sunset city skyline at Wat Arun temple and Chao Phraya River, Bangkok. Thailand,
Eloi_Omella/istockphoto

Cities That Look Even More Amazing At Night

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sunset city skyline at Wat Arun temple and Chao Phraya River, Bangkok. Thailand,
Eloi_Omella/istockphoto

Dazzling After Dark

Everyone likes to dress up for a night on the town. That goes for cities around the world, as some places are best seen after dark. Read on for a round-the-globe sampling of destinations where nighttime is the right time for a bit of sparkle.


Related: See the Stars: Dark Sky Destinations Across America

Panoramic view of Las Vegas Strip at night in Nevada
RandyAndy101/istockphoto

Las Vegas

We’ll get this survey off with a real showstopper, the Nevada city that truly comes alive after dark. With glitzy casinos and larger-than-life attractions epitomized by the synchronized light-and-sound fountains gracing the majestic Bellagio hotel, a walk on the Las Vegas strip — officially known as Las Vegas Boulevard — is something to behold any time of the day. But at night, simply “Wow.”     


Related: Bucket List Restaurants in Las Vegas

Stunning view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the illuminated Manhattan's skyline at dusk with dark blue sky and smooth water surface. Picture taken from the Brooklyn district, New York, USA.
Travel Wild/istockphoto

New York

New York, New York. It’s an iconic “town” that’s been immortalized in song, film, stage, literature — and more. And even a short visit to “the city so nice they named it twice” can’t fail to impress. By day, the city’s treasures delight, from Grand Central Terminal to the Chrysler Building, countless museums to the wonder that is Central Park. Once the sun sets, though, New York comes alive with sparkle, whether you take in a sweeping view from the borough of Brooklyn — complete with the twinkling Brooklyn Bridge in front of the famed Manhattan skyline — or from the heart of Times Square, where it’s so bright you’d be forgiven for not realizing that night has arrived.     


Related: Free or Cheap Things to Do in New York City

Eiffel tower blue lights
dennisvdw/istockphoto

Paris

Some cities can be summed up with a single image — and that’s the case of Paris when the Eiffel Tower is in the picture. The French capital’s wrought-iron wonder, named after engineer Gustave Eiffel and opened to the public in 1889, is the stuff of dreams (and seemingly zillions of images dotting everything from cosmetic bags to wall art). It’s a tourist “must,” which, since 1985, turns into a glittering wonder after dark. As its website notes, “Every evening, the Eiffel Tower is adorned with its golden covering and sparkles for 5 minutes every hour on the hour, while its beacon shines over Paris.” City of Light indeed!        


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sunset city skyline at Wat Arun temple and Chao Phraya River, Bangkok. Thailand,
Eloi_Omella/istockphoto

Bangkok

Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, is a city noted for its impressive shrines and lively nightlife. For a scene most memorable, visitors will want to take in the skyline at sunset along the Chao Phraya River. It’s there that Wat Arun, a dramatically intricate Buddhist edifice also known as the Temple of Dawn, creates a golden glow that adds a serene touch to the surroundings.   


Related: Spectacular Photos of Hard-to-Reach Places

Nashville Night Street Scene Music Row Tennessee Travel Destinations
Lorraine Boogich/istockphoto

Nashville

The neon shines bright on a Nashville night. Visitors to this Tennessee capital city — aka “Music City” — have no shortage of things to fill their days, from museums to playgrounds, art galleries to historical tours. Come evening, though, those drawn to the city known for its devotion to music can be dazzled by the neon marquees beckoning visitors into its array of musical venues.     


Related: Bucket-List Destinations for Music Lovers

Westerkerk (Western Church), with water canal view in Amsterdam.
VitalyEdush/istockphoto

Amsterdam

For all the modernity of some cities, others delight in offering that feeling of “old.” Amsterdam is one of those, with its gently scaled buildings hugging the edges of the canals in this capital city of the Netherlands. For a particularly striking view, take in Westerkerk, or the Western Church, which has been presiding over the iconic vistas since the early 17th century.

Sydney Harbor at night
Siwawut/istockphoto

Sydney

Sydney Harbour is simply dazzling. There’s no other way to describe this Australian city’s sweeping waterfront, anchored by the iconic Sydney Opera House. When night falls, this site leaves a most memorable impression with its sail-like structure truly coming to life. Called “a great architectural work of the 20th century” by UNESCO, the site is a performing arts venue and tourist destination that has been captivating visitors and locals alike since 1973.

