The Best Cities in the World: 2019 Readers' Choice Awards

Slide 1 of 23: There’s a striking amount of diversity among the global superpower cities, which are filled with everything from centuries-old palaces to neon-lit skylines and staggering skyscrapers. For our 32nd annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey—yes, readers have been voting for more than three decades—a record 600,000 registered voters weighed in. The impressive number of 2019 results were especially exciting for us: We’re always curious about where in the world you go, what you loved, and who you went with. As you continue to travel, we continue to listen: Here are the international cities you loved most this year.
Slide 2 of 23: From historical sites to local art, signature dishes to sun-washed beaches, there’s something for everyone among these small international cities.
Slide 3 of 23: Cologne is often overshadowed by Berlin and Munich, but the 2,000-year-old city on the banks of the Rhine River has its devotees for a reason—think High Gothic architecture, a dozen Romanesque churches, annual literary festivals, and the Museum Ludwig, one of the most important collections of modern art in Europe. Kölsch beer, specially brewed here, probably helps, too.
Slide 4 of 23: Surrounded by the Maritime Alps on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, glamorous Monte Carlo has been made famous through pop culture for its depiction in an array of films, from To Catch a Thief to GoldenEye, and even Cars 2. It would be criminal to visit without stopping in to the Casino de Monte-Carlo (play a game of baccarat to do your best James Bond impression). Go just outside the city limits to the Jardin Exotique for stellar views and the world’s largest collection of succulents and cacti, or to Le Rocher, a cliffside old town with winding, narrow alleyways dating back to the Middle Ages.
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Slide 5 of 23: The secret is out on Puebla. A popular day trip from Mexico City, Puebla is more than worthy as a destination on its own. The city is known for its Baroque architecture, and with 365 churches and more than 1,000 colonial-era buildings, there is plenty to explore. Start with the Puebla Cathedral and its ornate pipe organ or the Church of Santo Domingo, where the gilded Capilla del Rosario will make you wonder how there was any gold left for anyone else. On the food front, Puebla is noted as the birthplace of the decadent and spicy mole poblano, which is readily available from a number of local restaurants for your own culinary research.
Slide 6 of 23: Though Rome is Italy’s much beloved capital and Milan has serious cosmopolitan clout, Florence remains unrivaled in history, art, and architecture (its beauty and cuisine don’t hurt, either). In addition to being the birthplace of the Renaissance, the Firenze of recent years has had a modern makeover: Study Tuscan classics with celebrity chef Arturo Dori at Desinare, one of the city’s hottest cooking school/design store hybrids, or take in modern art at La Strozzina, Florence’s center for contemporary culture. Wherever the day takes you, save room for a panino al lampredotto—this stewed tripe sandwich is a Florence must.
Slide 7 of 23: Surrounded by mountains on Norway’s western shore, Bergen is one of Europe’s largest cruise ship ports of call and the gateway to Norway’s world-famous fjords. Discover the city’s Viking roots at the Bergen Museum and explore postcard-worthy Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage site along the harbor with shops, restaurants, and museums. Bergen’s location makes it an ideal base for a day trip to tour the fjords, glaciers, and waterfalls that make up Norway’s landscape. For a bird’s-eye view of the city, head to Mount Ulriken, the highest of Bergen’s seven mountains. The 90-minute hike is steep but manageable, though there’s no shame in opting for the cable car ride.
Slide 8 of 23: Puerto Vallarta may have a certain youthful energy during spring break, but there’s so much more to this Pacific resort town than sunbathing undergrads. There’s winter whale watching in Banderas Bay, an artisan market with local goods, and, just a half-hour boat ride south, the quiet shores and waterfall hikes of Yelapa Beach. If you want to feel like a celebrity, stay at Casa Kimberly, the former home of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton that is now a nine-suite boutique hotel. The Elizabeth Taylor Suite features the (human) heart-shaped marble bathtub that Taylor specially commissioned for the property.
Slide 9 of 23: Classic Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, sits divided by the Salzach River: its pedestrian Old City lines its left bank, and the (slightly) newer side is on the right. To drink like a local, head to Bräustübl zu Mülln, Austria’s largest beer hall, where beer is drawn directly from wooden barrels and can be enjoyed alongside traditional and regional specialties from the Schmankerlgang, an Old World food court of sorts.
