World’s Best Cities for Culture
Every year, the T+L World’s Best Awards survey asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences from across the globe—to cast their votes for the top hotels, airlines, islands, spas, and more. Readers scored the top cities on Earth according to the friendliness of the people, food, value, sights and landmarks, romance, shopping, nightlife, and the depth of a city's culture.
Take Charleston, South Carolina, for example. Ranked the No. 1 city for culture in the United States, this charming Southern destination boasts Antebellum homesteads, a beautifully restored 19th-century theater, and historic battlegrounds. Though there may be nothing more appealing than its timeless, jasmine-scented streets.
And across the globe in Venice, travelers can explore 141 world class churches and galleries, like the Basilica of San Marco with its gold, Byzantine-era mosaics and the Gothic architecture of Doge's Palace overlooking the lagoon.
Here, in the City of Canals, Venetians are experts at honoring the past: craftsmen continue blowing glass and carving wood as they have for generations. House made gelato and pastas are served with reverence, and hotels occupy former palazzos with original frescoes and 18th-century oil paintings.
"There is no city in the world like Venice," observed one Travel + Leisure reader. "Its beauty is unique and its history is amazing—a city I could revisit over and over and over [again] and enjoy each time."
These are the cities that resonated most with our readers for their rich history and immersive experiences—and they are all miles and continents apart. You can find our readers' favorite cities for culture in the Middle East, Europe, and even far-flung Tibet. They are remarkable destinations grounded by a deep sense of place, and an unflinching commitment to preserving local traditions.
To vote in this year’s World’s Best survey, visit tandl.me/wb2017.
10. New Orleans
9. Lhasa, Tibe
8. Charleston, South Carolina
1. Kyoto, Japan
Tokyo may be Japan’s humming capital, but Kyoto is arguably its spiritual center, a city where ritual and tradition inform the culture.
"[You] can't walk through certain districts without stumbling over another temple, but that's what makes Kyoto wonderful," said T+L reader Heather Marquard. "History and culture are alive everywhere you look."
Staying at a ryokan, or inn, like the centuries-old Hiiragiya, offers a unique window to the past, as guests take multi-course meals in their rooms and sleep on futons over tatami-mat floors. Visitors should also take part in a Japanese tea ceremony, and admire the 1,0001 carved cypress statues of the god Kannon at Sanjusangendo.