How to describe places in English

by Adriana Stein
May 05, 2021
friends learning how to describe places in English

Ever visited a place that was drop dead gorgeous? Or maybe you visited somewhere that totally sucked? Whatever the case may be, describing places in English is a useful skill to learn, because it helps you paint a picture in the mind of your listeners. 

So, how do you do that?

That’s where adjectives are your best friends.

Now I’ll go over how to describe places in detail using adjectives. 

Why descriptive adjectives matter for describing places

Adjectives are words that describe something such as “good” or “bad”.

However, generic adjectives like “good” or “bad” aren’t that useful when it comes to describing locations. It’s better to use more specific words to give an accurate description of a place.

For example, let’s say you want to describe two different locations you visited recently: an archaeological site and a beach town.

Both places were “good”, but each appeals to different people and has different things that make it “good”.

So when you can use stronger adjectives, not only does it more accurately describe your experience, it’s also an essential element of English fluency.

I’ll now cover more detailed adjectives you can use to describe locations both negatively and positively.

Positive adjectives to describe places

When you want to describe the positive traits of a place, consider first what captured your attention. 

Were the sights breathtaking? Was the place interesting from a historical point of view? What about the people you met? 

What made your holidays memorable? Did the place satisfy your needs? 

Let’s say you spent a week relaxing in a rural town, immersed in the local culture. There are specific words you can use to express how relaxing the town was. 

If you went mountain biking and enjoyed the scenery, you are still describing the place in a positive light, but you’ll need to use different words.

Adjectives that express calm

Some people simply enjoy the tranquility location. They are looking for relaxation, and they enjoy taking their time to do stuff. In that case, you could use adjectives such as:

  • calm
  • peaceful
  • quiet
  • serene

All of these adjectives describe a place that conveys a sense of peace.

Check the following examples:

  • The place was quiet, I enjoyed my stay.
  • The week at the farm was peaceful.

Adjectives that express beauty

Some places offer breathtaking sights – be it from nature, or from a city with a rich culture. If that’s the case, you could describe the place as:

  • charming
  • stunning
  • scenic
  • picturesque

When you use these adjectives, you are talking about how beautiful the place is. 

Here are two examples with beauty adjectives:

  • I went mountain biking at Steamboat Springs and the landscape was picturesque.
  • Venice is a charming city.

Adjectives that express cultural relevance

Museums, religious places, and archaeological sites are all interesting places. If a location has many such places, you could describe it with:

  • interesting
  • fascinating
  • stimulating
  • intriguing

These adjectives refer to how the city is attractive not for its looks, but for what it represents.

For example, cities like Jerusalem and Rome fit well into this category. They are beautiful places in their own right, but they are also important places for mankind’s history.

Compare these two with a city like Dubai: the metropolis is beautiful, but for different reasons.

Top 50 adjectives in English you need to know!

Negative adjectives for describing places

Unfortunately, not all places are great. You might want to guard someone against visiting certain locations, because they’d be wasting their money and time – or even worse, risking their lives.

Here are some negative adjectives you can use to dissuade people from visiting certain locations:

  • dangerous: dangerous cities have high crime rates. They are the kind of cities in which you don’t feel safe walking alone at night. 
  • polluted: visiting a polluted city can be a miserable experience, especially if your respiratory system is weak. Luckily most polluted places are big industrial cities, so they aren’t that appealing to begin with.
  • expensive: there’s nothing wrong with expensive cities per se. In fact, if you can afford to live in or to visit them, you will surely enjoy the experience. But they aren’t for everyone, so you want to dissuade people on a budget to visit them, because they risk not enjoying the trip.
  • boring: calm places are great, but you might be looking for a little more action. If you’re after exciting nights and great avenues to socialise, smaller rural towns will be boring for you.

When you use these adjectives to describe a place, you are painting it in a negative light to discourage the listener from visiting it. 

Other adjectives for describing places

There are adjectives that can be interpreted depending on subjective factors. While no one can deny that a city like Rome is charming, there are attributes that some people might find desirable, while others might not.

I grouped some examples of such adjectives, together with their opposites, so you can better understand what I mean: 

  • bustling vs isolated: a bustling city is a great environment for people who enjoy a faster-paced lifestyle, but they are undesirable for those who prefer isolated places.
  • modern vs traditional: some people love technologically advanced places, while others prefer a more traditional approach to life.
  • warm vs cold: this is a debate that will never end. Some people enjoy warmer climates, while others feel more comfortable in colder ones. Who am I to judge?

How do you learn the thousands of adjectives present in the English language? I know it sounds like a monumental task, but you can start small and build up from there. Before you know it, you’ll be able to easily describe places !

Focus on learning a couple of adjectives for each category and integrate them into your vocabulary. Once you are confident with their usage, look for synonyms in the dictionary and start using them. As always, practice makes perfect.

Share this post on
Choose your language and take your free Lingoda placement test

Ready to start learning with Lingoda?

Customise your learning experience and enjoy the journey to fluency.