'The Venice of the...': The world's most ridiculous city nicknames

Some cities have justified nicknames – calling Sydney the Harbour City, or Auckland the City of Sails, makes sense. Others, however, are pushing it somewhat. Whether through hopeless optimism, daft historical legends or shameless attempts to compare to somewhere better, some cities have got nicknames that clearly don't fit. Such as…

'The Queen of the Sea'

Where? Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon is an inland city.

Sorry, but Lisbon is actually an inland city. Photo: Alamy

Portugal has a proud history of seafaring. The Portuguese were the first Europeans out of the blocks for exploring the rest of the world, with the likes of Magellan, Dias and Vasco da Gama sailing out into uncharted territory. So it makes sense that the Portuguese capital is called the Queen of the Sea, right? Well, it would if Lisbon was actually on the coast, rather than slightly inland on the northern bank of the Tagus River.

'The Paris of the East'

Where? Pretty much everywhere

Hanoi has many cafes, but that is where the comparisons end.

Hanoi has many cafes, but that is where the comparisons end. Photo: iStock

A truly absurd number of cities have been dubbed the Paris of the East at some point. It seems as though the nickname gets splashed around as soon as a city opens more than one café. The contenders for the title include the vaguely plausible Istanbul, Prague and Beirut. On the more laughable end of the scale are Phnom Penh, Irkutsk, Hanoi and Lahore.

'The Television Capital of the World'

Where? Tijuana, Mexico

The 'Television Capital' has been usurped.

The 'Television Capital' has been usurped. Photo: Getty


There are certain cities that appear on our TV screens time and time again. Los Angeles is where so many shows are shot, Vancouver has a long-standing record of standing in for American cities, and London is ubiquitous in BBC-produced programmes. But try naming something shot in Tijuana, and you might be pondering for some time. The nickname, however, comes from the number of TV sets manufactured in Tijuana – even if the industry has now been somewhat usurped by Asian competitors.

'The Venice of the North'

Where? Birmingham, England

Birmingahm is 'the Venice of the North', apparently.

Birmingham is 'the Venice of the North', apparently. Photo: iStock

While anywhere that serves a coffee on a terrace tries to compare itself to Paris, anywhere with a few canals attempts to pass itself off as Venice. Dozens of places have been nicknamed the Venice of the North, with Amsterdam and Bruges perhaps not being too outrageous. Birmingham in the British Midlands is fooling nobody, however. It may have more kilometres of canal than Venice, but the plodding utilitarianism of them strips out any vague hint of romance.

'The Windy City'

Where? Chicago, USA

The 'Windy City': Not really windy

The 'Windy City': Not really that windy Photo: iStock

Having strong winds is not exactly a selling point in the first place, but Chicago isn't especially windy by American standards anyway. Sure, you might get the odd icy wintery blast off Lake Michigan, but several cities – notably Boston – have higher average wind speeds. Good job the nickname's not a reference to the weather, then. The name is generally thought to refer to the people of the city who, in the 19th century, had a reputation for being boastful windbags.

'The Rome of the East'

Where? Mangaluru, India

Mangaluru, India - full of churches.

Mangaluru, India - full of churches. Photo: iStock

At first Goa got the Rome of the East moniker, but now Mangaluru seems to have nicked it. The Karnatka port city, formerly known as Mangalore, has speckles of Portuguese and British influence, but very little of Rome. The nickname has been bestowed because there are quite a few churches in Mangalore, including the distinctly colonial Rosario Cathedral. Let's face it – it's tenuous, isn't it?

'The Lion City'

Where? Singapore

No evidence of a real lion ever stepping foot in the 'Lion City'.

No evidence of a real lion ever stepping foot in the 'Lion City'. Photo: iStock

Singapore means "Lion City". Legend has it that the name was bestowed by Malay Prince Sang Nila Utama, who allegedly founded the city after seeing what he thought was a lion. It's a nice story, but there's no evidence of any sort of lion ever having lived on the island. Nevertheless, the lion head has been adopted as the city's symbol.

'The Athens of the South'

Where? Nashville, Tennessee

The Pantheon - Nashville.

The Pantheon - Nashville. Photo: iStock

In 1897, Nashville constructed a replica of the Parthenon as part of its centennial celebrations. But the 'Athens of the South' nickname predates the pastiche Parthenon. It's almost as if constructing a copy of Athens' most famous building was an attempt to justify a dubious nickname. For what it's worth, the nickname supposedly nods to Nashville's focus on education, not Athens' burgeoning country music scene.

'The Big Apple'

Where? New York City, USA

Nig giant apples in New York

No giant apples in New York Photo: iStock

New York looks absolutely nothing like an apple, and has no reputation for either growing apples or being particularly fond of eating them. So why has it embraced such an unusual nickname to the point of using it in marketing campaigns? Well, the term is thought to come from horse-racing. In the 1920s, major prizes were known as "big apples" and many of the most prestigious race meetings were held in and around NYC.

'The Naples of the East'

Where? Kagoshima, Japan

Kagoshima, Japan. Just like Naples.

Kagoshima, Japan. Just like Naples. Photo: iStock

Kagoshima isn't particularly known for its pizza, or even its food culture. It doesn't have that gritty Neapolitan edge, either. So the nickname of "the Naples of the East" comes from nothing other than having a volcano nearby. Still, full marks for not opting for the standard Paris, Rome and Venice options.

See also: The ten most beautiful small towns in Australia you must visit

See also: The 10 best stops: Driving Sydney to Melbourne on the inland route