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Rugby, reactors and roses

July 19, 2009

Lev’s post on cities has inspired a healthy amount of debate over the past 36 hours — really, Porto over Lisbon? — and I’ve decided to pick up on this theme with a list of the world’ s most overrated cities.

This is not an easy task: my first two decades were spent living in moderately sized towns that don’t qualify as cities, in either the British or the American sense. My first glimpse of the Pacific occurred when I was 17. My travels in Asia consist of two weeks at my grandparents’ expat compound in 1984. I’ve never set foot in Africa.

Not to be deterred from any task by profound ignorance, I give you below the five most overrated cities the world has to offer. If you choose to spend time in any of these places, expect to be disappointed. I know I will be when I get around to visiting them.

Sydney, Australia: I’m skeptical of towns whose reputations rest on having a strong sports culture, especially when that sport is rubgy. Cardiff also fits this profile, but no one likes the plucky Welsh capital.

Vancouver, Canada: Progressive politics, glimmering buildings, Steve Nash, and little else.

Paris, France: I’m breaking my own rule by including a city I’ve actually been to, but Parisians are insufferable, and no one can convince me otherwise.

Buenos Aires, Argentina:  Possessing the highest number of shrinks per capita might strike some as a virtue. I find it disturbing.

Portland, Oregon: At the risk of offending our most loyal visitor and commenter, I’m including Portland only because it would be simply impossible for it to live up to the hype. You see evidence of this in the pages of the Times, which has devoted no less than 30 articles extolling the virtues of the City of Roses. Portland also seems to top every quality of life index that I’ve read. Finally, I’m terrified of nuclear reactors, a fear whose origins no doubt lie in having been fed stories all of my young life of how the nuclear plant near my home was headed for a meltdown.

Any place I’ve missed?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2009 10:35 am

    Barcelona, for instance, is getting some criticism lately; some address that the city´s efforts in atracting global tourism has made local people feed the loss of identity and that economic gains are less than the disturbance of having thousands of tourists everyday invading the streets and the public spaces.

    You can take a look at this debates around a famous book, “Odio Barcelon” (“I hate Barcelona”):


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