The 65 greatest cities of contrasts

David Whitley March 29, 2013 8

The Parthenon covered in scaffolding on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Copyright David Whitley.

Athens: Number 22

Every traveller wants to go to a great city of contrasts. But which is the greatest city of contrasts? Grumpy Traveller asked the global media to help find out.

The holiday planning conversation is a familiar one. People sit at home, discussing possible destinations, and cry in unison: “I want to visit a city of contrasts!” City of contrastscations are big business in the travel industry – far outstripping revenues from cruise, caravan and sex tourism holidays combined.

But which is the best city of contrasts? Well, for the first time ever, Grumpy Traveller’s team of crack researchers and travel experts have done an in-depth survey into the topic, consulting with authority figures from the world’s most influential newspapers and magazine. After months of discussion, they pulled together a shortlist of the world’s top 65 cities of contrasts. And today, for the first time, the final ranking of these cities of contrasts has been published. Here it is. It’s definitive. Prepare to be wowed.

 

  1. Tokyo, Japan: “Futuristic, frustrating and fascinating sum up Tokyo, a city of contrasts…” – Reuters via the Sydney Morning Herald.
  2. Kampala, Uganda: “Kampala, a bustling, hilly city of contrasts, where extreme poverty exists alongside malls and middle-class neighborhoods.” – Washington Post
  3. Berlin, Germany: “Visitors to modern Berlin will see a city of contrasts.” – Daily Mail
  4. New Orleans, USA: “New Orleans has always been a city of contrasts.” – The Independent
  5. Odessa, Ukraine: “It is a city of contrasts. On Deribasovskaya, a pedestrian avenue, poorly dressed residents pass luxury shops and restaurants frequented by the nouveaux riches.” – AP via Los Angeles Times
  6. Canberra, Australia: “This is a city of contrasts, the winter air a strange companion to the expanses of brown grass in a rain-deprived area.” – New Zealand Herald
  7. Stockton, California, USA: “Stockton is a city of contrasts – from an empty and boarded-up Main Street to a gleaming marina.” – BBC
  8. Doha, Qatar: “The capital, Doha, is a city of contrasts” – The Guardian
  9. Lucknow, India: “ Consider Lucknow. The city of Nawabs and kebabs, is fast emerging as a city of contrasts.” – Times of India
  10. Goteborg, Sweden: “Sweden’s “second city” of Goteborg is a city of contrasts, with slick museums, raw industrial landscapes, pleasant parks, can-do designers and cutting-edge food.” – Lonely Planet, via The Daily Telegraph.
  11. Genoa, Italy: “Genoa, city of contrasts” – New York Times
  12. Delhi, India: “City of contrasts prepares for festival of sport.” – The Guardian
  13. Cape Town, South Africa: “Cape Town is also a city of contrasts: of sybaritic pleasure and depressing poverty; of pounding seas and vine-carpeted valleys” – The Telegraph
  14. Dundee, Scotland: “Dundee: city of contrasts – old industrial mixes with new hi- tech.” – The Independent
  15. Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine: “Dnipropetrovsk, known simply as Dnipro to those who live here, is a city of contrasts.” – BBC
  16. Baghdad, Iraq: “Raids leave capital a city of contrasts.” – Washington Post
  17. Madrid, Spain: “Madrid is a city of contrasts: It’s a graceful lady with a wild party side.”  – Los Angeles Times
  18. Manila, Philippines: “Manila is a thrilling city of contrasts.” – Daily Mail
  19. New York City, USA: “Pretty much anything you can find in this city of contrasts, you can find its opposite.” – New York Times
  20. Auckland, New Zealand: “It is a city of contrasts, with something for everyone.” New Zealand Herald
  21. Kochi, India: “A vibrant city, a cosmopolitan crowd yet a sad party scene. Yes, Kochi sure is a city of contrasts!” – Times of India
  22. Athens, Greece: “Athens is a city of contrasts: a bustling modern city with the ruins of the ancient city poking though.” – BBC
  23. Sao Paulo, Brazil: “Sao Paulo is a city of contrasts. Rush-hour traffic can be maddening, so savvy locals know where to get away from it all.” – Sydney Morning Herald
  24. Tripoli, Libya: “Tripoli was a city of contrasts Friday with bodies lying outside, while men headed to afternoon prayers.” – Toronto Star
  25. Austin, Texas, USA: “Combining one of the coolest live music scenes in the U.S. with a brash Texas pride that makes some visitors roll their eyes, Austin is a colourful city of contrasts.” – Globe and Mail
  26. Canoga Park, California, USA: “Canoga Park is instead a city of contrasts.” – Los Angeles Times
  27. Anaheim, California, USA: “Anaheim is a city of contrasts that ranges from upscale, hilltop homes to packed, gritty apartment complexes.” – AP, via The Guardian.
  28. Marrakech, Morocco: “Marrakech is a city of contrasts and colour, and a short trip to this vibrant city is enough to clear most winter cobwebs.” – Daily Mail
  29. Manukau, New Zealand: “Dr Sharples said Manukau was a city of contrasts, with affluent and poor areas.” – New Zealand Herald
  30. St Petersburg, Russia: “Historically the most ‘western’ of Russian cities, St Petersburg is a city of contrasts: beside the fabulously restored palaces, you find the homes of people who have not made it in the new Russia, people traumatised by the changes and uncertainty of a life that has become unpredictable.” – BBC
