This was not an easy post to write. Did I go with the usual top names? Did I base this only on places that I had personally visited? Did I try to just cover Hidden Gems?
In the end I decided to do a mix of all three – although I am proud to say that I have visited every city on this list and even lived in a couple of them. It didn’t seem possible to write a list of the most beautiful cities in the world and not include Rome and Paris so I decided to include several classics.
As a travel blogger I am lucky enough to visit some extraordinary cities that aren’t necessarily top of mind for all travellers so I have also added in several of my favourite hidden gems to add to your bucket list.
So here are my 20 most beautiful cities in the world
- 20 Most Beautiful Cities in the World
- 1. London, United Kingdom
- 2. Paris, France
- 3. Rome, Italy
- 4. Sydney, Australia
- 5. Venice, Italy
- 6. New York City
- 7. Vancouver, Canada
- 8. Cape Town, South Africa
- 9. Istanbul, Turkey
- 10. Quebec City, Canada
- 11. Edinburgh, Scotland
- 12. Medellin, Colombia
- 13. Riga, Latvia
- 14. Baden-Baden, Germany
- 15. Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
- 16. Graz, Austria
- 17. Bergen, Norway
- 18. St Petersburg, Russia
- 19. Charleston, South Carolina
- 20. Seville, Spain
20 Most Beautiful Cities in the World
1. London, United Kingdom
London must come first in this list as it is my hometown. London isn’t known for having the best weather in the world but when the sun shines and you’re on the Thames any city in the world would be hard pressed to beat beautiful London.
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” is the famous quote from Samuel Johnson and I couldn’t agree more. London is home to some of the world’s most famous landmarks from Buckingham Palace to Big Ben to Westminster Abbey and well I could go on and on.
There are 35 different bridges in London along the Thames – from the beautiful pastel coloured Albert Bridge to world famous Tower Bridge. Experience some of the best art in the world at the Royal Academy, the Tate, Tate Modern, National Gallery and many more such institutions.
A key part of London’s beauty is its lovely parks – beloved by its residents. London has 3,000 parks and believe it or not 40% of the city is green. Hyde Park is the best known but don’t miss stunning Richmond Park and its deers and views over London and gorgeous Holland Park.
Head off the beaten path and explore London’s street art scene in the East, take a rubbish tour and see lesser known green spots such as the Isle of Dogs, visit the coloured houses of Notting Hill or enjoy a gourmet meal on a London bus whilst experiencing fantastic views of the city.
Whilst they don’t add to the city’s beauty there is also an amazing London food scene to enjoy inbetween iconic landmarks as well as some unbeatable shopping on Regent Street, at Selfridges, on the Kings Road and so many more.
⇒ Heading to London? Check out my posts on 13 Unusual Experiences in London, the best London Food Tours, my virtual London Travel Blog, some great Earlsfield restaurants, 14 Things to do in Notting Hill, restaurants near Clapham Junction and Victoria Station restaurants, 16 Famous Landmarks in Europe, a mad hatter afternoon tea party and a day trip to Brighton, 15 Places to see Sunsets in London, 9 Places to watch the Sunrise in London, 10 Bridges in London Not to Miss and Cotswolds tour from London options.
2. Paris, France
I don’t think it is possible to put together a list of the world’s most beautiful cities and not included Paris. The city of lights, the city of love, whichever name you want to call it, love it or hate it there is no doubt that Paris is absolutely beautiful.
Paris, of course, is known for its famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Louvre etc. However, for me what makes Paris beautiful is the charm and detail in its 20 arrondissements. Cobblestone streets, beautiful buildings, atmospheric cafes with wicker outdoor chairs arranged just so – it is the combination of these details that gives the average Paris street so much charm.
The Seine River and its beautiful bridges are critical elements of Paris’ beauty. Indeed there are 37 bridges in Paris – 2 more than the bridges in London – and one of the best ways to enjoy Paris is a cruise under those bridges on the Seine.
