Cities with harbors offer the best of both worlds—all the amenities you would expect from a great metropolis—with the added bonus of glorious ocean views, stunning beaches, and ports to moor your yacht. Read on for our top picks, from Sydney, Australia, to San Diego, California.
1. SYDNEY, AUSTRALIABoasting 150 miles of shoreline, along which visitors will find unspoiled beaches, picture-perfect gardens, and areas of natural bush, Sydney Harbour is, of course, also home to one of the most recognizable pieces of architecture in the world—Sydney Opera House, the controversial creation of architect Jørn Utzon, and the equally Instagrammable Sydney Harbour Bridge.
For those not staying on the water, upscale waterfront hotels include the Shangri-La, Four Seasons, and the Sir Stamford. After an almost-compulsory tour of the iconic opera house, visitors should head to Woolloomooloo Wharf, where modern Italian restaurant OTTO wows diners and wins awards, or the equally garlanded China Doll for a modern take on the culinary traditions of China, Japan, and South East Asia.
Christie’s International Real Estate’s 2017 report Luxury Defined: An Insight Into the Luxury Residential Property Market ranked the capital of New South Wales as the sixth most luxurious city for prime property. Ken Jacobs, Managing Director of Ken Jacobs, the exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in New South Wales, observes, “Fundamental to the unique appeal of Sydney is the combination of natural attributes. The suburbs surrounding the harbor form an amphitheater offering vantage points back to the icons of the Bridge, Opera House, City, and North Sydney skylines.”
2. LISBON, PORTUGAL
Continental Europe’s most western city, Lisbon is one of the oldest in the world—Julius Caesar declared its status around 31 BC. The port in Portugal’s capital is located where the River Tagus meets the Atlantic Ocean and, due to its strategic location between Europe, Africa, and the Atlantic, Lisbon is one of the busiest ports in Europe.
The legendary city of seven hills has, according to Rafael Ascenso, CEO of Porta da Frente, Lda, the exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate in Lisbon, “the unique ability to surprise at every turn.” Downtown Lisbon is considered the “heart of the heart of the city” and is walkable, with large open squares, quaint shops, and numerous cafés. Real estate is also upscale, with “sumptuous and majestic” buildings renovated into residential offerings.
The Castelo area is what Ascenso describes as “a small village within a town” and has some of the city’s most prestigious developments. Avenidas Novas, meanwhile, is the city’s commercial center, with wide avenues, upscale retail opportunities, and increasingly more premium developments.
3. HONG KONG
A bustling global economic hub, Hong Kong is still one of the world’s safest cities, and its twinkling harbor sits right at its heart. The impressive Victoria Harbor is naturally deep, enabling access by cargo ships and cruise liners alike.
Situated between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, the harbor is overlooked by towering apartment blocks—some of the most desirable real estate on the planet. Not moving in just yet? Hong Kong’s hotel scene is long established. The Peninsula recently celebrated 87 years, and the Mandarin Oriental is now in its early fifties. A lot of the city’s best dining can also be found in hotels, with Caprice at the Four Seasons garnering praise (and long holding two Michelin stars). For dinner with a view, don’t miss RyuGin, 101 floors up.
Victoria Harbor is overlooked by towering apartment blocks—some of the most desirable real estate on the planet
When you are looking for somewhere to live, the smart money heads to Happy Valley and Jardine’s Lookout. The former has plenty of green space yet is close to busy and buzzy Causeway Bay, and the latter overlooks the water and is partly surrounded by beautifully wooded hills.
4. SAN DIEGO, USA
The natural harbor and deepwater port that is San Diego Bay is one of the most striking natural harbors on the west coast of the US. Colonized by the Spanish from 1769, it remains a home port of major assets of the United States Pacific Fleet.
La Jolla remains one of the most popular beach destinations in California
The bay, spanned by the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, is the perfect entry point to all that San Diego, which bills itself as America’s Finest City, has to offer. Waterfront neighborhoods waiting to be explored include Mission Bay Park, “a 4,600-square-foot aquatic playground” of waterways, inlets, and islets. Mission’s neighbor La Jolla, nicknamed “the jewel of San Diego,” meanwhile, remains one of the most popular beach destinations in California, and offers residents an “upscale, village lifestyle.”
For the artistic community, the redeveloped East Village in Downtown San Diego remains popular with the bohemian folk it attracted in the 1990s, but now features desirable residential developments and the Rob Quigley-designed Central Library. Rancho Santa Fe, further inland, remains the most desirable San Diego neighborhood, attracting everyone from the late Bing Crosby to Bill Gates.
If you’re just visiting, rather than looking to invest, the Fairmont Grand del Mar makes a good base and comes with the added bonus of a spa, fine dining, and a championship Tom Fazio golf course.