50 of the world's most beautiful cities

Travelers make their way through Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey
Life-sized famous landmarks are recreated in ice at the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival.
Slide 1 of 51: When you think about the world's great cities, you think of noise, excitement and crowds, of good food and even better nightlife, of galleries, museums and concerts. But sometimes we overlook the fabric of the cities themselves, whether ancient walled citadels, narrowly winding streets or neck-cricking skyscrapers. Here are 50 cities which we think are among the world's most beautiful. Read on to find out our number one...
Slide 2 of 51: York has an impressive pedigree, having been founded way back in AD 71 by the Romans. Parts of the Roman city still exist, but most of what will draw your eye is medieval. Wander through Stonegate and the wonderfully-named Shambles to see half-timbered houses leaning over the street, explore the imposing shell of York Castle, or make your way straight to the Gothic splendor of York Minster.
Slide 3 of 51: Though it’s beautiful in every season, Bergen really comes into its own as the days grow shorter and the snow piles up. Its colored houses cling to the mountainsides, seeming to huddle together against the cold, reflecting perfectly in the clear waters of the North Sea. Take the Fløibanen funicular up Mount Fløyen for a sweeping views. Bergen may known as the gateway to the fjords, but there’s plenty of beauty to be found within the city too.
Slide 4 of 51: You might expect the home of rock ‘n’ roll to be all dive bars and cheap hotels with thoroughly-smashed TVs, but Cleveland is instead a charming city which makes the most of its gorgeous spot on Lake Erie. The waterfront is one of the most picturesque parts of Cleveland – and home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – but the city is full of well-maintained historic buildings, perhaps the most impressive being The Arcade, an ornate, glass-roofed 1890s shopping street in the Downtown Area.
Slide 5 of 51: Muscat is dazzling, a string of pearls stretching 15 miles (25km) along the Gulf of Oman. Alongside opulent modern buildings like Al Alam Palace and the Royal Opera House, it’s home to some fascinating historic districts. Head to the Muttrah port area or walled Old Muscat for beguiling souks, Portuguese forts and traditional Arabian architecture. But the jewel in Muscat’s crown is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, an awe-inspiring edifice of gleaming gold, vibrant turquoise and cool, white marble.
Slide 6 of 51: Just 31 miles (50km) from cosmopolitan Buenos Aires in neighboring Argentina, Colonia del Sacramento may as well be a world away. Overlooking the Río de la Plata is its excellently preserved, UNESCO-designated Barrio Histórico, with its cobbled streets, tiled roofs and low-rise stone buildings showing a singular mix of Portuguese and Spanish styles. Stroll through the picturesque district to the waterfront one evening, and join in with the local tradition of applauding the setting sun.
Slide 7 of 51: Munich, the capital of Bavaria, is packed with grand architecture, glorious open spaces and a generous number of beer gardens. Marienplatz is the city’s focal point, lined with imposing Gothic edifices, but there are also significant Baroque, Romanesque and even Rococo buildings dotted throughout the city center. For some breathing space after exploring Munich’s embarrassment of architectural riches head to the English Garden, a green space even bigger than New York’s Central Park.
Slide 8 of 51: As one of Europe’s smallest capitals, Valletta is compact enough to explore on foot. The city’s known for its Baroque architecture, but you can also explore the imposing Fort St Elmo, sleek Parliament House (designed by Renzo Piano) or neoclassical Anglican Pro-Cathedral. Or skip all the big hitters and just stroll along the stepped streets, resting in gardens overlooking the bay, admiring the colorful Maltese balconies, and watching the warm, creamy limestone turn gold in the evening sun.
Slide 9 of 51: Galway always comes up on lists of the most beautiful counties in Ireland, so it’s no surprise that its capital city is a bit of a stunner. The city’s ancient core is still in use, with Kirwans Lane a fine example of the narrow medieval streets, all cobblestones and arches. Head west towards The Claddagh, a fishing district with origins in the fifth century, for colorful fishermen’s cottages and glorious views across the water.
