The World’s Best Cities in 2016

Charleston, South Carolina
Photo: Peter Frank Edwards

When we travel to an urban center, we’re often looking for the whole package — history, culture, exciting cuisine, modernity, antiquity, and everything in between. It sounds like a tall order, but the world’s best cities offer these attributes and more. Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. Readers ranked cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value. Our top 15 cities include less-obvious but incredibly rewarding destinations like Luang Prabang in Laos, and the capital of Lebanon. “Beirut is a strikingly beautiful city,” wrote T+L reader Maya Elchebeir. In a region that is being devastated by war and destruction, Beirut rises out of the desert dust, with its contemporary art museums and Ottoman architecture, to serve as a guiding light. Others are recurring winners, including Renaissance center Florence, Italy (at or near the top year after year) and Kyoto, which took the No. 1 spot in 2015. Globe-trotters have long celebrated the former imperial capital of Japan for the hospitality of its ryokans and the beauty of its some 2,000 shrines and temples. Perhaps the best part of the 2016 World’s Best Cities list is its diversity: from the American South to the Middle East, the heart of Mexico to the capitals of ancient European and Asian empires, the most beloved cities on earth show how dynamic our world really is.

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No. 15: Cuzco, Peru

Cusco, Peru
Jesse Chehak

Score: 88.958

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No. 14: Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Benchamabophit, Bangkok Thailand
Getty Images

Score: 88.96

Ready to take off? Check out our Bangkok guide first.

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No. 13: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Seim Reap
Getty Images/Corbis Documentary

Score: 88.961

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No. 12: Beirut, Lebanon

Beirut from Harissa
Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Score: 89.00

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No. 11: Rome, Italy

Spanish Steps, Rome
David Leventi

Score: 89.22

Make the most of your Roman holiday with T+L's guide to the city.

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No. 10: Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa
Getty Images/Westend61

Score: 89.46

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No. 9: Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia
Getty Images

Score: 89.57

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No. 8: Barcelona, Spain

Park Güell, Barcelona
Gunnar Knechtel

Score: 89.60

When to go, where to stay? Our guide to Barcelona has all the intel.

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No. 7: New Orleans, Louisiana

Crescent Park, New Orleans
Getty Images/AWL Images RM

Score: 89.75

Get rolling with our insider's guide to the Crescent City.

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No. 6: Kyoto, Japan

Ryan-ji Temple, Kyoto
Getty Images/Moment RM

Score: 89.75

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No. 5: Luang Prabang, Laos

Bodhi Tree at Wat That Luang, Luang Prabang
Getty Images/Universal Images Group

Score: 89.85

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No. 4: Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy
Andrea Wyner

Score: 89.85

Ready to say "ciao" to David? Peek at our Florence travel guide before you book.

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No. 3: San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

San Miguel de Allende
Getty Images

Score: 91.19

Book a trip to San Miguel de Allende.

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No. 2: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai
Getty Images

Score: 91.25

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No. 1: Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina
Peter Frank Edwards

Score: 91.66

Charleston moved up from the No. 2 slot last year to No. 1. The city has shown incredible resilience and, as one reader wrote, there is still “no place quite like it.” In addition to historic battlegrounds and jasmine-scented streets (and an enthusiastic endorsement by Stephen Colbert), Charleston is home to award-winning hotels (including the Spectator, No. 2 hotel in the world this year) and restaurants. Antebellum charm, excellent boutiques, and the beautiful waterfronts at Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach make this city one of the most beloved in the U.S. — and now, the world.

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