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The most exciting city in the world?

In partnership with the Platinum Card® from American Express® Inspirational, intriguing cities are dotted all over the world offering visitors enriching experiences, brushing with fascinating eras of history, embracing different cultures and enjoying delicious culinary creations. I have been lucky enough to visit some of the world’s most iconic cities, as well as some lesser known gems. In a city we can see the culmination of mankind’s talent, with wonderful manifestations of our cultural, artistic and intellectual achievements. Exploring a city is like unwrapping the essence, culture and history of its natives and their environment. Tasting the local foodie offerings is not only an opportunity to sample the flavours and traditional dishes of the city, but it often tells us something about the people themselves. Venice world's most exciting cities Debating the world’s most exciting city To celebrate and debate the world’s most exciting cities, 1843, in partnership with The Platinum Card from American Express, has arranged a debate between a carefully selected panel, which will take place in London on 27th September 2017. Each member of the panel has put forward the city they believe is most exciting and they are: Simon Callow (Actor, Writer and Director) Thomasina Miers (Chef and Restaurateur) Bettany Hughes (Historian), Deyan Sudjvic (Director of the Design Museum) and Beatrix Ong (Fashion Designer.) If that sounds like something you’d like to be part of then do join me at the event, details on how to register for tickets can be found at the end of this post. While I haven’t heard the arguments each of the five panellists will put forward for their chosen cities just yet, I wanted to share my thoughts on each of them below, as well as revealing the city I believe to be the most exciting in the world. Deyan Sudjvic’s choice: Berlin: eclectic architecture, creative allure, fascinating history & free-wheeling spirit When spending time in bon-vivant Berlin, it’s impossible not to be drawn in by its fascinating history. In fact, Berlin’s history and philosophy of using its buildings to articulate what the city wants to be, have given it an eclectic collection of architecture. Its iconic East Side Gallery is the world’s largest open-air exhibition of art, and its affordable rents and free-wheeling spirit have attracted numerous artists there. Yet it has the unpretentious charm of a cosmopolitan village. Its iconic sights, melt into swathes of green, while its gritty sides are an integral part of its charm. In Berlin, a creative lifestyle and personal freedom are valued above status symbols and material wealth. It’s an addictive city, with a superb, buzzing party scene. Berlin world's most exciting cities Bettany Hughes’s choice: Istanbul: continents collide in an incredibly historical, vibrant and colourful city The city where continents collide is incredibly vibrant and colourful, with so much beautiful architecture and sensory experiences. From a boat trip on the palace lined Bosphorus, to time spent in a Turkish bath or sampling spices in the amazing Spice Bazaar, Istanbul is an unforgettable city experience. I adore Istanbul’s web of history, its architecture and the fusion of the east and west that is encapsulated by the city. Istanbul has some very elegant districts also, and a selection of superb restaurants. Simon Callow’s choice: London: Gothic grandeur, rich culture and history, diverse almost endless food choices London’s offerings are so vast that this city appeals to lovers of Royalty, museums, culture, history, Gothic architecture, literature and so much more. An incredibly vibrant and energetic city, what I love about London is its myriad of things to see and do, the city’s beautiful architecture, parks and open spaces, and its diverse, almost endless food choices. Thomasina Miers’s choice: Mexico City: contemporary and colonial, an internationally recognised culinary destination Mexico City offers a beautiful balance between the contemporary and its rich colonial past. Palm trees embrace ample boulevards, which are lined with French-style mansions in a city that boasts dramatic murals and a revitalised historic centre. This makeover has transformed what once used to be considered an unsafe area into a vibrant, historical spot where visitors can enjoy a day viewing and shopping, or a fun evening out. Don’t miss a great boat excursion along one of the city’s ancient canals, or time hanging out in an old-school cantina. These days Mexico City is recognised as an international culinary destination, as well as the perfect spot for museum-lovers. Mexico City world's most exciting cities Beatrix Ong’s choice: Hong-Kong: an iconic skyline, enchanting neighbourhoods & one of the world’s favourite culinary destination Did you know that only 25% of Hong Kong is developed, with vast country parks and mountains accounting for much of the rest*? Better known for its iconic skyline, this amazing city is also home to plenty of protected nature, where you can find colourful traditions alongside rare birds. Hong Kong’s stunning islands and enchanting neighbourhoods, some of which can be explored on historic double-decker trams. Head to the Mass Transit Railway to enjoy free comedy, and look around to see the city’s protest art. Of course, the food alone is enough reason to visit the city, which is also home to a number of historical and geological gems. My choice: Cape Town: natural wonders, World Design Capital 2014, very welcoming with a great food scene For me, although this was a very tough choice, there’s nowhere quite like Cape Town. From its spectacular Victoria & Alfred Waterfront to its captivating combination of landscapes, cultures and cuisines, Cape Town is possibly one of the most welcoming cities I have been in so far. I love the incredible choice of trips also, like the Garden Route, Cape Point, wine tasting tours, and of course Table Mountain and safaris. The World Design Capital in 2014 has a great food scene. The icing on the cake is that I don’t need to suffer from jet lag when I want to visit Cape Town. Stay tuned… Don’t forget to stay tuned for a follow-up after my visit to the great debate in London later this month, to hear some of the arguments the panel put forward. Or of course if you’d like to witness first hand, the debate will be taking place at London’s Living Room at City Hall on Wednesday 27 th September. You can register for the event here. Tickets are available for £35. In the meantime, please tell us below which is your favourite city and why… Disclosure: This post is sponsored by The Platinum Card® from American Express®. *https://www.gov.hk/en/about/abouthk/facts.htm
MAKE THE MOST OF CITY TRAVEL If you’re inspired to book your next city break, then The Platinum Card from American Express could help you to get more out of your chosen destination; be that a business trip to New York, a weekend away in Madrid or a family holiday to Dubai. The extensive portfolio of travel and lifestyle benefits provided by The Platinum Card has been designed to give you more time for the moments that matter. Relax before a flight with access to over 1,000 airport lounges in 120 countries around the world, make the most of your stay at selected hotels with complimentary breakfast, a guaranteed late checkout and a room upgrade when available. What’s more, you can earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points as a welcome bonus when you spend £2,000 on your card in the first three months of Cardmembership, which could help you get to some of these exciting cities for yourself. Annual Fee £450*. *Subject to approval. Terms apply. If you’d prefer a Card with no annual fee, rewards or other features, an alternative option is available called the Basic Card. Go to americanexpress.com/uk/content/basic-card for more information. For more important information, click here. Promoter: American Express Services Europe Limited has its registered office at Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W9AX, United Kingdom. It is registered in England and Wales with Company Number 1833139 and authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson is Editor of A Luxury Travel Blog and has worked in the travel industry for more than 30 years. He is Winner of the Innovations in Travel ‘Best Travel Influencer’ Award from WIRED magazine. In addition to other awards, the blog has also been voted “one of the world’s best travel blogs” and “best for luxury” by The Daily Telegraph.