Slide 10 of 51: The capital of Lebanon, Beirut is a cultured, cosmopolitan city at the crossroads of the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Its skyline is dotted with minarets, high-rises and even a few church spires, and its streets are a jumble of different architectural styles, from the Italianate Sursock Museum to the Armenian-inspired St Gregory’s Cathedral. With the whole city squeezed between sea and mountains, it’s certainly overwhelming – but the buzzing, multicultural chaos is thrilling and beautiful.
Slide 11 of 51: Though the city is full of charming spots, it’s hard to argue with the fact that the French Quarter is what really sets New Orleans apart. This well-preserved historic district is still very much alive and the focus for nightlife in the city – much of which is out in the streets, all the better to admire the fine wrought-iron balconies and intricate facades. The buildings are certainly beautiful, but it’s the famous New Orleans hospitality which adds a rosy tint to the whole place. For more things to see and do in the Big Easy, check out our city guide. 
Slide 12 of 51: Of all Rajasthan’s beautiful cities, Udaipur is perhaps the most heavenly. Known as the City of the Lakes, it looks almost as though it’s floating on the water, its lime-washed buildings light and delicate. Surrounded by sawtoothed peaks, this romantic city is a self-contained world, full of palaces, forts, ghats and havelis (mansions built around courtyards). Its most iconic building is City Palace, Rajasthan’s largest royal complex, made up of eleven dazzling palaces overlooking Lake Pichola.
Slide 13 of 51: Though Lisbon gets most of the attention, Portugal’s second city is uniquely beautiful and atmospheric, especially in its medieval Ribeira district. Here, centuries-old merchants’ and mariners’ homes line cobbled streets, seeming to crane their necks over each other to get a view of the Río Douro. In fact, the whole town seems focused on the river, with its grand bridges – from the double-decker Ponte de Dom Luís I to the sleek, modern Ponte de São João – one of the city’s most iconic sights. You can find our full guide to this fascinating city here. 
Slide 14 of 51: From its clusters of colorful houses to the almost extraterrestrial drama of Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavík is iconic. Apart from its famous church, most of the city is low-rise, making Mount Esja – usually dusted with snow well into the warmer months – an even more impressive presence across the water. With its colorful houses, daring modern architecture and stunning setting, Reykjavik is a charming and beautiful city.
Slide 15 of 51: Whether you’re a fan of winding medieval streets, colorful riverside terraces, Victorian warehouses, refined Georgian avenues or risk-taking modern architecture, Cork is the place for you. Somehow, this jumble of styles comes together perfectly, creating a beautiful and truly unique whole to rival any city in Europe – no wonder its inhabitants are so welcoming, and so proud of their home.
Slide 16 of 51: While it's the gateway to Machu Picchu, Cusco is worth a visit in its own right. The oldest continuously inhabited city in the Americas, its streets are packed with historic buildings, and its setting in the Andes is second to none. Inca sites stand shoulder to shoulder with colonial mansions and Catholic churches, while in the San Blas district narrow lanes wind between small churches and artisans’ workshops, the streets lined with steps in the steepest spots.
Slide 17 of 51: There’s no question: Cape Town is the most beautiful city in southern Africa. At its heart, both literally and figuratively, is Table Mountain, from the flat top of which you can survey the whole metropolis. On the Atlantic seaboard you’ll find white-sand beaches and eye-wateringly expensive houses, but there’s more variety in the Upper City Centre. Most of the city’s historic buildings are here, with architecture reflecting varied African, Asian and European roots. Discover where to stay, eat and what else to see with our guide. 
Slide 18 of 51: Irkutsk is known for its well-preserved historic buildings, which show a beguiling mix of architectural styles, from Baroque to traditional Siberian and Moorish. You could spend days on the religious buildings alone, like the gingerbread-style Epiphany Cathedral, riotously bright Kazan Church and (comparatively) pared back Church of the Saviour. When you need to clear your head after all the ornamentation and incense head out to Lake Baikal, only 43 miles (70km) from the city.
