Our Best Cities (& Towns) On Earth

Do you like city breaks?

Over the last 20 years of travel, I’ve been to over 30 countries, and in this article I’ve picked out some of my favourite cities and towns from my adventures.

Packed full of useful tips and links to other articles, this is a great place to start if you need inspiration for your next city break.

I update this annually, so if you want to keep up-to-date, then join the mailing list.

Related: TSG’s Best Countries on Earth | 75 Great Vacation Ideas

9. Sydney

sydney harbour bridge against a blue sky

Packed full of iconic views, Sydney on a warm day is a dream.

Grab yourself at least a few days here, and (once you’ve seen the heart of the city) make sure you get out on the water for a different view of the city.

One Perfect Day in Sydney

  • Morning coffee at the Rocks, followed by a walk around the Opera House to the Botanic Gardens
  • Grab lunch at Circular Quay and then take a boat tour, or a ferry over to Manly or Bondi. 
  • In the evening, have dinner at the Opera Bar, before catching a show at the Opera House.

Top 5 Things To Do in Sydney

  • Sydney Harbour Bridge
  • The Rocks
  • Get the ferry to Manly to see the Opera House from the water
  • Catch a show at the Opera House
  • The Royal Botanic Gardens

Top Sydney Tips

  • The train from the airport gets you right into the city, you won’t need a car here
  • There are often free events happening in the city, so look them up before you go
  • Get an Opal card for easy access to public transportation
  • Save on accommodation costs by considering staying in the suburbs surrounding Sydney’s CBD and using public transport to get into the city centre
  • For stunning panoramic photos of Sydney’s skyline, take a ferry to Cockatoo Island and climbing to the highest point of the island for a picturesque view

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8. Edinburgh

edinburgh castle taken from the streets below with a blue sky with wispy clouds above it

Often dark and a little gloomy, somehow Edinburgh still manages to warm the heart.

The Old Town is a joy to explore, packed with medieval charm, cobbled alleyways and cosy pubs.

One Perfect Day in Edinburgh

  • Take a walk down the Royal Mile, exploring the Old Town, Calton Hill and the narrow side streets before the crowds
  • Climb the hill to the Castle, exploring the grounds and seeing the Crown Jewels.
  • In the afternoon, take a hike up to Arthur’s Seat for amazing views back down over the city.

Top 5 Things To Do in Edinburgh

  • Edinburgh Castle
  • See the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo
  • Hike the extinct volcano, Arthur’s Seat for the best views of the city
  • Scale Calton Hill for some awesome views over the old town
  • The Royal Mile and Old Town

Top Edinburgh Tips

  • Save on transportation costs by using the “Day Ticket” option for buses, which allows unlimited travel within Edinburgh for a full day
  • Plan for the unpredictable Scottish weather by carrying layers and a waterproof jacket
  • Get up early to explore the Old Town without the crowds
  • Visit lesser-known neighbourhoods like Dean Village and Stockbridge, which offer picturesque streets, quaint cafes, and a village feel away from the city centre

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7. Hanoi

a train track on a narrow street with men and houses either side in hanoi, vietnam

Hanoi was the perfect end to our 3-month Southeast Asia sabbatical (well except the tropical storms).

There is simply no other city like it. The blend of Asian and French influences glue everything together, from the architecture to the food.

Less manic than Ho Chi Minh City, with an Old Town that ranks among the best in the world, and some of the best cuisine on earth, this is a city I could come back to again and again.

One Perfect Day in Hanoi

Start your day early with a visit to Hoan Kiem Lake, the heart of Hanoi, before heading into the world-famous Old Quarter. Explore the busy streets, marvel at the architecture, and eat anything that smells good.

Get a cab over to Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum. and walk back to the Old Quarter via the UNESCO protected Imperial Citadel of Thang Long and Hanoi’s Instagram favourite, Train Street. If you have a chance, also check out the stunning St. Joseph Cathedral.

In the evening, take a food tour with a local guide to sample some of the fantastic food, and experience restaurants that tourists don’t usually get to see. Then book in to a traditional water puppet show to end the night.

Top Hanoi Tips

  • Beat the traffic by using Grab, which is the Southeast Asian equivalent of Uber
  • Try the street food at markets like Dong Xuan Market or Night Market in the Old Quarter
  • When crossing the streets, follow the locals’ lead by walking at a steady pace and making eye contact with motorbike riders to ensure a safer crossing in Hanoi’s chaotic traffic
  • Keep looking up! Some of those old houses are stunning, and almost too narrow to believe

Top 5 Things To Do in Hanoi

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6. Chiang Rai

an ornate white temple, with a lake in the front set against a blue sky. the white temple, chiang rai, thailand

Despite not many people’s must-visit list, this was actually our favourite place in the whole of Thailand.

