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Surprising Cities You've Visited  
User currently offlinedc9northwest From Switzerland, joined Feb 2007, 2337 posts, RR: 6
Posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 4702 times:

What cities that most others consider perhaps not worth visiting have you enjoyed visiting?

What "second-rate" destinations impressed you and why?

What impressed you about some cities, compared to their reputation?

What are some redeeming features you look for in ugly cities?

Feel free to discuss these questions or any other related topic that you wish!

I'll add some more of my thoughts later, but to start off:

1) New Yorkers are supposed to be rude and unhelpful, but I found enough people willing to help in a tough situation. So I can say that people in NY were "better than advertised".

2) Riga isn't considered a top destination (often, just a cheap one), but there was enough to do and it was very pleasant to just stroll around the town; very clean, and well organized.

Anyway, feel free to take it from here. I'm listening.

54 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
User currently offlinesafetyDemo From United States of America, joined Sep 2007, 310 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 4678 times:

I have to be honest and say one of my favorite overnights when I worked at my first airline was Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It doesn't sound like a very interesting place. However, we used to get long layovers there and stayed at a nice hotel right downtown. The downtown was clean, full of friendly people, and a lot of great little shops and restaurants/cafes were near our hotel.

Unfortunately, I haven't been to CID since the flood - so I'm not sure how well it has recovered since then.


Please direct your attention to the flight attendants in the cabin...
User currently onlineRevelation From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 15722 posts, RR: 28
Reply 2, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 4674 times:

I'd give a positive mention for Naples, FL. It's been a while, but the last time I was there, the part of town I stayed in was quite lovely and had a kind of European charm.

Inspiration, move me brightly!
User currently offlinealoges From Germany, joined Jan 2006, 9428 posts, RR: 39
Reply 3, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 4642 times:

Tallinn was a very nice surprise a couple of years ago. I had gone to Helsinki for a couple of days and decided to spend one of them in Estonia - it wouldn't have hurt to do it the other way around. The centre had been lovingly restored, with great attention to the preservation of historic structures and buildings, and yet it was full of stores, restaurants etc. that make a place lively.

Walk together, talk together all ye peoples of the earth. Then, and only then, shall ye have peace.
User currently offlinenicode From France, joined May 2012, 143 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 4633 times:

The most surprising city for me is Lisbon.

This city is really under-estimated.

User currently offlinejohns624 From United States of America, joined Jul 2008, 1292 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 4596 times:

I second Tallinn. My wife and I just got back from a Baltic cruise and our expectations were backwards. We expected to like Berlin, St Petersburg and Stockholm the best but instead enjoyed Copenhagen, Tallinn and Helsinki more. They were much better "walking" cities and that's something that we really enjoy.

User currently onlineRevelation From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 15722 posts, RR: 28
Reply 6, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 4594 times:

Montreal is quite a nice surprise. A good dose of European chic on the North American continent.

Inspiration, move me brightly!
User currently offlineTupolev160 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 4570 times:

- Posadas, Argentina,
- Asuncion in Paraguay,
- Cuzco in Peru,
- Copacabana in Bolivia
- Mysore in India.

True gems of cities all surrounded by stunning natural beauty.
I think it is in South America that most places amazed me in the most unexpected way.

In Europe (as i previously mentioned a few of those below) i would include:

- Kosice, Slovakia,
- Brest, Belarus,
- Lugano, Switzerland,
- Feodossiya in Ukraine
Warsaw in Poland.

Even though not a minor city it was far more green and pleasant than i would have ever expected it.

User currently offlineIdeekay From Finland, joined Jun 2012, 285 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 4566 times:

Definitely Stockholm.

We had spend a day there and it was very nice!

User currently offlineTupolev160 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 4560 times:

"What are some redeeming features you look for in ugly cities?"

What makes the essence of a city are the people. On second place i would put the natural surrounding.

User currently offlinevarigb707 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 4510 times:

Fredericksburg, TX. 1 hour's drive west of Austin.
The only town in America, I have been to, where you can actually drink beer on the streets. And it's LEGAL!!!

Sausalito, CA. Right by the Golden Gate Bridge...

Roermond, Nederlands. Beautiful women and nicest people...

Toronto, ON. Cleanest streets in North America...