Slide 19 of 51: Sea, forest, mountains: Vancouver’s location is stunning, but it’s also a bustling city, complete with skyscrapers, excellent nightlife and one of Canada’s most diverse populations. It’s almost impossible to pick the most picturesque spots. The city lights reflecting in the bay? The wooded mountains, laced with suspension bridges and cable cars? The many parks, full of greenery and offering perfectly framed views of the city center skyscrapers? Spend a week, and explore them all.
Slide 20 of 51: Dakar is full of life, noise and crowds – but also some gorgeous beaches where you can recharge after a busy morning of haggling in the market. Mostly, though, it’s the islands which make Dakar unusual and beautiful. Laid-back Île de N'Gor, with its swaying palms and colorful boats, is well worth a visit (especially for the surf), but Île de Gorée is undoubtedly the most famous, known for its role in the Atlantic slave trade but also its elegant architecture and emerging artistic community.
Slide 21 of 51: Santa Barbara proudly maintains its Spanish heritage, from the red-roofed, white-walled domestic architecture to the Spanish Mission perched above the city. It’s also beautifully sited, stretching from gently rolling hills inland to the golden beaches along the Pacific Coast. Visit Stearns Wharf for some unpretentious seaside fun, and a relaxing waterfront walk under the palm trees. For 49 other brilliant things to see in the Golden State, take a look at our top picks here. 
Slide 22 of 51: The historic center of Hoi An has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the briefest of visits makes it clear why. It’s at its most charming in the evenings, when the silk lanterns hanging from every shopfront are lit, adding a warm glow to the moss-covered, attractively crumbling streets. The light dances across the highly ornamented old buildings, with carvings of carps and dragons, and reflects in the lazy Thu Bon River. You may find yourself tempted to stay a few extra days.
Slide 23 of 51: In the far south of the USA’s most northerly state is Ketchikan, centered on a small cluster of colorful clapboard stilt houses perched over Ketchikan Creek. The city’s known for its indigenous (mostly Tlingit and Haida) heritage, and is the best place in the country to see intricately-carved and brightly-painted totem poles in their intended environment. And what an environment it is, with luxuriant green forests, glacier-carved valleys, and looming mountains just outside the city.
Slide 24 of 51: Québec is defined by the citadel at its heart, the fortified Old Town full of cobblestoned streets, mansard-roofed houses and imposing statues. Most of the (excellently maintained) buildings are from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but Château Frontenac, presiding over the whole city and now a luxury hotel, dates to the 1890s. The best approach is to allow an afternoon and get happily lost, wandering down whichever picturesque street takes your fancy.
Slide 25 of 51: As with the rest of the island state of Tasmania, Hobart has a more rugged feeling than other major cities in Australia, trading white sand beaches for moody mountains and wide, breezy streets for narrow alleys and colonial architecture. Rising above the city is the 4,166-foot (1,270m)-high Kunanyi (Mount Wellington), which offers glorious views of this city spread along the River Derwent. Don't miss the innovative Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), just upriver at Berriedale, too.
Slide 26 of 51: Encircled by walls laid in the tenth century, Itchan Kala (Khiva’s Inner City) has a singular collection of historic buildings, giving a fascinating insight into Central Asian Islamic architecture. But more than any individual sight – the squat Kalta Minor Minaret, sumptuous Tosh-Hovli Palace or ornately tiled Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum – Itchan Kala’s most astounding feature is how cohesive it feels, its mud-walled streets and courtyard homes seeming undisturbed by the trappings of modern life.
Slide 27 of 51: With its picture-perfect beaches, colorful street art and green parks complete with palm trees, Tauranga is a perfect chilled-out beachside city. But it’s Mauao (Mount Maunganui) which really sets it apart, an extinct volcano jutting out into the bay. It’s an easy hike to the summit, which offers panoramic views across the city, the white sand beaches and the Pacific Ocean. 

