Did you see Conde Nast publish their 50 top cities in the world based on votes by over 100,000 travellers? As I flipped through the list I was nodding at many and intrigued by others I had yet to visit myself. It’s that time when many of us are reflecting on the year that has been and starting to think ahead and making plans.
Wanting to know more about why these cities resonated with so many I reached out to my fellow travel bloggers to get the low down on their favourite cities from the top 20. I asked them why they had these cities at the top of their travel destinations list and why you might also have them on your travel bucket list for the New Year.
Table of Contents
- 1. Tokyo, Japan
- 2. Kyoto, Japan
- 3. Florence, Italy
- 4. Lucerne, Switzerland
- 5. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
- 6. Vancouver, Canada
- 7. Victoria, Canada
- 8. Salzburg, Austria
- 9. Barcelona, Spain
- 10. Vienna, Austria
- 11. Paris, France
- 12. Sydney, Australia
- 13. London, England
- 14. Melbourne, Australia
- 15. Rome, Italy
- 16. Singapore
- 17. Tel Aviv, Israel
- 18. Quebec, Canada
- 19. Nuremburg, Germany
- 20. Venice, Italy
1. Tokyo, Japan
Shobha of Just Go Places blog shares why she loves Tokyo as much as we do …
Safe, clean and easy to get around. Tokyo is not only full of history but also great for contemporary culture and shopping. We had a wonderful week exploring the city’s varied neighbourhoods as well as checking out some of its more esoteric sights, like its hugely popular animal cafes. We really enjoyed visiting the Meiji Shrine, one of Japan’s most revered spots, Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest temple, and Tokyo Tower, from the top of which you can get a sense of the vastness of the city.
Neighbourhoods we fell in love with that are fun to explore are trendy Harajuku where the young cool crowd hang out, Akihabara which is full of electronics stores and cos-players and Ometosando, the posh shopping neighbourhood with amazing modern architecture. By far, the best way to enjoy Tokyo is to wander its little side streets, stop off for drinks and nibbles at local Izakayas (similar to a Japanese pub) and get lost in the city, safe in the knowledge that you are never too far from a transportation link or a helpful Japanese person.
2. Kyoto, Japan
You probably know by now that Kyoto is one of our own favourite cities to visit. We have more than 60 articles on Kyoto on the site. I truly believe it does have something for everyone.
It is a compact and flat city making it perfect for walking around. With tea shops, coffee shops, street food and fabulous restaurants covering the city you’re never at a loss for somewhere to take a break and indulge in the local cuisine, or watch the ebb and flow of city life for a while. Kyoto blends centuries of tradition almost seamlessly with the modern efficiency we have come to expect in Japan.
With over 1000 temples and shrines, you won’t get around them all but they’re a great place to start to understand the culture, history, architecture and beauty. Then there’s the remains of a castle, the previous Imperial Palace, beautiful gardens and peaceful parks.
If you have limited time to enjoy the seasonal beauty of sakura (cherry blossom) or Koyo (autumn leaves) then Kyoto has so much to offer, not just nature itself but seasonally inspired food, dance performances by Geisha and festivals too. If you have some time left head out to the hills or to Arashiyama for some time with nature. Yes, Kyoto you did earn your spot at number 2.
3. Florence, Italy
Paige from For the love of Wanderlust explains why Florence is so memorable.
Florence is a city that has been inspiring artists, architects and authors for centuries. The Renaissance started here with greats like Michelangelo, Botticelli and Brunelleschi and it has continued to inspire to this day. Their influential works can be found in the Duomo and multiple top-notch museums.
This stunning city sits on both sides of the Arno River and is connected by romantic looking bridges that are perfect for sunset watching. Some of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve ever seen are here and the shopping is perfect for people of all budgets.
Cobblestones still line the streets, terra-cotta rooftops warm the buildings, fountains adorn squares and the espresso, pizza and gelato are plentiful. My favourite way to see Florence is from above. The two best views are from atop the Duomo (see photo) and from Piazza Michelangelo (across the river).
Be sure to take plenty of time in this city to find your piece of Florence to remember for the rest of your life.
