Planning a trip to the US and not sure which cities to visit? Since UK travellers are more familiar with Europe, we’ve paired some of the top European city destinations with their USA counterparts. Each pair of cities isn’t the same, but at their heart, they share something – a vibe, a history, a culture or an expertise. If you like one, you’ll probably find something to like in the other too.
Birmingham Airport has daily direct flights to Newark Liberty Airport with United Airlines. From these major hubs, you’re just a connecting flight away from the cities below and almost any other city in the USA. Time to explore!
It doesn’t get any bigger than these two – two major financial capitals, two driving cultural forces, two truly global cities. They have unrelenting energy, unrivalled arts scenes and unbelievable nightlife. If you love the fast-paced lifestyle of London, you’ll feel energised by the super speed of New York City.
Multiculturalism is on full display, with cuisines from around the world on one block and 20 languages overheard in one day. Hundreds of immigrant communities have made new lives in New York City’s five boroughs. From Chinatown to Crown Heights, there’s a different culture in every neighbourhood.
If you want a respite from frenetic city life, many beautiful parks provide a peaceful escape. From Central Park to Prospect Park, from the Cloisters to the High Line, New York has dozens of green spaces to match London’s ‘green city’ reputation.
London and New York boast the two best theatre scenes in the world, with incredible plays and musicals on Broadway and the West End, as well as in tiny theatres above pubs, below bookshops and anywhere else a stage can fit. Coupled with world-class performing arts venues like Lincoln Center, it’s almost impossible to be bored.
Boston and Dublin are like two cool older brothers – wise, bookish and brainy, but also athletic, social and friendly. You’ll find them sipping tea and reading novels in a café, as well as downing pints and watching sports at the pub. It’s no surprise they seem related – Irish immigrants have a long history in Boston and Irish-Americans make up the city’s largest ethnic group. If you love Dublin’s history and atmosphere, you’ll appreciate the Irish influence in Boston.
Like Dublin, Boston is a cultural powerhouse. Its many arts institutions, museums, libraries and orchestras once earned it the moniker “Athens of America.” Famous authors such as Henry James and Robert Lowell have made their home here. And with over 50 colleges and universities, including famous Harvard, the city is a hotspot for innovation and research.
Dublin has the Gaelic games and rugby; Boston has baseball, basketball, hockey and American football. With teams in each of the four major North American professional leagues, sports are big in this city. Visit the Red Sox’s home at Fenway Park or see two of the most successful sports teams play – the Patriots (four-time Super Bowl champs) and the Celtics (a record 17 NBA championships). Boston is also home to the world's biggest two-day rowing event, the Head of the Charles Regatta.
Boston can’t match Dublin’s 1,000-year history, but it is one of the oldest cities in the USA, founded in 1630. It’s the ideal place to discover the story of the USA’s founding, with the walking Freedom Trail linking important sites from the American Revolution and beyond.
Sun’s out and surf’s up at these two beachfront cities with warm weather and a laidback vibe. The Spanish connection is strong – San Diego is where the Spanish set up their first colonial settlement on the West Coast, and the tinge of Spanish influence still remains. If San Sebastián’s sunshine and culture keeps you coming back, you’ll feel right at home in San Diego.
San Diego doesn’t have San Sebastián’s reputation as a foodie paradise, but it’s got an impressive food culture of its own. For a vibe similar to San Sebastián’s Old Town, head to the downtown Gaslamp Quarter, 16 blocks of Victorian buildings converted into a nocturnal playground with delicious restaurants and lively rooftop bars.
Family fun abounds in both these cities. Match San Sebastián’s incredible aquarium with a trip to the world-class San Diego Zoo. Set in the beautiful grounds of Balboa Park, it is recognised as the best zoo in the USA. Home to more than 4,000 animals spread over 100-acres, it forgoes traditional cages for a more open, welcoming environment.
The beaches define these cities’ chilled out vibes. San Diego has miles and miles of white sand beaches from the iconic Mission Beach to hidden gems like Del Mar Beach. Whatever your favourite beach activity – surfing, swimming, tanning – you can find the perfect spot to indulge.
These two cities have reputations as places to let your inhibitions go, let your hair down and have a good time. Surrounded by water, they have a relaxed ambience, while the wilder aspects of their history add bohemian flair. If you are drawn to Amsterdam’s liberal free spirit, San Francisco will pull you in as well.
Like Amsterdam, San Francisco consists of distinctive neighbourhoods. Explore the city’s LGBT history in the Castro district, where the LGBT walk of fame and museum are located. Dine in the city’s culinary epicentre, the Mission District, which doubles as an outdoor gallery full of colourful murals. Wander around Pacific Heights and view the ‘painted ladies,’ multi-coloured Victorian houses characteristic of the city’s architecture. And don’t forget to eat – San Francisco epitomises California cuisine, with fresh-from-the-farmers-market ingredients and seasonal menus full of healthy, flavourful food.
If bikes and buses bore you, these cities have their own unique modes of transportation. Boat trips along the canals are de rigeur in Amsterdam, as are rides on San Francisco’s cable cars. This is the world's last manually operated cable car system, dating back to 1873. Riding them up and down the city’s hills is a one-of-a-kind experience.
San Francisco shares Amsterdam’s liberal values. The Netherlands was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage; California was the second US state to allow it. Amsterdam has less-restrictive drug and prostitution laws; San Francisco is the home of the 60s hippie movement. Tolerance and freedom are central to both cities as they embrace all different lifestyles and celebrate activism in many forms.