For globe-trotting travelers, it’s easy to recognize a spectacular city. They are energetic, diverse destinations intent on preserving local heritage, revitalizing undervalued neighborhoods, and they possess distinct personalities that set them apart from other metropolises.
Whether it’s the city you’ve called home for years or one you only just stumbled upon during your travels, you know that the best cities are intriguing cultural centers that can’t be replicated anywhere else.
Kyoto, in Japan, returned for the second year in a row to the No. 1 spot on our World’s Best list. Readers called it the quintessential Japanese experience, offering visitors everything from history (in the form of spiritual shrines) to notable cuisine (shojin ryori) and encounters with the famed Geisha dancers.
Some of the world’s best cities evoke the romanticism of travel, such as Italy’s classic crowd-pleasers, Florence and Rome. Both have appeared on the Top 10 Overall list for ten consecutive years.
Perhaps most evident, however, are the cities that appeared on the list despite political and social turmoil. Charleston, South Carolina—the only domestic city on the overall list—has suffered greatly since the polls closed. And Jerusalem, the controversial capital of Israel, is at the crux of an ancient and ongoing conflict. Bangkok was likely bumped from the list in 2012 due to governmental unrest.
Because cities are, in many ways, a great convergence of people and ideas, it is inevitable that conflicts will arise. So we keep these cities, and their people, in our thoughts, while we celebrate their resilience and their virtues.
Where did your favorite city rank, and which ones should you put on your travel bucket list? These are the most dynamic and beloved cities across the globe.