30 Best Cities in the World
Preferences for cities are fairly personal. One person’s treasure is another person’s never-going-back. But no one can deny that there are cities that simply have it.
These star cities have captured the romantic imagination of humans for decades, if not centuries. Songs have been composed in their honor, poetry has been inspired by their beauty, and movies have tried to capture the magic.
This list, based on the Resonance Consultancy's 2021 World's Best Cities report, highlights the cities most favored by locals, visitors and business travelers alike, as opposed to simply looking at livability or tourism appeal. To quote Tina Turner, these 30 cities "are simply the best, better than all the rest."
30. Melbourne, Australia
Population: 4.629 million
Melbourne is often overlooked for other glitzier parts of Australia (we're looking at you, Sydney). But trust us when we say that this is a city well worth visiting.
What we like the most about it is that it doesn't care what we think. The aloof city is cool simply because it's in its nature and it doesn't even have to try. A wide network of alleys hides independent coffee shops, boutique stores and small galleries. Street art brings color to blank facades and emerging local artists get their due attention at Gertrude Contemporary.
The city is also international, with immigrants from all over the world mingling with locals and international tourists.
*Note: Based on Resonance Consultancy’s “2021 World’s Best Cities” report, this city ranking was measured according to 14 areas grouped into six core categories, and the populations listed are of metro areas.
29. Hong Kong
Population: 7.398 million
Hong Kong's complicated history has given it an equally complicated personality that makes it difficult to define. The city-almost-state finally gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1997, but it is now fighting to regain self-governance from China. As a result, the territory is unlike any other place in East Asia, and we think that's a good thing.
One of the main things to do here is simply eating. You'll find many fine-dining restaurants, but we are of the opinion that the best food in the city is actually at the Temple Street Night Market. The informal stalls that take over the street offer an array of local and international dishes.
Another thing you shouldn't miss is the Hong Kong Museum of History. Through interactive exhibitions, you'll learn about the history of the city, getting to literally walk through its different stages. You should also spend some time walking on its waterfront promenade. Going up Victoria Peak is a must — even if we think that the attached mall is a cheesy tourist trap — if only for the amazing panoramic views of the city.
28. San Diego, California
Population: 3.316 million
San Diego's only fault is being in the same state as Los Angeles and San Francisco. If not for the eclipsing shadow of these two cities, San Diego would be much more famous.
We won't say California's two main cities are not worthwhile, but if you want a lower price point and a chiller vibe, San Diego is where it's at. The city has more than 20 beaches, so you'll definitely be able to live your surfer dreams here. Year-round warmth and sun also make this city idyllic to visit in any season and even more idyllic to live in. To sweeten the deal, there are plenty of urban green spaces and a lot of authentic Mexican food, courtesy of the city's location near the border.
27. Milan, Italy
Population: 4.994 million
Milan is the Italian response to Paris. The city is refined, elegant and definitely concerned with appearances. This devotion to fashion and design is obvious everywhere, from the intricate details of the city's basilica to the symmetrical arches of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping center to the polished look of virtually every person in the street (except some of the tourists).
This Italian city is also making a name for itself in the sustainable design industry. The most prominent example of this is the Bosco Verticale, or "Vertical Forest," a green building distinct for its use of heavily forested walls.
We definitely agree with Milan landing on the list of best cities, both for traveling as well as for living.
26. Prague, Czechia
Population: 1.164 million
Lovely Prague is a city of contradictions and juxtapositions. Its old town is straight out of a fairytale, with medieval cobblestone streets, an Astronomical Clock tower and a bridge famous for its beauty. The piece-de-resistance of this side of the city is Charles Castle, which is perched on a hill and looks over the Vltava river. This is the part of Prague that most tourists concentrate their time on, and for good reason.
But if you dare to step away from the fairytale, you'll be greeted by a different — though not inferior — side of the city. The one that holds the scars of being forced into the Soviet Union. Simple, grey buildings contrast with the terracotta and green roofs in the old town. Sure, they are definitely not as visually appealing, but they do have the underground, effortless, cool feel of many post-Soviet cities.
In fact, this is the side responsible for Prague's amazing nightlife, which is ranked here as the fourth-best in the world, behind London, New York and Barcelona.
25. Beijing, China
Population: 19.437 million
The Chinese capital is one of the most fascinating cities you'll ever visit. If you think New York is busy, wait until you fly into Beijing and try to find your way to wherever you need to go. The sheer amount of people living in the city can be overwhelming, but don't be discouraged by it! Learning how to navigate Beijing is an adventure that offers many rewards.
Two main factors helped Beijing rank high in terms of livability: It has the largest number of Global 500 companies, and it's one of the top five cities with the lowest unemployment rates. Still, we wouldn't recommend living in Beijing simply because of the high level of air pollution, which is linked to a number of health issues.
That said, we absolutely think everyone should visit. The Ming Dynasty's Forbidden City deserves a place on every traveler's bucket list, as does the Great Wall of China.
24. Vienna, Austria
Population: 1.843 million
At first glance, Vienna is the quintessential Central European city, with a medieval core, countless coffee shops and a river that cuts it in two. And while there's no denying that these elements can be found in pretty much every capital in the region, there is no city quite like Vienna.