[Edited 2012-07-28 14:52:51]

User currently offlineseb146 From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 14146 posts, RR: 14
Reply 11, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 4466 times:

Quoting varigb707 (Reply 10):
Toronto, ON. Cleanest streets in North America...

One of my favorite Canadian shows was "Corner Gas." The owner of the cafe grew up in Toronto. She was so mad at a pot hole in Dog River, she filled it in herself. One of the townsfolk got mad and said "Is this how you big city people to it?" She said "yeah, we just fill in pot holes whenever the mood strikes!"

My surprising towns are:

Rapid City, South Dakota
Cheyenne, Wyoming
Bozeman, Montana
Regina, Saskatchewan

I am glad to see all the positive comments on Tallinn. That city is on my "bucket list"!

Life in the wall is a drag.
User currently offlinesignol From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2007, 3094 posts, RR: 7
Reply 12, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 4449 times:

I would add Santiago, Chile, to the list. I had a great time there in 2001 when I visited for a few days.

So in that end:

Quoting Tupolev160 (Reply 7):
I think it is in South America that most places amazed me in the most unexpected way.

Quoting Tupolev160 (Reply 7):
- Cuzco in Peru,
- Copacabana in Bolivia

Agreed again  
Quoting Tupolev160 (Reply 7):
- Asuncion in Paraguay,

Though I did find Asuncion a bit of a dump and left as soon as possible...


Flights booked: NWI-AMS-JNB-DUR, JNB-AMS-NWI
User currently offlineeurowings From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2011, 513 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 4447 times:

In no particular order;

Bremen, Germany
Dresden, Germany
Ronda, Spain
Las Palmas, Spain
Vilnius, Lithuania
Helsinki, Finland
Maastricht, Netherlands
Ghent, Belgium
Bristol, UK
Newcastle, UK

None of them are huge on international tourism scene, but all of them impressed me in one way or another.

"Freddie Laker may be at peace with his Maker, but he is persona non grata with IATA."- HRH Duke of Edinburgh
User currently offlineTransIsland From Bahamas, joined Mar 2004, 2049 posts, RR: 8
Reply 14, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 4432 times:

Louisville, KY

I was afraid it'd be a repeat of Memphis, TN, but I was surprised by the alternative cultural scene, and the general openness of the place.

I'm an aviation expert. I have Sky Juice for breakfast.
User currently offlinePITingres From United States of America, joined Dec 2007, 1345 posts, RR: 13
Reply 15, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 4429 times:

Ljubljana, Slovenia. I just felt comfortable there. (Bled was pretty nice too.)

Beijing. I don't like crowded cities much and expected to dislike Beijing, but it was just the opposite.

Amsterdam. Surprisingly congenial even to an older fart like myself.

Dublin. I have not the slightest bit of Irish in me and expected to be in eye-rolling mode most of the time, but I loved it.

Fly, you fools! Fly!
User currently offlineKen777 From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 9248 posts, RR: 10
Reply 16, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 4412 times:

Biggest surprise when I was younger was Hong Kong. Five days of R&R for the ship and I fell in love with the place.

That was '66, the same year when we went to Sydney and had the first stow-a-way in modern times.

Sydney at that time was also a pleasant surprise.

Ft. Collins CO was also a pleasant surprise - especially when my granddaughter was born there.

Across the Pond I fell in love with London, Barcelona, Dublin and Vienna.

My biggest surprise has been Bangkok. I've long had a pretty bad impression of the place, then I went through there on an overnight to London. While my overall impression was from the hotel, (the Sheraton) and shopping at Jim Thompson's, but I found the locals very gracious and my opinion of the place changed dramatically.

San Francisco (Palo Alto) rounds out my favorite surprises.

User currently offlinemainMAN From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2005, 2117 posts, RR: 5
Reply 17, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 4386 times:

Brussels. Europe's capital has a reputation for being ugly and boring, but it's neither. It has some incredibly beautiful parts, but reminds me of most big UK cities in so far as in it's post-industrial, and has real elegance mixed with some pretty brutal 1960s planning mistakes. Brussels was a nice surprise because you get the impression it's full of euro technocrats and boring 'suits', but in reality it's a lively city with plenty going on, with the added advantage of being a little bit grungy, poor and seedy! I like it.

New York. I didn't know what to expect of New York. I thought it would be loud, brash, too frenetic and full of rude obnoxious people. Nothing of the sort! It's friendly, and relaxed.

