Shining City

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Minas Tirith is totally safe, there's no way Sauron's up to something.
"Behold!" Oscagne intoned quite formally. "Behold the seat of beauty and truth! Behold the home of wisdom and power! Behold fire-domed Matherion, the centre of the world!"
David Eddings, Domes Of Fire

No matter what age it's built in (bronze, middle, modern or crystal) the Shining City is awesome, perhaps the best city to live in anywhere on the world. The Shining City is usually purpose built from the word "Go", not a disorderly Mega City that grew out of a settlement over hundreds of years. From the air, neat geometric patterns will be visible (not just grids, but circles, triangles, or fantastic symbols that create powerful Geometric Magic), and on the ground each and every building integrates seamlessly into a greater overall style. Above all, the Shining City is bright. On approach, expect it to be shown with lots and lots of artful shafts of sunlight that gleam off the simple yet elegant white buildings; at night it will shine like a neon angel. It will have lots of soaring towers, citizens of the Shining City never suffer from acrophobia.

The Shining City is usually the capital to The Federation, has the headquarters Heroes Unlimited, or is home the heroes' favorite Reasonable Authority Figure. Because of its size it likely won't have the cooky and cozy feel of a small town, or the the gentle pace of the countryside, but the inhabitants will at least be polite if not friendly, full of energy, and usually pursuing activities "of high culture and art". If that sounds a bit snobby, then you've guessed right, the inhabitants (and often times the rulers) of the Shining City are culturally arrogant and perhaps unhealthily insular.

Thematically, it will serve as an urban beacon of hope for what mankind can build when it works together. And for these reasons it tends to make viewers feel at home there and players feel protective. However, for those who have a more cynical view of humanity, it can degenerate into a Soiled City on a Hill.

Not surprisingly, the bad guys want to destroy or conquer it. Reasons can be simple ambition or Slobs Versus Snobs brand jealousy, this one is common when the bad guys operate out of the Shining City's antithesis, the City Noir. Depending on the story, it may survive intact, get random but repairable property damage, or be doomed to burn like Troy. For extra fun, the bad guys' forces will be represented as an evil dark cloud on the horizon, threatening to both literally and figuratively darken the Shining City. Boiled down to basics, it's the urban equivalent of having a villain say "I Have You Now, My Pretty!" to a city.

Its Shadowland is prone to be The Lost Woods or other, even more inhospitable wilderness, but can also be the countryside as a place of ignorance, insularity, and sloth.

Examples of Shining City include:

Anime and Manga

  • Doraemon portrays Tokyo and other metropolis in the world being this way in the future. Calculating from the age of the daddy Nobita, it should have been within the 2000s...
  • Slayers the city of Seiran is a huge pentagram city layout.
  • In Saint Beast, Zeus' shrine has a white-and-gold neo-classical aesthetic and sits on top of a giant plateau which is only accessible by an extremely long, steep staircase, setting it off from the surrounding scenery.


  • Asgard in Marvel's The Mighty Thor if often referred to as the Shining City or Golden Realm. This is usually accompanied by a number of grandiose claims like being the jewel of the nine worlds. Artistic portrayals usually have it be a city that is or looks like it is made of gold or a glowing, highly advanced city.
  • Metropolis in Superman is frequently portrayed like this, especially in contrast to the Wretched Hive City Noir that Batman lives in. Ironically, while Superman has a lot to do with the average Metropolitan's attitude, what makes it look like a Shining City is Lexcorp's advanced technology.


  • Argos in Clash of the Titans is an interesting example, in that while it should be the Shining City, the god's plagues and Calibos have dragged the citizenry down into despair.
  • Al Pacino's eulogy-speech in City Hall is as much about New York City as it is about the dead victim, and speaks of the shining city New York once was and might be again.
  • Asgard in Thor.
  • Syracuse in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas; filled with gleaming white, gold domed buildings and spires, built upon and amoung impossibly high Ghibli Hills, which are all connected by elegant walkways. There is even an elevated canal for ships, linking the seas with the Royal Palace. Its a shame that we only see it for a few minutes of the movie though.
  • Star Wars: Theed City and Coruscant certainly qualify, as does the capital of Alderaan.


