The World's 30 Friendliest Cities 2015
Every year, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on their favorite cities around the globe in our annual World’s Best Awards survey. While some are wooed by famed landmarks and ancient relics, or the sheer number of prized artworks preserved within a city's museums, others are won over by the people.
Friendliness, be it instinctual hospitality, or a warm smile at every storefront, does a lot to make a city more accessible to travelers. Like the U.S. cities that toped the charts in our annual America's Favorite Places survey and appeared on our Friendliest Cities in America list, these destinations—both far flung and near to home—know how to charm.
Related: America's Rudest Cities
People who are proud of their city, passionate about its culture, and invested in its future are eager to share that with visitors. Like voluntary tour guides, they're the first to point you in the right direction, share a little-known cafe home to the most spectacular local delicacy, or defend its proverbial walls in times of crisis or controversy.
Read on to learn more about the cities that ranked as the Friendliest on Earth: and what exactly it is that makes them so. Don't see the city you're looking for? Tell us on Facebook, on Twitter, or see if it landed on our World's Unfriendliest Cities list.
30. Key West, Florida
Key West is one of the most eccentric and seductive cities in the nation. Don your tropical linen shirts with pride and check out one of the colorful artist havens, such as Studios of Key West, newly relocated to Eaton Street. Or perhaps catch a show at the new resident theater company, On the Rock.
29. Santa Fe, New Mexico
“Locals are sincerely friendly, and it’s safe,” said a World’s Best voter about Santa Fe. Artists and jewelers flock here in droves for handmade Native American crafts, silverwork, and turquoise.
28. Lisbon, Portugal
Hilly Lisbon is best explored via historic trolley, though with a great pair of walking shoes, you can see the sights on foot. Portuguese food puts great emphasis on fresh fish and wine: order fish stew with lemongrass and ginger at Alma, or 1300’s Taberna’s grilled sea bass with crab rice. And the people? Readers applauded them for their helpfulness and grace.
27. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Pushy peddlers notwithstanding, Puerto Vallarta received praise for being as ideal for couples as well as families on holiday. “There are plenty of things to do,” observed one reader, “yet it somehow retains its small-town feel.” With many a white-sand beach and tropical jungle, its archeological sites and bustling boardwalks, you’ll never be at a loss for a diversion.
26. Amsterdam, Netherlands
There's something inherently warm about Amsterdam, especially in the springtime when the parks are full of blooming tulips. It’s easiest to make friends if you’re mounted on a bike: in this city, cyclists come first, pedestrians second, and automobiles dead last.
25. Minneapolis, St. Paul, Minnesota
Thanks to the Minnesota Institute of the Arts, the Sculpture Garden (now in its 20th year), and the stunning conservatory at the Como Zoo & Conservatory—among countless other free things—the city has a reputation for being welcoming and open to visitors and locals alike.
24. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen may be best known for its avant-garde cuisine and striking architecture, but it also registers as one of the friendliest cities in the world. The Danes are relentless in their friendliness, honesty, and hospitality. But yes, the food is in fact superb.
23. Cuzco, Peru
There’s more to Cuzco than Machu Picchu. “Cuzco is a tourist town,” noted one voter, “and for that, the people are quite outstanding. [They] really look out for their visitors.”
22. Portland, Maine
This modest city along the northern coast attracts a laidback, outdoorsy crowd. The people of Portland live up to their reputation for friendliness as easily as the lobster rolls and blueberry pies.
21. Fort Worth, Texas
The heart of cowboy country beats with an enthusiastic and zealous group of locals hanging out at the Old Fort Worth Stockyards and enjoying the city’s much-loved barbecue. Many museums are free, and the residents take a certain pride in being less buttoned up than their neighbors in Dallas.
20. Bangkok, Thailand
For three years in a row, Bangkok held the No. 1 stop on the World’s Top Cities list: and it wasn’t just the long-tail boats lazing their way down the Chao Phraya river or the smell of fried pathong ko doughnuts that helped Banbkok become so beloved worldwide. “The people are accommodating—almost to a fault,” noted one visitor, while another observed that the generosity of strangers is Bangkok’s most impressive quality.
19. Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria is a storybook city, best known for its magnificent Butchart Gardens and windswept seafront. “[The] city had a lot of character,” remarked one voter. Take the ferry from Vancouver to best appreciate the wildness of the region. While the city has done away with its reputation for being staunchly English, you can—and should—take afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress. The William Edwards china, sterling silver service, and live piano music set a purposefully British mood.
18. Reykjavik, Iceland
Despite its glaciers, raging volcanoes, and misting geysers, Iceland's capital has consistently scored high: this year, it ranked No. 2 on the World Happiness Report. T+L reader Drew Strellis advised visitors to take an evening dip in a municipal pool. “That’s where everyone goes to relax and connect with the community.” Extraordinary sites and otherworldy atmosphere, so it seems, are only a part of the reason everyone here is so cheery.
17. New Orleans, Louisiana
The irrepressible people of New Orleans have shown, 10 years after Hurricane Katrina, that they will let nothing dampen their historically vibrant personalities and extraordinary culture. “Communal happiness,” said Thomas Beller “is something New Orleans does effortlessly.” Likely, the yearlong parties, jazz fests and indulgent Creole cuisine have something to do with it.