Although only 10% of Paris is green, when it is green it is stunning. From the Jardin du Luxembourg to Jardin des Tuileries to the Interior Garden at the Petit Palais Paris does a garden well.
Paris is at its most beautiful first thing in the morning and heading into the evening as the light softens and changes and bathes this beautiful city in a glow. Sunrise in Paris, as well as the sunset in Paris, are not to be missed.
⇒ If you like beautiful European towns check out my posts on Saint Antonin Noble Val and Tarn et Garonne in France, 10 Beautiful Bridges in France, 10 Beautiful Lakes in France and the 6 Best Places to Watch the Sunrise in Paris
3. Rome, Italy
With over 280 fountains and more than 900 churches alone Rome is fully equipped with enough architectural landmarks to earn a spot on this list. Then add the Colosseum, the Vatican and the Pantheon plus all the other significant buildings in this city and you have a shoe in for any list of the most beautiful cities in the world.
It often seems like Rome has enough spectacular buildings and tourist attractions in each block to support a separate city. However, like Paris much of the beauty of Rome is in the details
It is in the cobblestone streets, the beautiful Piazzas, a Vespa perfectly posed next to an ancient building and of course the beautiful inhabitants of Rome.
And don’t miss some of Rome’s beautiful neighborhoods like Trastavere and Parioli for a quieter but just as atmospheric Roman experiences.
⇒ A highlight of Europe is wonderful Italy. Check out my posts on things to do in Rimini, best places to visit in Puglia, boutique hotels in Bologna, Sardinia boutique hotels, wineries in Montepulciano, Best Italy Ski Resorts, things to do in Sicily, where to stay in Sicily Sicily Itinerary 7 days, 15 Most beautiful cities in Italy, Skip the Line Colosseum Guide, 18 Venetian Palaces to See or Sleep In, 16 Famous Landmarks in Europe and the 14 most beautiful cities in Europe you may not know.
4. Sydney, Australia
As I was born and brought up in Melbourne, Australia it isn’t easy for me to add Sydney to a list of the world’s most beautiful cities. There is a clear rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney, with each city’s inhabitants sure that their city is superior.
Whilst Melbourne is of course the superior city, I cannot deny that when it comes to beauty Sydney does it as well as most other cities in the world.
The heart of Sydney is its harbour and its two iconic Australian landmarks, the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Sydney Harbour is extraordinarily pretty and often sparkles, particularly at sunset.
Sydney is a true waterside city that was built around the harbour and the desire for harbour views. Sydney ferries move inhabitants around town in what must be one of the loveliest commutes in the world.
Sydney is, of course, famous for its beaches. Bondi Beach is its most iconic beach and it really does have lovely sand plus some great restaurants. Many of the other best places to visit in Sydney are based around the water and beaches from Manly to Watsons Bay and many more.
For me, the most beautiful place in Sydney is the Bondi to Coogee coastal path. This is one of the most famous walks in the world for good reason. Virtually every step provides jaw-dropping scenery.
From the ridiculously photogenic Bondi icebergs pool at the Bondi end to the Waverley cemetery with a view to end all views to lovely Coogee this is a walk you won’t forget.
5. Venice, Italy
Canals, waterways and bridges are a bit like good bone structure when it comes to making a city beautiful. And Venice has a lot of all three of those. Venice is actually 117 different islands that are linked by 150 canals and about 400 bridges or pieces of pavement.
Venice is literally built on water. The base of its buildings go deep into the ground. As the soil is so water logged there is no oxygen in it and thus no decay.
Venice and its delights are best explored on foot or by water. The Piazza San Marco is the centre of Venice and home to the magnificent Basilica San Marco – which also has some fantastic views of Venice (it is where I took the photo below).
Don’t miss the Rialto Bridge, the many Venetian Palaces, the Accademia Gallery and the Bridge of Sighs. Or a trip to the home of beautiful coloured glass Murano.
My personal favourite way to experience Venice is on Vaporetto Line 1. This water bus allows anyone to see Venice from the water (where it is often at its most beautiful), mingle with the locals, and really experience one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
6. New York City
Where to begin with New York City? My best friend has been living in NYC for 19 years and I think I have visited roughly once a year since so it is a city that I know well.
