As a fledgling film journalist I am no stranger to hit-bait articles. I have in my time listed the top ten cinematic siblings, the top ten memorable 3D movie moments and the top ten films of 2011, 2012 and 2013. And then of course there are the worsts, the leasts, the bottoms.
And yet I have so far avoided such lists on this blog. But after watching Finding A Neish’s Twitter feed fill up with increasingly similar articles — eight places to see in Venice; twelve things to do in Rome — I feel it is high time I got back to doing what I do best. As such, here’s the top ten destinations I have visited so far.
Perhaps not the first place that jumps to mind when you think of planet Earth, but over the course of my studies at Aberdeen University I became completely enchanted with the so-called Granite City. It is the perfect size: large enough to ensure there is always something to see, small enough that you can actually be bothered to go and look. Throw in a beautiful beach, a booming oil industry and seagulls so big they might well be devolving back into dinosaurs, and you have pretty much the full package.
I was only in Budapest for an afternoon before moving on to Romania, and yet despite being fined within an hour of landing for purchasing the wrong train ticket I was immediately charmed by the place. Dissected by the Danube, the once separate cities of west-bank Buda and east-bank Pest each has its own distinct history, culture and atmosphere. And let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good 2-for-1?
I was never particularly taken with Paris, but from the moment I glimpsed it from the air I was hopelessly smitten with Nice. Situated in the midst of the French Riviera, perched prettily between Cannes and Monaco, Nice is quite frankly the perfect holiday destination. To stroll (or preferably rollerblade) along its promenade is to know paradise: on the one side you have endless and inviting ocean, and on the other a picturesque old town apparently carved from rock and just begging to be explored.
My parents used to live at RAF Henlow, and on holidays from boarding school we would occasionally travel to Cambridge for the day. It is perhaps best known as (the better) half of Oxbridge, and for good reason: Cambridge is the ultimate university town, with its sleepy surroundings and storied streets. I got my own small insight into life there when I attended summer school at St Catherine’s College following my AS Level exams. Whether punting up the River Cam, exploring the other colleges or simply people-watching from the historic sidelines, there is a real sense of mythology about the place. You felt cleverer just by being there.
There is something about London. It may not be the cleanest city on the planet, or the friendliest, the prettiest or the greenest, but London is arguably the most citiest. Great Britain; Greater London. After all, everything about London is iconic: the skyline boasts some of the most distinctive architecture in the world, it has one of the most famous and respected undergrounds — even its own slang; and has at some point or other been home to everyone from the Queen to Sherlock Holmes. If it’s good enough for them…
My most enduring memories of Köln come from Christmas, a time of year in which the city — like most others in Germany — comes to life with its annual Yuletide markets. Köln is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year, however, particularly if you’re within sight of the magnificent High Cathedral of St. Peter. Situated on the Rhine River, it is Germany’s fourth largest city, yet the Cathedral is the country’s most visited landmark. Though visit in December and you get to see it with a mug of glühwein in one hand, and freshly pressed cherry waffles in the other.
As previously documented, I do have my issues with Edinburgh. But at the same time it would be wrong to suggest that Auld Reekie is anything but one of the most inspiring places I have ever visited. It captivated me from my very first visit, and following university I moved to Scotland’s capital city in order to hopefully soak up some of its energy. Go to Edinburgh and you could discover your new favourite comedian, spook yourself silly on one of its ghost tours or celebrate Hogmanay at the city’s famous New Year garden party.
Having flown to Budapest in 2006, some friends and I then travelled on to Finiş in Romania. From there we explored Transylvania, taking the opportunity to visit Castle Bran and Scarisoara glacier. For me, however, the most memorable leg of the journey was that which took us to the city of Timișoara in western Romania. Most large cities are nowadays described as melting pots, but (architecturally speaking, at the very least) Timișoara remains one of the most diverse and eclectic places I have ever seen.
Canberra is not like most cities. Despite being Australia’s capital, Canberra is in fact only its eighth largest city. Ask anyone (and most pub trivia quizzes typically do) and they will automatically assume that the country’s houses of parliament are located in Sydney. Unknown and as a result largely unvisited, Canberra is nevertheless a city to be reckoned with. By virtue of being not only planned but designed by competition, Canberra is pleasingly geometric in shape, leafy and open, and — courtesy of its locale — agreeably temperate. My own favourite areas include Black Mountain, from which the city can be viewed via the rotating restaurant of Telstra Tower, and Parliament House, an incredibly dynamic design which seems to grow organically out of the landscape.
Most people who have been to Berlin are able to attest to its brilliance. The capital city of Germany, Berlin is at its heart a complete contradiction. At once modern and historic, stylish and storied, haunting and reassuring, it is the sort of place where you could be in the shadow of some unbelievable atrocity one moment and lost in mindless wonder the next. Berlin is a big, interactive museum; a place that is as interesting as it is entertaining, and which continues to appeal even after multiple visits. When I think of Berlin I think of the bullet-ridden Brandenburg Gate, the gleaming Potsdamer Platz, Pizza Hut at Zoological Gardens, The Jewish Quarter, Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and the ruins of the Berlin Wall. In a strange sense, I think of home.