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I bought this for £10 from Bookpeople.com (it is available on Amazon for £10.47) and found it to be a really good talking point.
Its a 432 page massive paperback book journeying through the best cities on the planet. The book is comprehensive in covering the cities. Covering the top 200 cities (as voted by Lonely Planet readers), the book offers background on each city.
The following topics are covered in the book for each city:
Population: There is a short discussion of how many people live in the city, this is incredible when comparing Mexico City to somewhere like Tallinn.
Local Customs: This talks about the locals and particular customs they may have, it is good to know these before visiting a city and very interesting as a talking point.
Things to Do: This is my favourite section talking about what there is to see and do in the city, this really gets to the nuts and bolts of why you would want to visit it, the information varies from City to City and I was disappointed that some activities i've tried in cities aren't mentioned.
Food and Drink: Another important subject, what do the locals eat and drink, this can affect your desire to visit if you are a greedy guts like me, this section is too small and could have been much bigger and more interesting.
This is a weighty book, its very heavy and is a wonderful coffee table book allowing you to look at cities with some fantastic photographs, which really are the main reason for buying the book.
For me I found the information on each city a tad lightweight and not matching to the photos, so it really looks great but lacks a bit of substance which is a real shame as it could have been a fantastic book rather than simply a good one with wonderful photography.
If you like travel and hope to visit lots of cities this is definitely a good book to read, also if you love travel photography its great, but if you want a real in-depth summary of a city this isn't the book for you, its great for the coffee table only.
I love coffee table books, especially ones about travel, and this seemed like a lovely book that would not only look good and be a conversation starter, but would also help me to decide which city breaks were worth doing. However I found it quite disappointing.
The book contains information on the world's 200 Best Cities. Each city has a double page spread which contains one page worth of photos, and one page of information. The information is split into small paragraphs entitled Anatomy, People, Defining Experience, Strengths, Weaknesses, Gold Star, Starring Role In, Import, Export, Urban Myth and then a short section giving one thing to see, eat, drink, do, watch and buy.
I found the information to be quite lacking and often poor quality. The import and export lists, though sometimes mildly interesting, are completely unecessary and won't help you decide to go to the cities or not. The strengths and weaknesses are useful but the section giving things to see etc seems to miss out important things. Looking at the pages for the cities I've been to, they seem to have selected some quite drab things to see and do compared to the amazing things that I know are there but aren't mentioned in this book. Also, often a lot of space on the information pages is left blank, which seems odd as there is so much to say about these cities.
The photos are disappointing too. Often just close ups of people, cars or the side of one building, they don't give much of an idea of the city at all and sometimes seem quite amateurish.
This is a nice book to flick through but it won't help you decide which cities to visit and it seems misjudged in many ways. It is nicely produced with thick, glossy pages, but to be honest I'd rather just pick up a free city breaks brochure in a travel agents, which will be more informative and won't cost you anything!
(review also posted on Amazon.co.uk)
This fascinating and well put together book isn't just a list of cities, there are small sections covering the Past, Present and Future of cities in general, as well as maps of the continents marking the cities that have been included. Lonely Planet readers decided which cities are the best and the top 200 are included. Of course, this selection is subjective, other people may choose a different selection but the Top 6 are fairly obvious: Paris, New York, Sydney, Barcelona, London, Rome. Although the list is at the front, the chapters on each city are in alphabetical order for ease of reference. So, from Abuja to Zanzibar Town what do we learn about these cities?
Well, each city has a two page section usually with about four colour photographs but page layout varies. Text wise the information is sub divided into small sections, little more than a paragraph as follows:
Vital statistics - what you would expect: nicknames, founding of a city on this site, country, altitude, population and Lonely Planet ranking.
Anatomy - location in relation to mountain ranges, rivers etc and general layout.
People - the ethnic make up of the native people, including languages spoken, religions etc.
Typical Resident ( i.e. Typical Barcelonin or Madrileno) - the habits of a typical citizen of the city - how they like to live, what they like to do, where they like to go. Generalisations, I am sure, but interesting to those who don't know the city.
Defining Experience - must do things when you visit the city such as catching a train to visit Dracula's tomb (Bucharest) or "wandering aimlessly through the old-town district" (Panama City). Most cities will have several suggestions which could be used to plan an optimal 24 hour visit to the city.
Strengths - the good things about each city, in list form such as unique attractions and qualities (i.e. just a few of Copenhagen's strengths "Tivoli, Local Beers, easy going monarchy").
Weaknesses - like above, but the opposite. For example, Kampala's weaknesses include security searches and "a bloody history".
Gold Star - the unique selling point, such as Djemma el Fna, the famous city square in Marrakesh gets the Gold Star for that city.
Starring Role in... - Films and books set in this city. Such as Bangkok Hilton (Bangkok) and Treasure Island by Robert Lewis Stevenson (Christiansted).
Imports - people, either individuals ( i.e. Miami 'imported' Paris Hilton - lucky them!) or collective (students in Montreal); plus foods and fads that have become popular but are not native.
Exports - Like above, but in reverse. Maple Syrup from Quebec City is just one of their many exports. These two sections also feature music, influences and some tongue-in-cheek suggestions.
Summary of Must-do's - See e.g. The Hermitage in St Petersberg; Eat - mutton dumplings in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia; Drink - rum in San Juan; Do - explore the port in Marseille; Watch - organ concert in Lubeck; Buy - James Joyce books in Galway and After Dark - folk dancing in Belgrade.
Urban Myth - each section finishes with this - a modern tale or legend is mentioned and clarified where things have been mistold in re-telling. Although often the tales have been true (apparently) such as the 'anti-Nobel prize' given to a Swedish author from Stockholm,when he didn't win the Nobel prize for literature.
The selection and ranking is subjective, but I cannot think of a major omission (apart from a few more UK cities) and there are some unusual choices, which I think would be what you would expect from Lonely Planet readers/writers. Although coverage of each city is far from exhaustive, I did feel I learnt something from the book and I have enjoyed my perusals which is why I would definitely recommend it for all fans of coffee table type travel books.
I have been to 52 of the 200 cities - so I have some work to do!