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It’s said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that’s probably never more true than when considering which are the most beautiful cities in the world.

How do you choose between the antiquities of Athens and the crumbling beauty of the graceful palaces lining Venice’s Grand Canal? Or the ingenuity of Singapore, where an innovative spirit has seen the city transform from colonial backwater to one of the world’s most thriving metropolises?

Cities can be viewed through different lenses: architecture, art, spirit, culture, innovation, and natural beauty, to name a few. Picking your favorites is all part of the fun.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain, one of the most beautiful cities in the world

La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is Spain’s majestic melting pot: a city brimming with artistic flair, world-class architecture and a rich energy immersed in Catalan pride, epitomized by the locals’ love of probably the world’s greatest soccer club, FC Barcelona.

Architecturally, the beautiful Spanish city spans more than 2,000 years including Roman-era ruins, Antoni Gaudí’s magnificent masterpiece, the La Sagrada Família church, and Santiago Calatrava’s thoroughly modern Montjuic Communications Tower.

Street view of Gothic Quarter in Barcelona, Spain

Gothic Quarter in Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona’s a city to be experienced and one of the best ways to do that is on foot, whether strolling along the beachside promenade, walking along the iconic Las Ramblas thoroughfare with its flower stalls and cafés, or getting lost in the labyrinthine streets of the Gothic Quarter. Every turn along the way reveals a new delight in this most vibrant of cities.

Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia, one of the most beautiful cities in the world

Sydney, Australia

Whether viewing from land or sea, Sydney Harbor is home to one of the world’s most iconic skylines, helping the capital of New South Wales claim a spot on any list of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Set on Port Jackson Bay where the Tasman Sea and South Pacific meet, it’s lined with signature sights including the distinctive, sail-like design of the iconic Sydney Opera House and majestic Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Beautiful landscape of Sydney Harbour Bridge in Sydney, Australia

Sydney Harbour Bridge in Sydney, Australia

Buzzing with traffic as it connects the business district to the North Shore, the bridge offers incredible views of Sydney for those who walk across it either at pedestrian level or on a thrilling tour of the maintenance walkways.

The south side of the bridge originates near The Rocks, the oldest part of the city with its cobbled streets and colonial-era buildings, and the beautiful Royal Botanic Sydney Garden.

Fine sands of Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia

Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia

Out of the harbor area but still oceanside is the sweeping crescent of Bondi Beach, one of Australia’s most loved beaches and a hangout for hip surfers who ride the waves here.

Bruges, Belgium

Beautiful canals of Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges is another fairy-tale destination—not only one of the world’s most beautiful cities but also one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval towns.

Picturesque, cobbled streets and slow-flowing canals, both lined with charming bridges and ornate buildings, offer a romantic glimpse into the city’s past as a thriving commercial post since the middle ages.

That rich past is evident in the city’s key sights: Market Square with its market stalls and 13th-century belfry, Burg Square, home to the 14th-century Stadhuis city hall, and row upon row of chocolate box neo-Gothic style houses.

Read: Things to Do in Bruges

San Francisco, USA

San Francisco, USA, one of the most beautiful cities in the world

San Francisco, USA

San Francisco may not be conventionally beautiful, but shrouded in trademark fog, its crooked streets, cable cars, bright Victorian homes, and signature sights certainly make it one of the most photogenic cities in the world.

Must-sees during your day in San Francisco abound: the 1937 art deco Golden Gate Bridge and surrounding national park, rocky Alcatraz Island sitting mysteriously out in the bay, and panoramic views from the top of Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill.

Here, the history of the city during the Great Depression is told via a series of evocative murals that may sound grim but are surprisingly life affirming.

That same joyful vibe can be found all around this incredible city where Silicon Valley billionaires, the US’s largest LGBTQ community, and one of the country’s biggest Chinatown areas all add their own dash of vibrant color to the backdrop of the sparkling Pacific.

Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy, one of the most beautiful cities in the world

Venice, Italy

The thought of building a city of marble palaces on a brackish lagoon was both simultaneously audacious and quite brilliant.

When the earliest settlers arrived in Venice around 600 AD and went on to create one of the greatest trading centers of the Middle Ages, little could they have imagined the popularity of the city today.

Visiting this beautiful Italian city is like being part of a real-life fairytale, thanks to more than 100 islands linked by 400 bridges over its iconic canals. In turn, each of the islands is lined with jaw-dropping palazzos and priceless art.