  31. Patna, India: “And drives to every corner of this city of contrasts throw up huge stretches of all major thoroughfares and crossings devoid of traffic policemen at any time of the day.” – Times of India
  32. Nairobi, Kenya: “But that’s Kenya’s capital for you: to paraphrase a well-worn tourism cliché, it’s a city of contrasts – just not always in a way that the marketing types would embrace.” – The Independent
  33. Virginia Beach, USA: “A city of contrasts.” – Washington Post
  34. Bangkok, Thailand: “Or you could spend a few days in Bangkok, another city of contrasts and an explosion of sights and sounds.” – The Telegraph
  35. Santa Barbara, California, USA: “The dank scent of seaweed hung over Santa Barbara, a city of contrasts as the sun shone in bright blue skies while residents trucked mud, water–even frogs–from their homes.” – Los Angeles Times
  36. Beirut, Lebanon: “Beirut is a city of contrasts: of refugees and brazen snobbery, poverty beside ostentatious wealth, sectarian liberalism coexisting uneasily with fundamentalism.” – Sydney Morning Herald
  37. Milan, Italy: “It soon becomes evident that Milan is a city of contrasts; Roman ruins exist beside ultra-modern glass towers, haute couture fashion struts the sidewalks along with skinny hipster jeans, high culture at La Scala exists alongside grassroots street soccer inspired by AC Milan.” – New Zealand Herald
  38. Boston, USA: “Known as “The Hub” of New England, Boston is also a city of contrasts.” – Toronto Star
  39. Zagreb, Croatia: “Zagreb is a city of contrasts.  Old meets new, and concrete meets, err…concrete.” – BBC
  40. Kolkata, India: “A city of contrasts. A city whose charm lies in its dichotomy. An intriguing puzzle to any city planner.” – Times of India
  41. Nice, France: “Nice is a city of contrasts, both exciting and execrable with its combination of billionaires and beggars, diamonds and dogshit.” – The Telegraph
  42. Lagos, Nigeria: “A city of contrasts, Lagos is home to a minority of wealthy elites, a growing middle class and an overwhelming majority of people just trying to get by.” AP, via Washington Post.
  43. Lisbon, Portugal: “Today, Lisbon is a city of contrasts, still maintaining the marks of its early history along with a rich cultural mix of immigrants from former colonies.” – BBC
  44. Istanbul, Turkey: “Bonbon Palace is a microcosm of contemporary Istanbul: a city of contrasts and contestations, where both continents and cultures meet.” – The Independent
  45. Phnom Penh, Cambodia: “Today’s Phnom Penh, a city of contrasts.” – New York Times
  46. Vancouver, Canada: “As far as cultural entertainment goes, it is a city of contrasts.” – Sydney Morning Herald
  47. Durban, South Africa: “It sounds a cliché to describe this as a city of contrasts, but I’m really struggling to come to terms with just how varied Durban is.” – BBC
  48. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil: “A city of contrasts, visitor’s to Rio are usually drawn to the city for its beaches and carnival.” – New Zealand Herald
  49. Nashville, USA: “But Nashville is a city of contrasts. A place that can claim the world’s biggest Bible shop and the world’s biggest pornographic book shop must have something going for it.” – The Sun
  50. Calgary, Canada: “Calgary itself is a city of contrasts–a prairie town with an urban beat.” – Los Angeles Times
  51. Paris, France: “Paris is a city of contrasts and has its fair share of social problems such as homelessness, and lives up to its name on many levels as ‘the most beautiful city in the world’.” – Daily Mail
  52. London, England:A city of contrasts. The most expensive apartment in the world rests atop a new steel-and-glass monument to luxury on the southeast corner of London’s Hyde Park.” – Washington Post
  53. Limoges, France: “When we finally arrived in ‘Limoges’, we found a city of contrasts.” – BBC
  54. Mumbai, India: “With 19 million people crammed on to a narrow peninsula, Mumbai is the travel writer’s archetypal city of contrasts.” – The Telegraph
  55. Johannesburg, South Africa: “A city of contrasts Judith Chalmers would have called Johannesburg, but she was usually talking about the delights of a European old town versus a wide shot of a new gleaming skyscraper.” – Daily Mail
  56. Nyon, Switzerland: “Nyon: city of contrasts. City of high-end hotel conferencing suites, but also high-end conferencing hotel suites.” – The Guardian
  57. Dubai, UAE: “Dubai is currently a city of contrasts – in one part of town there is the tallest building in the world, the incredible Burj Khalifa. At 828 metres high it is the ultimate symbol of opulence.” – BBC
  58. Hamburg, Germany: “Germany’s second-largest metropolis is a city of contrasts.” – The Sun-Herald
  59. Mosul, Iraq: “Progress amid decline: Mosul a city of contrasts” – AP via Seattle Times
  60. Belfast, Northern Ireland: “Belfast, city of contrasts, has a hypnotic effect on its many writers.” – The Independent
  61. Rome, Italy: “Rome is a city of contrasts, from its magnificent buildings and piazzas to its areas of grime and dereliction.” – New Zealand Herald
  62. Shanghai, China: “Shanghai is a city of contrasts and contradictions.” – Sydney Morning Herald
  63. Novosibirsk, Russia: “Novosibirsk, a city of contrasts” – Washington Post
  64. Hong Kong: “As visitors quickly discover, however, Honkers is a city of contrasts in many other ways.” – The Sun-Herald
  65. Leeds, England: “His Leeds is a city of contrasts.” – BBC

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