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.
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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.
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Sorry but got to disagree with some of your choices. What about Sydney, Barcelona, Granada, Florence and London. Amsterdam probably wouldn’t feature in my top 100!
No London and sorry Vancouver? Not my list, again with most but Vancouver I say no to.
What about Shanghai? It’s really very beautiful. Not a fan of Eastern European cities
and you touted Cape Torm as beimng a beautiful
city, but only gave us beach footage
Delighted to see Vancouver at 2nd place. Our abundance of parks, beaches, bike trails, golf courses, marinas, and three local ski areas within 25 minutes of the city, make it a fun place for residents and visitors alike.
I think that Venice also deserves the place at this list.
FYI Your top ten list of hotels LINK goes to the Vancouver top ten hotel list~
An amazingly touching description of the 10 best cities in the world ! It is hard , sometimes even impossible , to pass by Your convincing, valuable and useful recommendations ! Dear The Great Expert ! You provide a trusted perspective on the world of travel. You inspire Your Fans to fall in love with the world – everyday. I’m immensely grateful for Your unique and helpful Mission for us !
All personal choices but….Istanbul; Leningrad. Lisbon, Stockholm, Budapest, Wien, Brussels on the heavy tourist trail and many other gems – Lyon, Bern, Edinburgh, Bakhura, Chongqing, Havana, Plovdiv, Marrakech
As a Melburnian, and considering 100+ years of rivalries between the two cities, you would have to pick Sydney for your list
My beautiest City in the world: Sanaa/Yemen
My first choice, Lisbon – Portugal, my own town. Lisbon has a beautiful light. My second choice, Paris. I also love, Rome, Florence, Venice, Barcelona.
I know Cape Town, it has a lot of beach spots that are marvellous, the town itself is interesting, but is not my first choice.
this is amazing post thanks for sharing information with us
Rome should be the first, no other city can be compared to its beauty.
I’m Glad they put Cape Town , it was really so nice with a lot of sea , beaches and marvelous breathtaking Mountain View’s .
Venice, Positano, Capri
France: Les Beaux, Gordes
Wellington & Queenstown, NZ
New York City
Visit Istanbul if you want to see the real beauty in the world…
Dubai supposed to be number one.
Not sure why hong Kong is on nr 8 there is nothing nice ab hing Kong all be it I love the place and the vibe but I am sure there are far prettier cities in the world then hong Kong . A few examples to raplace nr 8 and even no 3 nyc should not be on this list are : Moscow , Antwerp , jerusalem , tokyo …..
Thanks for such a lovely article regarding the most beautiful places. Really useful article and worth reading this article.
There are few cities in the world that can compete with the architecture/culture/cuisine that Italian (and most Mediterranean countries) cities have. Florence, Venice, Rome would be my top three in any classification for larger cities. Paris, Lisbon, Sevilla, Barcelona, Vienna, London, Istanbul -top 10! To rate a city beauty by its beaches it’s a poor/biased criteria, even worse to rank sky-scrapers/shopping centres based cities as beautiful (ie Dubai). There are some smaller jewels like Siena, Pisa, Mantova, Nice, Granada, Bruges etc. that would be my first choice
Paris, St. Petersburg, Rio, Vienna, Moscow, New York, Istanbul, Barcelona, Budapest, Prague.
I think what this list teaches us, with Cape Town being number one, that humans just can’t build beauty to compare to the beauty of nature! CT sits in a well deserved number 1 spot!
Cape Town in first place ???? I don’t think so
EVERY COUNTRY IS BEAUTIFUL BUT AS EVERYONE WILL VOTE THEIR COUNTRY SO AS MY COUNTRY
PAKISTAN AND 2 TURKEY 3 CHINA 4 USA 5 IRAN 6 INDIA ALSO CANADA
VANCOUVER is kind of ugly same as Hong Kong. No mystery or architectural beauty
Go sit on the seawall… its spectacular
What about Edinburgh ? and surely Venice (even with the hordes of tourists) should be also there.
Singapore is the must beautiful city I visited
If you see Isfahan, Iran, your opinion will change
WTF? NYC most beautiful city? Are you out of your mind? Really, it is more beautiful than Prague or Budapest or Florence? NYC is a fantastic city, but it is not in anyway beautiful visually. I am there often and I always notice how dirty and unattractive it is. You need to travel more! If NYC is beautiful to you, I have a property in Chernobyl to sell you.
You can’t have a beautiful cities list and not include Venice. This list is null and void.
I do agree with Duke
A most beautiful cities list without Venice….
It’s a joke…
Venice? Si!!!! New York City? Beautiful? No!!
Wow, the comments are nonsense. This is literally someone’s opinio, so obviously it will be subjective.
I’m happy with London being excluded though.
Agree with CT!!! Stunning. Singapore is also beautiful, especially the harbor district. Kyoto is so visually appealing. Rio, no way.
Am expecting London on the list.
Why is London not on the list
I would like to add Chicago, Tel Aviv and Sevilla.
I FEEL SO PROUD WITH CT ON THE LIST!!! I am truly grateful to live in a city filled with beauty, but I don’t think it should be No.1… You should include London, Rome, Dubai, Chicago, and of course Venice.
I hate to say it, but San Francisco needs to be removed from this list. Ever since covid the city had spiraled with homeless and drug addicts. It is no long the beautiful, clean and safe destination it once was.
I think Washington, DC is beautiful with all of its memorials and parks.
Bruge Belgium, Rottenberg, Germany. Not sure if you are listing only very
Great information… thanks for sharing
I have to disagree with some because the modern architecture is so disgusting. When I was younger I did not notice so much. But after visiting more European cities, the older architecture is just incredible