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Slide 10 of 23: Hilltop Québec City is a place for all seasons—the charm of its 17th-century castles and cathedrals is only enhanced by snow (and where else can you say that in Canada?!). Explore UNESCO World Heritage–listed Old Québec, brush up on your military history at the citadel atop Cap Diamant, and head to the Quartier Petit-Champlain for pedestrian-only streets and artisan boutiques. Reserve a room at the historic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, and dine at the property’s 1608 Wine and Cheese Bar, which specializes in Québec cheeses.
Slide 11 of 23: Left in ruins at the end of World War II, Dresden stands today as a beautifully restored city in the east of Germany. With its ornate Baroque architecture and a recent ranking as one of the least stressful cities in the world, it’s no wonder that Traveler readers are smitten with this city on the Elbe River. A top attraction is Residenzschloss, one of the oldest buildings in the city that served as a royal palace until the early 20th century. Today, it houses two literal treasure chambers and the largest collection of jewels, precious metals, and art in Europe.
Slide 12 of 23: The streets of Mérida are bursting with the colorful facades of Spanish colonial architecture, but the capital of Mexico’s Yucatan state is also steeped in Mayan history. Centrally located on the Yucatan Peninsula, UNESCO World Heritage sites like the ancient cities of Uxmal and Chichen Itza are an easy day trip, or head 40 minutes north to the beaches on the Gulf shore in Progreso. Locals recommend visiting Fundación de Artistas, a nonprofit featuring art exhibits in a 19th-century home; Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, a modern cultural museum; and the traditional Yucatecan food at the super casual Manjar Blanco.
Slide 13 of 23: Your favorite big international cities include destinations beloved for food, wine, architecture, and art. Some are beloved travel spots that many have visited multiple times, while others are slightly less-touristed, but equally deserving of your attention.
Slide 14 of 23: Australia’s biggest city is an ideal getaway no matter the season. Dine al fresco, swim like a Sydneysider in rock pools, and head to Bondi and Redleaf beaches in the summer (remember, that’s during our winter). In winter, explore the city’s vibrant arts and culture calendar through Vivid Sydney and make time to eat out in Paddington, check out the cool-kid 'hood of Surry Hills, and ferry over to Manly, Australia’s answer to Montauk.
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Slide 15 of 23: Taipei is a city with a rich history, though at 300 years young it’s a relative newcomer compared to its neighbors in the East. Visit one of the city’s many temples to find deities of Buddhist, Taoist, and Chinese folk religions, and capitalize on your jet lag with a visit to one of Taipei’s many night markets. For a respite from the city, check in to Villa 32, a five-room mountainside spa built adjacent to a hot spring, a half-hour north of downtown by car. Taipei is well-connected to the rest of Taiwan through the high speed rail that runs the length of the island—look out for the Hello Kitty–themed train, which relaunched earlier this year.
Slide 16 of 23: From the mountains to the beach, the historic to the contemporary, sunny Barcelona—lucky city that it is—has it all. Brush up on Catalan history at El Born Centre Cultural or take a street art tour of the trendy El Raval district. For dining, try a 40-course meal at Enigma, a restaurant by Ferran Adrià, or stay classic at Quimet y Quimet, a standing-room-only joint that’s been operated by the same family for more than 100 years.
Slide 17 of 23: Contrary to some people’s vision of the Dutch city, Amsterdam isn’t all roaming packs of British stag parties and college-aged tourists. These days, it's a stylish, laid-back cultural hub filled with knock-your-socks-off art, chic boutiques that would make any Brooklynite jealous, and innovative, seasonally driven food served in restaurants that look built for Instagram feeds. It’s also a small enough city that you can feasibly see what you want in three days. Plus, with the new Eurostar route, it’s only about four hours from central London by train. For a taste of the “new” Amsterdam, grab a drink at Droog, a renovated 17th-century hotel with just one room, or float in a weightless state in the saltwater pods at Koan Float.
Slide 18 of 23: Copenhagen packs a punch. You can hit the highlights of this compact city in a day—perfect for cruise passengers stopping through this popular port of call—but you’ll want to spend more time roaming the cobblestone streets and soaking up all that Copenhagen has to offer. There's the 17 Michelin-starred restaurants (Noma is just the beginning), the brightly colored waterfront homes of Nyhavn, and Tivoli Gardens, the park Walt Disney visited while dreaming up Disneyland. Walk the halls of Rosenborg Castle like 17th-century Danish royalty, take the plunge into a waterfront hot tub at CopenHot, or take a bike tour of the city, and you’ll quickly learn why Copenhagen is known as the happiest city in the world.
