Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How Many Of These 50 Must-See Cities Have You Seen?

Nathan Nelson
Climbers ascend Australia's Sydney Harbour Bridge in 2005.

Have you been to New York? How about Lalibela, Ethiopia? Or Siem Reap, Cambodia? Those are three of the cities on a list titled “50 Cities To See In Your Lifetime.”

Yeah, it’s one of those unscientific lists that seems to permeate the Internet, so we’re not going to call this the end-all and be-all of global tourism. But it got us talking about where we’ve been, and where we want to go.

Ed Ronco has been to eight of the cities on the list: New York, Rome, Vatican City, Athens, Tokyo, Kyoto and San Francisco.

Matthew Brumley, who’s worked for decades in the travel industry, has understandably been to more: Venice, Seville, New York, London, Marrakesh, Rome, Florence, Havana, Kyoto, Jerusalem, Paris — some 36 cities in all.

Matthew’s Favorites

Havana, Cuba: The city has great music: jazz, salsa and clubs and bars that don’t close down until 3 a.m. Havana also offers good walksalong the Malecon, a long esplanade on the waterfront. The city features incredible architecture, too, including art nouveau, art deco and 1950s architecture. Its classic hotels are good examples. The Riviera and the Copacabana are good examples of mid-century design. Look to the Hotel Nacional for older, more ornate design work.

Sydney, Australia: This is a great walking city. Catch a ferry to Manly, a town just northeast of Sydney. It has an expansive beach, and plenty to do. In no time, you’re back on the ferry, back in the city and back in the thick of things. Go for a climb atop the Sydney Harbour Bridge — not over the bridge like a car, but on top of the bridge supports. Maybe not for the faint of heart (or the light of cash), but there are spectacular views waiting at the top. 

Credit Victor Wong
Seville is home to the largest Gothic cathedral in the world.

Seville, Spain: The city has tons of restaurants that offer tapas. Flamenco music spills out into the streets, which are lined with beautiful architecture. Stroll through enormous parks, and gaze at the enormous Seville Cathedral. It's among the United Nations World Heritage Siteshere. You could spend a week and a half in Seville, Brumley says.

Ronco's Favorites

Florence, Italy: The historic district is easy to navigate on foot, from the huge duomo (officially Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral) and its famous baptistery doors to the Ponte Vecchio bridge over the River Arno (a good walk just after sunrise, by the way). The Uffizi Gallery is home to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, among other famous works. And Michelangelo’s David sculpture is still striking his casual pose inside the Accademia, not too far away.  

Credit Ed Ronco
The bamboo in Kyoto's Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is towering and beautifully green.

Kyoto, Japan: It’s still a city, with plenty of busy places, but Kyoto also offers serene beauty. The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove features towering stalks of deep green bamboo. Kiyomizu-derais an astonishingly big and beautiful temple with views of the skyline below, and a shop-lined avenue leading up to it. Cross the Kamo River on enormous stepping stones placed between the banks, or stop halfway across and dip your feet in the water to cool off from Japan’s summer heat.

New York, New York: This one's on Ronco’s list not just because of Broadway and skyscrapers, but also because of the lesser-known things to see. Sure, experience Manhattan, but take time in New York to blend in with the locals and see the other boroughs.

Missing From The List

Of course, almost everyone looks at a list like this and says, “Wait! You forgot about (insert your favorite city here)!” For Brumley, that would be Positano, Italy, a small fishing village south of Rome on the Amalfi Coast.

Ronco's favorite city missing from the list is Clonakilty, Ireland. Located in West County Cork, Clonakilty is an epicenter of traditional Irish music and features a beautiful beach not too far from the center of town.

Your Turn

Take another look at the list of 50 cities we consulted. How many have you visited? What’s missing? And, dare we ask, what shouldn’t be on the list in the first place? Let us know in the comments below.


"Going Places" is KPLU’s weekly exploration of travel, near and far. It’s co-hosted by KPLU’s Ed Ronco and travel expert Matthew Brumley, founder ofEarthbound Expeditions, which guides tours for clients including KPLU. Leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.