Maciej Czekajewski / Alamy

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. 7 Krakow, Poland

4 of 11

Score: 88.693

Poland’s second city has been experiencing a quiet cultural revolution, and it’s finally getting the attention it deserves. This World’s Best debut, known for Gothic fortifications and a laid-back, blasé attitude, has enchanted travelers with something akin to magic, and overcome even stalwart favorites like Istanbul and New York City. Perhaps it’s the marvels of the Old City, like Rynek Glówny—the largest Medieval square in Europe—and the Royal Castle of Wawel that have captivated intrepid travelers seeking something unfamiliar out of their explorations abroad. In the old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, where synagogues that survived WWII still stand, there’s a notably bohemian vibe taking hold in new hip spots like Bar Propaganda, appropriately outfitted with a bust of Lenin. Some, however, will tell you it’s the mystic chakhra stone of Wawel Hill that has, like a love spell, bewitched the world.  

Krakow

World's Top 10 Cities

No. 7 Krakow, Poland

Score: 88.693

Poland’s second city has been experiencing a quiet cultural revolution, and it’s finally getting the attention it deserves. This World’s Best debut, known for Gothic fortifications and a laid-back, blasé attitude, has enchanted travelers with something akin to magic, and overcome even stalwart favorites like Istanbul and New York City. Perhaps it’s the marvels of the Old City, like Rynek Glówny—the largest Medieval square in Europe—and the Royal Castle of Wawel that have captivated intrepid travelers seeking something unfamiliar out of their explorations abroad. In the old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, where synagogues that survived WWII still stand, there’s a notably bohemian vibe taking hold in new hip spots like Bar Propaganda, appropriately outfitted with a bust of Lenin. Some, however, will tell you it’s the mystic chakhra stone of Wawel Hill that has, like a love spell, bewitched the world.  

Maciej Czekajewski / Alamy

World's Top 10 Cities

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 Carolinathe 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. 

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