Bourbon Street New Orleans
SeanPavonePhoto/istockphoto

New Orleans

Manhattan has Fifth Avenue. Paris has Avenue des Champs-Élysées. And New Orleans has Bourbon Street. The iconic Louisiana city — where the good times roll all year long — is a popular tourist destination where one can start the day with beignets and end it with an evening of jazz (and all kinds of hijinks). The city’s famed French Quarter comes alive like few other places after dark, a nightlife destination that’s as frenetic as one could want. 

Toronto skyline
rabbit75_ist/istockphoto

Toronto

This capital city of Ontario — and Canada’s largest city — is bustling by day, a collection of skyscrapers dotted among a thriving metropolis where museums, galleries, restaurants, shops and businesses offer diverse options. Overlooking it all, though, is the famed CN Tower, visible from anywhere in Toronto and a notable landmark that defines Toronto’s night sky. 


Related: Quiz: Can You Guess These Iconic City Skylines?

Venice at sunset
faust__/istockphoto

Venice

The canals, the bridges, the gondolas … the romance. Venice is an Italian treasure along the Adriatic Sea, built on a series of small islands in a lagoon. The Grand Canal is its main “street” — there are no roads here, only canals — with the city a wonderland of Renaissance and Gothic palaces. After dark, popular destinations such as the Ponte Rialto or Piazza San Marco take on an evocatively vintage appeal, a step back in time that those lucky enough to visit will likely never forget.    


Related: Natural Wonders to Appreciate Before They're Gone

Colourful buildings in Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, Florida, USA
xavierarnau/istockphoto

Miami

Miami, the ever-popular tourist destination in southeastern Florida, has no shortage of draws, from its beaches to iconic hotels, its bustling ethnic districts such as Calle Ocho and Little Havana to its art galleries and waterfront activities. It would seem like a daytime paradise — and many agree it is — but come nightfall, things glam up with its vibrant nightlife and its awe-inspiring Art Deco Historic District that dazzles with retro flair.

Charles Bridge, River Vltava and Castle District in Prague
Bim/istockphoto

Prague

Visitors to Prague may indeed feel they’ve truly stepped back in time, as this capital city of the Czech Republic offers up a wealth of architectural delights reflecting Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Dubbed “the City of a Hundred Spires,” Prague’s also known for the River Vltava, which runs through its center, and the iconic Charles Bridge. At night, though, all eyes turn to the looming Prague Castle, which puts a fairytale touch on the evening sky.

Night view of Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE
wataru aoki/istockphoto

Dubai

Dubai, the buzzed-about city in the United Arab Emirates, is known for its luxury shopping, eclectic nightlife and daring architecture, which takes the idea of modern to another level. It’s certainly come a long way since the 18th century, when Dubai was known as a simple fishing village. Today, the cosmopolitan destination on the Arabian Peninsula draws wealthy visitors from around the globe, who might hustle during the day but take time to savor the stunning nighttime views. A highlight remains the city’s soaring tower, the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world at 2,700-plus feet.

Skyscrapers and surrounding buildings by the Frankfurt am Main, Skyline by night, Germany
Wheatfield/istockphoto

Frankfurt, Germany

It’s not all business in Frankfurt, the central German financial hub situated on the river Main. No, it’s also a popular tourist destination with visitors flocking to countless attractions ranging from the Goethe House Museum, the former home of the famed writer, to its annual Christmas market. But come sunset, it’s the Eiserner Steg, or Iron Footbridge, that offers a memorable view with a bit of an industrial edge.

Dallas Texas at Night
Aneese/istockphoto

Dallas

Those who remember the TV show “Dallas” might recall its opening theme, which featured scene after scene of the Texas city’s urban sprawl, from skyscraper to stadium. Today, the north Texas destination — forever, sadly linked to the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. — is a place for art and commerce. At night, though, it turns into a sparkling vista highlighted by the futuristic Reunion Tower, an observation tower and noted landmark.

Houses of Parliament at night , Westminster, London, UK
GoranQ/istockphoto

London

As with Paris and the Eiffel Tower, London’s got an iconic image — the Houses of Parliament. With Big Ben presiding over the city’s famed governmental seat, the Houses of Parliament offer a genteel — dare we say it, very British — nighttime image. Sure, the city teems with nightlife, from restaurants to clubs to the West End theaters, but there’s something reassuringly iconic about this landmark along the Thames River, which joins other London-by-night “must-sees” including the Tower Bridge, the London Eye observation wheel, river cruises along the Thames, and more.