After the busyness of Bangkok, Chiang Rai was far more relaxed, and we loved the small-town feel, unique range of temples and the wonderful markets.

One Perfect Day in Chiang Rai

Take a half-day tour outside the city, ideally one that visits the White Temple, Black House and Blue Temple, but there are lots available.

When you’re back in the city, visit Wat Phra Kaew, the place the Emerald Buddha was found. Grab some lunch in town (try the cat café if you want something different).

After dark, check out the surprising light show at the Golden Clock Tower before visiting the various night markets for food and some beautiful hand-crafted souvenirs.

Top 5 Things To Do in Chiang Rai

Top Chiang Rai Tips

  • You will need to cover up when visiting temples, so always have something with you to cover your shoulders and knees, even on hot days
  • The famous temples get very busy, so try and get there early before the big tourist buses arrive
  • Don’t be afraid to bargain at the night market

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5. Bruges

Bruges is a compact, medieval town that could be explored in anything from one day to a week.

We have very happy memories here, spending a long weekend in Europe before emigrating to Australia, it’s a very special city.

One Perfect Day in Bruges

Cycle out to the edge of town, and follow the canal around through old gates and past windmills. Come back into town via Jeruzalemkerk to see a piece of the ‘true cross’. Grab breakfast at a café, having waffles and a hot chocolate for the true experience.

Once back in town, take a trip out on a canal boat through the city, before heading to the main square to climb the Belfry for views over the city and visit the Basilica of the Holy Blood. Grab some frites and mayonnaise for lunch from one of the kiosks in the square.

If you’ve still got time, check out the Musee de Chocolat, before finding a traditional bar or restaurant to enjoy the rest of your evening.

Top 5 Things To Do in Bruges

Top Bruges Tips

  • You have to eat the chips here. Frites and mayonnaise is the best!
  • Continue the unhealthy eating by tucking into the Belgian chocolate. There is a Chocolate Museum here, but also grab a local hot chocolate – the best I’ve ever tasted
  • Bruges is a very bicycle-friendly city, so don’t be afraid to hire a bike to see some of the outer areas
  • Save money on attractions by purchasing a Bruges City Card, which grants you free access to various museums and landmarks, as well as unlimited use of public transportation.

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4. Hoi An

hoi an itinerary

Hoi An could easily have been plucked from the 3D scenes of a Pixar movie.

Colourful buildings and enclosed, tiled bridges edge lantern-skied streets filled with shops of traditional crafts such as tailors and basket makers.

This is a truly delightful town,

One Perfect Day in Hoi An

Get up early and go to the Central Market to see some of the amazing produce. Grab some noodles at one of the local vendors (keep an eye out for the shop Anthony Bourdain was filmed at).

Use the rest of the morning to explore the historic old town, including the Japanese covered Bridge, Fujian Assembly Hall, Duc An House and the Cantonese Assembly Hall.

Book into a lantern making workshop in the afternoon, and spend some time after that browsing the shops.

In the evening, get down to the river, and watch candles floating on the river as the sun sets, either from a boat or enjoying cao lau in one restaurants that sit on the banks.

Top 5 Things To Do in Hoi An

  • Taking a lantern making workshop
  • Seeing the range of produce at Central Market
  • Visiting the historic temples and Assembly Halls in the old town
  • Watching candles floating on the river as the sun sets
  • Eating the local dish, cao lau

Top Hoi An Tips

  • Hoi An is a great place to get suits and dresses made at cheap prices, but do your research first to find the best tailors
  • Try to get out on a boat out night
  • My Son Sanctuary is only an hour from Hoi An, a stunning UNESCO Heritage Site, that is worth a visit if you’re in Hoi An for a few days

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3. Luang Prabang

a bamboo bridge over a dirty brown river with blue sky in the distance

I think Luang Prabang might be the most relaxed I’ve ever felt.

Sitting beside the Mekong watching a perfect sunset, beer in hand and a plate of chicken and sticky rice in front of me, is a slice of pure bliss.

It was my favourite place in Southeast Asia, and I can’t wait to get back.

One Perfect Day in Luang Prabang

Get up early to (respectfully) watch the alms giving ceremony with the local Buddhist monks.

Get a tour out to Kuang Si Falls for the morning, to see the turquoise waters and meet the rescued bears.

Once back from your tour, have a walk around the compact town, visiting the ornate Royal Palace, Wat Xieng Thong and walking up Mount Phousi for views over the towb.

