Island break or city break? The 10 largest island cities in the world
Can’t decide between an island getaway or a city break? Well, there’s no good reason you can’t have both. All over the world, there are several cities that are also islands, or spread over an archipelago. From South East Asia to southern England, these are some of the most incredible island towns in the world.
The classic island town is well known to Kiwis as a stopover and destination in its own right. Singapore is an island, a city and a drifting country just south of Malaysia. It is also full of reasons to visit. The best lures include WWII history, colonial heritage, the amazing street vendor food scene, and big-ticket attractions like the Singapore Zoo. See visitapore.com
Key West, United States
Right at the end of the Florida Keys chain of islands, Key West has a sunny hustle and bustle that makes visiting extremely fun. Bar crawling in garish shirts is practically compulsory, but this island city is also full of several interesting tourist spots. Some of the most fascinating are President Truman’s Little White House, Ernest Hemingway’s home, and a beautiful butterfly conservatory. See fla-keys.com
Cut off very slightly from Great Britain by a small tidal channel, Portsea Island is home to Portsmouth, one of the largest naval towns in the world. The main attraction here is the historic Portsmouth Shipyard, the launch pad for many daring sea missions. But you’ll also find The D-Day Story, devoted to the D-Day landings that changed WWII, and the wreckage recovered from the Mary Rose. A specialized museum houses the remains of this warship from the time of Henry VIII. See visitportsmouth.co.uk
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About 350 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is far enough north to witness the midnight sun phenomenon in summer. The city is located on the island of Tromsøya, separated from the Norwegian mainland by a small canal. Tromsø is a popular cruise destination on cruises along the Norwegian coast, and visitor highlights tend to focus on the Arctic setting. These include the Polaria Aquarium, which focuses on cold-loving creatures, and the Arctic-Alpine Botanical Garden. See visittromso.no
Salsette is one of the most densely populated islands on the planet. It is cut off from the Indian mainland by Thane Creek, Vasai Creek and the Ulhas River, and it is totally dominated by the megalopolis of Mumbai. Much of Mumbai’s allure lies in the onslaught of the senses, but there is also a plethora of temples and grand colonial-era architecture to admire. See Incredible India.org
Just south of Vancouver, Richmond, British Columbia towers over Lulu Island, which is sandwiched between the split arms of the Fraser River. Those interested in the history of shipbuilding can visit Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site, but Richmond is best known for its large Asian population and the Richmond Night Market. With its strong Asian representation, Richmond claims its night market as the largest in North America. See visitrichmondbc.com
The notoriously romantic city of Venice is mainly spread over an archipelago in the Venetian Lagoon. Forget the big chunk on the mainland – all the pieces you want to see can be found on the canal-separated islands that have inspired billions of Canaletto paintings. St Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace, gondola rides, and the Rialto Bridge are on the traditional checklist, but it’s definitely better to wander around and happily get lost. See venise-tourisme.com
Sandwiched between the St. Lawrence River and the Prairie River, the Island of Montreal is home to Canada’s second largest city. Montreal is also an absolute joy, with an easy mix of Francophone and Anglophone cultures and a spirit of celebration. The Old Port district offers zip lines, big wheels, tree climbing courses and a fascinating history museum. But the real heart of the city can be found along Boulevard St Laurent and Rue St Denis, two parallel streets full of bars, restaurants and cool shops. See mtl.com
New York, United States
OK, that’s a bit of a cheat, as New York’s three largest boroughs are on the mainland. But Manhattan and Staten Island together have more than 2 million inhabitants. And Manhattan is clearly what most people think of when they think of New York City. Major tourist attractions such as Central Park, Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, Chelsea Market, and The High Line are all here. See nycgo.com
Again, cheating, because the majority of Hong Kong is on the mainland. But most of what’s interesting is on Hong Kong Island or the surrounding archipelago. Hong Kong Island is full of shops and restaurants, as well as the Ocean Park theme park and the Peak Tram funicular to Victoria Peak. The Tian Tan Buddha and Hong Kong Disneyland, meanwhile, are on Lantau Island. See discoverhongkong.com
The writer has been a guest of tourist boards in New York, Florida, Singapore and Canada.
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