Venice, Italy, one of the most beautiful cities in the world

Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy

The Grand Canal thoroughfare with its opulent Renaissance palaces is one of the most photographed scenes in the world, gondolas and river traffic forming a constant stream of activity.

Piazza San Marco is home to Saint Mark’s Basilica, its interior lined with dazzling Byzantine mosaics, and the Campanile bell tower. Climb to the top for views over the ancient rooftops and the misty lagoon beyond.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik, one of the most beautiful cities in the world

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Sitting majestically by the sparkling Adriatic with its imposing 16th-century city walls and labyrinth of streets, Dubrovnik has caught the eye of many a film and TV location scout.

As such, it’s served as the backdrop for everything from an intergalactic casino planet to a city-state inhabited by mythical kings and fiery dragons—but this incredible metropolis should play its own starring role in any list of the world’s most beautiful cities.

Those centuries-old walls protect medieval buildings with bright terracotta roofs that contrast with the glittering sapphire-blue Adriatic.

Street of Stradun in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Stradun in Dubrovnik, Croatia

In the heart of the city, Stradun, the main thoroughfare, is home to cafés, restaurants, and boutiques, as well as the Sponza Palace with its 16th-century blend of Gothic and Renaissance architecture.

Dubrovnik’s beauty extends beyond the city walls, too, thanks to forested Mount Srđ and a series of lovely beaches such as Uvala Lapad and Plaža Bellevue.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, Argentina

The capital of Argentina exudes a captivating elegance thanks to the faded colonial architecture of sights such as central Plaza de Mayo square and 19th-century buildings such as Casa Rosada (literally the “Pink House”), the official residence of Argentina’s president.

People dancing tango in Argentina


The city can quickly get under your skin, as it’s so alive with Argentinian culture, passion, art, and flavors. In the cobblestone lanes of San Telmo, tango music fills the air at all hours, while in Palermo Soho there are chic boutiques and street art.

Meanwhile, there are few greater meals in the world for resolute carnivores than a thick slab of sizzling Argentinian steak washed down with a big, bold glass of Malbec. Many visit Buenos Aires, but few leave without being totally smitten.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark, one of the most beautiful cities in the world

Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark

Sitting on the coastal islands of Zealand and Amager, the European capital city is within touching distance of the Swedish city of Malmo thanks to the impressive Öresund Bridge that stretches for five miles over the Öresund straits.

Those straits are important as they provided the way for the gold trade on which most of the city’s early wealth was founded.

In turn, that wealth was essential for supporting the Danish royal family and building many of the city’s key sights. These include the 18th-century rococo district Frederiksstaden, the royal family’s Amalienborg Palace, the Christiansborg Palace (which acts as the seat of parliament) and the Renaissance-era Rosenborg Castle, home to the crown jewels.

Couple on a canal cruise in Copenhagen, Denmark

Canal cruise in Copenhagen, Denmark

Much like Bruges, Amsterdam and Venice, canals abound and a tour of them is a great way to see the city, as is jumping on two wheels.

Copenhagen bills itself as the world’s best bike city and pedal power allows one to head to the many cycle paths to easily see other city icons, including the Little Mermaid, the Tivoli amusement park, and the Glyptoteket art and sculpture museum.

Athens, Greece

Couple exploring Acropolis in Athens, Greece

Acropolis in Athens, Greece

There are few more impressive views in the world than from the balcony of the Acropolis Museum in central Athens. Directly ahead is the Parthenon, the Acropolis’s crowning glory. To the left, wooded Filopappou Hill. Stretching out to the east, the sprawling metropolis and, in the distance, the peaks of Mounts Egaleo, Parnitha, Penteli and Hymettus.

While Athens may seem huge from this vantage point, the heart of the Greek city with its key sights is eminently walkable.

A short stroll from here is Anafiotika, the island-like town-within-a-town in the pretty Plaka district, Hadrian’s Arch, the 19th-century Olympic Stadium and the National Gardens, a pleasant place to cool off in the heat of summer.

Long strip of sand in the Athenian Riviera, Greece

Athens, Greece

If that heat gets too much, a short drive brings you to the Athenian Riviera. Stretching for some 35 miles to Cape Sounion, the winding coastal roads unveils a succession of small towns,  waterfront restaurants, and some of the best beaches in Athens. The bright blue Aegean stretches out for miles to the country’s numerous islands.