For starters, the Austrian capital was also the center of the Austrian Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and, during multiple periods, the Hapsburg Empire. The latter left two palaces that can still be visited, the Schonbrunn and the Hofburg Palaces. These are two of the city's main attractions, along with Stephansplatz and the Vienna State Opera.
The city is also distinct in the importance of its cafes. Not only was cafe culture practically invented here, but important intellectual movements like modernism were created in the city's coffee houses, a culture that's so important it's recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Lest you think the city is only great for visiting, let us be the first to state that it is also themost livable city in the world. High-income equality, an extensive bike path network, numerous green spaces in and around it, safety, low air pollution and efficient public transportation combine to make it an amazing place to settle down.
23. Istanbul, Turkey
Population: 15.311 million
Istanbul may not be the capital of Turkey, but it did spend thousands of years as the capital of many empires, namely the Roman/Byzantine Empire, the Latin Empire and the Ottoman Empire. A change of name and status simply can't undo the city's rich history that has placed it as a place of encounters.
In the streets of Istanbul, you'll find the encounter of Europe and Asia as well as of history and modernity. You'll see a number of beautiful mosques, the most famous of which are the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. But turn a corner, and you'll find stores for high-fashion brands lavishly displaying wealth. Walk a bit more, and you may find yourself in the labyrinth of the Grand Bazaar, where sellers will call out with offers for everything from rugs to spices to Cliche souvenirs.
Like other big cities, Istanbul is chaotic, which makes it a perfect vacation destination. As for living there, it depends on your personality. But if you love a city that packs history, soul and surprises at every corner, you'll probably love a long sojourn here.
22. Washington, D.C.
Population: 6.197 million
If ever a nation designed its capital as a love letter to itself, it was the United States. More than a city, Washington, D.C., is a large museum that applauds the country at every corner. No, seriously, you won't be able to walk without running into a monument dedicated to one of the presidents.
But despite its somewhat narcissistic nature, we have to admit that we love D.C. The city is designed well, and it's very beautiful. Much of it is highly walkable, there are numerous parks, and the metro is fast and efficient — these are three things that most cities in the U.S. certainly don't have.
Besides, the Smithsonian museums are all free! That means that you can go to some of the best museums in the U.S. without having to pay a single penny. And a large immigrant and diplomat population mean that there is diversity both in the city and in its suburbs. All of these factors combine to make D.C. a great city to both live in and visit.
21. Las Vegas, Nevada
Population: 2.182 million
Nevada owns its placement on this best city ranking because of two key factors: entertainment options and favorable weather. The city is a major tourist draw, known for its anything-goes attitude and over-the-top attractions. The casinos, hotels and night shows are what people come here for, and the city certainly does not disappoint. Not surprisingly, the food is also varied and very delicious.
If you are a little tired of the city lights, all you have to do is head right out of this human-made oasis and into the desert. Just an hour outside of the city, you'll find yourself in the otherworldly Valley of Fire State Parks, one of the country's most underrated state parks.
If you want a fun luxury vacation, Las Vegas is definitely the place to go. However, most jobs revolve around the tourism and service industries, and the city is loud and filled with drunk tourists. It's great for a short trip, but would we live here? Absolutely not.
20. Berlin, Germany
Population: 4.026 million
Berlin's only fault is that it's too effortlessly cool. It's like that one friend who is basically perfect and who you want to dislike, but you can't because they're also so darn nice. Should you visit Berlin? As many times as possible. Should you live there? Definitely jump at the chance.
What the city offers is a deep (yet painful) history, which is still alive in monuments like the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gat,e and the many museums and memorials you'll find scattered throughout. The Jewish Museum is part of the city's reckoning with its dark past, and missing it would be a shame, hard as it may be to get through it. The city's other major museums are mostly congregated in the UNESCO-listed Museum Island and consist of the Altes Museum, the Neues Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode-Museum and the Pergamonmuseum.
After a day of culture and history, Berlin transforms into a European capital of partying hard. The city is famous for its gigantic nightclubs that sometimes don't close for two whole days. (Don't worry, you don't have to stay for the whole time.) It's also bike-friendly, affordable, has good transportation and more art galleries than you could ever hope to visit.
Oh, there is one other fault, the food scene is not as exciting as other cities. But given its almost perfection, we'll let that slide.
19. Sydney, Australia
Population: 4.645 million
As the most famous city in Oceania, Sydney holds its own against other cosmopolitan centers. Its nice weather, pretty beaches, laid-back attitude and diversity make it an amazing place to be, for either short- or long-term stays.
Sydney also has world-famous cultural institutions, like the Sydney Opera House, which is arguably one of the most recognizable landmarks on the planet. As the cherry on top of an already sweet deal, the city has a good amount of urban green spaces and is near four national parks.
18. Toronto, Canada
Population: 6.985 million
Toronto is like New York's smaller, cleaner, nicer sister. The city has great universities, a very large immigrant population, numerous parks, a pretty waterfront and a seriously amazing dining scene. Its foodie aspect is mostly thanks to its incredible diversity, which also makes this a very tolerant city.
