How to Compare Two Cities When Writing an Essay

Start with three items:

  • Clear understanding of the purpose and audience of your essay
  • Travel brochures or visitor websites for each city
  • Outline of points of comparison

If the assignment is open to your choosing and you need help brainstorming,

  • Frommer’s (,
  • Rick Steve’s Europe (,
  • and Fodor’s Travel Guides (

are all trustworthy and up-to-date resources for information on cities around the world. Once you have done a little research, you are ready to write the comparison essay, following the steps below.

Choose the scope for the comparison

Choose the scope for the comparison. For example, you could focus your entire essay on the impacts of similar historical events, or on experiencing the local art and music scene, or on the demographics and political leanings in the two cities.

These examples would lead to a more narrowed comparison, whereas a broader comparison might compare the two cities by:

  • climate,
  • major industries,
  • nightlife,
  • and religious culture.

Outline your points of Comparison

Outline the order in which you will present your points of comparison, and allot one paragraph to each point. ​​Write a topic sentence that states your overall opinion of how the two cities compare on a specific point​​.

Here’s an example:

Austin and Nashville have both long been considered fertile ground for budding musicians, so they are both terrific places to see talented up-and-comers at inexpensive, live music venues.

Build upon each topic sentence and develop each paragraph

Write and develop each paragraph by building upon each topic sentence. Write a sentence or two detailing how the topic sentence is true for City A. Next, write a sentence or two detailing how the topic sentence is true for City B.

For example, if your topic sentence introduces the similarities of 18th-century architectural sites in both Philadelphia and Dublin, you might develop the paragraph with a description of Philadelphia’s panoptical Eastern State Penitentiary and next with a description of the Dublin’s panoptical Kilmainham Gaol.

Conclude each paragraph with a sentence that sums up the importance of this particular comparison.

Proofread your essay three times

Proofread your essay three times.

  • Read the paper through once with fresh eyes to ensure that the information would make sense to you if you were reading the essay for the first time.
  • Read through a second time to polish any sentences that would sound better with different words, phrases, or sentence structures.
  • A third and final read—especially if you read it out loud—will help you catch any final misspellings or missing words.


Many cities have local newspapers that report on the less touristy goings-on in town. Examples include the “Portland Mercury” (, “Phoenix New Times” ( and Philadelphia’s “City Paper” ( Consulting one of these will give you an insider’s perspective and might even make your essay sound better.

Remember to cite your sources

Give credit where credit is due. . If you have used statistics, figures or quotations, make sure to include a citation (as a footnote or in parentheses at the end of the respective sentence or paragraph) and a reference list.

The person assigning the essay may have specified the style (e.g., MLA, APA or Chicago) to follow when formatting your citations. Ask for clarification if you are unsure of how to properly cite your sources. Not citing is considered plagiarism.

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