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What makes a city famous? There are thousands and thousands of (big) cities throughout the world. And although quite a few of them are not more than an enormous collections of concrete, steel and glass, there are some gems worthwhile the effort of travelling to. Maybe famous is not the right word, but at least some aspects of what makes a city great (culture, history, location etc) can be found in the shortened list below. So whether it's the lights and love of Paris, the beaches of Rio or the location of Cape Town, they all live up to the imagination.
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Cape Town is the second largest and southernmost city in South Africa and capital of the Western Cape province. It is also arguably one of the most beautiful cities in world. With the Table Mountain providing a backdrop to the city and mountains, beaches and wineries lining the landscape, it's not hard to understand why Capetonians are so proud of their home. And it's not just the scenery which has made Cape Town such a popular travel destination in recent years. The friendliness and diversity of the Capetonians themselves accounts for much of the attraction of the city. A former major trading port, Cape Town has become a cultural melting pot of British, Dutch, French & German settlers and the local Khoisan and Bantu tribes. Add attractions like Robben Island, the Green Point Market, Boulders Beach and nearby the Cape of Good Hope, and it’s obvious why this place is popular.
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Marrakech is a popular travel destination in Morocco. Famous for ochre stucco buildings, the city is surrounded by the Atlas mountains, making for a spectacular setting. Capital of the south and known as the "red city", the atmosphere is decidedly more African than that of Fez, Rabat and Meknes, other Imperial cities. It's primarily this unique atmosphere which makes Marrakech the most visited Imperial city and nowhere is this better experienced than in the alleyways and souks (markets) of the Medina, the Old City. Indeed, such is the change that you think yourself on a movie set as you wander through it. Other highlights include the Djemaa el-Fna (the central square), the Palais el-Badi, the souqs, Jardin Majorelle, Menara Gardens the Ali ben Yousself Medersa and Mosque, Saadian Tombs and the Museums of Marrakech and of Islamic Art.
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Beijing, the capital of China, is looking much more into the future than into the past. Nowadays, it is a city crowded with tourists from China and all over the world. But just a stone's throw away in the past, the city was hardly ever visited by any foreigners. Since 1989, many things have changed and Beijing has been growing into a huge metropolitan area with around 16 million people living on a vast, expanding area. It is one of the most important cities in China from a cultural and political standpoint. The Forbidden Palace, in front of Tiananmen square, is a good example; but hidden between the high rise buildings and 10-lane motorways are some other magnificent examples of culture and religion, like the Temple of Heaven and the Temple of the Sleeping Buddha. Close to the city are other significant historical attractions like the Ming Tombs and of course the biggest structure on earth ever built by humans: The Great Wall of China.
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Kyoto was Japan's capital until it was moved to Tokyo in 1868. Unlike hectic Tokyo, Kyoto is considered by many to be Japan's most beautiful city. Only Rome lays claim to more designated Unesco World Heritage Sites than this city nestled amongst the mountains of Western Honshu. The magnificent array of temples and shrines include famous names like the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaju and the Ryoanji zen garden. Kyoto is a sightseers paradise and much can be taken in on foot, although don't expect it to be the first impression you get of the city on arrival. Urban sprawl and ultra modern buildings like the glass and steel main train station, show signs of a city embracing modern times despite it's deeply traditional roots. But once you do find yourself in areas like Old Kyoto wandering down alleys of traditional narrow, wooden houses you will learn to appreciate the great artistic heritage that defined Kyoto for over a thousand years.
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Havana is the capital of Cuba, a sprawling city of 3 million. It lies at the very northwest of the island. Most people start their trip in Havana and it has a pleasant old and worn feeling to it. The local mix of cigars, rum and music, combined with the numerous vintage cars still driving the Havana streets, has a huge attraction to people. The old town (Havana Vieja) is on the UNESCO world heritage list and as a consequence has been given extra attention with new bright colours painted on the beautifully restored buildings. A stroll along the different squares and small lanes in between with some brief stops for a cuba libre or mojito is one of the highlights of any visit to Cuba.
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Antigua is an amazing Spanish colonial city known for its well preserved Spanish Mudejar influenced Baroque style buildings, ruins and colonial churches. Due to the wealth of cultural importance the town was designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded in 1543, Antigua was the third capital of Guatemala and held the title for over 200 years. After a series of devastating earthquakes in the 1770s the Spanish Crown ordered the relocation of the capital, with a population of over 60,000 people, to a safer area. Although many people left some still remained even though today the population of the town is still under 35,000. Antigua is a great place to spend a few days exploring and learning about the early colonial history and culture of Guatemala.
