Determining which locales classify as the most beautiful cities in the world is a daunting task, as landscapes, vistas and opinions vary significantly around the globe. Urban pleasures, stunning architecture and breathtaking natural and man-made splendor all add to the allure of a metropolis, but beauty is subjective. Here are our picks for the 12 most beautiful cities in the world. Click along and see if you agree with us.
1. Venice, Italy
This northeastern Italian city is unlike any other in the world. It’s most distinctive feature is its glistening canals strewn with architecturally appealing buildings and linked by a system of pedestrian bridges. Venice is truly unique a work of art that cannot be compared to any other city. Like stepping back in history, it appears somewhat the same as it did over 600 years ago, and that only adds to its romantic splendor. Take a gondola ride through Venice past cathedrals, bell towers, churches and piazzas as you explore one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
2. Lisbon, Portugal
The scenic city of Lisbon is perched on a series of rolling hills cascading down to the grand Tagus River. Pastel-colored buildings decorate Lisbon’s cobblestone streets, as tile-facades are scattered across town. Lisbon is most stunning from its various strategically positioned lookout points or hilltop terraces, where you can observe the many Gothic cathedrals, ancient monasteries and quaint museums.
3. Sydney, Australia
Sydney is often mistaken as the capital of Australia (that’s Canberra) but it is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in the “Land Down Under.” It’s focal point is the Sydney Opera House, one of the most architecturally impressive buildings in the world. It is flanked by the scenic Sydney Harbour Bridge and near to the cobblestoned historical neighborhood of “the Rocks.” The city’s coastal positioning only adds to its aesthetic appeal. But Sydney is not all about its looks. Dig deeper and you’ll find a diverse cosmopolitan city with a world-class energy worth exploring.
4. Istanbul, Turkey
Some refer to Istanbul as a cultural dichotomy, as the city rests between two continents that embrace very different histories and traditions. Istanbul was the final stage on the legendary Silk Routes that linked Asia and Europe. Merchants enjoyed the city so much that they stayed and created the diverse culture that exists today. Today, the city is known for its hospitable people and breathtaking architecture. Thanks to the Byzantine and Ottoman influences, Istanbul’s churches and palaces are decorated with mosaics and frescoes, and art galleries, museums and festivals are abundant throughout the city.
5. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is often referred to as the city of “the thousand spires” because of its profusion of beautifully-preserved historical monuments dating from nearly every period in history. Take in all of the architectural splendor from the Charles Bridge which spans across the Vltava River, or stand in the stunningly beautiful Old Town Square. Explore ancient chapels and hidden gardens as you wonder the quaint cobblestone lanes.
6. Singapore, Singapore
Often referred to as the “melting pot of the East”, Singapore is a rich blend of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western cultures. Noted as one of the cleanest cities in the world where public transportation runs on time and poverty hardly exists, Singapore exists as one of the least chaotic cities in Asia. Singapore is also known for its mouth-watering local dishes, contemporary art, billion-dollar gardens and sci-fi architecture. Once known only as a stop-over city, Singapore is finally gaining some self-confidence to assert itself as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
7. Paris, France
Paris is where history meets sophistication. The Seine and the magnificent bridges that cross it, the grand boulevards and public squares, the charming streets lined with monuments, museums and art galleries all attest to the fact that France’s capital city is unlike any other in the world. The ‘City of Lights’ truly deserves its reputation as one of the most romantic cities in the world. Stroll by the ornate Haussmann architecture and explore the left and right banks. Sit at an outdoor cafe and watch the bustling city, lock your love at Lover’s Bridge or enjoy a world-class meal in the heart the Eiffel Tower.
8. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio is one of the most naturally stunning cities in the world. From above, Christ the Redeemer peers down on lush rolling hills scattered with houses and buildings leading down to the deep blue sea and white sandy beaches. Stand atop Sugarloaf or Corvacado Mountains and take in the breathtaking landscapes that can be seen for miles. After the spotlight of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, expect tourism in this gorgeous, vibrant, culturally-rich city to go up.
9. Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is the second post populous city in South Africa, following Johannesburg. Otherwise known as the ‘Mother City’, Cape Town is naturally nestled at the foot of glorious Table Mountain. This multicultural city is decorated with a variety of landscapes, from lush botanical gardens and parks, to fertile valleys and vineyards to golden-sand beaches. For one of the most beautiful vistas in Cape Town, drive down the coastal roads to Cape Point.
10. Vancouver, Canada
A city that seamlessly blends both nature and modernity, Vancouver stuns with its breathtaking ocean, mountain and urban views. Also known as the culinary capital of Canada, sumptuous restaurants and cafes are abundant throughout the West Coast city. The beauty of Vancouver is that one minute you could be dining at a 5-star seafood eatery and the next, mountain biking down the forest trails of Stanley Park.
11. Varanasi, India
At more than 4000 years old, the holy Hindu city of Varanasi is one of the oldest living cities in the world. It is known as City of Light, as the quality of pink and golden light here is extraordinary. It is no wonder Varanasi has inspired centuries of artists with its clarity, especially at sunrise as the faithful come down to the River Ganges to bathe. Towering temples, sacred shrines, ornate palaces, colorful Ghats and wandering cows make Varanasi a uniquely stunning city to experience.
12. New York City, USA
Everyone seems to have an opinion about New York City, but you have to admit the urban skyline is visually stunning. Graced with art deco classics, modern skyscrapers and multiple bridges, the varied architecture and engineering feats in the NYC is impressive. If the hustle and bustle gets to you, escape into the calm oasis of Central Park where you can forget you are in the heart of the Big Apple. At night, when the cityscape starts to twinkle, you’ll see why it’s considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world.