Istanbul, Turkey

Colorful harbor of Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

With one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, it’s little wonder that Istanbul feels like a melting point of both cultures. Separated by the Bosphorus Strait that divides the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, the city’s iconic skyline is best viewed from the water.

From here, the roofs of the Byzantine Hagia Sophia and the Ottoman-era Blue Mosque dominate the view, encapsulating the city’s history in one press of a camera shutter.

Other popular sites in Istanbul also creep into view: the Topkapi Palace of the Ottoman emperors, the restored 14th-century Galata Tower, and Maiden’s Tower, a former lighthouse on the Asian side of the straits.

Turkish goods at the Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey

At street level, where life proper is lived, the city is no less captivating and there’s a buzz of activity to be discovered around every corner.

Istanbul’s best markets, the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, as well as Victorian-era arcades, beg to be discovered. If sensory overload becomes too much, a stroll around Gülhane Park can provide moments of solitude in the thriving cityscape.

Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy, one of the most beautiful cities in the world

Florence, Italy

A simple walk around the cobbled streets of Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, is just impossibly beautiful.

Medieval palaces, ornate churches, and world-famous Italian art museums underline the historic city center’s UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

Michelangelo’s famed David at the Accademia Museum is one of the city’s stars, as is the Duomo (or the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, to give it its proper name).

Historical bridge of Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy

A stroll across the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence with its art galleries and jewelers is a must, as is a visit to the Uffizi Galleries with its outstanding collection of sculptures and paintings, and a trip to Palazzo Vecchio, the city hall.

Take time, too, to have a stroll in Giardino Bardini. Once a private garden, it has epic views of the city and is much less busy than the better-known Boboli Gardens.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Aerial view of Reykjavik

Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland’s frontier-feel capital reveals itself as a city with a very different kind of beauty. Set amid a craggy volcanic landscape that looks as though it’s been transported from the moon, the brightly colored, low-rise buildings of Reykjavik provide pops of color against the monochrome.

The center is compact, with most sites, including Hallgrimskirkja church, the National, and Saga museums, and the all-glass Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall all within walking distance. The giant glass dome of the Perlan, the natural history museum dominates the skyline from afar.

Otherwise, it’s Reykjavik’s setting that makes it so impressive, as it sits on the cusp of where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly drifting apart.

As such, there are gushing waterfalls, frozen glaciers, powerful geysers, simmering volcanoes, and thermal lagoons to explore.

Nice, France

View of Promenade des Anglais, Nice, France

Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France

Founded by Greeks in the seventh century BC, Nice, the glamorous capital of the Côte d’Azur, grew to become a hangout for France’s 19th-century elite, as well as a magnet for artists such as Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall.

Sitting between the glimmering Baie des Anges and the imposing Alpes Maritimes mountain range, the natural setting of this French beach town is impossibly beautiful, while the urban area itself is no slouch.

The four-mile-long seafront Promenade des Anglais, pebbly sands on one side, palm trees and high-end hotels on the other, is the perfect place for people-watching, while the Old Port plays host to the luxury yachts of the wealthy.

Street view of Old Town Nice, France

Old Town Nice, France

The heart of the city, though, is in the traditional Old Town, barely changed since the 18th century and home to the impressive Cours Saleya, a colorful market street with tempting food stalls and a fragrant flower market.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, one of the most beautiful cities in the world

Amsterdam, Netherlands

With more canals than Venice and more bridges than Paris, it’s easy to see why Dutch capital Amsterdam is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Not only is the compact downtown area, with its colorful, crooked 17th-century gabled houses like a scene from a chocolate box, but it also has an easygoing liberal feel.

Colorful flower displays abound, barges glide past, and locals prefer the whir of bicycle wheels to the roar of an engine.

There’s more beauty, too, in Amsterdam’s many art museums and galleries. These are home to works by greats including Van Gogh, Matisse, and Mondrian, while the surrounding countryside is awash with tulip fields and traditional windmills.

Naples, Italy

Naples, one of the most beautiful cities in the world

Naples, Italy

Framed by the brooding explosive power of Mount Vesuvius and the Tyrrhenian Sea, Naples is a gritty port city, but no less beautiful for it.

Founded by Greek explorers in the seventh century BC and a long-time trading port thanks to its strategic position, Naples’ cobbled center is home to vast squares, elegant palazzi, and a slightly chaotic buzz.

