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Whether it is the boundless energy of metropolises such as São Paulo or Bangkok, or the cool of Copenhagen and Berlin, what makes a city great is a matter for debate.

What is certain for us is that the best cities are not just cities – they are ideas. People have flocked to London, Paris and Tokyo for centuries not just because of the opportunities they provide, but because of the way they loom large in the imagination. “These cities have shaped the world through music, art, fashion and literature,” says Emma Duncan, editor of 1843 magazine. “They may be the capitals of their countries – but they belong to the world.” In one way, all cities are the same: they attract people. In every other way, they are different. Take a look at your atlas: the world is home to over 4,000 cities, each with something unique to offer.

From Singapore’s dramatic architecture and Moscow’s flourishing community of artists, to Barcelona’s mouth-watering food and Austin’s thriving music scene, these cities have something for everyone.


The World’s Most Exciting Cities debate, hosted by 1843 and supported by Amex Platinum Card, brought together 5 luminaries from the worlds of fashion, gastronomy, arts and theatre to debate their favourite cities.

Emma Duncan, the editor of 1843, quizzed the speakers about the buzz of Berlin, Mexico City’s food scene, and London’s sense of history – before the audience crowned Istanbul as the winner. Over drinks afterwards, our guests mingled with the speakers, who included actor Simon Callow, Wahaca founder Thomasina Miers, historian Bettany Hughes, designer Beatrix Ong, and director of the Design Museum Deyan Sudjic. Though our backdrop for the evening was London’s stunning skyline, the city came a close second – until next time!


Emma Duncan

Editor, 1843

Emma Duncan is the associate editor of The Economist and editor of 1843, a bimonthly magazine of ideas, culture and lifestyle. She has previously served as deputy editor and Britain editor of The Economist, as well as internationally as Asia editor and Delhi correspondent. Emma is also a trustee of the George Orwell Trust.

“Cities are where people and cultures collide – they are some of the most vibrant and fast-paced places on earth. I will be questioning our panelists to pinpoint why their chosen city is exciting – what is the essence of its success?”

Bettany Hughes


Bettany Hughes is an award-winning historian, author and broadcaster. Her previous books – Helen of Troy: goddess, princess, whore and The hemlock cup: Socrates, Athens and the search for the good life – were published to great critical acclaim and worldwide success.

Bettany is a research fellow of King’s College London, a tutor at Cambridge University’s Institute for Continuing Education, and a visiting professor of History at the New College of the Humanities, and has been honoured with numerous awards including the prestigious Norton Medlicott Medal for History.

She has made a number of documentaries on history, culture and philosophy for the BBC, Channel 4, PBS, National Geographic, Discovery and The History Channel, including ‘Byzantium Unearthed’ and a recent series for Radio 4 ‘Ancient Ways’ where she tracked the old Roman Road, the Via Egnatia, from Albania to Istanbul.Writer

Thomasina Miers

Founder, Wahaca

Thomasina Miers was the winner of BBC MasterChef in 2005. She is a cook and food writer whose work has ranged from cheese-making and running market stalls in Ireland, cheffing with Skye Gyngell at Petersham Nurseries to co-founding the restaurant group Wahaca.

Wahaca has been the winner of numerous awards from OFM’s cheap eats to winner of the SRA’s most sustainable restaurant group three years running. Tommi has written for the Financial Times, the Times and has a regular column in the Guardian magazine on Saturday.

She has written and co-edited 6 cookery books, and her seventh, Home Cook, has just been published.

She has presented various cookery programmes on television, and makes regular appearances on the radio. She shops at her local market in keeping with her love of seasonal food, which she often cooks with touches of spice.

The excitement of being in Mexico City courses through one’s veins. Its magical realism and surrealist vibe makes no two days ever alike. And nowhere else do you find such an exciting mix of pre-Columbian remains, colonial architecture, incredible food, art and music. I can’t wait to shout out its merits.