16. Kraków, Poland
A quiet cultural revolution has brought a wave of bohemian artists (and a laid-back attitude) to Kraków. Grab a drink at Bar Propaganda (there’s a Lenin bust you can admire there) or pierogis from Officyna.
15. Asheville, North Carolina
Thanks to its perch on a reported vortex, these North Carolinians are all about sharing their positive auras and good energy. “Asheville makes you feel young, even if you aren’t!” says T+L reader Candance Reaves. Like any good Mountain Town, Asheville boasts beer-of-the-day donuts and Friday night drum circles in Pritchard Park.
14. Nashville, Tennessee
No one knows how to make you feel welcome quite like a Tennessean. Music City’s singers and songwriters give the city a constant feel-good vibe, which is only boosted by that below-the-Mason-Dixon-twang and a clutch of top-notch barbecue joints.
13. Kyoto, Japan
The No. 1 city in the world drew accolades for its stunning Japanese design, cozy inns that reconfirm Asia's dominance in hospitality, and its stunning shrines. Cherry blossom trees topped with billowy pink blooms in the summer and kind locals who rival the trained staff at leading hotels, such as the new Ritz-Carlton Kyoto, make the city all the more friedly to travelers.
12. Austin, Texas
Texas’ capital has a reputation for being talkative, laid-back, and attractive. Join the locals around Lady Bird Lake or Barton Springs, or strike up a conversation over a brisket at Franklin’s Barbecue.
11. Cape Town, South Africa
Few places offer the traveler the chance to browse amazing boutiques (pick up a pair of silk-and-leather sandals at Woodstock’s Neighborgoods Market), take an exotic safari, and indulge at a stylish new restaurant (try Seelan for duck with Mozambican spices) all in one weekend. Cape Town gets a gold star for its warm, welcoming people, too.
10. Savannah, Georgia
Savannah has long charmed locals and with its antebellum architecture, romantic boughs of Spanish moss, and good-natured residents.
9. Edinburgh, Scotland
Readers referred to this city of medieval lanes and intimate squares, of fairytale stone castles and Georgian storefronts, as “enchanting” and “magical:” an “unexpected jewel” worth revisiting time and time again.
8. Sydney, Australia
The positive vibe of this down-under destination is enhanced by the natural beauty of the harbor and the diverse cultural offerings. Catch a performance at the Sydney Opera House, look out for the new Good Lines (an urban space reclaiming abandoned railroad tracks) and the recently expanded MCA Australia.
7. Melbourne, Australia
“Melbourne natives haven’t met a stranger,” said one reader. Part of what makes this Australian city so pleasant is the approachable public transportation system, such as the free City Circle tram. Walkability and outdoor shopping centers make it easy to initiate conversation and enjoy the spectacular weather.
6. Auckland, New Zealand
New Zealand’s largest city has all the comfort of a small town with the attractions of a major metropolis. Travels consistently remark on the city’s clean, safe streets and cheerful residents. Check out the Victorian-style houses in Ponsonby, and the white-sand beaches of Takapuna. Take the ferry 40 minutes northeast to Waiheke Island for an evening in one of three intimate rooms at The Oyster Inn.
5. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Adventurous travelers may flock here for Khmer ruins and mountainous jungle terrain, but they stay for the inherent peace and tranquility, found in the Buddhist temples such as Angkor Wat and practiced by the Cambodian citizens. “Kind, calm, and helpful,” said one reader about their encounter with the locals. Don’t bypass Ta Prohm, a ruin brought to life by the strangler figs and silk roots trees growing throughout.
4. Cork, Ireland
In the country’s largest county, verdant hills bloom with wildflowers, rivers run through ruins, and courteous locals welcome visitors with open arms. If, despite being surrounded by some of the friendliest people in the world, you still need a break from socializing, take to the new Wild Atlantic way: a scenic driving route stretching 1,500 miles along the coast.
3. Dublin, Ireland
The people of Dublin’s confident, cosmopolitan, and gregarious nature is best experienced at the din the new Hipster Triangle, where creative locals indulge in “only-in-Ireland” ice cream flavors at Murphy’s (think toasted Irish oats and brown bread made with milk from Kerry cows) and dig in to Jo’Burger. Here, picnic tables fill up during lunch hour with jars of house-made, grown-up lemonade and Charolais burgers.
2. Charleston, South Carolina
Recent tragedy has cast a dark cloud over Charleston, yet the city’s famous compassion and resilience have helped it recover, while locals seek ways to become ever more welcoming to all. No one is quicker to stand up for the city than those who live there, like “born and bred Charlestonian” Miriam McManus, who wrote that “the Charleston community showed the country, and the world, their spirit as well … coming together with love and support. We all have a deep respect for one another.”
1. Galway, Ireland
“The hospitality and the humor of Ireland’s people makes it a perfect destination,” said one T+L reader. Another voter claimed Galway was home to the “friendliest people [they had] ever met.” So what does it take to come out as the friendliest city in the world? Galway won readers’ hearts with its festive nature, lively population, and musicality. Fiddlers and banjo-players, flautists and whistlers bang out traditional Irish reels on pedestrian streets and in all the pubs. And no wonder! It’s known countrywide (and beyond) as the “most Irish” city.