By Michelle Yastremsky
The City of Light. The Bride of the Sea. The Eternal City. Have you ever wondered where your favorite cities and destinations earned their nicknames?
From pop culture to architectural highlights, learn the origins of some of the world city nicknames! How many of these did you know?
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The Irish are known for their love of cheeky rhymes and ballads. That’s why it comes as no surprise that Ireland’s nickname actually stems from popular tune and Dublin’s unofficial anthem, Molly Mallone. “In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty...”
Prague, Czech Republic
A panoramic view of the city is the only explanation needed for this nickname! A 19th century mathematician counted the number of spires and coined this nickname. Today, the spire count is closer to 500 but the “City of 500 Spires” just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
While there are several cities that have adopted this nickname, Amsterdam boasts over 165 canals within its city limits, giving it claim to being the true “Venice of the North.” When paired with its over 90 islands and 1,500 bridges, a bike ride through this city guarantees the experience to be picturesque and serene.
Visitors may think the nickname comes from the fact that the city literally lights up in the evening; from bridges to hotels to churches, there are over 296 illuminated sites to behold.
However, the reasons are actually quite historical. The first reason for the nickname comes from the city’s leading role during the Age of Enlightenment. The second is because Paris was actually one of the first cities in Europe to adopt gas street lightning.
Rome’s nickname can be traced as far back to Ancient Rome! Citizens of this original settlement believed the city would never fall and would thrive forever.
Every year on Ascension Day in Venice, the doge throws a consecrated ring into the sea and repeats the saying “we wed thee, sea in the sign of the lord” (in Latin). Thus, Venice is now married to the sea!
There are two possible origins of this nickname for Greece’s capital city. The first being a direct translation of Greece’s former name Ionia (after King Ion). The word Ion means violet in Greek, and Athens was the city where the King Ion was crowned. Another origin story stems from a line in a surviving fragment of one of Greek poet Pinda’s works: “City of light, with thy violet crown, beloved of the poets, thou art the bulwark of Greece.”
When Lima was originally founded in 1535, it was named Ciudad de los Reyes, translated to City of the Kings. The name was chosen to represent the day its foundation was decided, which happened to be the religious day of Epiphany. Shortly after, the name was replaced with its current name Lima, but the nickname remains.
Vienna, Austria - The Imperial City
Barcelona, Spain - The City of Counts
New York City, United States - The Big Apple
Budapest, Hungary - Heart of Europe
Jerusalem, Israel - The Holy City
Dubrovnik, Croatia- The Pearl of the Adriatic
Berlin, Germany - The Grey City
Beijing, China - The Forbidden City
Istanbul, Turkey - The Second Rome
Buenos Aires, Argentina - Queen of the Plata
Sydney, Australia - The Harbor City
Cape Town, South Africa - The Mother City
Lisbon, Portugal - The Queen of the Sea
London, England - The Big Smoke
Auckland, New Zealand - City of Sails
Moscow, Russia - The First Throne
Geneva, Switzerland - The Peace Capital
Treviso, Italy - The Painted City
Chicago, United States - The Windy City
Bordeaux, France - City of Wine
Edinburgh, Scotland - Auld Reekie (translated to Old Smokey)
Los Angeles, United States - City of Angels