The Top 15 Cities in Asia in 2020
This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.
A riot of colors, scents, and sounds characterize many of the best cities in Asia, according to T+L readers. Travelers to the continent want to immerse themselves fully in the bustle of daily life, walking down avenues and side alleys, visiting ancient temples and ornate palaces, staying in houses on stilts and in modern skyscrapers. Whether their passion is food or art, shopping or nightlife, they discover that the urban centers of the world’s largest continent thrum with energy and excitement, which makes exploring them one of travel’s greatest joys.
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 2020
This year’s list spans a wide swath of Asia. India is the only country that managed to grab three spots. Udaipur (No. 4) and Jaipur (No. 8) are no surprise. As one reader described, “Udaipur is a bucket-list destination. The lake is magnificent, especially at night from the Taj Lake Palace hotel looking to the City Palace. So romantic.” But the appearance of West Bengal’s capital, Kolkata, at No. 12 points to T+L readers’ desires to explore areas beyond Rajasthan and other parts of the tried-and-true tourist circuit.
Hong Kong captured 15th place — a testament to its resilience and enduring appeal. “Hong Kong is one of the most interesting and unique cities in the world,” wrote one voter. Another reader echoed the sentiment, noting that the city has “so much to do and see, and the food is the best.” After all, where else can you find Michelin-star quality dim sum in a subway station?
And while some popular destinations return — Chiang Mai, Thailand (No. 2), Kyoto, Japan (No. 3), and Ubud, Indonesia (No. 6) — word also seems to be out about Laos’s enchanting former royal capital, Luang Prabang, which nabbed the fifth spot this year after not making the list in 2019. This “fascinating, friendly, small city on the banks of the Mekong River,” as one reader put it, is fast becoming a must-visit on any trip to Southeast Asia.
But for the second year in a row, the ancient Vietnamese city of Hoi An emerges victorious. Below, the reasons why — plus the full list of the best cities in Asia, as voted by T+L readers.
1. Hoi An, Vietnam
This city on Vietnam’s central coast has long been a tourist favorite, attracting visitors who appreciate its eclectic architecture, energetic nightlife, and flowing canals. But what really sets it apart for our readers are the culture and people. “The culture of Hoi An made it what it is,” wrote one fan. “So colorful and vibrant! The people were so friendly and the food was spectacular.” Another person likened it to “being transported to a magical romantic village.” Best of all, it’s easy to get around (try renting a bike) and very affordable, making it the favorite city in Vietnam — and all of Asia — for our readers.
2. Chiang Mai, Thailand
3. Kyoto, Japan
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 88.77
4. Udaipur, India
5. Luang Prabang, Laos
6. Ubud, Indonesia
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 87.91
8. Jaipur, India
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 87.67
10. Siem Reap, Cambodia
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 87.38
12. Kolkata, India
15. Hong Kong
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.