Capital cities can embody the worst characteristics of a nation. They are loud, busy, overcrowded; home to the rich elite, and the poorest of the poor; they are the place you are most likely to be mugged, or hassled, or scammed; where the cost of living is the highest and quality of life is lowest.
Some capital cities have terrible reputations – both inside the country and out. But most have redeeming features that mean they are still worth a visit.
East African Capital Cities:
Just landed in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia (population: 2.8 million), and keen to stretch your legs?
Kigali is built upon four prominent ridges, and also occupies, though to a lesser extent, the valleys in between.
Kampala, capital city of Uganda, used to be called Kam-pothole due to the sorry state of its roads.
Port Louis was used as a harbour during the Dutch colonial period, but it was the French that developed it into an administrative centre.
Southern African Capital Cities:
Lilongwe is a small, sleepy capital full of leafy boulevards, many lined with delightful, red-flowering poinciana trees.
Northern African Capital Cities:
Rabat came into the world as sweet and innocent as a newborn babe.
West African Capital Cities:
There’s a clue to the origin of Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone, in the city’s name.
Dakar is one of those cities that came into being almost by accident.
South-east Asian Capital Cities:
Dili, capital of Timor Leste, was for several hundred years a sleepy, peaceful city.
The story of the Philippines, and of Manila, is a story of the coming together of cultures.
When most people think of Jakarta they think of traffic, noise, pollution, congestion. And for the most part they’re right. Jakarta is noisy, and polluted, and crowded. And the traffic is horrendous.
Eastern South Asian Capital Cities:
Thimpu is one of the few national capitals that lacks its own airport. The closest airport is at Paro, a one-hour drive away, from where you can board flights to Thailand, India, and Nepal.
Central Asian Capital Cities:
Bishkek began life as a caravanserai, a rest stop for those plying the Silk Road through the perilous Tian Shan mountain range.
A settlement has existed at the junction of the Varzob and Kofarnihon Rivers for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. By the 1600s the village had come to be known as Dushanbe, Tajik for two days after Saturday, after its large Monday bazaar.
Tashkent was once a thriving Silk Road city. And it would still be thought of as such if it weren’t for a devastating earthquake in 1966 that destroyed much of the city’s historic quarter.
Before visiting Nukus the only information I had on the city was from my guidebook, which declared Nukus a desolate cultural wasteland.
Middle Eastern Capital Cities:
I was looking forward to some top quality muscat grapes – the big red ones – when I arrived in Muscat, Oman.
Doha was founded in the 1820s as a trading port in the Persian Gulf. It’s now a city of 1.5 million and contains half the population of Qatar.
Amman, the capital city of Jordan, is really, really old. The origins of the city go back some 12,000 years.
You don’t hear much about Port Moresby as a travel destination. You don’t hear much about the city at all, for that matter, apart from it being rife with violent crime.
The majority of people that fly into Port Vila, Vanuatu, will be immediately whisked away to a resort of some description.
Apia, Samoa’s capital, with a population of less than 40,000, is small and sleepy as far as capital cities go.
Water boils at 87.6 degrees Celsius in La Paz, Bolivia.
City of eight million. Perched on the Colombian high savannah. Notorious for crime, murder, drugs, danger; more recently for art, literature, world-class graffiti.
Quito, Ecuador has the honour of being one of the first two sites selected for UNESCO World Heritage status (the other was Krakow, Poland).
Central American Capital Cities:
Caribbean Capital Cities:
Baltic Region Capital Cities:
The Caucasus Capital Cities:
Southeastern Europe Capital Cities:
Central European Capital Cities:
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