Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.
Today: Top 10 most beautiful cities in the world
British painter Francis Bacon once said that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”, so ranking the beauty of cities, and what they have to offer to their visitors, may sound like mission impossible. Some travelers prefer cities where they can spend days exploring ancient wonders and world-class museums, while others are drawn to cities with breathtaking skylines, urban vistas and modern architecture. But although we all have our personal favorites, there are some cities that are so exceptionally beautiful – whether it be because of their historical character or natural setting – that they should be on everyone’s bucket list. If you’re looking for a destination with urban pleasures, consider visiting one of my favorite 10 cities in the world (a by-no-means exhaustive list).
Think I missed one? Share your favorite city in the comments section.
10. AMSTERDAM (THE NETHERLANDS)
Each one of the thousands of buildings that line the Dutch capital’s main canals can be classified as a monument and is beautifully kept as apartments, offices, cafés, restaurants, or even brothels. All together they form an aesthetic uniformity that make Amsterdam one of the most beautiful cities in the world, a stunning latticework of bridges and canals, picturesque cobbled streets, strikingly elegant architecture, and bikes, lots of bikes. World-class attractions include the Rijskmuseum, the Van Gogh museum, and of course, the Anne Frank House.
- Best time to visit: Amsterdam is best visited between April and May (spring) or September through November (autumn), right before or directly after the summertime high tourist season. You’ll contend with fewer tourists, you’ll enjoy somewhat mild temperatures (the city’s weather is notoriously finicky), and you’ll also experience Amsterdam as the locals do, at its laid-back best.
- Recommended hotels: click here for my selection of the 10 best luxury hotels in Amsterdam.
9. PRAGUE (CZECH REPUBLIC)
The Czech capital is dubbed “the city of the thousand spires” because of its many historical monuments that have been beautifully preserved and date from practically every period in history. Prague’s most famous attraction are the bridges that cross the Vltava River, especially the amazingly elegant Charles Bridge, but the stunningly beautiful Old Town Square and Prague Castle are equally impressive. Add the cobblestone streets and atmospheric alleyways that zigzag through town, and you know that few other cities delight the senses as much as Prague.
- Best time to visit: the best times to visit Prague are the spring and the fall with clear skies, mild temperatures and not so much tourists. Summer months are hot (but bearable) but this is high season and as a consequence, hotel rates are sky rocketing. If you want to enjoy a snow-covered Prague without having to push through crowds of fellow sightseers, consider a romantic winter trip.
- Recommended hotels: click here for my selection of the 10 best luxury hotels in Prague.
8. HONG KONG (CHINA)
Without a doubt, Hong Kong, also dubbed the “Pearl of the Orient” has one of the most photographed and beautiful city skylines in the world. The towering skyscrapers and futuristic buildings that are set against the lush mountain backdrop create a breathtaking, urban scenery that is unmatched in the world. Besides its skyline, Hong Kong is also known for its vibrant lifestyle, friendly people, a splendid harbor, loads of shopping and its wide range of restaurants and cuisines.
- Best time to visit: the city enjoys a mild climate from the middle of September to the end of February, with warm and sunny days. The weather from May to mid-September can be hot, wet and humid, with August being the wettest month (and the peak of typhoon season).
- Recommended hotels: click here for my selection of the 10 best luxury hotels in Hong Kong.
7. PARIS (FRANCE)
Monumental squares, centuries-old churches, famous boulevards, the Seine and romantic bridges that cross it, magnificent palaces, and Montmartre’s cobblestone streets make Paris the most glamorous and elegant of all cities. The City of Light has not only inspired painters, sculptors, writers, poets and composers but also practically every major world capital, with every city claiming its own Champs-Elysèes. Cruise on the Seine or watch the world pass by from a café terrace or and it’s easy to understand why so many people fall in love with the beauty of Paris.
- Best time to visit: the best times to visit Paris are spring (April to June) or fall (September to October). Last years, Paris has seen extreme temperatures in both summer and winter, perhaps a result of global warming. The high temperatures, combined with air pollution, make visiting Paris in summer uncomfortable.
- Recommended hotels: click here for my selection of the 10 best luxury hotels in Paris.
6. RIO DE JANEIRO (BRAZIL)
There’s a Brazilian saying that “God made the world in six days, the seventh he devoted to Rio”. Blessed with one of the most dramatic and beautiful settings in the world and home of Samba and the Caipirinha cocktail, the city of Rio de Janeiro never fails to impress its visitors. Anyone standing by the world-famous Corcovado statue or at the top of the Sugarloaf Mountain will experience one of the globe’s most exciting panoramas, as the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean mixes with the bright white of the sandy beaches and the fresh green of the lush tropical vegetation. Yes, this is indeed “the marvelous city” as locals call it.