  • In The Lord of the Rings, Minas Tirith is the setting's Shining City. Minas Ithil was its sister and also a Shining City... until the Ringwraiths turned it into the Wretched Hive of pure evil known as Minas Morgul. Some time after the fall of Sauron, it was re-rebuilt as Minas Ithil.
    • This is slightly subverted by the fact Minas Tirith was actually a fortress of what was the original Trope city: Osgiliath, which fell into ruin because Gondor couldn't populate it anymore.
    • The Silmarillion has the Hidden City of Gondolin, the last free nation of the Noldor in Middle Earth and the fairest city ever constructed by the Elves in exile. Naturally, Morgoth gets it in the end.
  • Though not a city, the Ivory Tower in The Neverending Story qualifies on counts of being the Childlike Empress' home... and really shiny!
  • The Emerald City in the Oz series.
  • David Eddings loves this trope. In The Belgariad, there's the city of Kell; the prequels to The Belgariad describe beautiful Vo Wacune, which doubled as a Doomed Hometown for Polgara; and The Elenium has "Fire-domed Matherion", the capital of a continent-wide empire.
  • Rome is frequently described this way in the Emperor books.
  • By contrast, in the Conqueror books by the same author, both Yenking and Otrar are described in terms normally applicable to this trope; however, since the Protagonist of these books is Genghis Khan, the readers follow those attempting to destroy them.
  • The eponymous city of Brandon Sanderson's Elantris is literally a shining city. Even its inhabitants shine. Of course, do to a few complications, it serves as more of a zombified Advanced Ancient Acropolis through the course of the story.
  • The city of Tar Valon in the Wheel of Time series, which surrounds the White Tower and is surrounded by the Shining Walls. All the buildings were built ahead of time by master stonemasons in pretty shapes reminiscent of waves and seashells and such, and the White Tower in the middle is housing for the powerful Aes Sedai, an order of magic-users with great political influence. Also fits the snobbishness bit, since the Aes Sedai are rather arrogant.
    • Most Ogierbuilt cities count as well, though the most prominent ones are the aforementioned Tar Valon and Caemlyn.
  • Edmond Hamilton rather goes in for these. The capital of the Mid-Galactic Empire is especially memorable being built of glass upon shining silica cliffs above a silver sea. With a hot white sun like Canopus overhead the citizenry must have to wear shades.
  • Capitol in The Hunger Games certainly looks the part, even though its actually a Wretched Hive filled with decadent hedonists who take from the poor Districts without giving anything back and expect annual entertainment in the form of the titular games (i.e. gladiatorial battles to the death). The film makes it look even more spectacular, a sharp contrast to the poverty-stricken District 12.

Live Action TV

  • This fits the level of love that the cast of Memphis Beat seems to have for their titular hometown, although protagonist Dwight Hendricks seems to be almost religious in his reverence.
  • Most Earth cities in Star Trek are like this. The one we see most often, San Francisco (Star Fleet HQ), certainly qualifies.
  • The Capital of Gallifrey in Doctor Who.


  • The astronomically huge New Jerusalem, described in the Biblical Book of Revelation, is a visionary Shining City frequently identified with Heaven itself. It has walls and streets of gold, foundations of gemstones, and twelve gates, each one carved of a single monstrous pearl. (Yes, THOSE "pearly gates." The oysters are left to your imagination.) Trees of Life, like the one forbidden to Adam and Eve when they were expelled from Eden, here line the streets, and a river of Water of Life springs from the foot of Christ's throne. The whole thing is cubical in shape and roughly as large, on a side, as the distance from old Jerusalem to Rome. It specifically contains no temple because it doesn't need one, considering Who lives there.

