No matter where you travel, the places you discover can be recognised by defining features. Even if you don’t quite know where you are, the language used on signage, the climate, the plants that grow there and even the architecture can help signify your location.
Seasoned travellers take great pride in knowing the little things that make a city, a city and a country, a country. If you think you’ve got what it takes, take our Can you name these cities? quiz, and see if you can tell your Rio De Janeiro from your Hong Kong.
Want to learn more about some of the cities listed in this quiz? Click on a question below to take you to the right section of the article – but no peeking before taking the quiz!
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Although at a quick glance this skyline may appear to be Paris, it is actually Tokyo. Situated in the Shibakoen district of the city you can find Tokyo Tower, an Eiffel Tower-inspired communications and observation tower. The tower is the second tallest structure in Japan, and its bright orange paint job makes sure it stands out next to the skyscrapers around it.
We spoke to Tiffy, blogger at Asia Travel Bug, who spoke to us more about Japan’s futuristic capital: “Amazing food, excellent transportation and very helpful people - these are the top three reasons why I visit Tokyo over and over again.”
Tiffy explained: “Often labelled as an expensive place, not many people know that Tokyo is actually a very reasonably-priced city. You can have a filling beef rice bowl for just $4 and a flavourful bowl of ramen can be had for just under $10!
“Getting around Tokyo for sightseeing is always a breeze with its excellent transport network. In fact, you will rarely find the need to take a taxi. Sometimes, you can even see locals in their kimonos taking the subway to head to their party which is a very interesting sight.
“And last but not the least, the locals in Tokyo and all throughout Japan are very hospitable, nice, friendly and polite. In case I feel lost when navigating the train stations in Tokyo, locals would often approach me to direct me to the right way to go, even without me asking for help! That’s the true spirit of Japanese hospitality. So, come to Tokyo and experience it for yourself.”
The capital of the Philippines, Manila, is a hub of fantastic culture. Located on the bay, this is one of the rare cities that can offer visitors both beach vistas and an urban metropolis. Although not the most popular tourist destination, it has a lot to offer in the way of sights and attractions.
Carolin, from Breathing Travel, told us about her time in Manila: “I was very surprised by the city of Manila and actually quite enjoyed staying there for a few days. I stayed in Makati, which is a very safe part with lots of shopping malls. I also made the trip to visit Intramuros, the historic part of Manila which was filled with amazing historic discoveries and Spanish heritage which I wasn’t aware existed here. I also discovered some amazing restaurants and cafes in Manila and met some beautiful locals who I am still friends with to this day!”
Carolin then told us why Manila is such a notable city: “Manila is different. From the moment I arrived in thick traffic, chatting to a very friendly Uber driver, you could feel that Filipinos are incredibly hospitable. I had heard that most of the people in the Philippines speak English well, but indeed I was shocked (positively, of course) at how well everyone communicated. Manila, in fact, has more things to do than most travellers imagine but it is often overlooked because they heard about bad things in the past. It’s about time that Manila gets a better reputation!”
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Defined by the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia is buzzing with frenetic energy. As an incredibly forward-thinking city, it is right on the pinnacle of technology but still retains many more traditional features of Malaysian culture.
We spoke to Melissa, a Canadian travel blogger at A Broken Backpack who has spent a lot of her time in Kuala Lumpur: “I have travelled to Kuala Lumpur many times, it even became my home for a few weeks a couple of years ago. Kuala Lumpur is a safe destination where you can enjoy delicious food, appreciate a mix of culture while being surrounded by modernity and beautiful buildings. It’s always a pleasure to visit Kuala Lumpur again and as I’m writing these lines, I’m about to go back there again.”
We then asked what Melissa believes is so unique about the city: “Kuala Lumpur is very modern. I know I can find anything I could possibly need in Southeast Asia in this big city, which isn’t the case everywhere. While I’m there, I normally take another sneak peek at the famous Petronas Towers, walk across Chinatown and go for a foodie adventure in Bukit Bintang.”
The burnt orange rooftops and sun-bleached building exteriors here mean Porto is always shining bright on the banks of the Douro. A great location to visit on a Scenic river cruise, this city is filled with passion and life. The home of port, you should be sure to stop for a tipple whilst you are here! Although it might not seem possible, Lisbon has an edgier, younger rival, and this is it. Porto is a historic city with charisma, and it’s a fantastic stop on any cruise.
The historical elegance of Stockholm is something that is truly unrivalled elsewhere. As with many Scandinavian cities, it has preserved its traditional architecture and feel, particularly in its core, you’ll feel like you are stepping back in time. As well as that, throughout the year as the season’s change, so does the city, with a baking hot sun in the summertime and blankets of snow in the winter.