My favourite area is where Anne lives which is Lower Manhattan – there are loads of great things to do there like exploring (and eating) in Little Italy and Chinatown, going thrift and book shopping and visiting the Oculus.
Head even farther south and you’ll hit Battery Park, the place to grab the ferry to visit the Statue of Liberty.
When it comes to nature there are two particularly beautiful places to visit in NYC. First up is of course Central Park. One of my favourite things to do is to cycle through the park.
Second up is the fantastic High Line. The High Line was an old railway line that was no longer used. It was regenerated and filled with plants, benches, little food stalls and much more. It is a lovely place to spend an afternoon.
For something a little different get the ferry out to Governor’s Island. It’s open May through October and has many live events. It is another great place to cycle in New York City.
Washington Square isn’t the greenest park you’ll ever visit but it has so much character and life in it – there is always something interesting going on.
NYC has so many extraordinary buildings. For me, the most beautiful is the Chrysler Building. I also love the art deco wonder that is Grand Central Station. And Rockefeller Centre is just stunning at Christmas time.
If you’re planning a trip to NYC read my post on the 8 Fantastic things to do in Lower Manhattan.
7. Vancouver, Canada
Lovely Vancouver is a physically beautiful city. It is surrounded by both snow topped mountains and blue sea. Stanley Park is perhaps its most famous landmark. This park is on the peninsula and covers over 400 hectares.
Granville Island was once highly industrial but is now home to stores, theatres, galleries, restaurants and the Granville Island Public Market.
Kitsilano Beach is where locals go to swim in the outdoor heated seawater pool or to lie on the beach in the summer. Kitsilano has some great restaurants, fantastic views over Vancouver and Vanier Park is nearby.
Gastown is the oldest part of the city and filled with historic buildings, cobblestone streets and iron lampposts.
The roof of Canada Place was designed to look like a sailing ship. Which is appropriate given that it is probably the first place you will visit in Vancouver if you arrive in the city by sea.
Even if you haven’t arrived by sea, head down to Canada Place for some fantastic views, a flight simulator experience and the beginning of a scenic walk to Stanley Park.
8. Cape Town, South Africa
Like Vancouver, Cape Town is an extraordinarily beautiful physically. It is a waterfront town, sitting on the Atlantic Ocean. And then behind the city is the majestic Table Mountain.
Table Mountain is synonymous with Cape Town. Rising nearly 1000 metres south of the city centre it is visible from many points. Depending on when you visit or the time of day it may be wearing its famous “tablecloth” which is cloud sitting on its top.
A cable car will take you to the top of Table Mountains in seven minutes. If you’re looking for something more active a walk/climb to the top takes between two and four hours. It is tough going but well worth it for the views and the satisfaction.
Signal Hill is just a five minute drive from the city centre and has fantastic views of Cape Town and Table Bay from a more manageable 350 metres. It is a very popular spot to watch the sunset in Cape Town. This is also where the noon gun is fired each day at 12.
If you’re looking for beautiful beaches head to Camps Bay or Clifton, about 6 kms from the centre of the city. For entertainment, great food, shopping and a generally buzzy atmosphere head to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.
Heading to South Africa? Check out my posts on Whale Watching in Hermanus, Wine Tours in Stellenbosch, South African Spas, how to pack for a safari, the best camera for safari, how to have an African honeymoon – and a self drive itinerary for nearby Namibia.
9. Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul in Turkey is literally where east meets west. This beautiful city is the perfect place to get your feet wet so to speak if you’re keen to explore the Middle East or Africa. This atmospheric city has all the magic of the Middle East and North Africa with a slightly more European feel.
The Blue Mosque is possibly Istanbul’s most famous attraction. The mosque has six minarets or towers and several domes. It isn’t actually blue – it was named the Blue Mosque because of its beautiful interior tiles – but it is absolutely stunning.