Historic Maschio Angioino in Naples, Italy

Maschio Angioino in Naples, Italy

One of the best things to do in Naples is to visit the Piazza Municipio, Naples’ City Hall, and the medieval castle Maschio Angioino. Enjoy world-class art at the Museo delle Arti Sanitarie and the unique Umberto Gallery, or take sanctuary in the peaceful gardens at Chiesa e Chiostro di San Gregorio Armeno.

If time allows, Naples is also the gateway to the lemon-scented Amalfi Coast with its rugged cliff-hugging villages and immaculate beaches.

Berlin, Germany

Couple exploring Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Germany

In a beauty parade of the world’s most beautiful cities, Berlin is probably not going to catch the eye immediately. It’s a utilitarian city, still mending itself from years of Cold War division, especially in what was the East side. But scratch under the surface here and there’s much to fall in love with.

The city’s key sights for many are remnants of the dark, post-World War II era: the Berlin Wall and Holocaust memorials and what was the infamous Checkpoint Charlie. But as one of the best cities for art, there’s also a heady mix of high-art and eclectic architecture.

Berlin, one of the most beautiful cities in the world

Museum Island in Berlin, Germany

The 18th-century Greek Revival Brandenburg Gate is the city’s elegant landmark and a symbol of unification. The Fernsehturm Berlin TV tower reaches some 1,200 feet into the skies above the city. Museum Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with five museums displaying incredible art and archaeological finds.

There are some lush green spaces too for those looking for a break from the city’s buzz. Monbijou Park along the River Spree has its own beach.

The Britzer Garten offers miles of walking paths around lakes and gardens, and James-Simon Park on Museum Island is an excellent spot to relax after a day of exhibit hunting.

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden, one of the most beautiful cities in the world

Stockholm, Sweden

Set on an archipelago that takes in 14 main islands, Stockholm is both the epitome of a maritime city as well as a place of much natural beauty.

The old town of Gamla Stan, set on its own mini-island, is incredibly picturesque thanks to the cobblestone streets and well-preserved buildings.

These include the Nobel Museum, the 13th-century Storkyrkan Cathedral, the Kungliga Slottet Royal Palace, and the “great square”, Stortorget, surrounded by brightly colored homes.

Couple exploring Gamla Stan in Stockholm, Sweden

Gamla Stan in Stockholm, Sweden

This idyllic feel is matched in the natural world out in the archipelago where there are some 30,000 islands, skerries and rocks to explore, with ancient fishing villages, craggy coves, and secluded beaches, all just a short sail from the city center.

Read: Best Museums in Stockholm

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, one of the most beautiful cities in the world

Lisbon, Portugal

Surrounded by seven picturesque hills on the banks of the River Tagus estuary, Lisbon is one of Europe’s most colorful capitals.

You’ll find a vibrant mixture of cobblestone streets, medieval castles, white-domed cathedrals, and unique architecture that’s a blend of Gothic and Moorish styles.

The streets and alleys of the historic Alfama district reach up a steep hill from the riverside to São Jorge castle, parts of which date from the second century BC. It’s a perfect place from which to start exploring, thanks to historic buildings such as the Se Cathedral, the Panteão Nacional (National Pantheon), and the Baroque Santo António Catholic church.

Iconic yellow tram in Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

The winding alleys here are lined with the city’s signature blue tilework and new delights constantly come to light: a chic boutique here, an artisan gallery there, and a hip café almost everywhere.

You could easily lose a day or two exploring here, but there are other neighborhoods in Lisbon worth seeing, too.

Riverfront Belém is home to the eponymous iconic tower, incredible views of the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge, and bakeries selling the city’s specialty custard tarts, among other famous dishes from Lisbon.

Nearby LX Factory is a former industrial complex now home to modern art galleries, street art, and fun places to stop for a snack.

Seville, Spain

Beautiful landscape of Plaza de España in Seville, Spain

Plaza de España in Seville, Spain

Anybody who has visited the capital of Andalucia would argue that Seville could just be the most beautiful city in the world.

The beautiful Spanish city was under Moorish rule for around 700 years in the Middle Ages and the skyline here is dominated by the Alcázar of Seville, the Islamic-era citadel that went on to become a Royal Palace. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it boasts jaw-dropping palaces, vast gardens, and intricate tilework.