4. Lucerne, Switzerland
Nic from the Roaming Renegades has Lucerne on her list
This stunning Swiss city is perfect in almost every way. The medieval old town where you can step back centuries and explore the gloriously painted façades of these old Germanic buildings is like something from a fairytale. Then there is the Kapellbrücke, the old Chapel Bridge that sits in an unbelievably beautiful position at the opening of the amazing Lake Lucerne. Dating back to the 17th century it is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe and a symbol of the city.
If you are done strolling around the picture-perfect Swiss village then it is time to turn your attention to the mountains that surround this city. Taking the “Golden Round Trip” is an alpine adventure not to be missed. It begins with a cruise across the wonderful lake Lucerne, before tackling the world’s steepest cogwheel railway to the amazing summit of Mt. Pilatus.
Once you are done taking in the stunning views and hiking the many trails around the summit it is time for a memorable descent. Taking the huge panoramic gondolas partway down the mountain before getting in your very own tiny cable car to sweep over the green pastures below, open your window and you can hear the chorus of cowbells below! Lucerne ticks every box when it comes to your dream Swiss experience!
5. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Jane at To Travel Too concurs with the majority that this pretty city deserves a top listing.
Aaaahh! San Miguel de Allende, you won us over the first time we set foot in your colourful colonial town. It seems not only us, but the many ex-pats who have now moved there have fallen for your charms as well! Travellers return time after time to enjoy your history, culture, climate and great food.
All cobblestoned streets lead to El Jardin, the hub of the town for locals as well as travellers, where you sit and gaze at the Neo-gothic 17th century pink La Parroquia de San Miguel Archangel that is the emblem of the town. Enjoy a coffee or a meal at one of the many restaurants that line the main plaza.
This is a town that you should get lost in, wander through the cobblestoned streets, past colourful colonial buildings but don’t forget to peek into private courtyards along the way you will be impressed with the fountains, foliage and the colourful Mexican tiles.
For stunning sunset views over the city head to the Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar at the Rosewood Hotel and enjoy one of their signature cocktails. San Miguel de Allende you have earned the title “prettiest town in Mexico”.
6. Vancouver, Canada
Laura from She who wanders the world had me convinced with her first sentence.
Where can you find both a foodies’ paradise & a hiker’s perfect day all rolled into one? Easy in Vancouver, British Columbia. With a variety of activities & attractions for anyone, Vancouver is home to some of Canada’s best views alongside some incredible culture. To get out and experience the wild west, a trip to Lynn Canyon Park is a must-do.
Home to great trails, beautiful scenery & a way to get above it all thanks to the suspension bridges located around the park. When it comes time to get your fill after a day of hiking head into historic Gastown for any number of happy hours before tucking into a meal at Nuba which will leave you feeling as if you’ve escaped to Lebanon in one single bite.
No matter what you fancy, Vancouver has enough to satisfy even the pickiest of people in your travel group. A quick coffee from 49th Parallel before a hike up Quarry Rock in scenic Deep Cove North Vancouver or a day spent exploring the exhibits at the Vancouver Art Gallery after indulging in a sweet treat from Thierry Chocolatier. Vancouver is home to it all.
7. Victoria, Canada
Danielle from Like Riding a Bike is also a big supporter of the Canadian cities on the list.
As a world traveller, I’ve been to a lot of places, but no cities have kept me going back as much as Victoria, Canada. Located on Vancouver Island, the place is surrounded by water. If you walk one direction you might find Beacon Hill park, a huge park with forested areas, rocky places, and even the world’s tallest totem pole!
Then there’s the beautiful views of the ocean with the Olympic Peninsula as a backdrop, or the gorgeous inner harbour, which, if you go at the right time of year, is filled with old pirate style boats.
Downtown is small and easy to walk around, with clusters of bars, cafes, and restaurants to choose from. Plus, if you’re a vegetarian like me, it’s a very veggie friendly city. One of my favourite spots is Fisherman’s Wharf, where houses float on docks, and seals are always around ready to be tossed a fish of two. This is truly one of the best spots in the world.
8. Salzburg, Austria
Christine from Adventure, baby favours Salzburg
Made famous by Mozart and the Von Trapp Family, Salzburg is a city filled with history, classical musical and graceful architecture, set against jaw-dropping mountain scenery. Visit the composer’s former residence and place of birth, enjoy the baroque buildings in the Old City, and stroll up the hill to the imposing Festung Hohensalzburg fortress for a history lesson.