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With about 800,000 people, Amsterdam is one of the smaller capitals in the world, but it is a very popular city for tourists visiting the Netherlands or just the city itself. And, if you just have several days in the Netherlands, make a visit to Amsterdam your main thing. Of course, Amsterdam is well known for its Red Light District, but it has much more to offer. Amsterdam is teeming with museums, like the famous Van Gogh Museum and of course the national Rijksmuseum. Also the Anne Frank House is one of the hotspots to visit, if you want to know more about the time during the war. It has some more strange museums as well, like a Torture Museum, a Sex Museum and a Hash(!) Museum. As Amsterdam is a major trading centre for diamonds, you will also find a museum about this precious jewel as well. Walk along the canals and over the many squares Amsterdam offers, and enjoy a city that has something to offer for both the culture and art lovers, and the more kinky type of person. All put in a beautiful setting with water and typical Dutch historical building styles.
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London is the capital of the United Kingdom and one of the biggest and famous cities in Europe. London, together with its neighbour across the channel, Paris, is one of the main destinations in Europe for travellers.
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Rome is the capital and largest city in Italy. It is one of the most important cities in the world in terms of history and culture, as it was at the heart of the Roman Empire and is the centre of one of the world's major religions. Although it has relatively 'new' attractions like the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, the city is mostly known for its older magnificent buildings and ruins, like the Colosseum, Pantheon and the Forum Romanum. And if that is not enough, you can always visit another country, right in the middle of the city: Vatican City, the residence of the Pope, which is known for its huge basilica, St. Peter's. Of course, like any other Italian city, you can enjoy good cappuccinos, pizza and pasta in Rome as well. Or just sit down and relax for a while enjoying a fresh beer or good wine, after walking from one highlight to the other, because that's what Rome is all about.
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It was called the Paris of the east for a long time, until the civil war started in 1975 when 27 Palestinian civilians where killed by an attack on a bus. After the civil war which ended early during the 90's of the last century, Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, struggled back to become one of the most pleasant places to live in the Middle East, settled along the Mediterranean coastline. Wandering along the Corniche, watching and being watched, is a pleasant activity at first light or in the late afternoon when the sun goes down again. Another attraction near, or actually in the sea, are the famous Pigeon rocks, which lie immediately east of the city. You will feel like being in a modern western city when drinking a beer on of the terraces in the centre of Beirut. But just a kilometre further away you will still be struck by some buildings destructed by the civil war, on both sides of the famous Green Line, which was the dividing line between Muslims and Christians.
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Cairo, the capital of Egypt, is an amazing city full of life and movement, and it is that way almost 24 hours every day, with the noisy honking of horns, children playing in the streets and merchants selling their wares and services. And here, the Egyptians are most at home in this powerful, modern and ancient city. The city has a wide range of great sights and attractions, including the Pyramids of Giza, three enormous structures (plus the mysterious Sphinx) that remain emblems of Egypt's grand past and one of the best known places in the world. Others include the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, home to many fascinating ancient Egyptian artifacts and the chaotic Khan el-Khalil Souk.
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New York, New York, the city so great they named it twice, goes by many other names as well. Probably most interesting to the traveller is the unofficial declaration of being the "world's capital." New York is the largest city in the USA, the fourth largest city in the world, and one of the most ethnically diverse cities on earth. The city is made up of five boroughs: Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx and Staten Island. Some of the most popular attraction include the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, The Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and sadly enough also Ground Zero, the former location of the famous Twin Towers. Spend at least a week in New York during your first visit!
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Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is a sprawling mass of a city on the banks of the Río de la Plata, not a river but the world's widest estuary. First impressions may be of a dirty, polluted and noisy city, but a scratch below the surface will unveil a wealth of character. This city lives for football, in particular the age old rivalry of Boca and River. It's a city of extremes, from the wealthy Recoleta (where a grave will cost you more than a house in London's rich suburbs) to the filthy but charming Barrio de Once, a crowded neighborhood with pickpockets and beggars.
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Perth is the capital of the Australian state of Western Australia. With a population of around 1.7 million (2010 estimate) Perth is the largest city in Western Australia and home to three-quarters of the state's residents. The city is also the fourth most populous urban area in Australia, and with a growth rate of 2% is currently the fastest growing major city in Australia. It's also the world's most remote biggest city and the nearest one, Adelaide, is several days of driving and thousands of kilometres east in South Australia.
Sydney is Australia's largest and oldest city. It is the site of the first European colony in Australia, which was established in 1788 in what is now known as New South Wales. Two centuries later, 21st century Sydney is a multicultural city known for iconic structures such as the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
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