In the evening, go for a night of traditional storytelling at the Gavarek Theatre, before grabbing some food and a Beer Lau to watch one of the best sunsets in Asia over the might Mekong River

Top 5 Things To Do in Luang Prabang

  • Climbing Mount Phousi for amazing views over the town
  • Getting a tuk-tuk out to Kuang Si Falls for the most Instagrammable pictures on earth!
  • Watching the daily alms giving ceremony with the orange-robed Buddhist monks
  • Braving the unexpectedly strong bamboo bridges
  • Watching the sun set over the Mekong River

Top Luang Prabang Tips

  • Laos has a difficult history due to over 500,000 bombs being dropped on it during the Vietnam War. Head to the UXO Museum to learn more, and if you can, give blood to support the local population
  • Get up early, and stay up late. I know this isn’t a great combo, but if you want to see the alms giving ceremony and get to Kuang Si Falls before the crowds then you need to be up early, but you also want to be up late for the night markets and sunsets. Time for a siesta!

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2. Melbourne

naarm melbourne cbd 1

Melbourne has been my home for nearly five years, and I love it.

It’s one of those cities that is hard to picture before you arrive – there’s no world-famous tower, bridge or statue here – but it doesn’t need any of that.

Laneways with graffiti that updates more often than a chameleon on a chess board, a stew of different foods from around the world, amazing city beaches and access to icons such as the Great Ocean Road make it a city that quickly gets under your skin.

One Perfect Day in Melbourne

Get off at Flinders Street station and take a walk through the laneways such as Degraves Street and Hosier Lane. Grab a coffee (some say the best in the world) and a pastry from one of the hundreds of independent cafés.

Explore some of the fantastic museums, such as

Once you’re done, walk along the river through Birrarung Marr for a visit to the MCG and the sporting museum, a perfect way to celebrate the world’s sporting capital.

Get a tram out to the Royal Botanic Gardens for the afternoon, enjoying the lush gardens and stopping in to the Shrine of Remembrance for views over the city and Australia’s military history.

Get another tram out to St Kilda to see the Little Penguins returning to their nests under the pier, whilst the sun sets over the city. Get some dinner at one of the many pubs, before finishing the night with a show at the Palais Theatre.

Top 5 Things To Do in Melbourne

  • Walking the bustling laneways
  • Sipping the world’s best coffee
  • Catching a game of AFL at the Melbourne Cricket Ground
  • Slowing down the pace at the Royal Botanic Gardens and Shrine of Remembrance
  • Shopping at one of the famous markets such as Queen Victoria or South Melbourne

Top Melbourne Tips

  • The tram around the city centre is free and gets you to many of the best places
  • If you get a chance, try and take a day trip out of the city to places such as Healesville or the Mornington Peninsula. There is a lot to enjoy, very close by
  • Get a Myki card to use the trains and trams outside the city centre

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1. Cape Town

Table Mountain - Cape Town

So here we are, first place on the list.

I’ve been to Cape Town three times, and

A city on the coast is always a good start, but Cape Town delivers in so many other ways too.

The proximity to some of the best wineries in the world and a penguin colony are similar to Melbourne, the colour Bo-Kaap district and exotic Botanic Gardens feel very South American, the V&A waterfront wouldn’t look out of place in the south of France, but put that all together in the shadow of the instantly recognisable Table Mountain, and you’ve got, what I consider, the best city on earth.

The brutal history of Robben Island and District Six are a stark reminder that South Africa has, and continues to have, huge challenges, but in the time I’ve spent here, Cape Town felt very safe and it’s a place I will continue to return to.

One Perfect Day in Cape Town

I’ve cheated a bit here, as there is just too much for one perfect day in Cape Town, so I’ve extended it to two!

On day one, hire a car and head down the peninsula, passing through Hout Bay and driving the stunning Chapman’s Peak before getting down to the Cape of Good Hope.

Stop at Boulders Beach to see the penguin colony, and Muizenberg for the colourful beach houses, and carry on to Stellenbosch, finding a winery for a perfect lunch.

On the way back into the city, stop at the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens before driving up Signal Hill to watch the sun set.

On day two, take the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain, taking in the views and meeting the Rock Dassies (which are, weirdly, the closest living relations to elephants).

Head back down and visit the Colourful neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap in the shadow of the mountain, and learn more about the impact of apartheid at the District Six Museum.

In the afternoon, take a boat out to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. When you get back to the mainland, take a short walk to the V&A Waterfront to enjoy dinner in front of the ocean.

Top 5 Things To Do in Cape Town

Top Cape Town Tips

  • Hire a car, you’ll need one to get to some of the best places just outside the city
  • Visit markets like the Neighbourgoods Market or the V&A Watershed, to find unique souvenirs and support local artisans

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Reeves Roam, is a first-hand travel blog. The Reeves have lived in the UK, South Africa and Australia and have travelled extensively in Europe and Southeast Asia.

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Thanks – Ben, Becca and Gracie