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  1. What an exciting debate that should be. There are some great choices here in the article. My personal favourite, is not on everyone’s radar; it is Tarragona in Catalonia. It’s a buzzing city, with architecture from different eras of history, including an amphitheatre by the sea. It is home to plenty of interesting traditions, including the Castellers – human castles. Great food at affordable prices around the city, and even in the two main squares. The closest airport is Reus, only around 10 miles away, or it can be accessed via Barcelona; it lies one hour south, with a regular train service.

  2. Sounds like it should be an interesting evening! I think my vote would have to be for Tokyo – such an interesting, diverse and culturally-different city. I would urge anyone who has never been to Japan or stretched their Europe and North America to visit at least once, if only for the experience of somewhere so, so different.

  3. Thank you, Jackie… I have been to Barcelona many times of course, but have never yet made it to Tarragona. Sounds like I should make a special effort to get there. I did really enjoy our time San Sebastian last Summer – that would have to be another one high on my list, both for its setting and its food scene.

  4. Hi Colin – thanks for dropping by. I could go along with Tokyo. I have been once (well, twice if you count just passing through on the way back from Singapore) but would love to have more time to explore, and perhaps even go to Kyoto as well. It was certainly an eye-opening experience last time I was there – I loved the fish market; I hope that will be just as good once it moves to its new location. And next time I need to try and catch a Sumo wrestling match!