Two of top places to visit in Istanbul – The Blue Mosque and Hagia or Aya Sofya – are located on the same main square in the Istanbul neighborhood of Sultanahmet. Very convenient.
Hagia Sofya has had several lives. It began as an Orthodox Cathedral and was turned into a mosque. In 1935, Ataturk proclaimed it a museum – although it is still considered by many to be the second biggest cathedral in the world.
30 million tiny gold mosaic tiles cover the interior of the church. Yes, 30 million – that isn’t a typo. Make sure you head up the stairs to the mezzanine as it provides one of the best views of this stunning museum/church.
Both the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofya are particularly stunning at sunset. I suggest gaining access to one of Istanbul’s many bars and restaurants with a terrace and a view and settling in for sunset.
⇒ Hagia Sophia is the number one tourist attraction in Turkey so don’t waste time standing in queues – book your Skip the line ticket for Hagia Sophia
Topkapi Palace is one of my favourite Istanbul tourist attractions. This palace was used between the 15th and 19th centuries and apparently was a hot place to go during the Ottoman Empire.
Topkapi Palace Istanbul is stunning and filled with lots of fantastic Instagram opportunities – particularly the colourful tiles.
The Grand Bazaar or Kapali Carsi is the largest covered market in Turkey with over 4,000 shops. This market contains everything you could ever imagine needing.
From, of course, carpets to jewelry to lanterns to pajamas. It can be quite overwhelming. The market is 30,700 square metres and has 60 streets and is a must in any Istanbul itinerary.
10. Quebec City, Canada
Quebec City is the only walled city in North America and a UNESCO-listed site. I was quite blown away by the beauty of Quebec City when I visited. Unlike some of the other cities in this post, the base of Quebec City’s beauty isn’t natural. It is a mix of beautiful architecture, the height given by its cliff location above St Lawrence River and the French influence.
Quebec City is divided into the upper town and the lower town. The two towns are connected by both a funicular and winding streets.
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is a Canadian landmark. This beautiful building was constructed for the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1894. Today it is part of the wonderful Fairmont Hotel Group. I stayed at Le Chateau Frontenac and it was a fantastic experience which I would highly recommend.
The lower town of Quebec City is filled with cute little cobblestone streets and squares. There are many cute stores and restaurants in this atmospheric area. Don’t miss Quartier Petit-Champlain.
A great way to get some fantastic views of this beautiful city is to take the Quebec-Levis Ferry. This ferry regularly crosses the St Lawrence River between Quebec City and Levis. Dusk is a great time to take the ferry for beautiful views.
11. Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh as a city used to be literally just the royal mile area or what is now the Old Town Edinburgh. The city is built on hills so when it began to fill up the only way to accommodate people was to go up and down.
Streets known as Closes began to be filled with houses literally on top of each other. And thus began the creation of a city under Edinburgh. This is just one of the many interesting things to do in Edinburgh.
The Royal Mile is the central street in Edinburgh and is home to historic buildings, shops, several tourist attractions and lots of atmosphere – particularly during August.
It takes about 15 minutes to walk from Holyrood Castle at one end to Edinburgh Castle at the other end.
Arthur’s Seat is home to one of the best views over Edinburgh. It takes about 30 minutes to walk up to the top. Do be careful with the weather as boy is it windy on a windy day.
⇒ Heading to Scotland? Check out my Scotland Itinerary 10 Days, Scotland Itinerary 7 Days, Glasgow Tours, Edinburgh vaults tour, things to do in Dumfries and Galloway, things to do in Ayrshire, my guide to Climbing Ben Nevis, 18 Beautiful Places in Scotland and 9 great Spa Breaks Scotland.
12. Medellin, Colombia
I absolutely fell in love with Medellin. This amazing city of 2 1/2 million has the big city energy and drive of a London or a New York. The Paisas are passionate full-on people and I adored them and their beautiful city of eternal spring.
When a Colombian city features in a beautiful cities list it is normally Cartagena. Cartagena is a super cute city – but it doesn’t have the amazing views or the passion of Medellin.
