World's Unfriendliest Cities 2015
Every year, Travel + Leisure sifts through tens of thousands of World’s Best Awards surveys to better understand where our readers love to go, and why. Of course, the responses say just as much, if not more, about what our readers don’t like.
We asked readers to rank 266 cities on everything from their access to art and culture to the friendliness of their people: and some cities failed to warm tourists’ hearts. Not surprisingly, many of the cities that found themselves on our 2015 Unfriendliest Cities in America list (based on separate data from our annual America’s Favorite Places survey) were also called out in this census.
Related: America's Rudest Cities
Of course, we’ve all had an unfriendly encounter with a local, or caught a city that’s just woken up on the wrong side of the bed. We know these cities, at their best, can all be inviting, vibrant, and dynamic destinations.
30. St. Petersburg, Florida, U.S.
Good weather and low-key vibes weren’t enough to keep this Florida city off the diss-list. Travelers expressed disappointment in their St. Petersburg experience, suggesting they wanted something more from the city and its people.
29. Newport, Rhode Island
This coastal town, with its clutch of ultra-luxe B&Bs and staggering mansions along the Cliff Walk, is certainly attractive, but the wealth and exclusivity make themselves known to out-of-towners (even if you’re just visiting from another well-to-do city). “It’s too crowded,” one reader reported, “and the locals don’t want you there!”
28. Monte Carlo, Monaco
“Monte Carlo has become a playboy's playground,” Robert Barnes reported ruefully. “It’s haughty and ultra-expensive,” said another reader. Escape the casinos and hotels and head to the Jardin Exotique or the Romanesque-Byzantine Cathedrale de Monaco (Princess Grace’s final resting place) for a touch of the city’s more cultural aspects.
27. Shanghai, China
Many travelers found Shanghai to be a bit crowded and overwhelming. “People stayed to themselves,” noted one reader. Spend some quiet time at the new Power Station of Art museum, or the Rockbund Art Museum.
26. Lyon, France
Many praised this walkable, attractive city, though unfortunate encounters with locals dragged down Lyon’s overall score. It did, however, outshine many of France’s other, even-less-friendly cities, thanks in part to its praiseworthy culinary scene. After a bowl of steaming truffle soup, puff pastry-crusted sea bass, or a dish of chestnut sorbet drizzled with chocolate sauce, who could stay in a sour mood?
25. Buenos Aires, Argentina
In this year’s survey, many repeat visitors to Argentina’s capital sadly noted a decline in atmosphere. Buenos Aires’ nightlife continues to wow, but crime and crumbling infrastructure made many uneasy. While economic troubles have made a visit to this South American destination very affordable, it has also cast a bleakness over the once inexhaustible city.
24. Milan, Italy
“Be extremely careful that tour guides do not take advantage of you,” warned one reader. Others thought people seemed self-absorbed. Then again, all eyes have been on this long-loved style hub this year, as the Italian city plays host to Expo 2015.
23. Marrakesh, Morocco
One of Morocco’s largest, most-touristed cities is known for its dazzling medieval medina, the bustling souks fragrant with scented oils. It's also known for being difficult to navigate as a tourist. “If [you] even raise your camera, [people] are on you like flies, wanting money.” While its gardens and riads enchant, hassling vendors can be exhausting.
22. Nice, France
Bad puns aside, Nice’s people did not get high marks for kindness. “The people were not friendly at all,” remarked one unhappy traveler. “I would not pay to go back.” If this French city is on your can’t-miss list, consider a stop in Èze, a medieval clifftop village located halfway to Monaco, or St. Paul de Vence, a hilltop village that has long enchanted artists.
21. Xi’an, China
Since the discovery of Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Terracotta Army, Xi’an has become a major tourist destination. Tourists from around the world flock to see the life-size terracotta warriors and horses, though the city isn’t necessarily up to the challenge of hosting all the selfie-stick-wielding hordes. Pushy shop-owners make for tense people-to-people experiences.
20. St. Louis, Missouri
High crime rate explains St. Louis’ low score; many travelers felt uneasy traveling alone or exploring at night. “[It’s] not good for the future of the city,” worried one reader. What is good for St. Louis? The City Museum’s new 600,000-square-foot playground, with its rooftop Ferris Wheel and 10-story slides.
19. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
One visitor suggested Fort Lauderdale should work on its people skills. Nonetheless, Fort Lauderdale was applauded for being exceptionally hospitable toward LGBT travelers. Thumbs up, FTL.
18. Cincinnati, Ohio
“I arrived in Cincinnati on a weekend,” said an anonymous voter, “and I thought it was closed.” Slowly, the city has worked to shed its prudish disposition. Institutions like the 21C Museum Hotel are working to revitalize districts and give new life and personality to neglected buildings.
17. Naples, Italy
Perhaps Naples just paled in comparison to its neighbors, Florence and Rome, which regularly score top marks in the World’s Best Awards. Readers warned travelers to enjoy Naples and its pleasures—mozzarella di bufala neopolitan pizza, the Pizza del Plebiscito—while keeping an eye out for pickpockets.
16. Providence, Rhode Island
Artsy, geeky, and apparently kind of rude: Providence didn’t dazzle many of the visitors who filled out the survey. Fortunately, the once-seedy Westminster Street is getting a makeover, thanks to the restoration of the Arcade, the country’s oldest indoor mall. The debut of the Dean Hotel didn’t hurt, either. Here, visitors and locals can put aside their differences at the karaoke bar, beer hall, or barman Mike Sears’s masterpiece, the Magdalenae Room.