Discover 50 reasons to visit New Zealand here. 
Slide 28 of 51: Zanzibar City is the capital of Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region and small island off the coast of Tanzania. At its core is Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its appeal lies not in formal sights, but in its beauty and atmosphere. Wandering its twisting alleys you’ll pass bustling spice markets, crumbling palaces and brightly-painted shops and cafés. The centuries of history are easy to see in Stone Town, but so is the thriving life of the modern city.
Slide 29 of 51: The Holy City, the Place of the Gods, the center of Tibetan Buddhism: Lhasa has a lot to live up to. But it takes a very hard-hearted person not to feel awe at the first sight of the Potala Palace, or get swept up in the fervor of pilgrims walking the Barkhor circuit around the Jokhang temple, in winding, incense-scented alleys. Perhaps it’s lightheadedness from the altitude, but Lhasa seems to have something magical about it.
Slide 30 of 51: With its temples, shrines and Imperial Palace, Kyoto looms large in Japanese culture. Though the center is fairly modern, the city’s historic districts are as beguiling and beautiful as ever: Arashiyama, home to bamboo groves and pagodas; Higashiyama, with cherry blossom trees bowing over the canal and temples lining the foothills; and Gion and Pontocho, where you may glimpse geisha emerging from traditional machiya (tea houses) and gliding down the narrow streets to their next engagement.
Slide 31 of 51: The capital city of one of the world’s wildest places, Nuuk feels like it’s always preparing for winter, or hunkered down against it. In summer, the wood-clad houses add bright spots of red, pink and orange to a landscape of green grass, black rocks and piercingly blue sea; in winter, they shine out amid the thick layer of white snow, slate-gray water and almost sunless days. Stay for long enough in winter, and one more color will be added to the palette: the dancing green lights of the aurora borealis (Northern Lights). 
Slide 32 of 51: To many, Shanghai means one thing: the Bund. From this promenade you can look across the river to the skyscrapers of Pudong, lit up extravagantly at night. There are a few areas where you can find respite from the relentless, gleaming metal of the megacity – the old French Concession is particularly atmospheric, and in the Old Town you’ll find more temples than in any other part of Shanghai. But really, you come to Shanghai to revel in the excesses of mainland China’s biggest, brashest city.
Slide 33 of 51: Stirling seems to be striving towards its highest ground, the whole of the Old Town drawing your eye up to the imposing Stirling Castle, and a step higher still to the neo-Gothic Wallace Monument. Set among rolling farmland and forested mountains, it makes for a dramatic gateway to the Highlands. And it loses none of its drama when you’re up close, the steep, cobbled streets lined with sturdy stone buildings, with an occasional moldering old mansion thrown in for good, Gothic measure.
Slide 34 of 51: Though it’s a huge, sprawling metropolis, Yogyakarta somehow still retains its traditions, heritage and thriving arts scene. At its heart is the sultan’s palace (Kraton), which is so huge it’s basically its own walled city. Most of the buildings are in traditional Javanese style, but some display European and Chinese influences. Taman Sari is particularly worth visiting, an evocative, partially-ruined royal bathing complex in Portuguese style, and the focal point of a charming residential area.
Slide 35 of 51: Chock-full of ancient monuments and picturesque piazzas, Rome’s historic core must be one of the world’s most seductive. Don’t leave town without seeing the Vatican Museums, the Colosseum, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain or without sipping a Campari in one of Rome’s picturesque piazzas, Piazza Navona (pictured). 

