New York, London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo – these are all cities that nearly everyone on the planet wants to visit at some point in their lives. But there are hundreds of other cities with their own distinct beauty worth seeing. To inspire your wanderlust, here are 25 of the most beautiful cities in the world to see before you die.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
While Rio de Janeiro may have gotten mixed press from the 2016 Olympics, it’s still one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and the third largest city in South America. If you’re more of the quiet nerdy type rather than the adventure type, Rio has the LARGEST library in Latin America (8th largest in the world. Think of the book smell! Swoon.)
It’s really hard to sum up the reasons you should visit Istanbul, Turkey, in a single blurb. Formerly known as Constantinople and Byzantium, sometimes called the gateway between the East and West, the city has been around since 660 BC, so to say it has a rich history and culture is a gross understatement.
Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, is the oldest city in Western Europe – it predates London and Paris by quite a bit – and sits at the mouth of the Tagus River. Lisbon has nothing to prove to anyone; it’s a bit unpolished and beautiful as is. Nearly every place in the city either has or is only a few steps from a breathtaking view.
This city should be pretty high on any list of “Cities to Eat in Before You Die.” Yes, it’s beautiful and dream-like Tuscan countryside has inspired artists for centuries; the wine is beyond description; and the city itself is romantic and everything Disney movies taught us to want growing up. But really, ask someone who’s visited Florence how their trip was, and they’ll mention the beauty and the food. After you eat, you can get lost in the beauty of Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.
This French city is best known in current generations as the place where Allied Forces landed in 1944 to save the world (that’s not hyperbole, they did). Normandy is also breathtakingly beautiful; visiting the island monastery of Mont St-Michel alone is worth the trip, but there are also pebbly beaches, quiet villages, and some of the best medieval museums in France.
Jewish refugees who landed in Chefchaouen, Morocco in the 1930’s painted it blue, and everyone liked it so much they rewash everything blue as a yearly tradition. Tucked up in the Rif Mountains is just this beautiful blue city that’s almost surreal. Another interesting point of note is that the Chefchaouen region is one of the main producers of cannabis in Morocco and subsequently hashish is available nearly everywhere…if that’s your thing.
Amsterdam is a beautiful port city that has a well earned reputation for a lively nightlife, and it also gave us one of the most beloved foods the world over; doughnuts were invented here! The city also boasts almost as many coffee shops as people and a rich history including very well preserved examples of architecture that are hundreds of years old.
Cape Town, South Africa
The port city of Cape Town, South Africa, has beaches with beautiful clear blue water, white sand, and penguins (heck yeah!). Also it’s home to Africa’s version of Burning Man -AfrikaBurn – and has it’s own, less crowded version of Burbon Street called Long Street. But of none of those are your fancy, you can take a cable car up above the city and enjoy breathtaking views of the water and Table Mountain.
Walking around in Bruges is like walking around in a fairy tale. It’s one of the best preserved medieval cities in the world, located in the very heart of Europe. The breathtaking Gothic and baroque architecture are connected by cobbled lanes and a canal that can take you through the city.
Seattle, Washington boasts one of the most unique skylines in the world, thanks to the Space Needle, but it’s also home to some amazing museums and a thriving local art and food scene (local, but varied. So many cultures find home in Seattle), as well as Pike Place Market which is a huge tourist attraction with something for everyone and a small neighborhood feel. Also, coffee.
What other US cities made this list? Keep reading to find out!
Even if you don’t believe in a Higher Power, the art in Vatican City may perhaps inspire you to dream of the Divine. Vatican City is also considered to be the smallest country in the world, a city-state surrounded by Rome. It is also home to the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo himself in the early 1500’s, which continues to have a huge influence on Western Art today.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Saint Petersburg, Russia, is a port city on the Baltic sea. Built in the early 1700’s, it is the realization of a dream by Peter the Great, and remains the cultural center of Russia. The Hermitage Museum, the Winter Palace, and the Russian Ballet are just a short list of things that you must see in this great city.
Located on the island of Honshu and once the Capital of Japan, Kyoto retains much of the rich cultural heritage from Old Japan and is a far cry from larger cities like Tokyo. Buddhist Temples, Shinto Shrines, and magical gardens define the beauty of this city, and you may even spot a modern Geisha as the traditional art is still practiced by some here. Surrounded by mountains on three sides, Kyoto is also an excellent destination for hiking, or for the less adventurous, wandering around a quiet path in a bamboo grove.
In 2016, Obama lifted travel and trade restrictions to Cuba, so if you’ve a wanderlust, Havana should be on your list of beautiful places to visit. Historic Colonial buildings painted bright island colors, cigars, rum, and the islands obsession with classic American cars on a lush and verdant Caribbean island. Go before they build too many resorts. As of now, Havana has less than 100,000 hotel rooms.
