What’s Behind These Groovy City Nicknames?

Around the world, we’ve come to know many cities by their nicknames. But do you know why New York is called the ‘Big Apple?’ What makes Singapore the ‘Garden City?’ And which city is often referred to as, the ‘Old Smoke?’

New York – The Big Apple

The name ‘The Big Apple’ first came to light in the 1920s by journalist John J. Fitz Gerald, who used it when writing about horseracing prizes in New York. He then began using it in reference to New York City after that.

But it wasn’t until the 1970s that the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau began a tourism campaign promoting New York as the ‘Big Apple’ – and as we all know, the name stuck!

Rome – The Eternal City

It’s a nickname that’s been around since ancient times and even back then everyone thought of Rome as the “Eternal City” – the city that would live forever.

Even Ovid (who died c. 17-18 A.D.) uses it in his famous poem, Metamorphoses, writing “As long as Rome is the Eternal City / These lines shall echo from the lips of men”.

Given that Rome’s still standing today, the name seems to fit!

Singapore – The Garden City

Set on an island, the city of Singapore is known as being environmentally clean and green, an initiative put forward by its first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, in the late 1960s.

Today, the city is a hub of futuristic buildings as well as trees, parks, gardens and greenery, making its nickname of the ‘Garden City’ very appropriate.

Lima – City of the Kings 

It might not sound all that familiar, but ‘City of the Kings’ is more than just another name for Lima – it was its original name!

Founded in 1535 by the conquistadors on the day of the Epiphany (otherwise called ‘Three Kings Day’), this destination was deemed the City of the Kings or Ciudad de los Reyes.

Unfortunately, the name quickly fell out of use, but we still think that Lima is indeed a regal city.

Hong Kong – Pearl of the Orient 

Sitting on the Pearl River Delta, it might seem obvious why Hong Kong is often referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Orient.’

But that’s not quite right. It actually earned this moniker thanks to the glittering lights and decorations that shine at night around Victoria Harbour.

Jaipur – The Pink City of India

What makes a city pink? Covering it in pink paint, of course!

In 1876, much of the city of Jaipur was painted terracotta pink (representing ‘welcoming’ and ‘hospitality’) in preparation for a visit from the Princes of Wales and Queen Victoria.

Ever since, the city has kept its pink colour – so much so that it’s now illegal to paint the buildings in any other shade!

Cape Town – The Mother City

Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa, but is that enough to make it the Mother City?

A story tells of a local newspaper (or perhaps someone writing in to the newspaper) in the 1930s, claiming that Cape Town should be dubbed a ‘metropolis.’

Breaking this down, everyone seemed to realise that ‘metros’ meant mother, and ‘polis’ meant city, and so they began referring to Cape Town as the Mother City!

London – The Old Smoke or Big Smoke

London’s moniker is thought to have originated thanks to the smog and fog that surrounded it in older times, and particularly in the 19th century during the industrial revolution when coal burning was common.

In 1952, the Great Smog that covered the city (and killed thousands of people) also helped to sustain the city’s nickname.

But don’t worry, today the air in the Old Smoke is mostly clean, thanks to the Clean Air Act of 1956.