User currently offlineflyingturtle From Switzerland, joined Oct 2011, 4537 posts, RR: 18
Reply 18, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 4359 times:

- London. A very diverse city, and every part of London is true to its own spirit. I'd call it the capital of the entire world, because of its history and the numerous ex-pats that live there.
- Berlin. Somehow like London, but it's more boasting (which I do not like).
- Naples. Despite being dirty and having quite a few homeless people, it is a city I already liked as a child. It's an adventure!  
- Freiburg in Breisgau, it has an old town that one simply cannot dislike.

All those have incited emotions in me.


Keeping calm is terrorism against those who want to live in fear.
User currently offlinePITingres From United States of America, joined Dec 2007, 1345 posts, RR: 13
Reply 19, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 4327 times:

I forgot to add Paris, which shoud have been on my list given the thread title of "surprising cities". I never thought I would have much use for the place; I suppose I imagined some sort of stuffy monument to French past-delusions-of-grandeur complete with residents who cordially despised tourists, particularly of my origin. The truth turned out to be entirely different, especially the tourist-hating bit. (It appears that if one makes a rudimentary effort to speak two or three basic French politenesses, one can get along quite well. Who knew!)

edited to add: and I even enjoyed Paris after I foolishly allowed my camera to be stolen on the Metro, our first day there. Sigh.

[Edited 2012-07-28 21:41:12]

Fly, you fools! Fly!
User currently offlinelegacyins From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 2337 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 9 hours ago) and read 4324 times:

Normandy. Besides the historical significance, it was quite peaceful and beautiful along the coast.

User currently offlineAirport From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 21, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 8 hours ago) and read 4307 times:

Quoting TransIsland (Reply 14):
Louisville, KY

I second Louisville, I found the city had a really nice atmosphere. Sad that it's a bit overshadowed by the sheer number of cities in the surrounding region.

I also second Cedar Rapids. I visited there a few years back and like safetyDemo said, it was just a fun place to be with great people.

Other places I was very pleasantly surprised by:
-Bellingham, WA
-Monterey, CA
-Barrow, AK
-Anchorage, AK
-Juneau, AK
-Prince Rupert, BC
-Norfolk, VA

User currently offlinebookishaviator From Australia, joined Jun 2009, 247 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 4289 times:

Quoting Airport (Reply 21):
Anchorage, AK

Oh goodness, really? What did I miss? Alaska as a whole is total awesomeness, but Anchorage seemed to me to be a grey and dull place littered with tacky bear-themed souvenir shops and run-down bars filled with clientele of questionable repute.

When I die, when I die, I'll rot. But when I live, when I live, I'll give it all I've got.
User currently offlineAirstud From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 3770 posts, RR: 5
Reply 23, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 4263 times:

I lived in San Francesspool for more than 16 years and utterly loathed, detested, despired, abhored, and hated the !%$#@ -ing place. And everyone raaaaves about it. "World's most beautiful city," they rhapsodize. IGNORAMI. I arrived there from Bostn, a liberal young dude, bred among the Volvo Democrats and the blamed Bay Area made an arch conservative out of me. Nice going.

On a less emotional note, I was surprised in my several visits to both Montréal and Québec City. I didn't really care for Montréal (I won't go into why; I saved my artillery for that other place    ), but I loved Québec City. I wasn't expecting not to like Québec City, what was surprising though was how easy I got along without speaking a word of French. The travel literature touts Montréal as a gloriously bilingual place, and also says you'll have trouble getting on in Q.C. if you only speak English. I've been to both cities several times now and I've always had the opposite experience: I encountered significant language barriers in Montréal. (In fact the Renaissance hotel over there still owes me my fried eggs   )

Pancakes are delicious.
User currently offlineLOWS From Austria, joined Oct 2011, 1231 posts, RR: 2
Reply 24, posted (3 years 10 months 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 4200 times:

Denton, Texas (I like their used bookstore, Recycled Books, in an old opera house)

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Brussels (which has a reputation for being boring, I don't know why)

