What’s In A Name? The Stories Behind City Monickers

The Big Smoke, Muddy York, Sin City... Just what do the nicknames behind some of the world's most famous cities actually mean?

We all know that London is often referred to as The Big Smoke and The Big Apple is a common synonym for New York City, but have you ever wondered how these nicknames came about? There are so many cities all over the world with famous nicknames, we’ve teamed up with Globehunters.com to bring you the stories behind the nicknames of 13 of the best-loved cities in the world.

London – The Big Smoke

London’s nickname, ‘The Big Smoke’, refers to the pea-souper fogs which took over the city in the 19th century – the nickname first appeared in a book of slang in 1874.

Globehunters.com have joined forces with Belle About Town to reveal the stories behind the nicknames of 13 of the world's most famous cities.

Toronto is known as Muddy York

Toronto – Muddy York

‘Muddy York’ is the oldest of Toronto’s nicknames and refers to the city’s settlement when the streets were unpaved and the dirt roads were turned to mud by the rain.

Geneva – The Peaceful Capital

Switzerland is well known worldwide for being a peace-building country but its capital, Geneva, boasts more than 200 international organisations, which is how it earned its named ‘The Peaceful Capital’.


Sydney – The Harbour City

Not only is Sydney the biggest city in Australia, it also has the one of the largest natural harbours in the world, Port Jackson. Some of Sydney’s most popular attractions, such as Harbor Bridge and Sydney Opera House, are also located at Port Jackson, which is how it gets its nickname.

Globehunters.com have joined forces with Belle About Town to reveal the reasons behind the nicknames of some of the world's most famous cities, such as Milan, the fashion capital of the world.

Milan, fashion capital of the world

Milan – The Fashion Capital

Milan, the second largest city in Italy, is iconic due to the fashion shows and brands to which it calls itself home.

Las Vegas – Sin City

They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so this nickname is fairly obvious. Many people go to Las Vegas to do things that they wouldn’t usually do, such as gamble, party hard, and drink a lot of alcohol. It’s the city that many people visit to let their hair down, which is why it’s often referred to as ‘Sin City’.


Beijing – The Forbidden City

‘Forbidden City’ was the name of a Chinese imperial palace which was built in Beijing but, over time, the whole city began to be known as such.

Paris is known as the coty of love, but what do other famous city's nicknames mean? Belle About Town finds out in our travel feature

The City of Love

Paris – The City of Love

Paris is known to be the most romantic city in the world, so its nickname ‘The City of Love’ is incredibly apt. The quaint cafes and incredible structures in Paris bring the city to the height of elegance and this utterly romantic capital has seen a great many proposals – need we say anymore?

Barcelona – The City of Gaudí

Barcelona is home to most of the works of world-renowned architect, Antoni Gaudí. Perhaps the most known of his works in Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia, which is one of the most visited Roman Catholic buildings to exist.

Rome – The Eternal City

The ancient Romans even called Rome ‘The Eternal City’, because they believed that, although many cities and empires around the world would rise and fall, Rome would remain a constant. As the oldest capital city in Europe, Rome boasts its history on every street, even after facing the empires of the Carthage, the Etruscans, the Samnites, and the Sabines.




New Orleans


New Orleans – The Big Easy

New Orleans, the largest city in Louisiana, is often referred to as ‘The Big Easy’ because it’s fairly easy for musicians to play gigs there due to the more laid back atmosphere in comparison to The Big Apple.

New York City – The Big Apple

There are many stories surrounding why New York City is called ‘The Big Apple’, but it appears that the first time ‘apple’ was used to describe the city was in the 1920s when horseracing was an all important sport and apples were given as the prizes. As a result, John Fitzgerald, a New York Morning Telegraph writer, used the term “around the Big Apple” in his report of the races.


Amsterdam – The Venice of the North

Quite simply: Amsterdam is home to over 165 canals, which is why it’s commonly compared to Venice.

Emily Cleary

Emily Cleary

After almost a decade chasing ambulances, and celebrities, for Fleet Street’s finest, Emily has taken it down a gear and settled for a (slightly!) slower pace of life in the suburbs. With a love of cheese and fine wine, Emily is more likely to be found chasing her toddlers round Kew Gardens than sipping champagne at a showbiz launch nowadays, or grabbing an hour out of her hectic freelancer’s life to chill out in a spa while hubby holds the babies. If only!


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