‘It’s not like other places I’ve been’: readers’ favorite cities

‘It’s not like other places I’ve been’: readers’ favorite cities

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Padua, Italy

Padua is full of fascinating places to see. Saint Anthony’s Basilica, with its magnificent silver sarcophagus housing the saint’s body, easily rivals Saint Peter’s in Rome. The nearby botanical garden, filled with plants and flowers, is a delightful way to while away a few hours. In the morning, visit Piazza della Frutta and Piazza delle Erbe, for bustling markets selling everything from strawberries to sneakers, or visit the Palazzo della Ragione with its impressive frescoes. At night, both squares become open-air bars and restaurants to taste local food. If you have time for a day trip, Verona and Venice are less than an hour away by train.
Bernie G

Bologna, Italy

Piazza Maggiore, Bologna.

Piazza Maggiore, Bologna. Photo: mauritius images GmbH/Alamy

When I picture Bologna, it is always bathed in golden light that makes the rust-red walls glow. But what lies beneath the surface bewitches just as much. Exploring the small and quirky museums at the university reveals ancient courtyards. Diving into hidden doors and arches leads to secrets – or food. Music and debate lively evenings on the main square. And there is the welcome. On my last trip, I saw locals in passionate discussion, swapping stools in Piazza Maggiore. Not trusting my Italian, I declined an invitation to contribute, but happily accepted the cherries shared among the crowd.
Siobhan Maher

Lucca, Italy

On the Guinigi Tower.

On the Guinigi Tower. Photo: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy

Lucca in Tuscany has deep roots and many surprises: a Roman amphitheater transformed into a piazza with cafes and shops; the city walls were never breached in war, so now you can cycle a full 4 km. The city fascinates with every visit – from shutter trees atop the Guinigi Tower to cartoon exhibitions. The music is eclectic – daily Puccini recitals in churches or international rock stars playing in the city square or city walls. Its maze of medieval streets recalls the past, but it has the ability to change face, perhaps as a result of outwitting rival Italian medieval city-states to remain independent.
Rosie Edwards

Melilla, Spain/North Africa

City walls and harbor in Melilla.

City walls and harbor in Melilla. Photo: Viliam.M/Alamy

Melilla, the Spanish enclave on Morocco’s north coast, is a relic of Spain’s colonial past with a character determined by its geography. Overlooking the Mediterranean on one side and the Rif Mountains on the other, and ringed by a formidable border fence, it is decidedly multicultural, with Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu communities living side by side with a large force of Spanish legionnaires. The cityscape is just as diverse: the streets of small Moroccan houses give way to wide avenues lined with art deco wonders; it is even home to Africa’s only true Gothic church. Rare doesn’t really come close.
Digby Warde-Aldam

Belgrade, Serbia

Skadarlija, a neighborhood in Belgrade.

Skadarlija, a neighborhood in Belgrade. Photo: Alamy

We have just returned from Belgrade – unlike any other European capital and an unexpected delight, from the ramshackle but charming old town nestled between the Sava and Danube, to the new town with an astonishing range of futuristic modern architecture, including impressive examples of concrete brutalism. Wherever we went, people were unfailingly polite, courteous and helpful. Public transport is ubiquitous and easy to use (who doesn’t like an hour and a half of unlimited travel for 50p?), making the city and its unconventional attractions easy to explore. Easy to get to by plane or train, and a great base for exploring the Balkans if you have the time and energy.
William Gage

Guardian Travel readers’ tips

Every week we ask our readers for recommendations from their travels. A selection of tips will be presented online and may appear in print. To enter the latest competition, visit the Readers’ Tips website

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Plovdiv's Roman Amphitheater.

Plovdiv Amphitheater. Photo: Maya Karkalicheva/Getty Images

Plovdiv is charming. The beautiful Roman amphitheater offers a backdrop of the snow-capped Rhodope Mountains – we enjoyed an afternoon there, a friendly wedding photo shoot that added to the romance. The caretaker at the Bishop’s Basilica gave us a private tour of its acres of stunning mosaics, and everywhere the welcome was spontaneous and warm. We kept seeing trees and bushes adorned with red and white bracelets called “martenitsa” – we learned why when another ranger put a pair on our wrists. Martenitsa brings happiness and Plovdiv certainly did that for us.

Cadiz, Spain

Plaza de San Juan de Dios, Cadiz.

Plaza de San Juan de Dios, Cadiz. Photo: Luis Dafos/Alamy

Visit Cádiz – Andalucía concentrated in a densely developed, highly photogenic old town, said to be one of the oldest settlements in Europe. It is full of history, flamenco, gardens and bastions, towers and squares. The quality of the food is consistently high, from a plate at the Mercado to modern, exclusive dining, all of which emphasize local ingredients. Outside Landporten lies the modern town with the mile-long Playa de la Victoria and a large selection of chiringuitos, tapas bars and fish restaurants. Or take a ferry across the bay to El Puerto de Santa Maria, the closest of the three Sherry Triangle towns, for a wine tasting or a visit to the three-star Aponiente or its more modest sister restaurant.
Jane McGurk

Wells, Somerset

Vicars' Close, Wells.

Vicars’ Close, Wells. Photo: Zefrog/Alamy

England’s smallest town, Wells, with its Gothic cathedral, is at the heart of this small metropolis, with the clock famous for its 24-hour astronomical clock originally set for knights to perform every quarter. Enter Vicars’ Close, said to be the oldest purely residential street in Europe, and admire the old Deanery herb garden. Pass through the historic gates to the moneyless porch of Wells Market Place. And take a walk around the filming location – the town has featured in many productions, including Hot Fuzz.
Hayley Robinson

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Traditional Bosnian coffee.

Traditional Bosnian coffee. Photo: Bepsimage/Getty Images

The most memorable city I have visited was Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina and an incredibly beautiful, welcoming and culturally rich place with so much more than its tragic recent history. From the historic and fascinating bazaar – Baščaršija – which runs through the heart of the city, to the beautiful mountains that surround it, there is so much to see and explore. We met many kind people at the sidewalk cafes, eager to help us understand more about the hearty local food and traditional Bosnian coffee. It’s not a city that seems to be talked about much, but it’s not like any other place I’ve ever been.

Tarragona, Spain

Tarragona is famous for its sandy beaches and Roman ruins.

Tarragona is famous for its sandy beaches and Roman ruins. Photo: Gerold Grotelueschen/Getty Images

Tarragona is one hour south of Barcelona by car or train. As Barcelona’s poor cousin, in reputation and wealth, you could be forgiven for thinking it doesn’t deserve our attention. But you are unfortunately wrong. Everything is right outside the door, and most within walking distance: beaches for those who need a tan; an old town to while away the afternoon drinking vermouth amongst the stunning Roman ruins (arguably the best in Spain); and some cheap but exquisite bars and restaurants along la Rambla. We stayed at the wonderful Hotel Pigal, in the heart of the city, in a double room with balcony for £60 a night in July.
Nigel Maguire

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