For more must-sees check out our full city guide here. 
Slide 36 of 51: This megacity can be overwhelming at first. But give it time, and its beauty will become apparent. Perhaps you’ll start off in one of the suburbs, like leafy Coyoacán or laid-back San Ángel. Next, the tiered arches and Diego Rivera murals of the Palacio Nacional and the excavated Aztec Templo Mayor in the city center. Before you know it, you’ll wonder how you could ever have missed the architectural detail, thriving art scene and glorious gardens of this young, cosmopolitan and beautiful city.
Slide 37 of 51: Feeling closer to the Mediterranean than the commercial charms of Orlando, St Augustine’s Old Town is full of Spanish colonial buildings, palm-lined streets and cobbled lanes. And it’s not just for show: as the oldest continuously-inhabited European settlement in the US, established by the Spanish in 1565, these historic monuments and buildings are the real deal. But it’s still Florida – so of course you’ve got some glorious stretches of beach to top it all off.
Slide 38 of 51: With its sunny weather, young population and boundless opportunities to get active, Perth is a great place to spend a few days. But its location, winding along both the Swan River and the Indian Ocean coast, really sets it apart. Well-maintained beaches and parks, shining skyscrapers reflecting in the water, and architectural standouts like Bell Tower make for a pretty, welcoming city where you’ll want to linger.
Slide 39 of 51: A stroll through Vieux-Lyon can easily fill a day, its narrow streets lined with Medieval and Renaissance buildings and criss-crossed with the city’s distinctive traboules. These covered alleys and tunnels, originally built to protect silk workers from the rain, are deeply atmospheric. But to get a real sense of the city, you need a wider view. Head up to Fourvière and the Basilica Notre-Dame, from where you can see the colorful, red-roofed city laid out before you, and the Alps on the horizon.
Slide 40 of 51: The riads of Marrakesh, medina of Fes and maritime air of Essaouira are all well worth your time, but for sheer beauty Chefchaouen has to win. There’s nowhere else like it, a compact city nestled in the Rif Mountains converging on the pale blue buildings of its historic core. No one quite knows why they were painted this color, but it certainly makes for a quirky townscape, and walking the crooked, blue-rinsed streets of the old town, mountains visible over the roofs, is a memorable experience.
Slide 41 of 51: The genteel but unpretentious charms of Portland are given more clout by the city’s location, right on the water. Hire a bike and wheel along Baxter Boulevard for gorgeous views across the Casco Bay, explore the maritime history of the Old Harbour, or walk out to Fort Williams Park for that postcard-perfect view of the eighteenth-century Portland Head Lighthouse.
Slide 42 of 51: Havana’s faded grandeur is famous for a reason. The wide avenues, lined with bright, peeling colonial buildings; the laundry hanging from wrought-iron balconies; the plants growing on, and occasionally out of, windowsills; the wide plazas, ornate churches and eye-catching murals. Havana is a jumble of so many different elements that it shouldn’t quite work – but somehow, it all comes together to create something unforgettable.
Slide 43 of 51: St John’s is the oldest city in North America, established around the turn of the sixteenth century. But the weight of its history sits lightly about the city, which feels more like a laid-back small town. Dotted along the waterfront and in the city center are brightly-painted row houses, and at the southern edge of the sheltered harbor is a squat little lighthouse. Head up to Signal Point for views across the city, and out over the Atlantic – next stop, Europe. These 50 photos are sure to make you fall in love with Canada too. 
Slide 44 of 51: Home to one of the world’s oldest universities, founded in the 1200s, it’s no surprise that Cambridge’s streets are full of historic buildings. You can admire the Wren Library at Trinity College or, if that’s a bit too modern for you, the awe-inspiring King’s College Chapel, founded in 1446, or the Tudor precincts of Queen’s College. All three are ranged along the River Cam, and a walk along the riverside Backs is the perfect way to appreciate the sheer density of history in this beautiful city. Find out how to spend an ultimate weekend away in the city here. 
Slide 45 of 51: The Hermitage, the Winter Palace, the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood: St Petersburg is almost indecently full of iconic buildings. Whether quilted in snow or lit up during the White Nights of summer, the city’s big sights really don’t have a bad angle. But there are quieter charms here too, from canalside walks to crisp, clear views over the Baltic Sea and incense-hazed explorations of venerable churches.
Slide 46 of 51: Florence's historic buildings, higgledy-piggledy network of winding streets and glorious sunsets mean the Tuscan city is regularly voted one of the world's most stunning. Seeing the Renaissance Duomo is a must, but don't miss a trip to the top of Giotto's bell tower too for more magnificent vistas over the red roofs. Be sure to book ahead if you want to see famous works by artists including Leonardo da Vinci at the Uffizi Gallery – one of the world's most loved museums.
Slide 47 of 51: Founded on the Caribbean coast of Colombia in the 1530s, Cartagena de Indias is one of Latin America’s most beautiful cities. The walled Old Town – across the water from modern, high-rise Bocagrande – is the really photogenic part, dotted with leafy plazas, its narrow streets lined with brightly-painted colonial houses, their balconies overflowing with plants. There’s no point in setting an itinerary – just follow your nose, peeping into pretty courtyards and shady churches as you spot them.
Slide 48 of 51: Each district of the Catalunyan capital has something new to impress you, but it’s the city’s modernista buildings which really make it memorable. The grid-planned streets of the Eixample are enlivened by the sinuous lines of La Pedrera, dramatic spires of Casa de les Punxes and of course the city’s crowning jewel, the Sagrada Familia. Rising from the ground like something organic, Gaudì’s masterpiece alone would make Barcelona worth visiting, its sumptuous details enough to fill a full day.
Slide 49 of 51: For true southern charm, Charleston is the place to go. The elegant city – the oldest in South Carolina – retains a small-town air, with its pastel-colored buildings and canopied porches (often complete with a rocking chair). Embrace the slow pace of life with a gentle stroll along the waterfront promenade, through leafy parks or around the historic district, admiring the gently crumbling architecture and palm-tree-lined streets.
Slide 50 of 51: Fans of Gothic architecture need look no further than Lübeck, in northern Germany. The city pioneered a red-brick Gothic style, which you’ll notice as soon as you arrive – the city gate, Holstentor, is a masterful example. Once you’re through the gates, you’ll be torn between atmospheric alleyways of jauntily leaning houses, grand squares lined with public buildings (the Rathaus is one of the country’s most impressive), intriguing little courtyards and imposing, spired churches.
Slide 51 of 51: It's no surprise Italy has several cities that make our list, but Venice is the standout winner when it comes to beauty. The northern city, built on a lagoon, has long lured lovers, tourists and artists alike, drawn to the unique architecture. Highlights include the Piazza San Marco, where you'll find St Mark's Basilica & Doges Palace and the Rialto Bridge (pictured). Skip a pricey gondola ride and catch the ferry along the Grand Canal with the locals to really get under the skin of the city. 

