The 20 Most Beautiful Cities In The World

Most cities aren’t exactly what would be called beautiful and the term ‘concrete jungle’ doesn’t conjure up visions of paradise. There are cities that prove it’s possible to be big, bold AND beautiful though, as this list of the 20 most beautiful metropolises on the planet shows.

20. NEW YORK, USA

While not conventionally ‘beautiful’, New York has art aplenty, constant lights that stimulate the senses, and a cityscape that’s hard to find anywhere else in the world. Manhattan has virtually defined the idea of what a modern city scape should be. Step into central park and it’s hard to believe you’re in one of the world’s greatest metropolises, or head to the top of the empire state at night and let your heart melt at the sight of a trillion lights twinkling below you.

19. FUNCHAL

The capital of an island off the coast of North Africa, Funchal’s Portuguese influence is obvious. The city unfolds over a series of steep hills, and enjoys one the most beautiful coastal settings of any city in the world. A trip by cable car to the parish district of ‘Monte’, 3363 feet (1025m) above the sea, highlights this beautiful city in all its glory.

18. SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE

The city state of Singapore is famously and immaculately clean, due largely to harsh penalties against litter. When you’re not taking in high-end shopping on Orchard Road or enjoying the cosmopolitan and hyper modern city, visit the Botanical Gardens or the Jurong Bird Park for a less urban sense of beauty within this exotic and lovely city.

17. WASHINGTON DC, USA

Designed to impress, America’s capital is replete with neo-classical buildings on steroids. Probably America’s cleanest city, the capital has an impressive collection of museums and beautiful gardens and public spaces. West Potomac Park in the spring is picture post-card perfect, with the Japanese cherry blossoms filling the air with fragrance and the eye with colour.

16. BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

The bustling Argentinian Capital was an economic powerhouse in the late 19th and early 20th century, and this is evident in the beautiful architecture of the period. Whether you visit ‘The World’s Most Beautiful Bookstore’ of El Ateneo, the cemetaries in Recoleta, or famous buildings like El Sanitario and El Congreso Nacional, you can almost hear Evita singing this gorgeous city’s praises.

15. EDINBURGH, UK

This city is everything one would expect, and much more, from the capital of the land of Macbeth! There’s a huge castle, a dark gothic monument, and a crag right in the middle of town! The town comes alive from the end of July to the beginning of September with the Edinburgh International Festival, the largest performing arts festival in the English speaking world.

14. VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Just about everything in Austria is gorgeous, but the capital takes the cake. Home to Beethoven and Mozart, the city is a gem of museums, music halls and public parks. Even the crystal clear waters of the Danube seem to play music as they flow through the historic city.

13. PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC

Nowhere on earth is more Bohemian than Prague, the former capital of Bohemia and current capital of the Czech republic. Having a history of over 1000 years, it’s little wonder that the architecture of the city is so magnificent. Nowhere is this more striking than staring at the spires from the Charles Bridge over the Vltava river, which connects Prague Castle and the city’s old town. From here the view to ‘The City Of A Hundred Spires’ is quite simply stunning.

12. STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN

Sweden isn’t just famous for Ikea, metballs and ABBA! It’s capital city is undeniably one of the world’s loveliest. ‘The Venice of the North’ rests on an archipelago at the point that Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea. The central city rests on fourteen islands, and is replete with sublime Scandinavian architecture. Stockholms Slott is possibly most dramatic of all, and is the residence of the Swedish Monarchy.

11. VANCOUVER, CANADA

Vancouver is located on the Burrard Peninsula and has often won the title of ‘most livable city in the world’. The city owes much of its beauty to the backdrop provided by the gorgeous North Shore Mountain range. Vancouver enjoys a far milder climate than most of Canada, meaning that enjoying the city’s natural beauty is easy on most days of the year. The city’s largest public recreational area, Stanley Park, is over 1000 acres in extent and houses over 500 000 trees.

10. ST PETERSBURG, RUSSIA

One of the world’s great art capitals, St Petersberg is simply magnificent. Crown jewel in the glorious museums of the city is The Hermitage, which rivals the Louvre, the Met and the Prado in terms of its massive classical collection. The Winter Palace, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral and Palace Square are unmissable architectural treasures, as is the gorgeous Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral on the island suburb of Petergof.

9. SAN FRANCISCO, USA

Many people have left their hearts in this American gem of a city. The Golden Gate Bridge is the most famous symbol of ‘The City by the Bay’. Following close on its heals are the thousands of ‘Painted Ladies’, ornately detailed and painted houses that dot the city with their loveliness. Alcatraz Island, while not beautiful like much of the rest of the city, is a fascinating must-do when visiting, as is the beautiful student suburb of Berkeley.

