‘It’s not like anywhere else I’ve been’: readers’ favorite cities

‘It’s not like anywhere else I’ve been’: readers’ favorite cities

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Padua, Italy

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

Bologna, Italy

Piazza Maggiore, Bologna.

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

When I imagine Bologna, it is always bathed in the light of the golden hour that makes its rust-red walls shine. But what lies beneath the surface is equally enchanting. Exploring the university’s quirky little museums reveals ancient courtyards. Diving into hidden doors and arches leads to secrets or food. Evenings of music and debates in the main square. And there is welcome. During my last trip I saw the locals passionately arguing, taking turns on the stools in Piazza Maggiore. Not trusting my Italian, I declined the invitation to contribute, but I gladly accepted the cherries shared in the crowd.
Siobhan Maher

Lucca, Italy

On the Guinigi Tower.

On the Guinigi Tower. Photograph: Zoonar GmbH / Alamy

Lucca in Tuscany has deep roots and many surprises: a Roman amphitheater transformed into a square of cafes and shops; the city walls were never breached in war, so now you can cycle the full 4km. The city fascinates on every visit: from holm oaks at the top of the Guinigi Tower to cartoon exhibitions. The music is eclectic: Puccini’s daily recitations in churches or international rock stars playing in the squares or on the city walls. Its labyrinth of medieval streets is reminiscent of the past, but has the ability to change its face, perhaps for having fooled the medieval Italian city-states competing to remain independent.
Rosie Edwards

Melilla, Spain / North Africa

City walls and port of Melilla.

City walls and port of Melilla. Photograph: Viliam.M / Alamy

Melilla, the Spanish enclave on the northern coast of Morocco, is a relic of the Spanish colonial past with a character determined by its geography. Facing the Mediterranean on one side and the Rif Mountains on the other, and enclosed by a terrifying border fence, it is decidedly multicultural, with Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu communities living side by side with a large force of Spanish legionaries . The urban landscape is equally varied: streets of small Moroccan houses give way to wide boulevards lined with art deco wonders; it is also home to the only true Gothic church in Africa. Weird really doesn’t come close.
Digby Warde-Aldam

Belgrade, Serbia

Skadarlija, a district of Belgrade.

Skadarlija, a district of Belgrade. Photograph: Alamy

We have just returned from Belgrade, unlike any other European capital and with an unexpected delight, from the old but charming old town perched between the Sava and the Danube, to the new city with an amazing array of modern and futuristic architecture, including mind-blowing examples of concrete brutalism. Wherever we went, people were invariably polite, direct and helpful. Public transportation is ubiquitous and easy to use (who doesn’t like an hour and a half of unlimited ride for 50p?), Making the city and its unconventional attractions easy to explore. Easy to reach by plane or train and a great base for exploring the Balkans if you have the time and energy.
William Gage

Advice from Guardian Travel readers

Every week we ask our readers for advice on their travels. A selection of suggestions will be posted online and may be printed. To enter the latest contest, visit the reader suggestions homepage

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Roman amphitheater in Plovdiv.

The Plovdiv amphitheater. Photograph: Maya Karkalicheva / Getty Images

Plovdiv is fascinating. The beautiful Roman amphitheater offers a backdrop of the snow capped Rhodope Mountains – we enjoyed an afternoon there, a friendly wedding photography session that adds to the romance. The custodian of the Episcopal Basilica gave us a private tour of its hectares of fabulous 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 caretaker put a couple on our wrists. Martenitsa brings happiness and Plovdiv definitely did it for us.
Bruce

Cadiz, Spain

Plaza de San Juan de Dios, Cadiz.

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

Visit Cadiz – Andalucía concentrated in a densely developed and highly photogenic old town, believed to be one of the oldest settlements in Europe. It is full of history, flamenco, gardens and ramparts, towers and squares. The quality of the food is consistently high, from a plate at the Mercado to modern, high-end restaurants, all emphasizing local produce. Outside the Land Gate is the modern city with the kilometer-long Playa de la Victoria and a great selection of chiringuitos, tapas bars and seafood restaurants. Or take a ferry across the bay to El Puerto de Santa Maria, the closest of the three towns in the sherry triangle, for a wine tasting or a visit to the three-star Aponiente or its more modest sister restaurant.
Jane McGurk

Wells, Somerset

Strait of vicars, Wells.

Strait of vicars, Wells. Photograph: Zefrog / Alamy

The smallest town in England, Wells, with its Gothic cathedral, is in the heart of this small metropolis, with its clock famous for its 24-hour astronomical dial originally set for knights who performed every quarter of an hour. Step inside Vicars’ Close, supposedly the oldest purely residential street in Europe, and see the Deanery’s ancient herb garden. Walk through the historic gates of the penniless porch to Wells Market Square. And take a walking tour of the film locations – the city has featured in many productions, including Hot Fuzz.
Hayley Robinson

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Traditional Bosnian coffee.

Traditional Bosnian coffee. Photograph: Bepsimage / Getty Images

The most memorable city I visited was Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina and an incredibly beautiful, welcoming and culturally rich place with much more than its tragic recent history. From the historic and fascinating bazaar – Baščaršija – that 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 nice people at the outdoor cafes, eager to help us understand more about hearty local food and traditional Bosnian coffee. It’s not a city that is talked about much, but it’s not like anywhere else I’ve ever been.
Rachel

WINNING TIP
Tarragona, Spain

Tarragona is renowned for its sandy beaches and Roman remains.

Tarragona is renowned for its sandy beaches and Roman remains. Photograph: Gerold Grotelueschen / Getty Images

Tarragona is an hour south of Barcelona by car or train. As a poor cousin of Barcelona, ​​by reputation and wealth, you could be forgiven if you think you don’t deserve our attention. But you would be sadly wrong. Everything is close at hand and most can be reached on foot: beaches for those who need a tan; a historic center to spend the afternoon drinking vermouth among the incredible Roman ruins (probably the best in Spain); and some cheap but exquisite bars and restaurants along the 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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