Medellin is not so much about major Eiffel Tower type sites – the best places in Medellin are much more about experiences, exploring neighborhoods, eating fruit and generally embracing the paisa life. Plus so many spots in the city have fantastic views due to its valley location.
Plaza Botero was one of my favourite things to see in Medellin. Fernando Botero donated all of these sculptures to his home city of Medellin – on the condition that no payment was required to see them. There are many in this charming plaza.
Arvi Park is on the outskirts of Medellin. It is a massive park where you can hike, trek etc. It takes a couple of metros and a cable car to get to Parque Arvi but it is the largest park in Medellin.
Pueblit0 Paisa is located at the top of Cerro Nutibara – a very tall hill. Walking up the hill is a great workout (ok I took a cab but it looked like a great workout 😊). It is quite kitsch but it has fantastic views over Medellin.
Street art has exploded in Medellin and has been a critical part of the city’s rejuvenation. Perhaps the area that has benefited the most from this is Communa 13 Medellin.
This Medellin neighborhood is now essentially an outdoor art gallery – plus it has more fantastic views over the city.
⇒ If you’re interested in travelling to Colombia check out my posts on a 2 Week Colombia Itinerary, 18 Fantastic Things to do in Medellin, 8 Boutique Hotels in Cartagena, Art Hotel Medellin review, things to do in Guatape, Pablo Escobar Tours, Best Restaurants in Medellin, Feria de las Flores and things to do in Bogota.
13. Riga, Latvia
Lovely Riga is the capital of Latvia and the biggest city in the Baltics. It is a wonderful mix of charming old Europe and modern innovations. The Riga Old Town is an extremely photogenic mix of art nouveau buildings and tiny cobblestone streets, all without traffic.
Unlike some other European cities, once you had outside of the old town the beauty of Riga continues. Riga has an art nouveau district filled with beautiful buildings and a fantastic art nouveau museum.
The Pardaugava district is full of colourful wooden houses. Kipsala is a small and exclusive island close to the old town of Riga that has some fantastic views.
And don’t miss a canal tour around Riga’s lovely city canal and Daugava River. It is a particularly nice way to see the Old Town and the beautiful wooden houses of Kipsala.
Find out more about Riga in my post on 23 Things to do in Riga.
14. Baden-Baden, Germany
This gorgeous 2000-year-old town lies at the foothills of the wonderfully named Black Forest. Baden Baden Germany has a fantastic location for exploring the region as well as everything from, of course, spas to shopping to a palatial casino within Baden-Baden itself.
Before you head to Baden-Baden Germany do check what is on. The city is well known for the three international horse races it runs each year – as it is for its Christmas markets.
But this German town is most famous for its spas. Indeed, Baden Baden Germany has 12 hot springs and has been welcoming those seeking to relax and reconnect for centuries.
Today Baden Baden has managed to keep all of those wonderful historical elements but added in more modern spa facilities, fantastic food, modern art and much more.
15. Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
Karlovy Vary is the most famous spa town in the Czech Republic. The town has been treating visitors for more than 650 years.
However, it was in the 18th century that the town began to develop and become known across Europe. In addition to its famous Springs, Karlovy Vary Czech itself is very picturesque and also the home of one of the world’s leading film festivals in July each year.
There are 79 different Karlovy Vary Hot Springs. Fourteen of these are currently used for drinking Czech republic mineral water. The hottest spring is 72 degrees.
Depending on your ailment/s your doctor will prescribe you to “take” the waters from different springs at different times. Each hot spring has its own unique properties.
The Karlovy Vary thermal water is unique in its physical and chemical properties. Essentially the waters here contain larger amounts of major and minor mineral elements than the water you drink at home.
Find out more about Karlovy Vary and the other towns in the Karlovy Vary region in my post on Czech Spa Towns.
16. Graz, Austria
Who needs Vienna? Lovely Graz is the second biggest city in Austria and for me much cuter than its older sibling. It is easy to see why Graz Austria was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
Add to that its 2011 nomination as a City of Design and you can see why it wasn’t difficult to build a lengthy list of things to do in Graz.
