I often get asked about my favorite city I've ever been to. I wish it was an easier question to answer, but it's just not.
So many different variables go into that answer, but I decided to finally go ahead and put a list together.
If you're new to the travel world and are looking for a destination to cash in your points and miles, you can use this as a somewhat decent guide.
Away we go:
1. Barcelona, Spain
-I am extremely lucky that I got to spend a semester studying abroad in Barcelona and absolutely fell in the love with the city. Not only does it have one of the best downtown city-centers I've ever been to filled with all the shopping and restaurants you could possibly want, it also has one of the coolest laid back beaches in the world. If that isn't enough, Barca is home to the world famous works of Gaudi, from houses to Park Guell. It's truly astounding. The architecture, even if like me you don't care about architecture, is mind blowing.
View of Barcelona from the top of Park Guell
Go there for the: Food, wine, beach, shopping, nightlife
Avoid the: Pick pocketing-- it's a real thing.
Famous for: Croquettes, Sangria, Paella, Clubs, Open-air markets
Stay at the: The W Barcelona, Hotel 987
Visit: Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, the beach, Placia de Gracia
2. Santorini, Greece
-Santorini is the most unique place I have ever been, and easily one of the most unique places on the planet. The town is perched at the top of a blown out volcanic caldera and is even more jaw-dropping than you think. Every view makes you question whether or not you're on the same planet still. Downtown Santorini is a really cool and quaint little town with some killer views and amazing food.
Go there for the: Views, food, white wine
Avoid the: Airport- it's horrific
Famous for: Views, squid, boat tours, hike from Fira to Oia
Stay at the: Town of Oia
Visit: The red beach, downtown Oia
3. Positano, Italy
-Positano is similar to Santorini in that it doesn't appear to be the same species as anywhere in the USA. Built into the side of a cliff, Positano is a picturesque seaside village that has incredible food and scenery. It is very quiet, so it's perfect for those looking to relax and unwind away from all the riff raff.
Go there for the: Tranquility, food, scenery
Avoid the: nothing to avoid.
Famous for: Linen clothing, scenery, lemons
Stay at the: Anywhere
4. Venice, Italy
-You've obviously heard about Venice or seen it in The Italian Job (the best movie ever). Its unique canal system makes this one of the coolest cities on Earth. The food and art and architecture, like every city in Italy, is amazing. You can take a boat from the airport to the city which is super badass. Be careful though, it gets hot!
Go there for the: Gondola rides through the canals, St. Mark's Square,
Avoid the: Tourist traps and flooding season
Famous for: Canals, art, Harry's Bar
Stay at the: Close to the market
Visit: The waterside market, St. Mark's Square
5. Mykonos, Greece
-I only put Mykonos below Santorini because Santorini is so crazy different. Mykonos is a beautiful town in a more traditional way. Right on the coast, its playful colors and inviting downtown area make this a much more vibrant and fun little town. Mykonos was a great change-up and so much fun. This is what you think of when you hear about the Greek islands.
Go there for the: Squid, views, beach
Avoid the: Nothing to avoid in Mykonos!
Famous For: White buildings, beach bars, Little Venice
Stay at the: Anywhere on the beach
Visit: Little Venice, downtown, Nammos
6. Beverly Hills, California
-Hey! America! Yep, you got it. I absolutely love Beverly Hills. Is it crazy expensive? Yes. But, like everything in my life, I'm fine with something being expensive as long as it feels expensive. BevHills checks all my boxes for a destination: great food, clean, fun. It doesn't take much with me. BH is just like its residents-- perfectly manicured and clean cut. I love the energy and restaurant scene. Sitting outside on a patio and watching everyone pass by is legitimately fun there.
My fiance Mary and I enjoying brunch along Rodeo Drive-- She rocks.
Go there for the: Shopping, food, stars
Avoid the: Annoying clubs, wannabes
Famous For: Celeb sightings, high-end shoping
Stay at the: Sirtaj Hotel
Visit: Spago for lunch, The Ivy, Rodeo Drive
7. Florence, Italy
-Back to Europe we go! Florence is actually the city I recommend most if you're going to Italy and don't want to bounce around. It's not as touristy as Rome (Rome sucks btw) and has incredible art and architectural offerings. It just has a nicer feel to it, and honestly it has a more Italian family feel to it. You can avoid a lot of the tourist traps that you find in Rome while getting to experience more special sites.
Piazza del Duomo--How bout that flow?
Go there for the: Food, Wine Tastings, Churches, Statues
Avoid the: Peak tour times
Famous for: Michelangelo's Statue of David, Arno River, Chianti Wine
Stay at the: Any hotel on the river
Visit: The Piazzas, Statue of David, Tuscany's wineries
8. New York City, New York
-Hard to have a "favorite cities" list and not include NYC if you love food, walking and nice hotels. I've gone to NYC more times than any other city on this list, and always love it. You'll never find yourself bored thanks to its plethora of restaurants/cafes, nightlife, theaters, museums, etc... NYC is a foodies' dream. Sure there are plenty of things to not like (traffic, speed, price) but you have to take the good with the bad.
Go there for the: Restaurants, Theaters
Avoid the: Summers, Times Square (seriously)
Famous for: Times Square (don't go), Skyscrapers, culture, food, Horse and Buggy Rides
Stay at the: There are so many different options it's hard to pick one. Just avoid staying near Times Square.
Visit: Central Park, Broadway, the Village
9. Lisbon, Portugal
-I stand by my assertion that Lisbon is the most underrated city in the world. When I went I stayed outside the city in a beach town called Estoril which was only about a 30 minute bus ride from the city. I wish I had spent more time in Lisbon, but you don't need to stay there long to feel how special it is. The unique topography of the city makes for a very interesting feel and the energy is palpable. Its quick access to the beach allows the best of both worlds when you're looking for a city to visit. While Portuguese isn't exactly the easiest language to decipher, it's in my opinion the most beautiful language I've heard.
Go there for the: Museums, nightlife, beaches
Avoid the: Tourist times
Famous for: Museums, beaches, monasteries
Stay at the: Either stay at the beach and go into the city or vice versa
Visit: The beaches!
10. Austin, Texas
-I have a soft spot in my heart for Austin. It's becoming more and more popular, but it's relatively cheap while also packing in a disproportionately high number of things to do. From the rivers to the restaurants to the live music to the nightlife, Austin has a hell of a lot of stuff to do. It's a great all around city that has a little bit of everything so no matter what you enjoy you can find it in Austin.
Go there for the: Culture, food, nightlife
Avoid the: Dead of summer, "Dirty 6th Street" if you don't like drunk people
Famous for: 6th Street, South Congress, Floating the River
Stay at the: JW Marriott right in the nice part of the 6th street area
Visit: South Congress for shopping and live music, Food trucks
I am hoping that this is an ever changing list as I visit more and more places. I love going places outside of the country, but our domestic cities are still pretty damn fun. Remember, a city is what you make of it.