Cities are an endless source of fascination for the traveller. They might offer centuries of history, stunning modern architecture, or trendy nightlife. Most have a variety of cuisine and entertainment, and they all have a few surprises to stumble upon. The new edition of The Cities Book by Lonely Planet is a guide to 200 of the world’s greatest cities, some well known, others less so.
About Lonely Planet’s Cities Book
The Cities Book describes itself as a “celebration… of the physical form… of the people… of the myriad sights, smells, sounds and other temptations they [cities] offer”. It combines facts and information about each city with details that every traveller needs to know: when to visit, what to see, and what to avoid. And it is all backed up with dazzling colour photos.
The book begins with a brief exploration of the concept of the city over the last 6 millennia. And there are a number of “best for…” lists, including “best for museums”, “best for festivals” and even “best for coffee”. I was immediately drawn to the “best for bookworms” list, with its bookstores, libraries and sources of literary inspiration.
The cities are arranged alphabetically. Each entry includes a short description of the city, as well as hints and tips for visitors. There are “strengths and weaknesses”, so that, for instance, Rome is good for history and gelato, but its weaknesses include double-parked cars and a lack of public toilets. And there are a few quirks for each city, like the haunted house in Vancouver, or the Australian Prime Minister who mysteriously disappeared in Melbourne in 1967.
Using The Cities Book for Planning and Inspiration
Of course, a list of 200 cities can’t include everything the world has to offer. But I was pleased to find most of my favourites here, as well as one or two, like New Orleans and Split in Croatia, that feature high up my bucket list. There were some places I might not have thought of visiting, like the World Heritage site of Quito. There were even some – such as Gonder in Ethiopia – that I’d never even heard of, but I was tempted by the pictures and descriptions.
Inevitably, there is a degree of subjectivity. Can you really have a list of “best for history” that doesn’t include Rome or Athens? And why no mention of San Francisco’s fabulous street art? But that is part of the fun of cities: everyone will find something different to enjoy. And even for cities I know well there was something new to discover here (is there really a pub in York that I didn’t know about?)
This is a book to read at home rather than carry on your travels: it is a weighty tome, laden with information, description and pictures. Use it for planning and inspiration, to inform your city visits and to decide where you will go next. Or just browse and let it fire your imagination.
The Cities Book is available from the Lonely Planet shop.