What’s behind the nicknames of famous cities?

From the Big Apple to the Eternal City, some of the world’s most famous cities have rather interesting aliases that intrigue the imagination. Be it through iconic films, popular culture or from one generation to another, the stories behind them have since captured the essence of the destinations on which they have so affectionately been bestowed.

These are the stories behind the nicknames of famous cities across the world;

The Forbidden City – Beijing

Originally known as the Chinese imperial palace situated in the heart of Beijing, and the home of dynasties and government for 500 years, the Forbidden City – (“Zijin Cheng” in Mandarin) first formally appeared in 1576. Zi means “purple” and refers to the sacred North Star, where the Celestial Emperor is said to reside. This was therefore a highly restricted area inaccessible to locals. As years went by, the area in which it was located went on to become known as the Forbidden City, and the palace itself is now the Palace Museum and is accessible to all.

The Eternal City – Rome

Thought to be a city that would live on forever by the Romans, the 3 000-year-old city, which is home to the Vatican City, the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain, came to known as the Eternal City (“Urbs Astern” in Latin, or “La Città Eterna” in Italian).

The City of Gold – Johannesburg 

The gold mining capital of the world during the years of the Witwatersrand Gold Rush, which began in 1886, Johannesburg came to be known as Egoli, or the City of Gold.

The Big Apple

Made famous in the 1920s by the New York Morning Telegraph‘s sports writer, John J Fitz Gerald, The Big Apple become the unofficial moniker for New York City through a 1970 marketing campaign. It has also been famously referred to as The Five Boroughs, Gotham (as made famous by the Batman franchise), and The City So Nice They Named It Twice, which refer to another nickname, “New York, New York”.

The City of Tigers – Oslo

In the 1870s, Oslo, the capital of Norway, and the country’s most populous region, was thought to be a dangerous place by author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and so he referred to it as Tigerstaden, or the City of Tigers. The name stuck and endured, so that at the city’s 1 000-year anniversary, a row of tiger sculptures were placed around Oslo in commemoration.

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