Discover 50 of the world's most beautiful small towns here too. 

Stunning spots around the globe

50. York, England

49. Bergen, Norway

48. Cleveland, Ohio

47. Muscat, Oman

46. Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

45. Munich, Germany

44. Valletta, Malta

As one of Europe’s smallest capitals, Valletta is compact enough to explore on foot. The city’s known for its Baroque architecture, but you can also explore the imposing Fort St Elmo, sleek Parliament House (designed by Renzo Piano) or neoclassical Anglican Pro-Cathedral. Or skip all the big hitters and just stroll along the stepped streets, resting in gardens overlooking the bay, admiring the colorful Maltese balconies, and watching the warm, creamy limestone turn gold in the evening sun.

43. Galway, Republic of Ireland

42. Beirut, Lebanon

41. New Orleans

Though the city is full of charming spots, it’s hard to argue with the fact that the French Quarter is what really sets New Orleans apart. This well-preserved historic district is still very much alive and the focus for nightlife in the city – much of which is out in the streets, all the better to admire the fine wrought-iron balconies and intricate facades. The buildings are certainly beautiful, but it’s the famous New Orleans hospitality which adds a rosy tint to the whole place. 

40. Udaipur, India

39. Porto, Portugal

Though Lisbon gets most of the attention, Portugal’s second city is uniquely beautiful and atmospheric, especially in its medieval Ribeira district. Here, centuries-old merchants’ and mariners’ homes line cobbled streets, seeming to crane their necks over each other to get a view of the Río Douro. In fact, the whole town seems focused on the river, with its grand bridges – from the double-decker Ponte de Dom Luís I to the sleek, modern Ponte de São João – one of the city’s most iconic sights.

38. Reykjavík, Iceland

From its clusters of colorful houses to the almost extraterrestrial drama of Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavík is iconic. Apart from its famous church, most of the city is low-rise, making Mount Esja – usually dusted with snow well into the warmer months – an even more impressive presence across the water. With its colorful houses, daring modern architecture and stunning setting, Reykjavik is a charming and beautiful city.

37. Cork, Republic of Ireland

36. Cusco, Peru

35. Cape Town, South Africa

There’s no question: Cape Town is the most beautiful city in southern Africa. At its heart, both literally and figuratively, is Table Mountain, from the flat top of which you can survey the whole metropolis. On the Atlantic seaboard you’ll find white-sand beaches and eye-wateringly expensive houses, but there’s more variety in the Upper City Centre. Most of the city’s historic buildings are here, with architecture reflecting varied African, Asian and European roots.

34. Irkutsk, Russia

33. Vancouver, Canada

32. Dakar, Senegal

31. Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara proudly maintains its Spanish heritage, from the red-roofed, white-walled domestic architecture to the Spanish Mission perched above the city. It’s also beautifully sited, stretching from gently rolling hills inland to the golden beaches along the Pacific Coast. Visit Stearns Wharf for some unpretentious seaside fun, and a relaxing waterfront walk under the palm trees. 