If you have a few days to spend in Salzburg, visit the Dom Cathedral, consecrated in 1628, the delightful Mirabell Palace and Gardens where the Von Trapps Do-Re-Mi’d their way to fame, and enjoy the wonderful food offered all throughout the town.
Depending on your taste in travel, day trips options include a Sound of Music tour that visits famous filming locations such as Nonnberg Abbey and the Hellbrunn Palace Gazebo, and a tour to The Eisriesenwelt limestone and ice cave in Werfen, about 40 km south of Salzburg. The cave is the largest ice cave in the world.
9. Barcelona, Spain
Mindi at 2 Food Trippers is a like-minded foodie and she has me convinced Barcelona should not be missed
Popular Barcelona teems with tourists ranging from young backpackers to older cruising couples. But don’t let the crowds stop you from planning a visit. Barcelona kisses the Mediterranean Sea and is a perfect spot to check out the world-class architecture and amazing food. Yes, the best things to do in Barcelona involve amazing sites and delicious food.
When touring Barcelona, the top thing to do is to view Antoni Gaudi’s architecture. A native son, Gaudi, left his mark on the Catalonian city with creations like Casa Batllo, Park Güell and Sagrada Familia. Not all of the architecture in Barcelona is by Gaudi, but his works are the most unique and memorable.
Once you’ve burned calories from walking to the various Gaudi sites, the next thing to do in Barcelona is eat. The city is a mecca for Spanish favourites like tapas and churros, but it’s also the epicentre for molecular gastronomy. When in Barcelona plan to dine like a local, which means eating late and drinking lots of wine.
10. Vienna, Austria
Mark from Wyld Family Travel says
The first thing that struck me about Vienna was how German it felt. The way it looked, the way it worked. It was organised, it felt safe. Vienna is so royal, the Hapsburgs Royals created a city of palaces and buildings that ooze class, regality and stature.
Everywhere you go there is another amazing building with history, dating back hundreds of years waiting to be explored. We spent 4 days in Vienna and loved every minute of the time we spent in this amazing city that straddles either side of the mighty Danube River. The metro is easy to use and the city is easy to navigate. There is plenty to do and the food is amazing.
Must see’s in Vienna include the Prater an amazing park in the city that is a Vienna institution with its carnival rides, Ferris wheel and sideshows. The Schonbrunn Palace on the outskirts of town has to be seen to be believed, it’s the biggest palace I have seen in Europe.
Attached to the palace is the Zoo. The Schonbrunn zoo is famous for having the most successful giant panda breeding program outside China. Throw in Belvedere Palace, St Stephen’s Cathedral, the Hofburg Palace and the Imperial Treasury and Vienna is a must-see capital. You feel like you will run into something amazing around every corner.
11. Paris, France
Danielle at The Thought Card has Paris at the top of her list
Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and my personal favourite. It’s one of those cities whose art, architecture, cuisine, fashion and culture lingers with you like a sweet aroma, months, maybe even years after you’ve visited. I’ve visited Paris twice so far and I have no intentions of ever calling it quits.
Paris is a city that I can enjoy being a flaneur without judgement. Stroll through the streets aimlessly and discover something new or immerse yourself in something old. Paris is studded with historic churches, monuments and gorgeous buildings like the world-famous Louvre and Notre Dame.
Experience French cuisine by stopping in a boulangerie for freshly baked croissants or a baguette in the morning. In the evening, enjoy a glass of wine at a brasserie without the worry of ever overstaying your welcome. Lastly, a trip to Paris is incomplete without taking in city views from the top of the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe. Marvel at the “City of Lights” during the day or a night and see why Paris is built for romance.
12. Sydney, Australia
Leah from the Kid Bucket list is a Sydney expert and shares how the who family can enjoy a visit to this Australian city …
Sydney has an eclectic mix of sites and food haunts for the traveller to visit. While the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House typically top the Bucket List when it comes to a Sydney itinerary, such places as Cockatoo Island and Centennial Park will offer a glimpse back in time whilst treating you to some of the picturesque sights that Sydneysiders prefer to keep all to themselves.