8. BARCELONA, SPAIN

Too beautiful to be gaudy, the city can really be described as ‘Gaudi’! The famous architect has left his mark throughout the city, which renders it utterly unique. The Sagrada Familia is the most famous, but there are dozens of incredible Gaudi buildings in the city, including Bodegas Güell, Casa Vicens, Casa Mila and Park Güell. This city is not only an architectural beauty though, as it’s beautifully located right on the sparkling Mediterranean sea!

7. HONG KONG, CHINA

This Asian stunner is a beautiful, bustling, behemoth! The night time view across Kowloon bay is incredible, with billions of multi coloured lights peeping through the windows of the city’s hundreds of huge skyscrapers. Almost 300 in fact. Hong Kong has more skyscrapers than any other city in the world, even beating New York.

Victoria peak is the mountain backdrop to the whole beautiful scene, and at 1811 feet (512m) it still looms high above even the tallest of the city’s buildings.

6. SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

Jewel of Australia, Sydney’s world-famous harbor is justified in its fame. The city boasts around one hundred beaches, a beautiful skyline, and the world’s most iconic Opera House! The beaches range from a few feet to miles in length, with Cronulla Beach in Bate Bay the longest at 3 Miles (4.8km), and Bondi the most famous at 0.6 Miles (1km). In total, there are over 30 miles (50 kms) of sand beach in the city.

Australians are outdoors folk, and this beautiful city is a perfect place in which that lifestyle can be enjoyed. The Chinese Garden of Fellowship and Hyde Park, named after it’s London cousin, are just two of its parks. It’s the harbor, beaches and waterfront that really draw attention from locals and visitors alike, and one can always find runners, surfers, swimmers and walkers taking advantage of the superlative setting.

5. ROME, ITALY

‘The Eternal City’ is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, and as such has some of the most sublime art and architecture in the world, as well as the biggest church on Earth - St Peter’s Basillica. The city is distinguished from other magnificent European cities by the wealth of ancient sites still evident. The Pantheon is perhaps most famous of all, as it is almost perfectly preserved despite being 2000 years old.

Ancients sites like The Colloseum, The Forum, The Palatine Hill, The Catacombs and Hadrian’s Villa sit alongside many of the finest Renaissance architectural masterpieces like Piazza Navona, The Trevi Fountain, The Vatican Museums, Villa Borghese, and a thousand other treasures including The Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. All in all, they make one of the most magnificent and beautiful cities in the world.

4. PARIS, FRANCE

Ah Paris! Who doesn’t love the city of Light? Montmartre, Versailles, the Champs-Élysées – the names of the city’s landmarks are the stuff of legend and romance.

Probably the greatest visual icon that represents Europe is the Eiffel Tower, which soars above the sidewalks, cafes and pastry stores of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The Louvre is possibly the most amazing art museum in the world, and it’s just one of the incredible museums in the city. The Musée d’Orsay, Musée Rodin and the Pompidou Center are just three others.

The city’s architecture has a distinct character largely due to the vision of Louis XIV who built icons like the Louvre and Versailles. Magnificent churches in the city include Notre Dame, the Sacré-Cœur and the Sainte-chapelle.

Paris’ city parks are amongst the finest in any large city, including the Jardin du Luxembourg and Jardin des Tuileries and Jardin des Plantes. The beautiful churches and buildings of the city are too numerous to mention, but wandering along the Seine between them is to live in a waking dream.

3. ISTANBUL, TURKEY

Probably the only major city stradling two continents, this cultural dichotomy shows everywhere in Istanbul! The architecture is unparalleled, with the finest Byzantine buildings on Earth.

The Hagia Sophia is possibly the finest of all, a building originally an Orthodox Church, then a Mosque and now a Museum and probably this stunning city’s main attraction. It remained the largest Church ever built for over 1000 years, and seeing it is literally breathtaking.

Other masterpieces of architecture in Constantine’s city, include the astonishing Blue Mosque, Dolmabahçe Palace, and the Chora Church. Historical artifacts in the city include Mohammed’s cloak and sword, housed in the Topkapı Palace, which is the oldest palace on Earth.

The Bosphorous is the city’s startling geological feature, a straight that separates the Dardanelles Straight from the Sea of Marmara and Asia from Europe. The straight is roughly 20 miles (32km) long, and ranges in width between roughly a half mile (700m) and over two miles (3.4kms). At the bottom of the straight is an underwater ‘river’ which if on land would count as the sixth largest river in the world!

The Grand Bazaar is a must do, as it is one of the world’s largest covered markets. 3000 stores displaying exotic wares, spices and legendary Turkish coffee make for a beautiful sensory explosion, as does stunning Istanbul itself.

