The Pokemon Towns and cities are pillars of Pokémon world. They act as havens between routes, bring colour and personality to each game, and are often home to some of the most exciting story beats and sidequests. So, which are the very best throughout all eight generations?
Fair warning: my nostalgia has certainly impacted this list, so feel free to disagree with my ranking. This is more of a love letter than a definitive list of the greats.
Spoilers abound for gameplay. Some plot spoilers where relevant.
Pokemon Towns 10: Lumiose City – Kalos
If getting lost in a glittering Pokémon metropolis is your bag, then look no further than Lumiose City. Modelled after Paris, Lumiose is separated into multiple areas with so much to do that catching ‘em all happily takes a back seat.
The Prism Tower serves as the city’s symbol (much like the Eiffel Tower), whilst the Lumiose Museum houses paintings of many people and locations throughout the Pokémon world. There are several restaurants and cafés where weary trainers can relax, as well as plenty of shops to help you raise your style points.
Notably, there’s the Sycamore Pokémon Laboratory, where you can receive a Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle once you have defeated the Professor. For those wanting to simply pass through this labyrinthian city, visiting the Electric Lumiose Gym in the Prism Tower is a must.
Whilst there’s so much to do and it’s a very pretty city, it’s simply too big and too confusing to be higher on this list.
Pokemon Towns 9: Saffron City – Kanto
Gym Leader Sabrina terrified me in the anime, with her OP Psychic Pokémon, powerful mind powers, and her ability to shrink Ash, Misty and Brock into living dolls. In the game, she’s still strong, but not half as intimidating as Team Rocket Leader Giovanni, who you also see in Saffron City. The maze-like Silph Co Building is taken over by this evil band of creature snatchers, meaning that you can’t explore much of Saffron before you drive them out.
Once it’s back to normal, there’s a lot to do in the central city of Kanto. You can defeat Sabrina, of course, as well as the Fighting Dojo, who will give you a Hitmontop or Hitmonlee when you karate chop him and all his protégés. It’s also worth visiting Copycat’s house, and Mr Psychic who will give you—you guessed it—the TM for Psychic. Its connections to most of Kanto, as well as its sinister feel with both Sabrina and Giovanni in residence, makes Saffron City one of the most notable in the Pokémon world.
Pokemon Towns 8: Snowpoint City – Sinnoh
Snowpoint City’s inclusion on this list is partly due to its music and ambience. Arriving at this almost silent city settled on a snow-capped mountain after fighting your way through a howling blizzard is both awe-inspiring and a relief.
There’s not much to do. There’s a Gym Leader who (of course) uses Ice type Pokémon, the Move Tutor, and the entrance to Lake Acuity, home to one of the legendary lake guardians. You can, however, visit Snowpoint Temple later on to catch a particularly rare Pokémon after you defeat Cynthia, one of the toughest Champions in the Pokémon world. It’s a silent isle in a sea of towns and cities fighting for relevance. I love visiting and listening to the calm, poignant music that sounds like falling snow.
Pokemon Town 7: Malie City – Alola
With its distinctive Eastern architecture, high-class sushi restaurant, and many shops, Malie City is the cultural hub of Ula’ula Island. There’s plenty to do here. Feel free to take a break for some tea in the beautiful Malie Garden or challenge the Kantonian Gym in Ultra Sun or Moon. There’s a library, a salon, and even a recycling plant at the cape, which processes all the rubbish produced in Alola to be consumed by Grimer and Muk. Make sure to visit Gester, who allows you to change your battle style depending on who you have defeated in the game.
In general, Alola itself, with its many different islands and Kahunas instead of Gym Leaders, is a fascinating take on a Pokémon region. Check it out for yourself, if you haven’t already.
Pokemon Towns 6: Mahogany Town – Johto
Mahogany Town would be much more serene if Team Rocket hadn’t made the town its headquarters. Underground, they are sending out frequency waves to cause havoc on the local Pokémon’s evolution patterns. Top tip: be sure to catch the Red Gyarados at the Lake of Rage before defeating Team Rocket or miss out on one of the only guaranteed shiny Pokémon in the games.
Here you’ll also meet one of the most iconic characters in the game—Dragon Master Lance—and take on Pryce’s Ice type Pokémon at the Gym. There’s also the glittering Ice Cave along Route 44 to the right, where you can solve puzzles and catch the powerful Ice Pokémon Jynx. Mahogany Town is where the Johto end game started for me and really got my blood pumping.
Pokemon Towns 5: Jubilife Village – Hisui
As Sinnoh’s oldest settlement, Jubilife Village is the hub of all things Pokémon for the ancient Hisuian people. As a member of the Galaxy Expedition team, you’ll return here to report your findings at Galaxy HQ. Your home is here, and there are plenty of shops, including the craftworks, hairdresser, general store, and the trading post for online exchange. You can have rematches with trainers and purchase and master new moves at the Training Grounds. You can grow various crops to use as crafting materials at the Farm. Basically, it’s where you’ll get most of your sidequests and meet most of the weird and wonderful people of Hisui.
My personal favourite is the Pastures. A great feature of Pokémon Legends: Arceus is that you can toss a Pokéball to the ground and let your pocket friends out to play. As usual, you can only hold 6 Pokémon in your party, so the rest are kept in the Pastures. Every time you return to Jubilife Village, it’s an exciting, adorable mystery to discover which of your creatures will be frolicking around happily in the meadow. It’s a development that I didn’t know I wanted, but now it’s happened, I want it in all future instalments.
