The World’s 50 Most Beautiful Cities, Ranked by Travel Experts
Beauty may very well be in the eye of the beholder, but more than 1,000 travel bloggers, writers, and agents can’t be wrong about these magnificent destinations.
Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
The ultimate travel list
What do travel bloggers, travel writers, and travel agents have in common? It’s their job to see and experience as many sights on this planet as possible. Canada’s largest travel agency, Flight Network, asked more than 1,000 of these experts to nominate cities with populations over 1 million that have really caught their eye—based on natural and man-made beauty, nature, architecture, city culture, and local weather—and they produced this comprehensive list of the World’s 50 Most Beautiful Cities. Get ready for a whirlwind ride around the world, as we explore the beauty found in each corner of the globe. And when you’re planning a trip to one of these amazing destinations (or anywhere else), make sure you know the right way to travel, according to environmental experts.
The very thought of Paris conjures up thoughts of romantic picnics in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, afternoons gazing at the Mona Lisa and other famous works of art in the Louvre, and nibbling croissants while strolling past the iconic Arc de Triomphe. It’s all pretty heavenly. Another reason Paris qualifies as beautiful? It’s known as an international fashion capital, and Parisians take great pride in their chic appearance. “It’s Paris! Enough said,” sums up Dennis Lennox, travel columnist for The Christian Post. In case you’re looking around at intersections during your visit and feeling a bit perplexed, here’s the surprising reason there isn’t a single stop sign in Paris.
New York City
Yes, it may be referred to as the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of,” but that doesn’t take away from its beauty. In fact, to many, the skyscrapers, neon billboards, and constant stream of people and cabs are quite beautiful. “You could visit hundreds of times and still discover new things on every trip,” says David Jagger of The Telegraph & Argus. “It has it all.” Of course, that also includes one of the most recognizable statues in the world (The Statue of Liberty), the towering Empire State Building, and the lush, green Central Park smack dab in the middle of the Big Apple. On your visit, don’t miss these 15 NYC hidden gems most New Yorkers don’t even know about.
Ingus Kruklitis/Getty Images
Don’t let the often cool, damp, and gray conditions fool you. The capital of the United Kingdom is as beautiful as it is rich in history. Let’s start with the world-famous Buckingham Palace in the City of Westminster, which is beautiful enough to have served as the official London residence of the United Kingdom’s monarchs since 1837. Big Ben (the correct term for this tower is actually Elizabeth Tower), which recently turned 160 years old, is currently covered in scaffolding while it undergoes restoration on the tower, clock, and bell inside, and it’s sure to be even more beautiful when complete. Hyde Park, located in central London, boasts a beautiful rose garden, many species of birds, and the Serpentine River. No wonder it ranks number two on this list of the 15 most visited cities in the world.
While one could argue that nearly everything in Italy is beautiful, Venice’s particular charm comes from being built across 100-plus smaller islands connected by canals and bridges. Beauty lies in the ornate bridges—including the Rialto Bridge, which spans the Grand Canal with its stone arch—and in the voices of the gondoliers, who sing as they show off their beloved city to tourists. “I sailed into the Venetian lagoon sipping white wine and thought my heart would burst from the beauty that surrounded me,” says Neala McCarten of Offbeat Travel. Due to rising sea levels, Venice is actually sinking—placing it high on the list of 15 breathtaking places to visit before they disappear.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Although Vancouver’s beauty is apparent from the harbor and beaches to the bustling metropolitan areas, the best vantage points are from way up high. Start with the Capilano Suspension Bridge, set in a 27-acre park—the views while walking across this 450-foot suspension bridge can’t be beat. For more awe-inspiring views, just outside of Vancouver is the Sea to Sky Gondola. Journey to the top, where you can see Howe Sound, the Tantalus Mountain range, Co-Pilot and Sky Pilot mountain peaks, Mount Atwell, and the Mamquam Valley. For a final bout of beauty, rent bicycles and explore the 405-hectare Stanley Park and its views of English Bay, which is set in a natural West Coast rainforest. Here are more of the most popular travel destinations in Canada.
Few cities in the world are as easy to identify as Barcelona. The highly celebrated Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi left his mark all over the city, with La Sagrada Familia (an unfinished Roman Catholic basilica and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that combines Gothic and Art Nouveau styles), Casa Batlló (a modernist building with a can’t-miss facade and an even more interesting interior), and Park Güell (considered one of the most impressive public parks in the world). If Gaudi isn’t your thing, there’s no shortage of other museums scattered around the city, including ones featuring Picasso. As Christian Lengua of Publimetro says, there’s “art and architecture in every corner.”
Cape Town, South Africa
Mountains? Check. Harbor? Check. Beaches? Check. Cape Town is a nature lover’s dream with miles of coastline, soaring mountains—such as Lion’s Head and Table Mountain—and a Mediterranean-like climate. Take a cable car up to the top of Table Mountain for views you won’t soon forget (it’s one of the 15 natural wonders you’ve never heard of), or visit the Table Mountain National Park for an afternoon with African penguins that are on the verge of extinction. This is also the city to explore underwater beauty by cage-diving with great white sharks. Of course, don’t feel ashamed if all you want to do is lay on the pristine golden beaches and stare at the sparkling ocean or the jaw-dropping sunsets like most of the tourists.
San Francisco, California
Is there anything more beautiful than seeing the bright red, Art Deco–style Golden Gate Bridge on a clear day with blue skies? We think not. But that’s not all San Francisco has going for it. “For natural beauty, it’s hard to beat San Francisco, where you can hike above cliffs within city limits and where a short drive takes you to a national monument with old-growth forest,” says the Matador Network’s Noelle Salmi. “Locals appreciate nature, sustainable food, and art.” Stop by the Fisherman’s Wharf for a cruise of the San Francisco Bay, and then treat yourself to the city’s famous clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls. If you’re looking for something a little less bustling, try these less crowded alternatives to the most popular tourist attractions.
Close your eyes and picture the most famous opera house in the world. Yep, you’re probably picturing the world-famous Sydney Opera House, with its iconic roof structure overlooking Sydney Harbour. After your visit, take a 20-minute car ride to Bondi Beach to relax on the white-sand crescent or surf its offshore waves. The Royal Botanic Gardens provide a green space in the city, where you can join a guided tour to learn about the country’s first botanic garden and hear stories of the Cadigal people (indigenous Australians). “Sydney has it all,” says Terry Terrones of the Colorado Springs Gazette. “A great skyline, a beautiful botanical garden, and some of the most iconic man-made landmarks anywhere in the world.” The one thing Sydney does not have, however, is the title of Australia’s capital city. That honor goes to Canberra, and it’s one of 30 geography facts everyone keeps getting wrong.