Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Skyline

Edinburgh Skyline

An Edinburgh Street

An Edinburgh Street

Edinburgh Castle, in the middle of the city

Edinburgh Castle, in the middle of the city

Ah, the nearby hills

Ah, the nearby hills

5. Singapore

This small City/Country is amazingly clean, full of great hawker food, and even has a small National Park on an island just off the coast of the city where you can mountain bike and walk around a small town preserved in its 1960’s form. The entire city is clean and there are beautiful gardens and lots of greenery everywhere. It is truly a garden city. While we were there, we got to see an exhibit on the future of infrastructure of the city and their plans, from a civil engineering perspective, are innovative and impressive. The people of Singapore are diverse and rich with their own history and culture and you can see it everywhere you go. We were fortunate to be in the city during the Chinese New Year and got to see some of the celebrations.

Singapore Skyline

Singapore Skyline

Chinese New Year Celebrations

Chinese New Year Celebrations

Gardens Around the City

Gardens Around the City

Views along a street in Singapore

Views along a street in Singapore

Singapore Highrise

Singapore Highrise

The iconic lion and towers

The iconic lion and towers

4. Paris, France

Paris was unbelievable. It was full of art, history, monuments, and lots of places to explore. At most corners, there were amazing bakeries where we sampled croissants and macaroons. Even though we were told that Parisians tend to be rude, we didn’t find this to be the case. The people here were friendly, even if they were a bit rushed. We spent three days in Paris and felt like we barely saw the tip of the iceberg of this incredible city.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

A Paris night

A Paris night

Ah, Paris! A croissant and Notre Dame

Ah, Paris! A croissant and Notre Dame

Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors, Versailles

Underground Paris

Underground Paris

3. Rome, Italy

After two months traveling around Europe, camping in a van, Rome seemed like a second honeymoon. Exploring the city on foot and by subway was like a dream, being in places only seen in (both history and engineering) text books and in movies. It was surreal to see such ancient structures and to be in the big piazzas and such backgrounds are the settings for romances (thereby inspiring the feeling of a second honeymoon). It is easy, as you roam around Rome, to imagine the ancient historical leaders, artists, and other figures of the past walking down the same streets to one appointment or the next, up the stairs in the Colosseum to watch a gladiator, or otherwise go about their lives.

Rome at Night

Rome at Night

The Forum

The Forum

The bridges, one of many examples of ancient engineering around the city

The bridges, one of many examples of ancient engineering around the city

Colosseum

Colosseum

In a Piazza

In a Piazza that feels like a museum

2. Kathmandu, Nepal

The first time I really saw Kathmandu, was the end of the three weeks we spent in Nepal, coming back from a remote country side about a four hour bus ride north of the city. We had flown in at night three weeks early, but left around sunrise the next day for the country side. So, it wasn’t until we were coming down the mountain, into the valley, that I saw the large sprawling city, spread out before the mountains. Seeing it with the background of the mountains, it was beautiful and utterly unique in that it was a large city where the majority of the buildings were less than ten stories tall. Walking the city, by foot, it is a dirty city, but it’s full of history and the wonderful Nepali people, who were, by far, the warmest and friendliest people group we met on this trip. Kathmandu was the most foreign and unique city we had visited on this trip and each new corner of the city held a surprise and air of adventure. This was another city where I felt like we barely scratched the surface and where we would need to come back for another visit.

My first view of Kathmandu

My first view of Kathmandu

A quiet square with a temple

A quiet square with a temple

Many busy squares

Many busy squares

In Durbar Square

In Durbar Square

Views around the city

Views around the city

1. Barcelona, Spain

We flew into Barcelona when we flew to Europe, making my first experience of Europe and I fell in love with this city immediately. After traveling around the world, I found myself comparing all the other cities to this city because has all the marks of  what a big city should have – history, monuments, art, adventure, and nature. This city has been a regional capital of empires and kings have fought for rule over it. Antonio Guadi and Pablo Picasso have left their marks on this city and walking around the city is inspiration enough to want to create a piece of art. There are alleys and streets to explore with the unknown around each corner. Then there are the cafes! There are outdoor cafes up and down each of the alleys and streets, where you can pause to sample local tapas and paella. The city itself is situated near the beautiful Pyrenees Mountains on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, with easy access to beautiful beaches. Indeed, the mountains are not far away at all from city.

Rooftop View

Rooftop View

Architecture by Guadi

Architecture by Guadi

Down the alleyway

Down the alleyway

The famous, Sagrada Familia by Guadi

The famous, Sagrada Familia by Guadi

Barcelona Geese

Barcelona Geese

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