15. Boston, Massachusetts
“The attitude is awful,” said one respondent about Beantown. “Random strangers will comment on [you]—Mind your own business, Boston!”
14. Frankfurt, Germany
Readers could not get over Frankfurt’s airport. Some referred to it exclusively as “the city with the airport.” It’s no surprise, then, that unfriendly airport employees had a major impact on Frankfurt’s overall “Friendliness” ranking. “[The] airport is one of the most complicated and unfriendly,” reported one voter, while another claimed it was much too large. Our question? Voters—did you even leave the airport?
13. Washington, D.C.
All that filibustering makes D.C. a surly city, and a slow one. “Bobby Kennedy was right!” said a T+L reader. “[It’s] a city with Southern efficiency and Northern charm.” Brave the unfriendly streets, however, and you’ll be rewarded with a wealth of American history and culture. There’s no shortage of attractions here, many of which are free. Quintessential sites include seeing the original Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, taking a selfie with Lincoln at the memorial, and, in springtime, admiring the cherry blossoms along the tidal basin.
12. Miami, Florida
Bikini-clad babes weren’t enough to keep this city from slipping to the bottom of the list this year. “It’s as if someone took the worst part of Los Angeles and slathered coconut oil all over it,” wrote one voter. Others just called it a hot mess. If you’re looking for a more polished Miami experience, stick to the design district, home to the Institute of Contemporary Art, or the famed graffiti walls of Wynwood.
11. Beijing, China
Voters thought this city had too many people to manage. Escape the crowds (and, yes, the pollution) inside one of the city’s new hotels, which continue to practice the region’s famous, anticipatory hospitality—even if locals don’t. Try the new Rosewood Beijing, fronted with cast-bronze dragon sculptures, and featuring cloisonné in the 282 loft-style guest rooms.
10. Cannes, France
Home to one of the world’s most glamorous A-list film festivals, Cannes is known for being wealthy, pretty, and, apparently, a bit snobby. “[Cannes’] charm is fading away,” said T+L reader Kathleen Dwyer. “Cannes is like an aging beauty,” another agreed. The fading movie star is most accommodating to visitors with major cash to spend.
9. Las Vegas, Nevada
“It isn’t deep,” observed one visitor, “but who cares?” After all, its vaguely seedy pomp and flamboyant performances is what earned the town its fame.
8. Baltimore, Maryland
Charm City didn’t live up to its reputation this year, and the recent protests likely played a large role in travelers’ disillusionment (tourism took a major hit). That doesn’t mean Baltimore has lost its delights; stay for the theatrical performances (catch one at the Hippodrome Theatre), Chesapeake Bay views, and Maryland blue crab. Oh, and head to Faidley’s for Red Crab Soup, Cream of Crab, Jumbo Lump Crabcakes, and Soft Crab Sandwiches.
7. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Even in the City of Brotherly Love, showing up on game day wearing a Giants hat is a bad idea. “[I] went to baseball and hockey games in Philly, and was heckled by rude fans because I’m not for the home team.” Avoid game-day quarrels by visiting The Barnes Collection of early modern art or the Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden.
6. New York, New York
It’s no surprise that New York landed on this list’s top 10: it snagged the loathed No. 1 spot on our list of 15 Unfriendliest Cities in America, after all. One voter reported that “people are not exactly the kindest to strangers.” “New York has everything—just don’t ask a person in the street to help you find it.” Despite feeling overwhelmed by the crowds, most people agreed that the frustrations were worth the visit, thanks to boiled bagels, Central Park, and the new One World Trade Center’s staggering city views.
5. Los Angeles, California
Ceaseless sunshine isn’t enough to warm up Los Angeles, according to survey responders. While the city is filled with good-looking people, many of them come off as pretentious or holier than thou. “Rude, unhelpful people trying to scam you for everything” is what one disgruntled visitor encountered.
4. Marseilles, France
Even the French feel conflicted when it comes to the country’s second-largest city. “Either [they] hate it,” observed Matthieu Gamet, the director of a Marseilles-based company, “or [they] love it.” The city is witnessing a cultural resurgence of late, but many travelers still found Marseilles to be quite unkempt and gritty. Even with a relatively poor “friendliness” score, many thought this port city to be far more laid-back and accommodating than Paris.
3. St. Petersburg, Russia
While visitors are typically awed by the beautiful architecture (the new Mariinsky II theater, the frosty blue Winter Palace, the gilded and candy-striped Church of the Savior of the Spilled Blood), they are a bit disappointed by their encounters with residents.
2. Atlantic City, New Jersey
“It’s fun—if you like to gamble and don’t mind rude, fast-paced people.” Yikes. Some readers wondered if the city, known these days for its less-than-lustrous casinos and boardwalk, was still reeling from the blow struck by 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.
1. Moscow, Russia
How did Moscow, which generally performs quite well in terms of landmarks and culture, slip to the bottom of our “friendly” list? T+L readers didn’t find Muscovites to be particularly helpful. Book a private guide to help you navigate the capital city’s historical sites, including the Kremlin and Izmaylovsky Market. We suspect the city’s notoriously bad traffic and general “aloofness” of the people contributed to its low ranking, as well as its culinary scene, which was also ranked dead last in this year’s poll.