Tabletop Games

  • Exalted: Yu-Shan, the seat of power of Unconquered Sun and the Five Maidens. The center of Celestial Bureaucracy runs by the myriad gods of Creation. The headquarter of the Sidereal Exalted. It's basically the Capitol of Creation itself, with the usual intrigues. Its Shadowland is Malfeas the Demon City (a city that's also an individual), which was used to rule it as its God-king.
    • Yu-Shan does also have areas of urban sprawl (typically the enormous slums populated by destitute gods whose domains have been lost or rendered largely irrelevent, or who have otherwise fallen from grace).
    • The city of Mera, capital of the Old Realm, also qualifies. The Imperial City is its closest counterpart during the Second Age.
  • The 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons provides Hestavar, a city on the Astral Sea where Pelor, Ioun, and Erathis (god of Sun, Knowledge, and Civilization, respectively) resides. It's also the afterlife for the followers of those gods. And it does have its share of intrigue.
  • The city-plane of Axis in Pathfinder is a megalopolis bigger than most material planets. It is the archetype on which all civilization is modeled and the physical embodiment of the Lawful Neutral alignment. Like Hestavar, it is the home of several gods, including Abadar, the god of civilization, and the deceased Aroden, god of humans. Its builders and main inhabitants, the axiomites, are living mathematical concepts who pushed back the primal chaos of the Maelstrom and practically invented culture. It does have a seedy underside, though—the sewer-realm of Norgorber, the god of thieves and secrets.


Video Games

  • The city of Trodel Stadt in Endless Frontier, city sitting along in a world full of blast craters and crashed battleships.
  • The Citadel Station in Mass Effect, capital of the Citadel Council, definitely qualifies, even though it's got a little secret...
    • Nos Astra on Illium and Milgrom on Bekenstein in Mass Effect 2 are these for the asari and humans respectively, but in typical BioWare fashion they have dark undersides as well.
    • Based on the Prothean ruins, one can assume that their cities were like this as well. Of course, as revealed in the third game, they weren't nearly as glorious and enlightened as Liara had always assumed, forging an interstellar Empire out of subject races and forcing them to adopt their doctrine.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - The Imperial City fits this perfectly.
    • "Mournhold. City of light. City of magic."
    • Solitude fits as well, capital of Skyrim, visible for miles from atop the rock arch it's built on, and full of grand Imperial towers and manor houses.
  • This is largely the goal of city-building games, with you as its king/major/god/whatnot:
    • Ancient Egypt: Pharaoh and its expansion Cleopatra; its Spiritual Successor Children of the Nile.
    • Ancient Rome: Caesar series; Grand Ages of Rome.
    • Ancient China: Emperor - Rise of the Middle Kingdom.
    • Banana Republic: Tropico.
    • Modern: SimCity, Cities XL.
    • Some Civilization games allow a "Cultural" victory condition, where your entire civilization is so full of shining cities that everyone else can't help but feel awed.
  • What little we see of Upper Heng Sha in Deus Ex Human Revolution fits this. It is impeccably built in a futuristic style and is a major hub of China's augmentation industry. It is also the only location all three Deus Ex games that we see in broad daylight. Shiny? Oh yes!
    • Interestingly, we never hear of Heng Sha in the other 2 games (which take place later in the timeline), which may indicate that the city has gone through some dark times.
  • Baticul in Tales of the Abyss. It's known as the City of Light.
    • And Grand Chokmah, the Floating City. It is, if anything, even brighter and shinier than Baticul.
  • The floating city of Caldoria in The Journeyman Project, even though we get to see very little of it, since the games are focused on traveling to the past.
    • Atlantis was this as well, at least by ancient standards.
  • WoW: Dalaran fits this trope closely, and while Shattrath doesn't fit the architectural aspects, the big beam of light emanating from the center of it is very shiny indeed.


Web Original

Western Animation

Real Life

  • The American concept of building a City on a Hill, an American utopia based on Christian principles to serve as an example to the rest of the world. It's a reference to the Sermon on the Mound: "Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do [men] light a lamp, and put it under the bushel, but on the stand; and it shineth unto all that are in the house. Even so let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."