- Best time to visit: the spring months of September and October are the best months to visit Rio de Janeiro, with dry, sunny and warm weather. Summers in Rio are hot but there is plenty of torrential rainfall. Nevertheless, summers may be a good time to visit this gorgeous city, if you want to attend the outrageous New Year’s Eve celebrations on Copacabana Beach or the legendary carnival celebrations in February. Winters are colder (so the beach may be off-limits on some days) but mostly dry and sunny.
- Recommended hotels: click here for my selection of the 10 best luxury hotels in Rio de Janeiro.
5. SAN FRANCISCO (USA)
No other metropolis in the USA is as loved by its inhabitants as the Bay City, which enjoys one of the world’s most gorgeous settings. Artsy, bohemian and stunningly beautiful, San Francisco’s main draw is it spectacular bay, which is surrounded by 43 hills ranging upward from 200 to 938 ft (60 to 285 m). With an abundance of attractions, such as bell-ringing cable cars, spectacular bridges, infamous Alcatraz, the Ferry Building (a foodies paradise) and of course the sea lions at Pier 39, it’s best to explore this magnificent city on a bike.
- Best time to visit: autumn (September to November) is the best time to visit San Francisco, with warm temperatures and sunny days. Spring is another good time, but you can expect the breezes to have a little more bite. The Golden Gate City witnesses a surge in tourism during the summer, but this is not a good time to visit since the city is quite often engulfed by a fog layer (making summer days quite chilly and you will miss the views). Winter days in San Francisco are often marked by rain and cold temperatures (despite this being California).
- Recommended hotels: click here for my selection of the 10 best luxury hotels in San Francisco.
4. ROME (ITALY)
Located on seven hills overlooking the Tiber River, the city of Rome is a treasure-trove of ancient monuments, that are inspired by grand classical architecture and set among some of the world’s most beautiful squares and avenues. Of course, everyone visits the Eternal City for its famous landmarks and must see sights such as Vatican City with St Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum with adjacent Roman Forum, and Piazza Novona with the nearby Trevi fountain. But don’t forget to visit the less known Trastevere district as well, filled with faded palazzi, picturesque streets, and lovely homes decorated with flower boxes.
- Best time to visit: spring (April to June) and autumn (late September to October) are the best months for visiting Rome: temperatures are mild, the days sunny and the crowds not quite so intense yet. In summer, the city teems with visitors and the weather it uncomfortably hot. The winters can be a surprisingly cold, wet and grey affair.
- Recommended hotels: St Regis, Cavalieri by Waldorf Astoria, Hotel de Russie, Hotel Hassler.
3. NEW YORK (USA)
New York, New York, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere! The Big Apple represents the ultimate cosmopolitan destination and continuously redefines the urban lifestyle. Here, you can visit some of the world’s best museum collections, shop till you drop, attend world-class performances, and find yourself having to make tough choices when it comes to dining out. And while there’s no denying that New York City is expensive for visitors, there are lots of free things to do.
- Best time to visit: Anytime! Each season in Gotham offers visitors plenty of reasons to visit. Early fall offers crisp breezes, bright sun and comfortable temperatures (indian summer) , and may the best time for a visit. Winter can be cold, but that also means better hotel rates. Spring is glorious and New Yorkers celebrate the thaw by taking to the streets, shopping at outdoor markets, frolicking in Central Park and dining outside. Summer can be unbearable hot, so try to avoid July and August.
- Recommended hotels: click here for my selection of the 10 best luxury hotels in New York City.
2. VANCOUVER (CANADA)
Nestled between the Coast Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Vancouver is a place of aboriginal lore and global citizenry, of natural beauty and international commerce – a place unlike any other. Vancouver’s spectacular mountains, wildlife-filled waters (that orcas call their home) and lush rain forests (where bears roam freely) overwhelm the beauty of the city itself, where ultramodern glass skyscrapers reflect the fabulous views that surround them. Add to this the relaxed mentality of its super-friendly inhabitants and you are in for an awesome trip … as long as it is not raining.
- Best time to visit: Vancouver is notorious for its abundance of rainfall in autumn, winter and spring, so try to visit between June and September for the most reliable and driest weather.
- Recommended hotels: click here for my selection of the 10 best luxury hotels in Vancouver.
1. CAPE TOWN (SOUTH AFRICA)
Blessed with some of the world’s most amazing beaches, jaw-droppingly beautiful mountains, rolling hills of vineyards, spectacular drives, and tons of trendy bars and fine dining restaurants to choose from, it is hard to imagine a more picture perfect city destination than South Africa’s Mother city (and frankly, you won’t find a better one). Combine this with some of the best accommodation and service on offer anywhere in the world and you are left with one of the hottest city destinations you will ever visit (and you will want to return again, and again). Watch below a YouTube video with my impressions of Cape Town.
- Best time to visit: Cape Town’s hot, dry summer months run from late October to March/April. Temperatures reach their peak between December and February, and this is generally seen as when to go to Cape Town when you want a beach holiday.
- Recommended hotels: click here for my selection of the 10 best luxury hotels in Cape Town.