Deyan Sudjic

Director, Design Museum

Deyan Sudjic is the director of the Design Museum in London. His career has spanned journalism, teaching and writing. Deyan was director of Glasgow UK City of Architecture 1999, and in 2002 he was director of the Venice Architecture Biennale. He was previously editor of Domus Magazine, and prior to this was founding editor of Blueprint Magazine.

Deyan has published many books on design and architecture, including The Edifice Complex, The Language of Things, Norman Foster: A Life in Architecture, Shiro Kuramata, B is for Bauhaus and Ettore Sottsass, the Poetry of Things. His most recent book, The Language of Cities, was published in October 2016. Deyan was made an OBE in 2000.

Beatrix Ong

Beatrix Ong, Fashion Designer

Beatrix Ong is a London-based designer who began a career in fashion as fashion intern for Harpers Bazaar in New York, going on to become the creative director of Jimmy Choo at the age of 22.

In 2002, Beatrix Ong launched her eponymous shoe range, which quickly garnered significant attention and became available in the world’s most prestigious stores including Harrods, Saks Fifth Avenue, Liberty, Harvey Nichols, and Dover Street Market.

Her collections landed her a place on the Independent’s Top 10 Leading Shoe Designers list, alongside Manolo Blahnik. Ong has collaborated with some of the world’s most respected designers, brands and artists, including with luxury travel case maker Globe-Trotter and sports brand Nike with her collectable Nike Blazers.

In 2013, Beatrix Ong joined Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and the UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron on delegations to China, promoting British creativity. June of 2015 saw the launch of the highly anticipated new concept collection from Beatrix Ong, specially introduced with the Design Museum in London. Beatrix Ong shoes became part of the permanent collection of The Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Ong’s work also featured in the exhibition at the V&A: Shoes, Pleasure and Pain.

From 2010 to 2013 Beatrix Ong was a committee member of the English National Ballet and was a member of the Gala Committees for London College of Fashion, the British Film Institute and Historical Royal Palaces. She was awarded an MBE in 2011 in recognition of her services to British fashion.

Simon Callow


Simon Callow is an actor, director and writer, and has appeared in many films, including the popular Four Weddings and a Funeral. He has come to be associated with the work of Charles Dickens – in addition to playing the writer on stage, film and television, Simon has also performed some of Dickens’ theatre pieces: Dr Marigold & Mr Chops, and A Christmas Carol.

Simon is also an acclaimed author, some of his books include Being an Actor, Shooting the Actor, a highly acclaimed biography of Charles Laughton, Love is Where it Falls, an account of his friendship with Peggy Ramsay the great playwright agent. He also regularly writes for The Guardian.

As a stage actor, Simon’s roles have ranged from Titus Andronicus, Mozart in Amadeus and Faust to Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Oscar, Captain Hook and Pozzo in Waiting For Godot, opposite Sir Ian McKellen, Ronald Pickup and Patrick Stewart. Alongside his many theatrical and literary talents he has also written and directed opera productions.

From The Platinum Card® from American Express®



If you’re inspired to book your next city break, The Platinum Card from American Express can help you to get more out of your chosen destination; be that a business trip to New York, a weekend away in Madrid or a family holiday to Dubai.

The extensive portfolio of travel and lifestyle benefits provided by The Platinum Card has been designed to give you more time for the moments that matter. Relax before a flight with access to over 1,000 airport lounges in 120 countries around the world, make the most of your stay at selected hotels with complimentary breakfast, a guaranteed late checkout and a room upgrade when available.

What’s more, you can earn 30,000 Membership Rewards® points as a welcome bonus when you spend £2,000 on your Card in the first three months of Cardmembership, which could help you get to some of these exciting cities for yourself.


Important information

Annual fee £450. Terms and Conditions apply.

If you’d prefer a Card with no annual fee, rewards or other features, an alternative option is available called the Basic Card. Go to for more information.

For more important information visit

Promoter: American Express Services Europe Limited has its registered office at Belgrave House, 76 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W9AX, United Kingdom. It is registered in England and Wales with Company Number 1833139 and authorised and regulated by theFinancial Conduct Authority.