Travel Smart: A Tour of Our Favorite Cities in the World

Our columnists recall places closest to their hearts

We sat in a café on the grand piazza in Trieste, Italy. As we sipped espresso, we watched a just-married couple emerge from the 1870s city hall. Members of the wedding party hugged and laughed. Trieste, with a heritage that blends Austro-Hungarian discipline with Italian verve, isn’t a visitor magnet. But that moment guaranteed the city a place in our pantheon of favorites.

We love different cities for different reasons. In Portland, Maine, we rise early for fresh bread at the Standard Baking Company by the city’s waterfront. In Portland, Oregon, we browse Powell’s City of Books, climbing the stairs to scour shelves that fill a city block and that cradle more than a million books.

Hong Kong conjures visions of skyscrapers that always seem to have multiplied since our previous visit. We see business-suited young people maneuvering the thronged streets with a smartphone in each hand and realize we’re witnessing the future.

On the ride in to New York City from the airport, our first glimpse of the Manhattan skyline sparks tingles of excitement as we approach the place where we’ve seen the likes of Bernadette Peters and James Earl Jones in Broadway plays, and where we witness a hundred dramas every day just watching the city’s sidewalk scenes.

We treasure the time we worked on rebuilding a house in New Orleans’s Tremé district, where the city’s post-Katrina resilience resonated as loudly as the jazz pouring from the French Quarter’s Preservation Hall and as sweetly as the Café du Monde’s beignets.

If pressed to pick one favorite, we’d choose London. We marvel at the mummies in the British Museum, shop the open-air markets in Camden Town, and catch midday concerts at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. How can you not love a city where Shakespeare once walked, people are unfailingly polite, and dire situations can always be helped with a nice cup of tea?

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