2. RIO DE JANEIRO

Rio is without any question one of the most beautifully located cities in the world. Between its magnificent beaches and mountains, lush tropical forests and sparkling Atlantic Ocean, there is little doubt as to why it is known as ‘The Marvellous City’. But don’t be fooled into thinking it is natural setting alone that makes this city a stunner. Though Corcovado looms 2329 feet (710m) above the city, and though 55 miles (90km) of warm Atlantic beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema bedeck the city in natural splendour, it is a city with a beautiful human side too.

The city was founded by the Portuguese in the 16th century, meaning a culture rich in both age and diversity. The epically vibrant ‘carnival’ is justifiably world famous as the most stunning event in the world’s largest party, when almost three hundred million Brazilians around the country celebrate in a pageant of sound, colour and taste. |

In Rio itself, party districts abound such as ‘Lapa’, with the former red light district ‘Centro’ probably most exciting of all. Gems are hidden in the various suburbs, including Parque Lage and Arcos da Lapa. Stunning buildings dot the city. These range from old world buildings like the Theatro Municipal and São Bento Monastery, to the hyper modern Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói - one of the world’s most distinctive modern buildings, perched above the sea with the city’s mountains behind.

Parque Nacional and Floresta da Tijuca is one of the largest urban reserves in the world, and is one third larger than Manhattan! Here one can ascend Pico da Tijuca, Rio’s highest point at 3350 feet (1021m) and see Rio’s rainforest as they once were.

With over twenty mountain peaks in the city limits, few other cities offer as many magnificent vantage points to appreciate the city panoramically as does Rio. Sugarloaf rises 1299 feet (396m) out of the waters of Guanabara bay, possibly most spectacular of all is Pedra da Gávea which looms 2769 feet (844m) above wealthy and beautiful São Conrado, and at night enjoying the city lights from the famous Cristo Redentor, atop Corcovado in the city’s centre, is absolutely spectacular.

Marvellous? That’s not even the half of it for this gorgeous metropolis!

1. CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

Located at the Southern Tip of Africa lies the world’s most beautifully situated city. ‘The Mother City’ is cradled between massive and distinctive mountains. The central city is backed by one of the new seven wonders of nature, Table Mountain (3563 feet / 1086m) and is flanked by Devil’s Peak (3281 feet / 1000m) and Lion’s head (2195 feet / 669m). These mountains are three of roughly eighty peaks found in the city’s limits, some of which exceed 5000 feet (1500m) in height.

The mountains of the Cape Peninsula are made of a hard stone found nowhere else on earth and often form sheer cliffs that fall into the cold sapphire colored waters of the Atlantic on the city’s west, and the warm jade colored waters of the Indian on the city’s east. Iconic landscapes include Cape Point where the oceans meet, the Twelve Apostles, and the vividly colored cliffs of Chapman’s Peak Drive which has been called ‘The World’s Most Beautiful Coastal Drive’.

As with Rio, landscape is only one part of this magnificent city’s beauty. Uniquely the city has dozens of vineyards, many amongst the world’s finest and oldest, in its suburbs. Forests, beaches, valleys, magnificent tree lined avenues and cliff-side suburbs bedeck this thousand square mile city like jewels – each more entrancing than the last. People have lived there for over 40 000 years and it has been populated by people from around the globe. Cape Town has many magnificent examples of old Dutch, Malay and British architecture, as well as exemplary modern buildings thanks to the post-Apartheid boom in the South African economy. All of this makes it immediately clear why the city was named World Design Capital 2014. Famous architectural examples and districts include the techni-colored district of the Bo Kaap, which is uniquely both Malay and Georgian, the reclaimed V&A Waterfront, the Town Hall, Constantia’s Wine Farms, the whale-like International Convention Centre, St George’s Mall and the World Cup Soccer Stadium. The diverse religious background of the city is evident in historic buildings like St George’s Cathedral, the Habibia Soofi Mosque and the twin towered Gardens Shul.

To add to this beauty is Cape Town’s unparalleled biological heritage. The city is the world’s most bio-diverse, and has more plant species than New Zealand. Table Mountain alone has more species than the UK. Forget Central Park, or even Rio’s Parque Tijuca, Cape Town’s largest park is over two and a half times the size of Manhattan, and the city has dozens of nature reserves within its limits! It has almost one hundred miles (150kms) of pristine sand beaches, more than Rio and Sydney combined! This is one of very few places in the world where one can see Killer Whales, Penguins and Great White Sharks in the same waters.

The diverse architectural and cultural influences from Africa, Europe and Asia have melted together for centuries in this stunningly beautiful natural setting to form one of the world’s most fascinatingly diverse cities, and the single most beautiful city on Earth.

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