What makes a city “great”?

I’ve lived in or around 5 very different cities this past year – Panama, Buenos Aires, Toronto, Dubai and now Cape Town. Not being a “city” person anymore, I have to admit that this post likely comes with a certain bias against cities….

However one question I’ve been wrestling with recently, having arrived in Cape Town and been distinctly underwhelmed at first, is this:

What makes a city “great”?

What makes one city better than another?

There are clearly some cities which are unarguably great – London, New York, Rome and Paris spring to mind. But just what is it about cities that qualifies them as better than another?

For me, I believe it’s a combination of the following:

1) The people and how friendly, welcoming and helpful they are
2) The range of activities within and around the city
3) The ability to get out of the city easily
4) The level of traffic and pollution
5) The architecture
6) The cost – or at least a good range of costs to suit all budgets

But as I said, it’s totally subjective. What makes a city “great” for you?

Posted by | Comments (3)  | January 24, 2008
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind

3 Responses to “What makes a city “great”?”

  1. Scott Says:

    What makes a city great to me is the ability to get around the city, not just outside of the city, and whether or not that transportation infrastructure has a culture of its own. For example, the New York City subway system or Paris Metro. There is so much to see in the subway systems alone that entertains travellers and locals alike.

  2. brian Says:

    Actually, as a native New Yorker, I’m not sure NYC qualifes. 2 and 5 we have down, but the rest? I recently read an article explaining why $200 a night for a budget hotel in the outer boroughs is considered cheap. Getting out of NYC? Not that easy, and certianly not affordable for the budget traveler. Traffic and pollution? Well, if more is good, we’re covered. Friendly people? Fuggedaboutit.

  3. Scott Says:

    Actually, I am a native New Yorker as well, so I suppose that makes me somewhat biased.