By Peter Terzian
July 10, 2019
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When it comes to urban charms, Travel + Leisure readers just can’t get enough of Mexico. San Miguel de Allende, which topped our list for the past two years, may have been unseated this time around — it now comes in second — but it still draws gushing admiration. One reader called it “a unique art community in the mountains, with a mix of rich history and amazing food.” Another fan of the city praised its architectural diversity: “Gorgeous, sumptuous modern interiors are mixed with 500-year-old façades. You never know what delights you’ll find behind one of the beautifully carved doors.” Another town with a long and complex history and vibrantly colored buildings, Oaxaca (No. 5), gets raves for its sublime food scene, as well as its cooking schools. Mexico City leaped up our chart — last year’s No. 11 is now No. 4: “One of the most exciting cities in North America,” wrote one reader. “I go at least once per year, and every time I do it’s a new and exciting experience.” Another voter added, “The restaurants were excellent, from the corner taquerias to the upscale places.”

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value.

Related: The World's Best Awards 2019

Of course, Mexico doesn’t entirely steal the show. Our readers love a wide range of cities — and for a variety of reasons. Chiang Mai won accolades — and the No. 3 slot — for its elephant sanctuary and the shopping, which offers an abundance of “incredible arts and crafts at good prices.” From Michelangelo’s David to the Ponte Vecchio, Florence (No. 9) is perennially popular. “Being able to walk around the whole city by foot is a traveler’s dream,” wrote one voter. Another offered a tip: “At sunset, look in any direction and the city will be bathed in a light so ethereal that your breath will be taken away.” And in the United States, No. 12 Charleston, South Carolina, offers “Southern charm at its best.”

To see the complete list of places Travel + Leisure readers deemed the best cities in the world, scroll on down.

15. Bangkok

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Score: 86.52

14. Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Score: 86.59

13. Seville, Spain

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Score: 86.65

12. Charleston, South Carolina

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Score: 87.04

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11. Rome

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WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 87.34

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10. Udaipur, India

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Score: 87.80

9. Florence

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WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 88.26

8. Kyoto, Japan

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Score: 88.42

7. Tokyo

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Score: 88.95

6. Ubud, Indonesia

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Score: 89.08

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5. Oaxaca, Mexico

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Score: 89.16

4. Mexico City

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Score: 89.30

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3. Chiang Mai, Thailand

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Score: 89.56

2. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

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Score: 90.23

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1. Hoi An, Vietnam

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Score: 90.39

This charmer of a city leaped from its No. 8 position last year to the top of our list. What draws readers to what one called “a little gem of a place”? For some, it’s the shopping: “You can have anything made to order.” For others, it’s the food. “The best in Vietnam, with amazing vegetarian and vegan options,” wrote one fan. It doesn’t hurt that Hoi An is so accessible either. “It’s great that the inner part of the city is restricted and cars aren’t allowed, so one can walk down the center of the street to the shops and markets,” explained one reader. “The city has a nice atmosphere, being right on a river.”

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2019.