  5. This made me wonder what my most exciting city in the world would be. It’s a tough competition, because the world really is full of wonder and excitement. Of course, perhaps I should be a patriot, and say London, which really does have a lot to offer… but Cape Town is pretty amazing. Looking forward to the conclusion of this.

  6. Most exciting city in the world? Gosh, that’s a hard one to call! Of the shortlist, I think I’d have to go for Hong Kong, but I think Singapore could have been an equally worthy contender. There’s such a great mix of cultures in Singapore, not to mention a fabulous fusion of different cuisines.

  7. I went to this event having read about it here and found it to be a really entertaining evening. Simon Callow was great – very enthusiastic about London and Dickens – as was Bettany Hughes with her insights into Istanbul. In fact, all the speakers were really inspiring, I thought, and each very passionate about their chosen cities.

  8. Hi JJ & Paul,

    So cool JJ to hear how it was, I would liked to have gone, but being in Spain, it wasn’t so easy.

    Paul – yes indeed you should make the effort to get to Tarragona :)


  9. I have to say that I was delighted to have heard about this debate here, on your travel blog. Not only is London’s Living Room a gorgeous venue, but the lively debate that ensued surpassed all of my expectations. I hope the hosts make this a yearly event. i will certainly be there.

    It was a tough choice between the proposed cities, but when Bettany Hughes started to speak about Istanbul, I could feel a special level of passion and knowledge, and learned some facts, I have to admit, I was unaware of before. Like it was where booze was created. Amazing. Please make sure this happens again next year. It was thoroughly enjoyable.

  10. Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I’m glad so many of you seem to have heard about the event here. This post was featured rather prominently on Flipboard’s main travel page so I’m guessing that must have helped.

    Please keep an eye out for another post about the event that we have coming soon. If you didn’t make it to the evening, you’ll be able to learn about what happened – and which city ‘won’ – in that post! :-)

  11. Hello, I should like to know what your subscribers think are the most exciting cities in the world. Perhaps, you could do an informal poll. For me, while I’m partial to Hong Kong, in keeping with one of the panelists, I’d vote for Dubai. Thank you.

  12. Hey, so I know the debate’s already happened and the winner will be announced but I have to add one: Warsaw.

    Poland is in it’s own cultural ‘big bang’ right now, which is in such contrast to some of the more well-established cities on the list. The polish people are so excited to have independence that the economy, technology, food and pride is giving birth to some of the world’s greatest experiences of our time.

    For example, wine is still very new (no one has even really heard of polish wine outside of central Europe) which is exciting because it’s creating its own identity and innovating so quickly. The vast mass of people are convinced that the ‘timeless’ cities are the places to be so it will take a while before people really discover the nature of Poland (beyond the Stary Miasto market squares, pierogi and beer).

    I say Warsaw over Krakow because it was completely destroyed and there’s simply less tourists. The rebuilding has created a kind of urban jungle with architectural gems peppered around and the cultural scene is almost all behind doors you would walk straight past unless you knew there was an incredible cafe or bakery or bar or artisan workshop behind them. It’s an exciting city and an exciting time to be there. Classic, full of history and yet at the very beginning of its development.

  13. Hi Edward

    Thanks for dropping by and posting your favourite. I must confess, I fall into the camp of knowing absolutely nothing about Polish wine. You do sell the city well here – I have never been to Warsaw but am interested to find out more.

    Best regards


  14. of those five it’s a tough call between Istanbul and London – am surprised New York didn’t make the cut!

  15. My heart agrees with Simon’s choice of London… I have spent so many years exploring London and I have such an attachment to it. My father knows all the roads in London so well and used to take me driving round there to show me all the places, and my mum would take me on night trips whenever I was sad! When I was about 15 I then started to go on my own, with my friends and boyfriend… I’m now 22 and I still haven’t run out of things to do! Such an amazing place. Hong Kong does look fantastic though, I would love to visit there

  16. Hmm how to pick just one from so many that deserve recognition? I checked out 1843 and noticed that Aarhus was named as the European Capital of Culture back in 2017, but I can’t see which city actually won that year’s Most Exciting City in the World title. I would also have thought somewhere US touristy would make the cut, like New York or Chicago maybe.

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