Island break or city escape? The world's ten greatest island cities

Can't choose between an island escape or a city break? Well, there's no good reason you can't have both. Around the world, there are several cities that are also islands, or spread across an archipelago. From South-East Asia to the south of England, these are some of the world's most incredible island cities.

SINGAPORE

The classic island city is well known to Australians as a stopover and a destination in its own right. Singapore is an island, a city and a country drifting loose just south of Malaysia. It is also crammed with reasons to visit. Top lures include the World War II history, the colonial heritage, the astonishing hawker stall-driven food scene and big ticket attractions such as Singapore Zoo. See visitsingapore.com

KEY WEST, USA

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Right at the end of the Florida Keys island chain, Key West has a sun-cooked boisterousness that makes it tremendous fun to visit. Bar-hopping in garish shirts is practically obligatory, but this island city also packs in several worthwhile tourist sites. Among the most fascinating are President Truman's Little White House, Ernest Hemingway's home and a glorious butterfly conservatory. See fla-keys.com

PORTSMOUTH, ENGLAND

Portsmouth is the third oldest city in the United States and is a historic seaport and popular summer tourist destination only 60 miles from Boston Credit: istock
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Cut off ever so slightly from Great Britain by a small tidal channel, Portsea Island is home to Portsmouth, one of the world's great naval cities. The main attraction here is the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, launchpad for many a daring mission at sea. But you'll also find the D-Day Museum, devoted to the World War II-changing D-Day landings, and the salvaged wreck of the Mary Rose. A specialist museum houses the remains of this warship from the era of Henry VIII. See visitportsmouth.co.uk

TROMSO, NORWAY

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Around 350 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is far enough north to get the midnight sun phenomenon in summer. The city is on Tromsøya Island, separated from the Norwegian mainland by a small channel. Tromsø is a popular cruise ship destination on sailings up the Norwegian coast, and visitor highlights tend to focus on the Arctic setting. These include the Polaria aquarium, which concentrates on creatures that like it cold, and the Arctic-Alpine Botanic Garden. See visittromso.no

RICHMOND, CANADA

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Just south of Vancouver, Richmond in British Columbia dominates Lulu Island, which is sandwiched between the splitting arms of the Fraser River. Those with an interest in shipbuilding history can visit the Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site, but Richmond is best known for its large Asian population, and the Richmond Night Market. With its, heavy Asian representation, Richmond claims its night market as the largest in North America. See visitrichmondbc.com

MUMBAI, INDIA

The famous 5-star Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is located in the Colaba region of Mumbai in India on the banks of the Arabian Sea and next to the world famous The Gateway of India monument. The hotel first opened in December 1902 and was built in the Indo-Saracenic Revival architectural style. Credit: Getty
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Salsette is one of the most densely-populated islands on earth. It is cut off from the Indian mainland by Thane Creek, Vasai Creek and the Ulhas River, and it is utterly dominated by the megacity of Mumbai. The appeal of Mumbai is largely in the assault on the senses, but there's also a wealth of temples and grand colonial-era architecture to admire. See incredibleindia.org

MONTREAL, CANADA

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Sandwiched between the St Lawrence and Prairies rivers, Montreal Island plays host to Canada's second-largest city. Montreal is an absolute joy to hang out in, too, with an easy blend of French-speaking and English-speaking cultures and a party spirit. The Vieux Port area offers zipwires, big wheels, ropes courses and an absorbing history museum. But the city's real heart lies along Boulevard St Laurent and St Denis Street, two parallel roads spilling over with bars, restaurants and cool shops. See mtl.com

VENICE, ITALY

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The notoriously romantic city of Venice is mostly spread across an archipelago in the Venetian Lagoon. Forget about the chunk on the mainland – all the bits you want to see are on the canal-split islands that inspired a gazillion Canaletto paintings. St Mark's Square, the Doges' Palace, gondola rides and the Rialto Bridge are on the traditional ticklist, but you're really better off just ambling around and getting happily lost. See venice-tourism.com

NEW YORK CITY, USA

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OK, this is cheating slightly, as the three largest boroughs of New York are on the mainland. But Manhattan and Staten Island have a population of over 2 million between them. And Manhattan is clearly what most people have in mind when they think of New York. Top tourist drawcards such as Central Park, the Empire State Building, One World Trade Centre, Chelsea Market and the High Line are all here. See nycgo.com

HONG KONG

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Again, cheating, as the majority of Hong Kong is on the mainland. But most of what's interesting is on Hong Kong Island or the surrounding archipelago. Hong Kong Island offers a blizzard of shopping and restaurants, plus the Ocean Park theme park and the Peak Tram funicular up to Victoria Peak. The Tian Tan Buddha and Hong Kong Disneyland, meanwhile, are on Lantau Island. See discoverhongkong.com

The writer has been a guest of the New York, Florida, Singapore and Canadian tourist boards.

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