Whilst Melbourne has embraced alleyway dining, Sydney loves their gallery hubs. Head to Barangaroo for the newest foodie stops to open, Surry Hills and Darlinghurst for a hipster feel or to Alexandria where warehouses have made way for such delights as The Grounds of Alexandria and The Britton. If you’re after fine dining, the Quay, Aria and Bennelong provide the best views of their Harbour which you will enjoy whilst working through their amazing degustation menus.
Of course, a trip to Sydney must include a trip to the beach. Manly and Bondi Beach are where all the tourists go and they’re definitely spots to visit at least once. But if you are after pristine water, a little shade and a spot to eat as well, add Bronte, Shark Beach – Vaucluse and Clifton Gardens to your list.
A visit to Sydney will always delight. As a city, Sydney had fully embraced festivals which means that no matter what time of year you visit, something amazing will be happening! From the nighttime lights of Vivid to the Sydney Living Museums “Sydney Open” this city almost never rests! When will we see you here?
13. London, England
Tara from Where is Tara says:
People visit London all the time for a variety of reasons. For some, they want to see famous sights such as Big Ben and the London Eye. Some want a brush with royalty at Buckingham Palace. Others are simply passing through on their way to one of London’s many airports. The thing is, London has something for everyone. No matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you enjoy, there is something for you in London.
London is a sort of Renaissance man, it does a lot of things incredibly well. All you have to do is look at it from a different angle and London becomes an entirely different city. A foodie will find paradise in a cheesecake brownie at the Borough Market. A thespian will cosy up with Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre. Fashion lovers and shopaholics will worship at Carnaby and Oxford street. Business travellers can work hard and play hard in the luxury hotels dotted around the city.
Even if you’ve been to London a thousand times, there will always be something new and exciting going on. There are different festivals, parties, exhibitions and celebrations every week. And if all you want from London is the traditional tourist experience then that’s fine too. Stroll through Hyde park, feed the squirrels, hop on a big red bus and make a phone call from an old fashioned red phone box. Oh and don’t forget to try and make the Queen’s guards smile.
14. Melbourne, Australia
Here’s why Jeanette at Traveling Honeybird loves this Australian state capital …
Melbourne has this really unique and wonderful culture. The city itself is a combination of many different cultures.
Melbournians love to travel, and as we see what’s happening around the world we bring it back with us. The things that we bring back is our personal interpretations of what’s happening in the world.
With a vibrant culture, ease of transport and an explosion of wonderful food & coffee it’s easy to see how Melbourne is constantly ranked in the top cities in the world. As a native Melburnian here’s a quick top 3 things to do to help you discover why Melbourne is so well Melbourne.
- Walk the streets. Melbourne is a safe city. It’s also a fairly flat city making it easy on the legs. I love spending my days walking between the laneways to different areas of the city. Artists have taken the time to create stunning work in the laneways. Make sure you look up. For a fairly young country we have some beautiful buildings that really show of their individual style.
- Get a great coffee (or tea/hot chocolate) Melbourne has some of the best coffee and baristas in the world. Being a barista in Melbourne is considered a legit and successful career goal. We take pride in serving and drinking our coffee here.
- Spot yourself on the big screen at a sporting event. Melbourne is the sporting capital of Australia. There’s always something sporty going on in one of the many arenas around town.
15. Rome, Italy
Paula and Gordon of Contented Traveller say:
Rome has always been known as the eternal city, even in ancient times. Rome was once the leading empire in the western world and it retains all of its charms to this day. Rome is iconic and with very good reason.
There is no getting past the fact that Rome is steeped in history. The Coliseum, Pantheon, and Trevi Fountain are meant to be admired. Vatican City has to be seen to be appreciated. Rome’s appeal also lays in the locals approach to life – la dolce vita or the good life. If “All roads lead to Rome” then I say good.
Aleney from Boy eats World adds
With its modern East meets West vibe, it is no surprise that Singapore ranks as one of the world’s top cities, or that visitors are increasingly being long lured to linger a little longer to enjoy its spoils.
Sprawling green parks, fantastic architecture, the all-age playground of Sentosa and the chance to nosh with an Orangutan or two at its famous zoo are just the start. Cutting edge new attractions include the inspiring National Gallery Singapore, which houses the world’s biggest display of modern Southeast Asian art; the Singapore Flyer, the world’s second-largest Ferris wheel and the futuristic Gardens by The Bay, an urban garden of plant-studded steel “Super Trees” that light up the night.