St. Louis, Missouri

25 Post contains images Tupolev160 : Had the same experience. After the hell of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, Beijing was a surprising delight. Well, there is no special architecture or anythi
26 aloges : Here's one from Germany: Mannheim. I didn't just visit it, I lived there for a couple of years and really adored it. A local musician wrote a song cal
27 stlgph : Lived in Des Moines, IA for a while. Took a job there and didn't know anything about it until I moved in - had an absolute blast. Was absolutely surpr
28 Post contains images shamrock604 : May I ask why you expected to be in "eye rolling mode"? Glad you enjoyed it though!
29 LOWS : You need to come visit Hallein near Salzburg. I've lived here since February. It has a nasty reputation as a gritty industrial town chocked to the gi
30 Post contains images Braybuddy : A place I hadn't been to till last year, though it always intrigued me, and I absolutely loved it! There is some magnificent architecture underneath
31 Post contains images Superfly : Duluth, Minnesota Garberville, California Hilo, Hawaii Havana, Cuba Duluth, Minnesota; Very friendly town on the bay with a lot of character and histo
32 Post contains images YVRLTN : Another vote for Tallinn, beautiful city and some great places to eat. We also did a tour out into the countryside as far as the former Soviet naval
33 blink182 : Brussels, Belgium. Reasons described in previous posts on this thread, but I would happily return. Amsterdam, Netherlands. I'm most struck by how live
34 Coal : - Tallinn, Estonia: Although I wouldn't have gone if I hadn't been told it was nice! It was only a day, but it was a nice little detour from my Scandi
35 slider : Great call...very under-appreciated...so much amazing history there and it gets overlooked often as a destination. SFO is completely overrated and I
36 RobertNL070 : In no particular order: Bath, UK Fès, Morocco Oaxaca, Mexico Yogyakarta, Indonesia Kandy, Sri Lanka
37 Post contains images Superfly : Two places that rank high on the places I want to visit. I've heard many good things about Bath. It's also the home town of Tears For Fears. Oaxaca,
38 RobertNL070 : I wouldn't dare to presume to compare Fès, Morocco with Kandy, Sri Lanka. These cities worlds apart, in every sense.
39 AM744 : Same here. Beautiful, beautiful city. Small but outstanding downtown and the Atomium was great.
40 Post contains images dc9northwest : Hi everyone, I see you've got most of mine covered. Wow, several people made mention of Tallinn--I agree, it's a downright beautiful place, well kept,
41 PITingres : At least one of my early trips over, the plane was 90% full of American tourists, all wearing kelly-green trousers and all maudlin with joy over goin
42 Post contains images AirPacific747 : I agree with Bath, UK And also Cambridge, UK was very pleasant. I was there just as many students had passed their exams and were partying
43 OA260 : Yes I loved Tehran and was surprised how nice a city it was . Lovely people and food. Austin TX , Love that city too . Didnt think I would like it so
44 Braybuddy : In two weeks in the country, only ONE person we spoke to supported Ahmadinejad. It was extraordinary. Naturally we were cautious about criticising th
45 Post contains images Confuscius : Singapore, a fine city. It's clean, safe and the food is great. I was there last year and will be back again next month.
46 pesit4a : LOL! Dont worry, I think most of us Irish would also be in definite "eye rolling mode" if we saw that! While it's flattering to see people go so mist
47 PITingres : You are probably right, since the american pronunciations of the two will be very nearly indistinguishable. I see it written both St Patty and St Pad
48 mandala499 : Tarragona, Spain... Nice little historic town... not too many tourists... not many look at it because it's too near Barcelona. Spent a nice week ther
49 HOONS90 : Liverpool, UK - Great museums, a must visit for any Beatles fan Sacramento, CA - Incredibly friendly and personable people Riverside/Iowa City, IA - S
50 darthluke12694 : San Juan, Puerto Rico - I visited that city while I was on a cruise, and I was VERY impressed by the city. I want to go back again some day and stay t
51 MD-90 : We stayed at the Eastland Park Hotel (which apparently is currently closed for renovations) and it was a nice hotel with a great location. Portland w
52 Post contains images fr8mech : Prestwick, Scotland (got laid everytime we laid over there), quite a few crew members told me it was not worth leaving the hotel. This 'advice' has ta
53 Post contains links and images Superfly : I had made several reports about Madison. It's a real fun town and I was taken back by all the city has to offer despite being a small mid-western to
54 GEEZER : Honolulu ! I never thought I wanted to go to Hawaii; When I was offered a free trip, I actually turned it down ! (the next day, after talking to a few
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