15 of the most beautiful cities in the world


Anyone who has followed this blog for a while will know we’re on a mission to seek out the world’s beautiful places, both through our own travels and our guest bloggers. So when we were contacted by a guy who has developed his own system to rank how beautiful a city is, we were very intrigued. This is his story, and we also reveal for the very first time what cities have come out top…

What makes a city beautiful? Innumerable theories have been offered by aesthetic philosophers, architects, city planners, environmental psychologists, and others. I became curious as to whether “common threads” can be found in the writings of 40 of the most famous commentators on civic beauty, from the Ancient Greeks up to the present.

To make a (very) long story short, my research culminated in the identification of 15 common threads. These common threads can be used to evaluate the beauty of urban places such as “Elegance” –  how refined a city is, “Originality” and “Synergy” – the simultaneous stimulation of several of our five senses!

I have used these 15 common threads to categorise hundreds of beautiful sites in 15 cities worldwide. I have also developed a method for scoring the quality of those sites and accumulating the scores into an overall Cities Beautiful Index for each city. Here’s the results using my methodology:

Number 1 – Paris (score of 70)

Paris from Pont de l'Alma

Joint number 2 – Kyoto (score of 67)


Joint number 2 – Istanbul (score of 67)


Number 3 – San Francisco (score of 64)

San Francisco

Joint number 4 – Rome (score of 62)

Pantheon, Rome on GlobalGrasshopper.com

Joint number  4 – Athens (score of 62)


Number 5 – Budapest (score of 61)


Joint number 6 – Buenos Aires (score of 60)

Buenos Aires

Joint number 6 – Rio De Janeiro (score of 60)

Rio De Janeiro

Joint number 7 – Vancouver (score of 58)


Joint number 7 – Cape Town (score of 58)

Cape Town

Joint number 8 – Hong Kong (score of 57)

Hong Kong skyline at night by GlobalGrasshopper

Joint number 8 – Barcelona (score of 57)


Number 9 – Jerusalem (score of 56)


Number 10 – Sydney (score of 48)

Sydney Harbour - most beautiful places to spend New Year's Eve

Written by Gil Castle. If you would like to know more about this ranking system visit the website CitiesBeautiful.org which summarizes all his research and provides interactive maps of the several hundred categorized sites in the above cities. Since “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, the website also has a series of multiple-choice questions (something quite like a Myers Briggs personality assessment test) that visitors can use to determine their favourites among the 15 common threads.


Born in England, with a few family roots from Bavaria, and a heart in Scandinavia I've always been a bit of a restless soul. My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I've lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up over 40 countries on trips and living in Dublin, South East Asia and Australia. I'm a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, easy-on-the-eye travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian - from cloudberry liquors to Scandi Noirs. When not wandering the world, you'll find me walking my rescue dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Laines on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about returning to my all time favourite places in the world; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Thailand and the frozen landscapes of a wintry Iceland. Follow Becky on Twitter and Google+.


  • Escape Hunter

    25 October, 2014 at 8:30 am

    To me, Kyoto and Athens seemed quite basic, concrete jungles. Labyrinths of cubic buildings. But yes, of course – there are beautiful ancient attractions scattered here and there.
    Barcelona is just breathtaking 🙂
    And I also found Valencia enthralling. It’s quite downrated, so I’m trying to shed more light on it through my site.

  • Barbara Cacao

    11 June, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing this great ranking, and for risking countless ‘…but my favourite city is in fact xxyy’. Soft factors such as the beauty of a city are not easily quantifiable. But if there is a Happiness Index, there is nothing wrong with a Cities Beauty Index.

  • Teresa

    7 June, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    What Fun! I am thrilled to have been to 7 of the cities on the list and agree they are all beautiful, and I loved them all. To me, for a city to be beautiful, as well as the ability to walk around it, and the architecture and culture and gardens etc etc it has to have friendly and welcoming people who love their city but also love their visitors. My own list would also include London and Florence.

  • Jean | Holy Smithereens

    5 June, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Interesting mix in this list, and also a very detailed method of getting the results! I tried to take the test but didnt get to the end (very comprehensive test!)
    When it comes to cities beauty depends on what you experience as well, not just the civic or aesthetic layout of the place.

  • Anna

    5 June, 2014 at 11:32 am

    As always there’s going to be someone that disagrees with the order. I think some people get ‘beauty’ mixed up with emotion, expectation and hype. Because my personal opinion is that if you were to look at Paris with a purely aesthetic eye -it wouldn’t even make the reserve list. Everyone I know who has been has pointed out a small fact to me and I agree – the entire city smells of piss.

  • Marta Kulesza

    5 June, 2014 at 11:26 am

    My favorite European cities are by far Edinburgh, Amsterdam and Porto. In South America that would be Rio de Janeiro. I must say I was a bit disappointed by Buenos Airies, but I think the weather really contributed to that + I was at the end of my 7-month long trip and I just couldn’t be bothered that much to be honest. I will have to give it another chance at some point in the future.


Leave a Reply