Erasmusbrug, the iconic white bridge in Rotterdam may look familiar to you even if you haven’t been here, and that’s because there are very similarly designed bridges to be found all around the world – in Dublin, Buenos Aires, California, Mexico, Seville and Valencia. But the Erasmusbrug bridge is the only part of Rotterdam that’s comparable to other cities around with the world. Its eclectic architecture and innovative vibe make it an exciting city to visit and one that you won’t forget any time soon.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The capital of Brazil is often very recognisable thanks to its feature statue – Christ the Redeemer. Take that out of the picture and suddenly the city is a little harder to pinpoint. This incredible city is a tropical paradise, where you can while away your time on shore drinking rum in various bars or enjoying the beach.
We spoke to Mark Wolters, blogger at Wolters World, who told us: “I have been to Rio four times and each time was outstanding. Twice I visited on my own and had the fun beach party atmosphere that backpackers’ love. I visited with my parents and we had a cultural trip seeing the main sights and doing cultural excursions. My favourite time was when I visited with my wife and two young sons. We spent most of the time at the beach enjoying some family time. We went up to see ‘The Big Jesus’ as my kids called Christ the Redeemer and saw the historic centre. Each time has been a great experience.”
Mark then told us what he thinks makes Rio so unforgettable: “The Cariocas (locals) combined with the beaches make Rio, Rio. Walking through town with the locals knowing they want to hit the beach just as much as you do really gives the city a great vibe. Whether it is heading up to Christ the Redeemer or Sugarloaf Mountain or taking in some of the historic sites around the city, you really do fall in love with Rio.”
Panama City, Panama
When people cast their minds to Panama, it’s no surprise that their first thoughts are of the canal. This means Panama City is often a second or third thought. However, it shouldn’t be overlooked so easily. With booming Central American weather and a great split of built-up city and outdoor areas, there is plenty to do here. Within only a short walk of the city to Parque Natural Metropolitano, you can be within the jungle itself watching monkeys and other wildlife.
Situated on the South coast of England, Southampton is a vibrant trading hub with a diverse population and rich maritime heritage that dates back over 150 hundred years. As one of the UK’s busiest cruise ports, it’s somewhere many of you would have been, although how many of you would have recognised Southampton’s skyline - we’re not sure!
With the Space Needle towering high above the city and the shadow of Mount Rainer in the background, there are a few distinctive features in this picture that should give Seattle away.
We spoke to Valerie from Valise Mag, who told us: “Seattle is a vibrant town, especially in the summer months when most people who take cruises are visiting. The city's nickname, ‘The Emerald City’, is apt because of the green trees that add life to the streets and contrast beautifully with the blue skies and deeper blue waters of the Puget Sound, Lake Washington, and Lake Union.”
Valerie explained: “Seattle is notable for many reasons, but its culture is probably the biggest aspect people notice. Seattle is somewhat isolated in the 'upper left' corner of the country, and this comes across in politics, culture, and society. From the grunge era in the 1990s to the tech boom and west coast casual style and food, Seattle has a very distinct vibe.”
We also spoke to Janice, from Travel with Janice, who lives in Seattle: “As a native, I love Seattle and all it has to offer; the city itself, in addition to the surrounding waterways and mountains. The climate is mild, even in the winter, due to the Sound’s warming effect. In the summer, the Sound has a cooling effect. Snow is also rare.
Gorgeous mountains can be seen from Seattle, in every direction, on a clear day. Mt Rainer, ‘The Mountain’, as referred to by locals, towers over the city and Lake Washington, at over 14,000 feet. The rugged Olympic Mountains can be seen to the west, and the iconic Cascade Mountains, ‘North America’s Alps’, dominate the skyline across Lake Washington and past Bellevue to the East.”
We then asked Janice what she’d suggest people do in Seattle: “Most often visitors frequent popular attractions like the waterfront, Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. However, our neighbourhoods make Seattle unique and shouldn’t be missed. Each neighbourhood has its own personality and commercial district:
- Ballard, originally a Scandinavian and maritime neighbourhood, is slightly northwest of town, with popular bars and restaurants. A few miles south and east of Ballard is funky Fremont, a hippie neighbourhood, now home to Tableau Software.
- Across the Fremont Bridge, over the ‘cut’ which connects Lake Union to Puget Sound, and up the hill to the south is Queen Anne Hill, an old established, neighbourhood complete with fantastic views of downtown, Puget Sound and the Olympics.
- North of downtown is Green Lake, with craftsman homes surrounding spring feed Green Lake. The 3-mile walk around the Lake is great for people watching.
