Exotic cities offer exciting possibilities for adventure & discovery. If you’re looking for something a little different from the norm, why not try a city that isn’t on the average top 10 ‘best holiday’ destinations? For instance, despite being the largest city in northern Spain, Bilbao is a real gem you simply don’t see on many travel lists. Similarly, Paris might be the premier holiday destination in France, but cities like Strasbourg or Lyon are less crowded & stunning in their own way.
Below you will find some of the best examples of exotic cities. All of these metropolitans offer visitors a unique experience. Whether it’s sights, sounds or culture you seek, read on to find some new & exciting places to visit.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Saint Petersburg’s rich tapestry of architecture & design takes inspiration from every era of Russia’s history. Formerly known as Petrograd and then Leningrad, St. Petersburg is the second-largest city in Russia behind Moscow. Founded in the early 1700 by Tsar Peter the Great, the city is well-known as the “Cultural Capital of Russia”. Saint Petersburg is home to the National Library of Russia and is the headquarters of the Russian Navy. The entire central area of the city is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Site, and there are numerous monuments of cultural significance scattered throughout the city.
The Hermitage Museum, one of the most significant art museums globally, can be found in Saint Petersburg. With a height of over 1,500 feet, the Lakhta Center is the highest skyscraper in Europe. The streets of Saint Petersburg feature stunning Venice-like waterways, and the city’s architecture is a signature mix of Russian & Western European styles. There are over 200 religious buildings in the city. Overall, Saint Petersburg has over 30 significant historical buildings and more than 4,000 individual monuments. As if museums, music, literature and film culture weren’t enough, Saint Petersburg is also home to one of the best ballet schools in the world.
Jaipur is known as the Pink City. Due to the dominance of bright colors throughout the city’s architecture, UNESCO World Heritage Committee officially named Jaipur the “Pink City of India” in 2019. The city is one of the oldest examples of modern Indian architecture and is also the largest city within Rajasthan.
The Hill Forts of Rajasthan are each architectural marvels in their own right. The Amer (or Amber) Fort features beautiful Mughal architecture. A technical wonder lies within the red sandstone and marble palace; natural air conditioning via wind currents that blow over an interior water feature. Jaipur’s Jantar Matar observatory features the world’s largest stone sundial, along with more than ten other astronomical monuments of significant importance. The city also serves as a gateway to further adventures, such as a trip to Mount Abu or the Golden City of Jaisalmer.
Considered Japan’s capital of culture, Kyoto is one of the oldest cities in Japan. Initially, the city’s entire layout was based on Chinese Feng Shui principles. Mostly saved from the destruction of World War II, Kyoto’s heritage has remained largely intact up until today. Kyoto is home to a plethora of temples, palaces, shrines and gardens. Many of these locations form part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Kyoto Imperial Palace is truly a sight to behold and was the first ruling palace of the Emperor of Japan. The most visited attractions include Nijo Castle, Nishiki Market, and the Kyoto Railway Museum.
In Eastern Kyoto lies the Kyoto National Museum and the preserved historic district of Higashiyama. South Kyoto is home to the Fushimi Sake District, and Japan’s tallest pagoda can be found at Toji Temple. Kinkakuji Temple, completely covered in gold, can be located in Northern Kyoto. Those above are but a few examples of sights to see in Kyoto. We haven’t even covered the events, festivals, side destinations or renowned institutions. Kyoto University, for example, is internationally recognized as one of the most prominent centers for higher learning in the world.
Cape Town, South Africa
Situated at the foot of Table Mountain, Cape Town is a historic global trading hub brimming with natural beauty. Its prime location is the southernmost point of Africa. The city is renowned for its integration of modern architecture and natural elements of the environment. The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design named Cape Town the 2014 World Design Capital. It’s also been called ‘the best place to visit’ by The New York Times & The Daily Telegraph.
Originally a supply station settlement for the Dutch East India Company, British and Dutch architecture can be seen prominently throughout many city areas. However, despite its controversial history, Cape Town is now home to various demographics, cultures and religions. The Cape Malay Quarter is a standout attraction for visitors, as is the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront area and most of the peninsula’s coastal locations. Due to the Atlantic and Indian oceans flanking each side of the city, Cape Town boasts pristine beaches along two coastlines, a warm Mediterranean climate, and incredibly diverse flora & fauna.
Funchal is the capital city of Madeira and the sixth-largest city in Portugal. The city is the hometown of world-famous soccer player Christiano Ronaldo. The soccer star is beloved by locals to the point where the city has an entire museum dedicated to his achievements. Funchal’s focus on aesthetically pleasing architecture can be seen in every corner of the city, from abundant parks & nature to government-sponsored art on abandoned buildings. Even the plaques for street names are labelled in colorful mosaics, embodying the all-encompassing creative style of Madeira’s architecture.
The port of Funchal is a regular stop for all major cruise liners. The city is well-known for its winemaking, having exported Madeira wine across the globe. Due to its temperate climate, Funchal is warm and sunny for most of the year. The airport is an architectural wonder all on its own, with the runway having won the 2004 Outstanding Structure Award from the International Association for Bridge and Construction Engineering.
Funchal is chock-full of culture, arts, and heritage sites, and museums & festivals galore. During the day, the streets are packed with locals and tourists, and the nightlife thrives all year round. The entire island is full of idyllic locations, all within a short travelling distance from the city.