Travel is one of those institutions where the age-old adage 'you have to find out for yourself'' is not only apt – it's utterly obligatory.
Guide books are a handy item to have in your backpack and although the advice of friends is also helpful while planning a trip, both of these can also act as hindrances when it comes to experiencing a place firsthand. In the spirit of finding out for yourself, here are five of my favourite cities that don't deserve the bad reputations that have come to nearly define them.
#5 Calcutta, India:
The extreme poverty in Calcutta is ever-present, but the multi-faceted lifestyle is mesmerizing. On any given day, while struggling to hear and navigate the back streets, you may also stumble on a wide, green, open space occupied by white uniforms and cricket bats. My only regret is that I didn't stay long enough.
#4 Barcelona, Spain:
Famous for pickpockets and over-pricing, Barcelona is also a cultural gem, thronged with street performers. The cuisine scene is to die for, with a variety of options available to even the pickiest eater. Strolling through the city or hopping on an open-top bus, you will marvel at the Gaudi architecture as gargoyles peer at you from nature-inspired buildings.
#3 Peshawar, Pakistan:
Danger may be the first thing that comes to mind when most of us think of Peshawar and, although that may be appropriate, it's also a vibrant market city with very friendly locals. Bear in mind, however, that you won't get much shopping done as you stop to drink tea with the locals every few minutes.
#2 Belfast, Northern Ireland:
It's Belfast's bloody, sectarian history that gives it a bad reputation, but it's also what gives it a unique tourism scene. While it may have been dangerous in the past, taking any of the black taxis or bus tours around the troubled areas today is both riveting and emotional. Walls are lined with murals both old and new, depicting the areas loyal to either the Irish republic or the British monarch. Produced by local artists, these murals are not only awe-inspiring; they provide visitors with a stark reminder of a war that never really ended.
#1 New Delhi, India:
Often described as 'dirty,' 'impoverished' and 'simply awful,' Delhi may be overpopulated and tougher on the senses than many other capital cities around the world, but I loved it for all that it was: manic and honest. Stroll around the cattle-lined streets of Paharganj, pause for a hot cup of masala chai and chat with the stall owner. And just try and stop yourself from taking pictures of everyday life here in its abundance of colour.
By Lynn McDonnellAdd this article to your reading list