To understand Cincinnati you first need to grasp its geography.

To understand Cincinnati you first need to grasp its geography

Cincinnati, emerging on the bloodied coat-tails of the American War of Independence to become in 1788 what many consider the first truly “American” city, has a rich history.

Like Kansas City it’s an interurban unicorn: a metropolitan area straddling two US states, in this case Ohio and Kentucky. And the city’s western suburbs even stretch out to touch the fringes of Indiana.

The Ohio side contains the city proper, resembling a mini-Manhattan with its burnished skyscrapers, famous sports stadiums and grand civic squares. Across the brawny Ohio River, the Kentucky half has more of a Brooklyn vibe, with bohemian cafés, artsy tattoo parlours and hipster-friendly distilleries. Fittingly the two are linked by the John A Roebling Suspension Bridge, a precursor to New York’s Brooklyn Bridge.

On both sides of the river Cincinnati is weird in all the right ways. This is a city that has embraced dreamers and free-thinkers from the start, adopting the motto “Where pigs fly” (a nod to its meatpacking past, but also an acknowledgement that anything is possible here).

Kentucky has always been the spiritual home of bourbon, but it remains its actual home too, accounting for 95 per cent of the world’s production, in an industry worth £7.2 billion a year.

Most of the serious bar and restaurant action takes place on the Ohio side of the river. More specifically in the Over-the-Rhine (OTR) district — so called because it rose around a downtown canal that early German settlers had to cross to get downtown.

Here, amid handsome Italianate buildings with their flat, decorative roofs (which often double as New York City in Hollywood movies), you’ll find a rapidly gentrifying enclave brimming with eating and drinking options, from coffee shops to fun craft breweries and taprooms such as Rhinegeist and Taft’s Ale House (Ohioans love their beer as much as Kentuckians love their bourbon).

Cincinnati is a pleasingly walkable city, but there’s also an efficient (and free) European-style tram connecting OTR with downtown proper.  Where the chandeliers are the size of Fiat 500s and the wagyu meatballs are as big as tennis balls.

So if you get a chance, explore the Queen City — so named because it offered an oasis of civilization amid wild terrain — and the former river towns such as Covington, Ludlow and Newport that have been swallowed, bourbon and all, to become districts of the greater “Cincy region”.

New direct flights with British Airways from London Heathrow starting June 5.

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