Madrid Plaza de Cibeles fountain Palacio de Comunicaciones illuminated at night
Eloi_Omella/istockphoto

Madrid

The Spanish capital is known as an elegant destination, filled with sprawling avenues, beautiful parks, and buildings that reflect a fine appreciation for art. Among Madrid’s treasured destinations are the Plaza de Cibeles, with its neo-Classical sculptures and fountain. The square has come to symbolize the city, encapsulating its history, with the impressive Cibeles Palace creating a dramatic backdrop that takes on a certain grandeur after dark.

Cityscape Hong Kong and Junkboat at Twilight
Nikada/istockphoto

Hong Kong

The city of Hong Kong is now officially known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, but forget the technical. We’re going to focus on the way the waterfront sparkles like a Christmas tree every evening, the skyscrapers combining to create a scenic panorama. If you’re lucky enough to see a junk boat on the water, the scene is elevated even further.

Downtown Boston Cityscape
SeanPavonePhoto/istockphoto

Boston

Beantown simply drips with history, right? Of course, visitors to Boston, the capital of Massachusetts, can have most any type of experience they want, from straight-out focusing on the countless historic sites to savoring world-class dining to shopping in toney boutiques to experiencing classic neighborhoods such as the North End, known as Boston’s Little Italy. Every step seemingly takes you in another direction, which at night provides a wonderfully diverse scene with the 18th-century Faneuil Hall and its understated evening lighting surrounded by soaring skyscrapers behind.

Spectacular aerial view over Rio de Janeiro
Ultima_Gaina/istockphoto

Rio de Janeiro

The seaside Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro is perhaps best known for its beaches, its vibrant Carnival festival, and the magnificent Christ the Redeemer statue that looks down over the entire scene. After dark, the city comes alive with light, ideally viewed from on high, perhaps from a perch in a Sugar Loaf Mountain cable car.

Cityscape of Reykjavik at dusk, Iceland, Europe
ChrisHepburn/istockphoto

Reykjavik, Iceland

Again, it’s not just the modern that dazzles. Delve into Viking history by day in this Icelandic city, but as those visiting the coastal destination known as Reykjavik will find, as evening falls, things take on a magical glow. Reflected in the The Pond, also known as Tjörnin, are the city’s decidedly low-profile buildings. It’s calming rather than frantic, to be sure. (And visitors will want to note that winter brings the chance to see the Northern Lights, dazzlers of a natural kind).   

Related: Best Vacation Rentals for Seeing the Northern Lights

San Francisco Chinatown
aimintang/istockphoto

San Francisco

California’s famed “City by the Bay” is a culturally rich and diverse destination where one can find rows of charming Victorian houses as well as soaring skyscrapers. Its iconic Golden Gate Bridge is known around the world, and while it is illuminated at night, our money’s on the city’s Chinatown, the oldest in the country and the largest Chinatown outside of Asia. Wander the streets as evocative street lamps, lanterns and restaurant and shop lights invite you to stay well past bedtime.   


Related: Beautiful Historical Photos of Famous American Bridges

Parthenon and Herodium construction in Acropolis Hill in Athens, Greece shot in blue hour with the moon rising above the sky
Pnik/istockphoto

Athens

Visitors to Athens have no trouble sensing they are in a city with a pedigree, with the Greek capital offering some 3,000 years of history. Tourists fill their days traipsing between classical sites from the Acropolis to the Parthenon. Come nightfall, though, as things wind down, these monuments to an earlier civilization take on a golden hue that proves the contemporary city honors its past.

River Liffey and Quays at Ha'penny Bridge at night, Dublin, Ireland
dbstockphoto/istockphoto

Dublin

Ireland’s capital is a city known for culture — from music to theater to literature — as well as a destination favored by many young tourists. With countless historic sites to visit by day, visitors often congregate in the Temple Bar area for some vibrant nightlife. Steps away from the excitement, though, visitors of any age will be hard-pressed to ignore the simple charms of Dublin’s scenic vistas at night. A fave? The Ha’Penny Bridge, a pedestrian span built in 1816 that artfully crosses the River Liffey.   


Related: 30 Free Things to Do in Ireland

XXXL Monaco (Monte Carlo) by night panoramic
photovideostock/istockphoto

Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo, the storied playground of the rich and famous in Monaco on the French Riviera, is the home to the glitzy Monte Carlo Casino. The region, though, is equally dazzling, an exclusive enclave where the evenings amp up the glamor even more with picturesque views and glittering lights reflected in the Mediterranean Sea.