It doesn’t stand alone as a Seville architectural marvel, either: the Gothic cathedral, all soaring spires and intricate facades, is the largest in the world and home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

Street view of Old Town Seville, Spain

Old Town Seville, Spain

From here, the Old Town—the Casco Antiguo—spreads out with its mix of old-world charm and modern vitality. Signature sights include the Torre del Oro (a 12-sided watchtower), the early Renaissance-style City Hall, and Seville University, housed in the former Royal Tobacco Factory. All of these sit alongside buzzy bars, cafés, and restaurants.

There are spots of more laid-back beauty too, especially along the Guadalquivir River including the striking Plaza de España and the relaxed Parque de María Luisa.

Tokyo, Japan

Historic Sensoji Temple in Tokyo, Japan

Sensoji Temple in Tokyo, Japan

The vibrant capital of Japan is an assault on the senses. An incredible mixture of brash neon, wide avenues, and modern consumerism contrasts with historic castles, traditional, low-slung wooden buildings, and shops selling local artisan products.

Nowhere else in the world can you marvel at centuries-old ruins in the morning, and in the afternoon be in a café where your server is dressed as a cartoon character.

From a historical point of view, the Emperor’s main residence, the Imperial Castle and its gardens, the remains of 1457 Edo Castle, and the ornate Sensō-ji Buddhist temple deserve to be ticked off any bucket list. From there it’s a matter of choice.

Busy streets of Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan

Popular neighborhoods in Tokyo include Akihabara, the birthplace of anime, all model figures, fanzines, and themed cafés, while Shibuya, with its iconic road crossing and bright lights, is the place for pop culture.

Make time for a visit to Harajuku. Ostensibly the fashion district and home to big international brands, it’s also where the urban tribes of Tokyo hang out parading their elaborate homemade cosplay (costume play) outfits in an impromptu metropolitan catwalk like no other.

Vancouver, Canada

Scenic skyline of Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver, Canada

It’s not hard to see why Vancouver regularly tops lists of the most desirable cities to live in. The capital of British Columbia has a wonderfully picturesque natural setting, where the forested Pacific coast meets the North Shore Mountains.

The downtown area, all glass-fronted skyscrapers and bustling business areas where companies including Amazon and Microsoft have set up their west coast Canadian homes, hugs the shores of the Burrard Inlet and Vancouver Bay.

View of Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada

Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada

Beyond this, an immense natural playground spreads out with a vast array of activities on offer. Experience Vancouver’s nature at the urban Stanley Park, offering jogging trails, gardens, and lakes.

There’s sea kayaking around the harbor and Grouse Mountain provides a zoo, spectacular city views, and the challenging Grouse Grind hiking trail year-round.

Get tagged on the latter at the bottom and check in your time at the summit to see how you fared against others on “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster”. Some locals do the Grind on a daily basis, which may explain why they all look so incredibly healthy and fit.


Couple on a bumboat in Singapore


Singapore is the kind of city where it seems almost anything is possible. There were settlements here for almost 800 years before the British turned it into a trading post in the 19th century. Since then it’s gone on to thrive, particularly since independence in 1965.

The city’s mix of Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian influences with a dash of British colonialism thrown in make for an astonishingly diverse cultural landscape against which modern life is lived.

View inside Gardens by The Bay, Singapore

Gardens by The Bay, Singapore

The biggest highlight of a visit here may well be the incredible skyline of glass-fronted high rises around Marina Bay, including Singaporean landmarks Sands Sky Park and Marina Bay Sands, as well as the 250-acre Gardens by The Bay.

Meanwhile, Geylang Serai is a maze of markets. Chinatown is home to some of the best food in south-east Asia and Orchard Road is a shopper’s dream. Beyond the city itself, there’s natural beauty, too, with hiking trails through rainforest in the Southern Ridges, and monitor lizards and tree-climbing crabs at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Seattle, USA

Scenic skyline of Seattle, USA

Seattle, USA

Seattle’s “Emerald City” nickname comes from the lush greenery that surrounds it. Set between Elliott Bay and Lake Washington and backed by six mountains, the highest of which is Mount Rainier, at 14,410 feet, Seattle is undeniably beautiful.

Busy waterfront of Seattle, USA

Seattle, USA

Sail or paddle board around the bay with the backdrop of downtown skyscrapers and the futuristic Space Needle, a legacy of the 1962 World’s Fair. Browse the vibrant colors and tempting produce of Pike Place Market.

Marvel at the shimmering curves of MoPop, the Museum of Pop Culture, designed by Frank Gehry. And make time for coffee in one of the many hipster cafés here.

Barcelona, Spain, one of the most beautiful cities in the world

Barcelona, Spain

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