Ultimately, it’s very cool to explore a place back in time, long before the events of Generation 4 that we all know and love.
I’m sure just me mentioning Lavender Town has caused its iconic, creepy music to pop into your head. It has an eerie atmosphere, feeling almost deserted despite its relatively large population. It’s most notable for being home to Pokémon Tower, where hundreds of Kanto’s creatures are laid to rest.
When you get to Lavender Town, Silph Scope in hand, you must calm the enraged ghost of Marowak so you can progress to the top. But fighting spectres is not the creepiest thing about this place. Your rival turns up to battle without his beloved Raticate—many suggest that he’s in Pokémon Tower to put it to rest after it died fighting you on the SS Anne. There are plenty more rumours and creepypastas about Lavender Town, making it one of the most infamous settlements in all of Pokémon.
Pokemon Towns 3: Sootopolis City – Hoenn
Hoenn is a region characterised by a battle between land and sea. And no place showcases this quite like Sootopolis City.
It’s already a special place in Hoenn, as it’s where you obtain your final Gym Badge before heading to the Elite Four. But it’s also incredibly hidden: to get there, you must have HM08 Dive and find the right area of deep water in the huge ocean that floods half the region (I’d go to Route 126 if I were you). If you found this without a walkthrough or spending hours grinding low level Tentacool, I applaud you.
Then, once you’re in Sootopolis, the misguided Teams Aqua and Magma have disturbed a powerful legendary Pokémon. Depending on your game, there will either be blinding sunlight or apocalyptic thunderstorms. Inside the Cave of Origin is where you will battle either Kyogre or Groudon and save the world. It’s epic and makes the stakes feel that much greater.
Pokemon Towns 2: Goldenrod City – Johto
Based on Osaka in Japan, Goldenrod is the largest city in Johto, and is a great change of pace from the region’s earlier sleepy towns. Seeing the sights is a must. The department store is huge, and if you go into the basement and wait for the Machoke to move storage boxes around, you can pick up some fantastic items like the Amulet Coin. You can pick up a bike for free, which you can keep if you ride it around to “advertise” the cycling shop. The Goldenrod Underground has trainers to battle and shops that change every day, from barber shops to increase your Pokémon’s happiness to a Herb Shop run by a bitter old lady. There’s the Game Corner to gamble away the hours and the Magnet Train for eventually visiting Kanto. Bill, the creator of the box storage unit, lives here—as does Team Rocket, after their crushing defeat in Kanto. You can even ask a rather judgmental lady how friendly your Pokémon are to you.
A particular favourite of mine is housed in the Radio Tower. Bueno’s Password is a radio show that encourages you to listen in on your Pokégear and return to the Tower with your answer. Save up your points to exchange for prizes like Rare Candies and Nuggets. This mini game was particularly special to me as Generation 2 introduced the day/night cycle into Pokémon. Turning on my Crystal game between 6pm and midnight every evening was a must.
And then, of course, there’s one of the most infamous Gym Leaders in the whole of Pokémon: Normal user Whitney. Her Miltank stomped the hopes of many children, with its powerful Rollout steamrolling whole teams, and its Milk Drink healing move maddeningly resetting your progress. Once you defeat her, she starts crying and won’t even give you the Badge until you leave the Gym and come back again. Making sure your team is strong enough to beat her is tough, so everything in the early Johto game leads up to this moment.
Ecruteak is “a historical city where the past meets the present”. No town epitomises Johto like Ecruteak. Its design is feudal Japanese, which is perfect for a region based on the Kansai province of Japan.
The lore of Ecruteak is intensely deep. 700 years before the events of Johto, Ecruteak’s inhabitants built two nine-tier towers in the hopes of fostering hope and friendship between humans and Pokémon: the Brass Tower in the West, and the Tin or Bell Tower in the East. 550 years later, Brass Tower was struck by lightning, and 3 nameless Pokémon were killed. Legend says that Ho-Oh resurrected them to embody the three powers: the lightning that struck the tower, the fire that burned it, and the rain that put out the fire.
Ecruteak’s history alone is fascinating enough for it to top the list for me. However, there’s plenty to do in modern times, too. The gym leader is Morty, a Ghost type trainer with an incredibly powerful Gengar—and you thought Whitney was humbling! Take plenty of Awakenings with you to avoid its deadly Hypnosis/Dream Eater combo. You must visit the Kimono Girls in the theatre and battle their Eeveelutions to receive the HM03 Surf as a prize. In the Burned Tower, you will battle your red-haired rival before falling through the floor to the lowest level…and see the legendary dogs for the first time. Later, once the monks deem you worthy, you can enter Tin or Bell Tower to battle Suicine or Ho-Oh, depending on the game.
For me, Ecruteak embodies the mystery and excitement of any good Pokémon game. That’s why, for me, it tops this list.
Gotta Visit 'Em All
With so many towns, cities, and settlements to visit throughout the Pokémon games, it’s no wonder that many of them hold a special place in our hearts. Whether you enjoy exploring vast Pokémon metropolises, like Castelia City in Unova, or taking a break in a quiet town, like Lavaridge Town in Hoenn, everyone will have their favourites. Revisiting these places or hearing their nostalgic music all takes you back to a time when becoming a Pokémon master was your ultimate dream.