However, the highlights don’t stop in the lovely Graz old town. Within a 10-15 minute drive of Graz are several photo-friendly and fantastic places to visit.
From the world’s longest indoor slide to classic castles to rotating glass lifts to sculpture parks Graz and its surrounds will give you a holiday to remember.
17. Bergen, Norway
Lovely Bergen is the gateway city to Norway’s famous fjords. But it also has more than enough going on to warrant spending a couple of nights in this beautiful city.
Part of Bergen’s beauty comes from its location. This Norwegian city is surrounded by mountains and fjords. Bergen is also known as the city of seven mountains based on the seven peaks around it.
Bergen is Norway’s second-largest city with a population of 280,000 (Oslo is about twice that size). One of its most popular tourist destinations is the cute and colourful harbour known as Bryggen.
The colourful houses are now filled with arts and crafts stores, cafes and restaurants. And don’t miss the cute backstreets of Bryggen.
To gain one of the best view in Bergen hop on the funicular up to Floyen. The funicular takes all of six minutes to get to the top and the views are stunning. Once you’re finished go for a stoll through the super cute neighborhood of Sandviken.
18. St Petersburg, Russia
Like Venice, St Petersburg is spread across a mix of big and small islands, setting it up for being one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The city itself also has several fairytale like ornate buildings and it is also considered the cultural capital of Russia.
Perhaps the attraction for which St Petersburg is best known is the Hermitage Museum. Not only does the Hermitage contain 3 million works of art, it is also in a beautiful confection of a building and filled with stunning rooms, arches, staircases and more architectural features.
The beautiful cathedral at the Peter and Paul fortress would also look happily at home on the top of an elaborate cake. However, this cathedral almost looks plain next to the amazing onion-domed Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (also a great name – Alexander 11 was assassinated on this spot).
The lovely River Neva and a series of canals are at the heart of St Petersburg and some of its most beautiful features. Stroll along the waterfronts as the sun sets and see this beautiful city from the water on a cruise.
⇒ There is something about landmarks – I am always a bit awed when I get to see one! 16 Famous Landmarks in Europe You Must See, 12 Beautiful Spain Famous Landmarks, 11 Stunning Canada Landmarks, 15 North America Landmarks, 16 Australian Landmarks, Top 10 Famous Landmarks in the US, 21 Stunning Asia Landmarks, 10 Bridges in London Not to Miss, 20 Most Beautiful Cities in the World, 9 Picturesque Japan Landmarks and 11 Historic Greek Landmarks.
19. Charleston, South Carolina
Lovely Charleston is the largest city in the state of South Carolina. The city is home to some beautiful architecture, a lovely waterfront park for strolling and it is close to beaches.
Waterfront Park runs along the Cooper River and is filled with beautiful gardens, stunning scenery and lovely fountains.
The city’s architecture dates back to the early 1800s, pre Civil War. Mansions in the Battery are historic and beautiful buildings are scattered through the scenic downtown area.
But Charleston isn’t just about its good looks. It has an outstanding restaurant scene and is famed for its seafood. Plus there are some fantastic outdoor bars for pre and post dinner drinks.
In 2016 Travel and Leisure ranked Charleston as the best place to live in the world. In 2019 the magazine also ranked Charleston as the best place to live in the USA for the 4th year in a row.
⇒ If you like the look of Charleston don’t miss my post on the 20 most beautiful cities in the USA.
20. Seville, Spain
Barcelona and Madrid tend to be top of mind when it comes to Spain. However, my personal opinion is that little Seville in the south of Spain is far more attractive than the two.
This atmospheric city is wonderfully relaxed yet buzzes with an undercurrent of energy. This could well be influenced by the flamenco dancing and music for which it is so well known.
The Plaza de Espana has some of the most beautiful tiling work you will ever see and don’t miss the stunning and very photogenic Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla, home to one of the most famous bullfighting festivals in the world.
Who Paid for What in this Post?
I covered all of the costs involved in writing this post. However, this most beautiful cities in the world post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.