The moment you step onto new, unfamiliar territory, your senses will run wild. From sights, sounds, tastes and touches, your sense of smell is the trigger to enjoying life. Smell has the ability to affect your mood, emotions and memory. If you don’t like the way something smells, chances are you won’t be happy. As a traveller, it’s always enjoyable to check out a new site. However, if this site is pungent, your overall review might not be so pleasant. You can either endure the wrench or take flight into new surroundings; it’s effortless.
Did you know that people can detect at least one trillion distinct scents? Odours are detected by the nerve receptors and then travel to the brain to be interpreted. The oldest sense, scent cells have the ability to renew ever 30 to 60 days; however, this diminishes with age. A study also suggests that people with psychopathic tendencies have an impaired sense of smell, which negatively affects the frontal lobe, linking to their olfactory (smell) system.
This list combines some of the worst and best smelling places in the world. If you ever get a chance to visit any of these cities, bring a clothespin just in case.
15. Amazing – Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, historically known as Constantinople, is the epicentre of Turkish delights. Its beautiful architecture reflects the personalities that have ruled the city since the dawn of the Ottoman Empire. This cosmopolitan city has a diverse economy with products ranging from olive oil, electronics, vehicles and tobacco. However, the smells from the beautiful sweets and spices from the Spice Bazaar will always make a trip worthwhile. The fragrant oils and soaps, among delectable flavours of teas, Turkish delights and baklava, secretes the sweetness people are yearning for. The remarkable skyline and loving hospitality adds to the flavour. Needless to say, Istanbul is an absolute must.
14. Nasty – Fez, Morocco
Morocco’s third largest city, Fez not only has car-free alleys and aromatic food stands; it is also famous for its leather products and is home to three ancient tanneries. The largest is the Chouara, almost a thousand years old. These tanneries are composed of stone vessels that are filled with a variety of natural dyes and liquids. Craftsmen work in the blazing heat to make these products by hand and go through an entire process that uses various animal waste substances; all of which produce a vivid stench. Visitors are given fresh mint to help overcome the pungent odour.
13. Amazing – Manaus, Brazil
The largest city in the Amazon, Manaus is a short trip up and downstream to some of the most beautiful and thrilling jungle tours one could ever participate in. Have you ever smelled the outdoors after a rainfall? Amazing, right? Well, imagine that, but on a larger scale. Manaus also sits on the meeting place of the Rio Negro and the Amazon, which is described as mixing black coffee with cream. Manaus also has the occasional rubber smell, due to the famous Igarape Sao Joao rubber plantation. Despite the hungry mosquitos and the damp heat, Manaus is a great getaway to stop and smell the roses and get a birds eye view of what life in the jungle is truly like.
12. Nasty – Paris, France
You’d be surprised that the city of love is one of the smelliest. The infamous sewer system, Les Égouts de Paris, was the first underground pipeline to carry waste and was developed in 1370. Rest assured, the system had an upgrade in 1850. Until the 1970s, tourists were able to visit the sewers in boats. The current museum beneath the Quai d’Orsay on the Left Bank gives interested visitors the chance to see the fascinating pipes, maintenance equipment throughout the ages, and different feeder systems. Despite the smell of burnt rubber and urine, Paris is truly a beautiful and cultured city with a certain ‘je ne sais quoi.’
11. Amazing – Leuven, Belgium
When you smell wheat and yeast, you know that a brewery isn’t too far away. Leuven, Belgium is home to Anheuser-Busch InBev., the largest beer company in the world. The university students at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the largest and oldest Catholic university wouldn’t seem to mind the action in Leuven, apart from the research and education. Back to InBev, they brew Stella Artois in the northeastern part of the city, with several small artisan breweries in the area. The Capital bar has the largest beer selection in the world and is worth the pint stop.
10. Nasty – Bristol, England
Many artists find inspiration in the hills of South West England. Whether its Bristol’s distinct character, passionate locals, or the fact that it’s known as the ‘Birthplace of America,’ Bristol was also named European Green Capital for 2015 and is among some of the top in research and development in digital infrastructure. Since 2016, residents and visitors have complained about smelling vinegar in the air. It’s because the city council is running a trial program to kill any unnecessary weeds instead of using strong chemicals. Again, going with the green campaign, using vinegar is better for the environment. It’s not the most pleasant smell, but at least Bristol is keeping its promise in serving the greater good for humanity.