30. Hoi An, Vietnam

29. Ketchikan, Alaska

28. Québec City, Canada

27. Hobart, Australia

26. Khiva, Uzbekistan

25. Tauranga, New Zealand

With its picture-perfect beaches, colorful street art and green parks complete with palm trees, Tauranga is a perfect chilled-out beachside city. But it’s Mauao (Mount Maunganui) which really sets it apart, an extinct volcano jutting out into the bay. It’s an easy hike to the summit, which offers panoramic views across the city, the white sand beaches and the Pacific Ocean.  

24. Zanzibar City, Tanzania

23. Lhasa, Tibet

22. Kyoto, Japan

21. Nuuk, Greenland

The capital city of one of the world’s wildest places, Nuuk feels like it’s always preparing for winter, or hunkered down against it. In summer, the wood-clad houses add bright spots of red, pink and orange to a landscape of green grass, black rocks and piercingly blue sea; in winter, they shine out amid the thick layer of white snow, slate-gray water and almost sunless days. Stay for long enough in winter, and one more color will be added to the palette: the dancing green lights of the aurora borealis (Northern Lights). 

20. Shanghai, China

19. Stirling, Scotland

Stirling seems to be striving towards its highest ground, the whole of the Old Town drawing your eye up to the imposing Stirling Castle, and a step higher still to the neo-Gothic Wallace Monument. Set among rolling farmland and forested mountains, it makes for a dramatic gateway to the Highlands. And it loses none of its drama when you’re up close, the steep, cobbled streets lined with sturdy stone buildings, with an occasional moldering old mansion thrown in for good, Gothic measure.

18. Yogyakarta, Indonesia

17. Rome, Italy

Chock-full of ancient monuments and picturesque piazzas, Rome’s historic core must be one of the world’s most seductive. Don’t leave town without seeing the Vatican Museums, the Colosseum, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain or without sipping a Campari in one of Rome’s picturesque piazzas, Piazza Navona (pictured). 

16. Mexico City, Mexico

15. St Augustine, Florida

14. Perth, Australia

13. Lyon, France

12. Chefchaouen, Morocco

11. Portland, Maine

10. Havana, Cuba

9. St John’s, Canada

St John’s is the oldest city in North America, established around the turn of the sixteenth century. But the weight of its history sits lightly about the city, which feels more like a laid-back small town. Dotted along the waterfront and in the city center are brightly-painted row houses, and at the southern edge of the sheltered harbor is a squat little lighthouse. Head up to Signal Point for views across the city, and out over the Atlantic – next stop, Europe. 

8. Cambridge, England

Home to one of the world’s oldest universities, founded in the 1200s, it’s no surprise that Cambridge’s streets are full of historic buildings. You can admire the Wren Library at Trinity College or, if that’s a bit too modern for you, the awe-inspiring King’s College Chapel, founded in 1446, or the Tudor precincts of Queen’s College. All three are ranged along the River Cam, and a walk along the riverside Backs is the perfect way to appreciate the sheer density of history in this beautiful city. 

7. St Petersburg, Russia

6. Florence, Italy

5. Cartagena, Colombia

4. Barcelona, Spain

Each district of the Catalunyan capital has something new to impress you, but it’s the city’s modernista buildings which really make it memorable. The grid-planned streets of the Eixample are enlivened by the sinuous lines of La Pedrera, dramatic spires of Casa de les Punxes and of course the city’s crowning jewel, the Sagrada Familia. Rising from the ground like something organic, Gaudì’s masterpiece alone would make Barcelona worth visiting, its sumptuous details enough to fill a full day.

3. Charleston, South Carolina

2. Lübeck, Germany

1. Venice, Italy

It’s no surprise Italy has several cities that make our list, but Venice is the standout winner when it comes to beauty. The northern city, built on a lagoon, has long lured lovers, tourists and artists alike, drawn to the unique architecture. Highlights include the Piazza San Marco, where you’ll find St Mark’s Basilica & Doges Palace and the Rialto Bridge (pictured). Skip a pricey gondola ride and catch the ferry along the Grand Canal with the locals to really get under the skin of the city. 

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