I’m not all that well travelled, but from places I’ve lived in:
Brighton, United Kingdom
Despite being London-born and bred, it has changed an awful lot for the worse for me since my happy childhood there. Edinburgh nearly pipped Brighton to third place but I have more recent memories of the latter.
Edinburgh is really high on my list, I have been several times and every time I liked it more, but I am not sure if I would like to live there because of the weather.
Alicante is one that I visited very briefly when I was a kid (my parents are from Valencia, so we were flying there every year in August, and a couple of times we had better flight connections through Alicante) and I should revisit
Cities I have visited and would visit again in a heartbeat:
Beijing (sure, the smog was amazingly bad, but the city itself is… gods, it’s so cyberpunk. Concrete utilitarian brutalism right next to massive palaces of wrought gold and glass next to ancient fortifications… plus a stunning drive to the Great Wall, which was one of the most humbling, bizarre, surreal experiences of my life)
Kyoto (I have only visited two cities in Japan, Tokyo for 7 days and Kyoto for 2… and while I loved Tokyo, Kyoto was… breathtaking. The Fox Shrine hike had spiders the size of my head and it’s STILL one of my favourite things I’ve ever done)
Tokyo (no, seriously, I loved Tokyo. The food alone… gods… and the trains/subways… the temples… the food…)
Top 3 Cities I would move to in a heartbeat if I had to move somewhere:
Toronto (I lived here for 4 years, but the whole time I had to commute to a different city 5 days a week and I was exhausted every weekend from it so I don’t feel like I ever really “lived” in Toronto. The fact that I can’t afford to live there is a constant source of shame)
Middle Of Nowhere, New Zealand (yes, yes, I don’t know the actual cities in NZ, but if I could right now live anywhere, I’d find a nice little town, maybe 10-20K people in NZ and move there this second. No hestitation)
Vancouver (my older brother lives here, and it’s beautiful, the weather is almost perfect, you can swim in the ocean and an hour later be on a ski lift… it’s too expensive, somehow even more expensive than Toronto, but if I could afford it and my parents were willing to relocate I’d probably do it)
Of course you mean Hastings or Napier, to be close to yours truly. Very touched. They are around 40k and 60k in population, but to be honest, you wouldn’t notice. Napier for the looks, Hastings for the prices
For me at least the distinction between „want to travel there“ and „want to live there“ is big. My favorite cities to travel to
Siena (we just visited for almost a week this year and it proves again that this is a great place to travel to, beautiful city for just hanging out, eating great food all day and enjoying the old town)
Edinburgh (it‘s Scotland)
Portland (one of my best friends lives here, this may be helping. Also Powell‘s and the food)
Honorable mentions: Chiang Mai, Naples (the greek-founded Italian one), Reykjavik, Oslo and the ones below that aren‘t my home city which is not a good place to travel to but an awesome place to live
My favorite cities where I’d love to live—I think:
Karlsruhe (where I live oO)
Auckland (or almost anywhere we visited in NZ)
Honorable mention: possibly all of Scandinavia—I should travel there more often.
I spent five years in Edinburgh at university and loved it there but sadly never to got to travel more into parts of Scotland I now wish I had seen. That was over 25 years ago though now so again it may well have changed for the worse in some ways. My Brighton memories are 10-15 years old and if I moved back to the UK would probably go back to live there.
Alicante city centre at least is really beautiful. I spent two happy years living in the city centre and lived in a nearby coastal village for a couple of years prior to that too so was visiting at least once a month. Pre-pandemic I was popping back a couple of times a year usually to show friends and family around our favourite haunts. When living there I had a lovely post-work routine: I could see the top of the castle on Mount Benacantil from my living room window and knew it was only a 15-20 minute walk from my front door all the way to the summit, so I would walk up to that, down the other side to the sea front, walk along the beach and Explanada promenade, turn up into town to the main shopping street of Maisonave and then back home, making for a wonderful hour long walk to unwind.
I’ve only been there twice now, but I absolutely love Vancouver, BC and would live there in a heartbeat if my life actually allowed for it and I love visiting.
After that, it’s probably a pair coastal cities in California.
For living, it’s Half Moon Bay. It has perfect weather, aka usually 50-65F/10-18C, sometimes hotter, occasionally colder, and is close enough to San Francisco–though I actively dislike the city. Especially now-- for occasional nights out dining (thanks to Celiacs my food options are extremely limited, but SF has a decent amount of options).
For visiting it’s Fort Bragg (CA, not North Carolina). That area of coastal northern CA is stunning. All redwood forests and rocky coastline. It’s a bit too remote for actually living day-to-day, but I love visiting. Not sure there’s a much prettier stretch of land in the country, at least for my tastes.
Honorable mention would go to Portland, not because I’ve actually ever been there but because they have the most dedicated gluten free restaurants on the west coast of the US.