Vienna Opera at night, Austria
rusm/istockphoto

Vienna

There’s an elegance to Vienna, from its historic buildings to its status as the capital of Austria, situated on the banks of the Danube River. It’s known for its art (think Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele), its music (from Mozart to Beethoven) and even science (Sigmund Freud). Tourists flock to the museums and parks, tour the palaces, and, of course, splurge on the pastries. Come nightfall, it all takes on an even richer aura with buildings such as the Vienna State Opera, a 19th-century Renaissance Revival building, offering a most fitting backdrop.

Vancouver Science World and BC Stadium at night
kongxinzhu/istockphoto

Vancouver, Canada

Sometimes, no matter how many attractions a city might offer, one simply captures the imagination of many. That seems to be the case in Vancouver, a British Columbia seaport city, where the arts thrive (and many a TV show and movie are filmed). The nighttime sky seems to orbit around Vancouver Science World, a popular science center with — as in Dallas — a quite futuristic architectural profile.

Evening Hillbrow Tower, Johannesburg
THEGIFT777/istockphoto

Johannesburg

Johannesburg got its start as a gold-mining settlement back in the 19th century. Today, it’s South Africa’s biggest city, a sprawling metropolis where museums explore its past, especially its troubled history of apartheid. The nighttime sky sparkles most notably with Hillbrow Tower, a fanciful landmark that still punctuates the city’s environs from its suburban perch as one of the tallest buildings in the Southern Hemisphere.

Rua Augusta Arch in Lisbon Portugal at Night
Allard1/istockphoto

Lisbon, Portugal

This coastal city, Portugal’s capital, is filled with art and history, from its castle to its signature tiles — not to mention traditional delicacies and beaches. Stately by day, Lisbon’s Rua Augusta Arch is an 18th-century riverside monument that turns into a stellar scene after dark. 

Rome, Italy - Fontana di Trevi, night image
emicristea/istockphoto

Rome

Those traveling to Rome no doubt need good walking shoes and a strong constitution, as there are so many destinations and attractions that it nearly boggles the mind. The Italian city, which serves as the nation’s capital, is known as “The Eternal City.” It offers entry to sites ranging from the most historic (The Colosseum, anyone?) to those of the moment, say a new gelateria or shoe shop (ah, Italian leather). After dark, the city sparkles and perhaps no better than at the Trevi Fountain, the landmark 18th century fountain seemingly imbued with romance and considered the world’s most famous fountain.

Seattle skyline
dibrova/istockphoto

Seattle

The Pacific Northwest is perhaps anchored by Seattle, the ever-trendy city on Puget Sound. From being the birthplace of grunge to the home of the famed Pike Place Fish Market, this vibrant (and well-caffeinated city) offers an urban setting surrounded by natural beauty. Piercing the night sky, amid twinkling skyscrapers is the famed Space Needle observation deck that signifies exactly where you are.

Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain: the Park Guell of Antoni Gaudi
Krivinis/istockphoto

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, the capital of the country’s Catalonia region, is an architecture lover’s dream. Visiting its storied landmarks can fill a visitor’s days, as they seek out the modernist creations by the legendary Antoni Gaudí, from Sagrada Familia to Park Güell to Casa Batlló, as well as art from Pablo Picasso to Joan Miró. But it’s a special treat to witness any of Gaudí’s stunning designs after dark

Stockholm, Sweden
horstgerlach/istockphoto

Stockholm

For all the cities that offer plenty of nighttime razzle-dazzle, we admit we’re partial to those where history seems to “glow” after dark. And Stockholm, the Swedish capital, is one of those places. Situated on a Baltic Sea archipelago, Stockholm is a gathering of islands and bridges where modern structures happily coexist with historic venues. Perhaps most evocative is its City Hall, a 1911 Art Nouveau structure that hosts the annual Nobel Prize banquet. There’s just something about this building’s gold-topped tower that seems especially magical after dark.

I light Marina Bay event at Singapore
CharlieTong/istockphoto

Singapore

This island city-state in Southeast Asia is noted for its waterfront; the stunning Marina Bay is a highlight particularly after dark as uniquely shaped buildings light the night sky. As VisitSingapore.com notes of the destination, “As you discover Singapore beneath the rays of the midday sun and the glow of lampposts and starlight, you’ll find that our city never sleeps.   


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