Slide 19 of 23: Japan’s second-largest city is often overshadowed by Tokyo and Kyoto, but there are plenty of reasons it’s become a destination in its own right. For starters, Osaka is one of the best food cities in all of Japan—must-eat regional specialities include takoyaki (battered, fried octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (grilled savory pancakes with a variety of additions)—and its baseball culture rivals that of the Yankees and their legions of fans. Don’t miss Osaka Castle, where you should head to the eighth floor outdoor deck for the incredible view.
Slide 20 of 23: Artistic, exquisite, and largely shaped by its musical and intellectual foundations, Austria’s capital and largest city is packed with culture. It's the kind of city where you could happily visit four museums in a day and still have more to see, or join fellow culture vultures for an outdoor simulcast of the latest opera—in the dead of winter. (There will always be a crowd for the opera.) Make time to get a figurative taste of royalty at Schönbrunn, the Habsburgs’ former summer residence, and get an actual taste of Sacher torte, a chocolate cake that's a local treat, at Hotel Sacher Vienna's Cafe Sacher. Just be sure to ask for the extra decadent dessert "mit schlaag"—with cream.
Slide 21 of 23: We named Singapore one of the best places to visit in 2019 and Traveler readers agreed. Thanks to the direct flight from New York to Singapore (and the lure of Crazy Rich Asians), this bustling city-state is way more than a stopover. Singapore has a growing contemporary art scene, a new hotel seemingly every eight minutes, and a commitment to start-ups and innovation (just see the Supertree Grove, above). All of this is to say, if you visited once before, you may not even recognize it now. Want to relax after a day of exploring? Choose from 1,000 types of gin at Atlas bar, or check into Marina Bay Sands so you have access to that top-of-the-world infinity pool you've heard so much about. Come evening, dig into the city’s hawker culture—you can do a multi-country food crawl without leaving the hawker center.
Slide 22 of 23: You think you know Kyoto—after all, how much can change in an imperial capital, where you can visit 10th-century temples and pass young geishas in the street? Though it's still one of the most well-preserved cities in Japan, Kyoto has also been reborn following a 2011 earthquake. "Many artists moved to Kyoto, bringing a new energy," says Lucille Reyboz, cofounder of the Kyotographie photography festival; now the city’s leafy, machiya-lined streets are draws for their specialty crafts shops and chic concept stores. There's a thriving gin scene along with the sake scene, and, yes, about 100 Michelin-starred restaurants still. For an authentic meal without Michelin prices, try 200-year-old ryokan Kinmata.
Slide 23 of 23: Topping our list of world cities yet again, Tokyo continues to thrill with its contradictions: ultra-modern, neon skyscrapers and tranquil temples, unmatchable street style and centuries-old etiquette. As we've said before, it's like a fever dream you don't want to wake up from. This Japanese capital has more Michelin stars than any other place on earth, and is—no surprise—one of the world’s best food destinations. For just a taste of what the city can offer, pull up a stool and dig deep into a bowl of inventive ramen at Kikanbo, or sample rare Japanese whiskey at Bar Ben Fiddich. Or simply let us plan your first trip for you.

There’s a striking amount of diversity among the global superpower cities, which are filled with everything from centuries-old palaces to neon-lit skylines and staggering skyscrapers. For our 32nd annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey—yes, readers have been voting for more than three decades—a record 600,000 registered voters weighed in. The impressive number of 2019 results were especially exciting for us: We’re always curious about where in the world you go, what you loved, and who you went with. As you continue to travel, we continue to listen: Here are the international cities you loved most this year.

10. Cologne, Germany

9. Monte Carlo, Monaco

8. Puebla, Mexico

7. Florence, Italy

6. Bergen, Norway

5. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

4. Salzburg, Austria

3. Québec City, Canada

2. Dresden, Germany

1. Mérida, Mexico

10. Sydney, Australia

9. Taipei, Taiwan

8. Barcelona, Spain

7. Amsterdam, Netherlands

6. Copenhagen, Denmark

5. Osaka, Japan

4. Vienna, Austria

3. Singapore

2. Kyoto, Japan

1. Tokyo, Japan

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