But it’s Singapore’s unofficial national sports – eating, drinking and shopping – that keep drawing me back. Fans of boutique bargains will salivate in the cool kids’ shopping enclaves of Haji Lane and Tiong Bahru while label lovers can max their cards in the many designer malls.
The chance to explore Singapore’s incredible culinary culture is worth the trip alone. From Michelin-starred dining to hawker stalls, where you can get your fill of mouth-watering Hainanese chicken rice, steaming bowls of laksa and Singapore’s famous chilli crab for just a few dollars, it’s foodie heaven.
Drinking is a slightly more expensive exercise but if you’re after a nightcap and spectacular views try rooftop bar Ku de Ta Club Lounge. Or, if lounging by a sun-soaked stretch of sand with a cocktail in hand is more your style, Sentosa’s Tanjong Beach Club is the place.
17. Tel Aviv, Israel
Inma at a World to Travel says
One of the hippest cities I have visited and my favourite so far in 2016 should definitely be part of this list.
The reasons are many and very appealing. From its multiculturality to its global cuisine, startup scene, new neighbourhoods, old Jaffa, endless opportunities to work out outside by the beach, tanned bodies and welcoming locals, I can’t wait to go back. In fact, luckily I will be landing again very soon.
Remove any prejudices you might have (media loves to influence us and not always in the best way) and try to approach this city as it is a lively cultural hub. I can promise you will learn a lot.
18. Quebec, Canada
Brianne at A Traveling Life says
Vieux-Québec or “Old City” is the heart of Québec City and a thriving UNESCO World Heritage Site. The narrow, cobblestone streets and white-stone buildings nestled within its original fortifications transport visitors back through time as they enjoy the comforts of the 21st century – art galleries, boutiques, shops, and restaurants.
The Old City is divided into two areas, Haute-Ville and Basse-Ville (Upper Town and Lower Town). In the Upper Town, you can stroll down the popular Rue Saint-Jean and stop by Parliament Hill, the city’s most important historical site.
You can then catch a ride down on the 137-year-old funicular railway to explore the Lower Town and the waterfront area by foot, bike or ferry. For spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River and the surrounding area, have drinks or dinner at the iconic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, or head up the 221-meter Observatoire de la Capitale (Capital Observatory).
Outside of the Old City, you can check out the up-and-coming Saint-Roch neighbourhood, sample local products from nearby farms, dairies and vineyards at Marché du Vieux-Port (Old Port Market), and discover the numerous shopping, drinking and dining options along Rue Grande Allée and Rue Cartier.
19. Nuremburg, Germany
KJ at Always Travelicious says
Nuremberg is a city of fascination. You’ll encounter lots of beautiful buildings as you stroll about in the old town, not to mention that quaint cafes and lovely boutiques will keep you busy. Notable buildings include the Nuremberg Castle and the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).
It’s not possible to mention Nuremberg without bringing up the Nazis, as it was the place where the Nazis built massive party rally grounds for their activities. Iconic structures such as the Congress Hall and the podium at Zeppelin Field still stand strong today and offer a glimpse into Nuremberg’s intriguing history.
20. Venice, Italy
Natasha and Cameraon of The World Pursuit say
Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and should be on every traveller’s bucket list. It’s true that the city built on the water gets bombarded with tourists during the high season, and yes it may smell a tiny bit. However, Venice is a true masterpiece of a city and instils a little piece of itself into every visitor’s heart.
The canals and streets are like walking through a dream. At every turn is a cute coffee shop to have a cappuccino at, and when you turn around there is a gelato shop to grab some sweets.
One of the main draws in Venice is of course, a gondola ride which may be visitors first item to check off the list. We enjoyed trying on the carnival masks in town, drinking spritz, and getting absolutely lost through the city. If someone ever asks me if Venice is worth visiting I always think back fondly to my time there and pour my love for the Italian city out.
So there you have it, by popular vote the 20 most popular cities to visit. How many have you been to and which are your favourites? I know I have a few new ones on my wish list now that had been flying under the radar previously.