- Madison Park, originally a community of summer cottages on Lake Washington, is now an expensive, if not trendy neighbourhood with nice shops, restaurants and a public swimming beach!
- I can’t forget West Seattle, south and west of downtown. Alki Beach, a sandy beach on Puget Sound, is Seattle’s version of Manhattan Beach, complete with volleyball and a ‘strand’. The view of the Olympic Mountains from here can’t be beaten.”
Situated on Alaska’s Inside Passage, Juneau is not like any other state capital we know. Surrounded by rich forest and glaciers, some of the best things to do in this city are to get out of it and go exploring.
Blogger A Jaunt with Joy has visited Juneau a few times in her travels, she tells us: “My experiences in Juneau have all been so fun and memorable. It’s a charming city on the water, surrounded by mountains and fishing boats. Some of my best memories include hiking the Mendenhall Glacier ice caves and eating crab bisque at Tracy’s King Crab Shack.”
She then explained what makes it so memorable to her: “What makes Juneau so notable is its access to stunning outdoor locations, like the Mendenhall Glacier and Tongass National Forest. It also has plenty of mouth-watering restaurants with fresh seafood and phenomenal wildlife-viewing opportunities!”
The colourful capital of Greenland isn’t a place that many people consider when thinking of travel destinations. Just below the Arctic Circle, Nuuk is the world’s most northerly capital and can be recognised by its gorgeous coloured buildings.
We spoke to Jeff, a blogger at What Doesn’t Suck, who told us about his and his wife Anne’s experience in Nuuk: “we really loved Nuuk as it is easily one of the most interesting, unique and remote cities in the world. There is a mystery about this little arctic nation nestled on an 85,000km² ice sheet dotted with colourful houses and we'd always wanted to see it for ourselves.
“I think what makes Nuuk so notable is the huge importance it plays in understanding the fascinating history, culture and harsh conditions of the people who call it home and have for thousands of years. The little Nuuk Museum is absolutely packed full of both the settler and local culture and anyone going on a trip to Greenland owes it to themselves, and the country, to learn as much as they can while in Nuuk before heading to other areas of the country.
“Sure, Nuuk is tiny, not much seems to be going on during parts of the year, but there is a lot of heart, an unending group of people with fascinating stories and a silence you'll simply hear nowhere else on Earth.”
We also spoke to the team at Colourful Nuuk, who offered us this comment from a previous visitor: “I enjoyed everything about my recent trip to Nuuk! It is one of the most beautiful and unique destinations I have ever travelled to - it is a ‘must-see’ for travellers looking for authentic nature experiences, hands-on tours and conversations with locals, and engaging cultural and historical experiences.”
Australia has a reputation for being a melting pot of cultures, and Melbourne is no exception to that rule. This incredibly dynamic city can offer all kinds of experiences, from beautiful outdoor spaces like the Royal Botanic Gardens to a more urban metropolitan undertone in its city laneways and arcades. It regularly tops the ‘most liveable city’ list and we can certainly see why.
Even without the Burg Khalifa in sight, Dubai is easily recognised by its towering architecture. This city truly exudes opulence, and it’s certainly one of the most memorable in the world.
We spoke to Steve and Sabina from Sunset Travellers, who told us about their experience in Dubai: “Dubai was an experience on its own! We have travelled to many places around the world, but this certainly stood out from the rest. The first day we arrived the temperature was around 38°C and was extremely humid so that itself was a big shock - nothing could have prepared us for it.
“While we were there, we managed to explore one of the biggest shopping malls we have ever come across and even got in some ice skating - yes, in the shopping mall! We made sure not to miss the Burj Khalifa and even though prices to get to the top vary, it is well worth experiencing. Overall, we had an absolutely incredible experience and would recommend it to anyone thinking about going.”
They told us why they think Dubai is such a notable city: “From the sheer scale of the buildings to the overwhelming wealth that is bursting from every corner, it is breathtaking. We have never seen so much gold on display. We have seen many big cities over the years on our travel, but Dubai just takes it to another level. It is going to be extremely interesting to go back there again in 5 or 10 years and see how much more expansive the city has become.”
As one of the more obscure cities in this quiz, Casablanca’s name far outranks its popularity as a tourist destination. However, this beautiful city on the north-west African coast is an oasis in its own right, blending French and Moroccan style to create its own original and distinctive culture. Beautiful buildings are carefully crafted with a fascinating history lining every street, so whichever road you choose to follow here there will be something to get lost in.
So how well did you do? Are you a seasoned traveller, or a rookie? Either way, there is no better time than now to explore the world, and with our fantastic cruise deals, you’ll be able to do so at a great price.