Controversial, predictable, surprising—maybe. But inspirational? Always. No matter where T+L readers rank the World’s Best Cities, the list keeps us planning, going, and dreaming every year.
No. 1 Kyoto, Japan
World's Top 10 Cities 2015
No. 1 Kyoto, Japan
For more than 1,000 years, Kyoto was the imperial capital of Japan, and vestiges of this royal history remain in sites such as the Kyoto Gosho palace. While the year-old Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, appeals to luxury travelers with its private Zen gardens overlooking the Kamogawa River, consider staying in a traditional ryokan, or guesthouse. You can’t see Kyoto without exploring the city’s incredible Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines—there are more than 2,000 scattered across the city—but insiders recommend Sanjusangendo, which houses 1,001 statues of the god Kannon, carved from cypress in the 12th and 13th centuries, as well as the iconic Kinkaku-Ji (Golden Pavilion). Of course, this traditional city has a touch of the modern, too. Check out the sleek new Yoshio Taniguchi-designed wing of the Kyoto National Museum, and the bustling Nishijin neighborhood for kawaii artisan shops.
For globetrotting 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, beloved cities across the globe.