This Austrian city was made famous by the Von Trapp family and is the birthplace of Mozart. Salzburg sits at the border of Germany and Austria and contains many medieval and baroque period buildings in the Old City, and on the other side of the Salzach River (which divides Salzburg) has more modern, 19th century buildings (what people in US consider Historic is what’s considered the “new city” in Salzburg).
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires, Argentina, is sometimes called “The Paris of South America,” due largely to the architecture, but the city definitely has a South American vibe. The city is a shopper’s dream, and restaurants offer food from every corner of the world.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is known as “The City Of A Hundred Spires,” for the number of Gothic churches the city boasts. The Capitol of Czech Republic, Prague was once also the Capitol of the Kingdom of Bohemia and has been home to several Holy Roman Emperors. The city is so full of history, it has more than ten major museums, as well as theater and other cultural attractions.
Game of Thrones started filming in Seville, Spain, in it’s fifth season. And if that’s not enough to convince you that this city is breathtakingly beautiful, there’s the world famous Flamenco Dancers, one of the largest Old Towns in Europe, an interesting food scene revolving around tapas, and the Alcázar castle complex, which was built by the Moors (which is so intricate and beautiful it makes us sad we’re limited to one photo per list item).
Aside from being the seat of power of the United States, Washington DC is also home to some of the best (and free!) museums in the world, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, which also include the National Zoo (also free), historic monuments, and the National Arboretum which contains not only an impressive collection of Koi and Bonsai, but the National Capitol Columns, which are the original columns from the US capitol, set with a reflecting pool in the middle of a 20 acre meadow. Designed by Frenchman Pierre Charles L’Enfant, Washington DC is a breathtaking city that must be seen if one has the chance. (Take the metro.)
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, and Scotland, for those who don’t know, is home to the best Whisky distilleries in the world. Aside from that, though, Edinburgh boasts lovely countryside and Medieval Castles, as well as the Royal Botanical Garden, the National Museum of Scotland, and Old Town (as in, pre-Renaissance old), which is a lovely place to take in a stroll and a pint.
Budapest, Hungary, is the nation’s largest city. The River Danube runs right through the middle of it, and the city has over 1,000 hot springs to take a dip in at one of the many spas. It’s also a food capitol; it literally has a mall of food. Aside from that, there’s the glorious historical buildings and great places of worship – in this case the The Great Synagogue – that you can expect from this part of the world. It’s also rather budget friendly.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco is a northern California city made of hills, sitting on a peninsula surrounded by the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. SF offers a little bit of everything for everyone. There’s the San Francisco Zoo, Alcatraz, Golden Gate Park (a huge urban park), many museums, and the Golden Gate Bridge which is considered to be one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
Savannah is a charming city that beautifully displays some of the best the Southern United States has to offer. Quaint and romantic, when General Sherman was burning, raping, and pillaging the south during the Civil War, he spared Savannah, which means the City retains a large amount of it’s antebellum architecture. Take a leisurely stroll down streets through sunlight dappled by towering oaks, have some soul food, or sit on a wide front porch at one of the many B&B’s, sipping a mint Julep.
Lucerne is a small city in Switzerland that sits right on Lake Lucerne in the Swiss Alps. If you’re someone who appreciates the beauty of snow capped peaks, this may be your idea of heaven. This city also boasts a beautiful Jesuit baroque style church built in the mid-1600’s, the Swiss transportation museum, the famous Lion Monument, the oldest covered bridge in Europe, and town walls with towers dating back to the 1300’s.
Looking for more cities to see? Check out 25 Places You Have To See Before You Die.
Mumbai, formerly called Bombay, is India’s largest city and is home to too many beautiful things to see in one trip – the Gateway Of India, many beautiful temples, Chor Bazaar (translation, Theives Market), black sand beaches, historic homes left from colonial rule and breathtaking countryside and national parks; it’s also a very modern city with a beautiful skyline.
Photos: 25. Vanessa Marques/wikimedia commons, 24. Mstyslav Chernov/wikimedia commons, 20. Mark Fischer via Flickr, 18. Warrickball/wikimedia commons, 17. Wolfgang Staudt via Flickr, 16. Mtaylor444/wikimedia commons, 15. Dennis Jarvis via Flickr, 13. Paul Vlaar/wikipedia commons, 11. Jiuguang Wang/wikimedia commons, 9. Harini.rajagopal/wikimedia commons, 8. Skaremedia/wikimedia commons, 7. Raul654/en.wikipedia, 6. Kim Traynor/wikimedia commons, 5. Petr Šmerkl, Wikipedia, 2. Simon Koopmann/wikimedia commons, 1. Vidur Malhotra via Flickr