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Reading List

Favorite Cities

February 2008

What does one look for when choosing a list of favorites? Books, movies, and music seem like the obvious choices, and undoubtedly they'll make their way in here (in fact, the first list was favorite Harry Potter books and movies).

Sometimes, the decision is even more difficult, for there are uncountable encounters in our built environments, and each one—real and imagined—changes our perspective on place; maybe even changes the place. So be it. Below is my current list of favorite cities, realizing there are plenty I haven't been to, plenty I've been to but hardly remember.

Top 10 Cities

  1. New York City.New York City, New York
    So I've only been to New York once, but after just 4 days in the city, I am ready to declare it the greatest city in the world (though I also admit I've not been to Paris or London or Prague or Budapest or....).
  2. Graz, Austria
    It's been 14 years now since I've been in Graz, but with Europe's largest Medieval town (never bombed during the wars), a beautiful countryside, and friendly folks, Graz still tops by European list.
  3. Portland, Oregon
    With its great downtown, brewpubs, hip neighborhoods, and wonderful depth, Portland is an amazing city. If only the weather were a bit sunnier....
  4. Denver/Boulder, Colorado
    Denver (like Portland, like all U.S. cities) has a lot of sprawl, but once you're in the city, you'll find it has the U.S.'s most dynamic canvas for urban development (and redevelopment). So why'd we move away 8 years ago? I include Boulder at No. 4, also.
  5. Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
    It's been 23 years since I've been to Luxembourg City, but if memory serves correctly, it is a beautiful, walkable, distinctly European city.
  6. Alamos, Sonora, Mexico
    Mexico's most northern Colonial city, Alamos is at the juncture of the desert and the tropics. The town itself, the smallest among this list, is the very definition of authentic.
  7. Austin, Texas
    I'm reluctant to add any city from Texas, but let's face it: Austin is a great city, with beautiful countryside, a great downtown, lots of culture and music, and bats under the bridges!
  8. San Francisco, California
    The only reason San Francisco is this low on the list is probably because I've not spent enough time there. But it also doesn't have quite the amazing international flair of New York. Still an incredible city, though.
  9. San Diego, California
    With a near-perfect climate, an excellent trolley (light rail) system, vibrant downtown, and beautiful beaches, San Diego is even higher on my list of towns I'd live in, if I could afford it.
  10. Bisbee, Arizona
    The most eclectic town on the list is Bisbee, an old silver-mining town that feels more like San Francisco than southern Arizona, without the bay, of course. Actually, Bisbee may be smaller than Alamos, but both are quaint mountain towns with a rich mining history.
  11. Notes and Honorable Mentions
    Until I've been to cities like Vancouver, Paris, Prague, etc., this shall remain a list in progress. That is: my whole life. That said, here are some other great cities I've visited: Seattle, Washington; Monterrey, California; Tecate, Mexico; Crested Butte, Colorado; Charleston, South Carolina; Reykjavik, Iceland; Oslo, Norway; Stockholm, Sweden; Copenhagen, Denmark; Vienna, Austria; Kyoto, Japan; Osaka, Japan; Tokyo, Japan. Ah, so many cities, so little time (and money).


Other Favorites

Read past lists of Simmons's favorites:

Be sure to check back for more favorites, as this list is updated periodically!

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