Book Review: National Geographic’s ‘World’s Best Cities’

World's Best Cities CoverLast week, National Geographic released its latest travel book “World’s Best Cities: Celebrating 220 Great Destinations” (Hardcover, $40 US). I got a review copy in the mail, and immediately its picturesque photos and informational tidbits make it an eye-catching read from start to finish.

Even if you can’t get to these cities just yet, this guidebook gives you the feeling of picturing yourself already there, with tips to give you a good head start.

“World’s Best Cities” is inspired by a publication released by the Rockefeller Foundation citing how for the first time ever most people now live in cities – which is impressive.

Photo by Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock New York, New York Central Park, an oasis in the middle of Manhattan. Source: WORLD’S BEST CITIES: Celebrating 220 Great Destinations

Photo by Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock – New York, New York
Central Park, an oasis in the middle of Manhattan Source: World’s Best Cities: Celebrating 220 Great Destinations

This coffee table book starts off list of more than 200 cities based on population, starting with Tokyo and ending with Vatican City. Then there are further breakdown lists of cities by specific traveler’s interests – food, spa, eco-smart, festivals and nightlife – and offbeat or plain cute ones ranging from haunted or walled to happiest or high-altitude. These list-centered pages are mixed in through out the book – smart move! – so you keep going through every page entirely.

Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain.

Photo by MasterLu/iStockphoto Barcelona, Spain – The Gaudí-designed Parc Güell. Source: World’s Best Cities: Celebrating 220 Great Destinations

Overall, its layout is good. Fun or odd facts are on the far right of one page, vital stats or in the lower left corner of the other. Full-color and historic photos really shine here in showcasing various city landscapes and landmarks and the occasional food dish or local person. Some city pages also include point of view essays by residents who have built a reputable street cred (forgive the pun) while other pages go straight to their facts.

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Photo by Ocean/Corbis Mexico City, Mexico Today’s Mexico City is a cultural hub and kaleidoscope of humanity. Its rich, 1,000-year history intermingles distinctly modern atmospherics created by contemporary art with irresistible crafts and street vendors hocking classic Mexican eats. Source: World’s Best Cities: Celebrating 220 Great Destinations

As food and local culture are now key points for many travelers, each city’s respective page gives a lot of explanations on what is the native cuisine and where to find locally-made goods. Best local places to go to tips are a good touch as well.

Nat Geo’s “Urban Insider” columnist Annie Fitzsimmons wrote the book’s preface. I’ve “virtually” met Annie (I follow her on Twitter and we have mutual friends in the travel sector) but she knows her stuff.

For those who enjoy exploring big cities by foot or book, this coffee table is nice for both active and armchair travelers.

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