9. Amazing – Seoul, South Korea
A city filled with neon lights and glittery skyscrapers is just one aspect of Seoul. Its technology opportunities and rising economy is a contributing factor to the rankings as a social sustainable city with a high quality of life. The real reason to visit? The food. From street barbeque, hanjeongsik (multicourse banquet) to hotteok (Korean pancakes), soju (alcohol), and fresh crab, the true soul of Seoul lies in tea. Another specialty is makgeolli, the oldest Korean alcoholic drink, traditionally made with rice, barley or wheat, and is fermented with hints of nuts or fruits. While everyone enjoys singing and dancing to K-Pop on their downtime, Seoulites are all about the hustle and grind.
8. Nasty – Rotorua, New Zealand
New Zealand, home to the intriguing Maori culture, dubs Rotorua as the geothermic hotspot. Located in the Bay of Plenty region in the North, the ‘second lake’ is a must see. Among the natural hot springs, geysers, and mud pools, Rotorura is nicknamed, ‘The Sulphur City’ and smells like rotten eggs. Did you know that sulphur is actually a safe, non-toxic remedy for skin irritations such as acne? Not only does it assist in healing general aches and pains, grounding in a natural presence with beneficial minerals is one of the pros of baring the stench.
7. Amazing – Grasse, France
Known as the perfume capital of the world, Grasse is the sweetest smelling city in Europe. The Grasse jasmine and May rose are two local flowers used in the fresh, feminine Chanel No.5 perfume. Other local manufacturers such as Galimard, Molinard, and Fragonard give factory tours to share the history and allow guests to make their own perfume using the local flowers. Grasse gives visitors a real insight to life in the beautiful French Riviera on the Côte d’Azur. If you really want to develop your sense of smell, your ‘nez’ will be seduced amongst the true essence of beauty.
6. Nasty – Örnsköldsvik, Sweden
This is an unusual addition to the list. Not only does Örnsköldsvik produce famous hockey players, it has paper pulp mills, produces ethanol products, and is home to the Baltic herring. A summer Swede delicacy, Surströmming, the stinky fermented herring dates back to the 16th century where Swedish sailors preserved and sold the rotten fish to the Fins. There is even a museum dedicated where visitors can learn more about the history of the fish and can even get a little whiff.
5. Amazing – Mombasa, Kenya
An exotic, intoxicating blend of culture and trade, Mombasa, Kenya’s main tourist destination, is a popular destination for its friendly atmosphere and tropical climate. With many opportunities to buy little trinkets, traditional printed fabrics, and hand made sandals, the diverse culture hub is known for its music and entertainment. If you take a moment and breathe in the air, the smell of the salty Indian Ocean will fill your lungs with delight. Most of the buildings and statues are composed of terracotta. It bakes in the heat and releases a special smell in the rain – how charming!
4. Nasty – Bangkok, Thailand
One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster. From massage parlours, to street food, to Buddhist temples, there is so much to explore in Bangkok. The pollution and sewage are some of the biggest scents, as well as the street food, with a hint of jasmine. Have you ever heard of the Durian? This “King of Fruits” also smells like old gym socks or rotting flesh. Several markets and street vendors sell this fruit in the summer time. Many Asian cities burn their waste because it’s cheaper than actual garbage collection, thus leaving a raunchy stench. Check it out for yourself and feel free to stop by any other city in Thailand.
3. Amazing – Buffalo, New York
“The City of Good Neighbours,” Buffalo, New York is a hop, skip, and a jump from the Niagara border. To much of the delight of anyone visiting the city, you may pass the General Mills plant and take in a whiff of freshly baked Cheerios. Residents seem to enjoy the smell and have created t-shirts, “My city smells like Cheerios” Smells unlocks memories and when you smell the Cheerios, it may remind you of smelling baked good, connecting you back to your childhood. This could be another reason why everyone is so happy in Buffalo.
2. Nasty – New Orleans, Louisiana
There are always two sides of a city – the good and the bad. New Orleans is home to the Confederate jasmine, sweet olive trees, coffee, and French bakeries. On the other side, Bourbon Street is known for its outrageous parties thus smelling of subtle notes of alcohol, cigarettes, and bodily fluids. The aftermath of hurricane Katrina still lingers in the air, mixed with the chemical refinery plants, leaves residents gasping for fresh air. An escape to the bayou can be a good idea if you can handle the humid swamp smell. The question is, are you ready for Mardi Gras?
1. Amazing – Brussels, Belgium
Brussels, the epicentre of the European Union (EU), is a city known for its green spaces, fashion, and cuisine. When we say cuisine, we mean waffles, chocolate and beer. Belgians love chocolate so much, they even created stamps that smell and taste like chocolate! There are over 2,000 chocolate shops in Belgium; however, Planète Chocolat and Concept Chocolat (former Chocolaterie Duval) are two of Brussels’ famous shops. The smell of the square-shaped Belgium waffles wafts from the corner shops and food vans – imagine the waffles coated in chocolate? Our mouths are watering just thinking about it.
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