Besides, Toronto was named the fastest-growing area in North America, which has prickled the interest of foreign investors who are pouring money into it. In our opinion, Canada's largest city is better to live in than to visit. Not that it's a bad tourist destination. On the contrary, there are several fun things to do. But it's a city that you have to spend some time in to truly get to know and enjoy.
17. St. Petersburg, Russia
Population: 5.207 million
Though it may have lost its title as the capital of Russia, Saint Petersburg will forever be the imperial capital, a title it held for 200 years. Besides this title, the city is known for its numerous islands and more than 300 bridges. There is a certain romanticism to it, provided by its beautiful museums, palaces and churches.
As a tourist, there are several things that you simply can't skip. The State Hermitage Museum, held in the former Winter Palace, is one. The Catherine Palace, the aqua green Mariinsky Theatre and the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood are others. This church, with its twisting colorful minarets is one of the country's most recognizable icons.
St. Petersburg also boasts the most educated population on this list — a fact that is undoubtedly a source of pride.
16. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Population: 1.157 million
Amsterdam is working hard to redefine its image. For many years, the city drew in tourists interested in legalized cannabis, the Red Light District and raunchy nightlife. And while it first embraced this identity, the Dutch capital simply had enough of it. Now, it wants to be a center for global culture and capital. By all metrics, its redefining mission has been successful.
New art galleries and museums have opened, including the Moco, while other established institutions like the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam continue to draw in visitors.
The city also has a cafe culture that is pleasant and relaxed. Another plus is the numerous biking lanes that make it safe and easy for a large part of the population to forego cars and stay active.
15. San Francisco, California
Population: 4.701 million
Look, we'll be the first to admit that San Francisco is not for everyone. But this is mostly because its high cost of living makes it difficult for a large part of the population to make ends meet.
Still, the city is at the epicenter of start-up culture and is home to many of the companies that have reshaped the world in the last 20 years. And the good news is that these companies bring high-paying jobs to an area that definitely needs it.
If you can't afford to live here, we still recommend that you visit. The city is one of the prettiest in the United States and one of the few you'll be able to explore by cable car. Openness and tolerance are expected, and you will never be far from nature. The city has many beautiful urban parks and is also fairly near many of the natural landscapes that make California the prettiest state in the U.S.
14. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Population: 2.022 million
If you are curious about the UAE but aren't too keen on Dubai's obsession with all things that glitter, you may want to consider Abu Dhabi. The city differentiates itself from Dubai by focusing on culture more than extravagance.
The capital city has the country's largest — and arguably most beautiful — mosque and it recently opened the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which includes works from masters like da Vinci. Other important museums are in the works, including the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Zayed National Museum.
If you still want the glitz and fun of Dubai, there are plenty of attractions that fit the bill. You can go to Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi or Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, for instance.
13. Chicago, Illinois
Population: 9.059 million
We'll be upfront about this: We are totally and irrevocably in love with Chicago. If it were not for its horribly harsh winters, we might even deem it the best city in the U.S. It certainly is the best designed, thanks to the style of the Chicago School architects as well as other interesting modernist and post-modern experiments.
For both living and tourism, Chicago offers more things than you could ever do. There's Millennium Park, which has a waterfront, the famous "Bean" sculpture and the Art Institute of Chicago, among many other attractions. Then, there's Willis Tower, where you can literally see the city at your feet, as well as beaches on the gigantic Lake Michigan.
But the thing we love the most about Chicago is that it is several cities within a city. This is because each of its neighborhoods has a distinct personality. The food, the architecture and the shops you'll find will be different in each neighborhood, so you are very unlikely to ever run out of things to explore.
12. Doha, Qatar
Population: 1.52 million
Another ultra-modern luxury city in the Middle East, Doha is doing its best to take Dubai's place as a tourist hotspot. Although it hasn't yet gotten there, we bet it'll achieve this within the next 10 years. Why? Because it's simply a more interesting city.
First of all, Doha ranked No. 1 in prosperity on the Resonance Consultancy study, with a low unemployment rate and high per capita income. Secondly, Qatar has reinvested this wealth in education, infrastructure and cultural institutions. For instance, the Museum of Islamic Art was designed by I.M. Pei (the same person who designed the pyramid in front of the Louvre). It also recently opened the National Museum of Qatar, which is already gaining praise from national and international visitors.
We like that Doha takes itself seriously and is more concerned with building itself up than with impressing others.
11. Rome, Italy
Population: 3.207 million
Anyone who has ever said something bad about Rome is someone you shouldn't trust. OK, we're exaggerating. No city is perfect, but Rome certainly comes close to it. As the heart of the Roman Empire, its historical significance goes back thousands of years. On a visit to Rome, you'll get to see landmarks like the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain.
Plus, even though it's technically a separate country, you can visit everything in Holy See, commonly known as the Vatican. This includes Saint Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Palace, where you'll see the Sistine Chapel.
Those lucky enough to live in Rome also enjoy many things. It's simply a pleasure to exist in the beautiful cobbled streets or grab a drink with friends in one of the many squares. Then, there's the food. We don't have to tell you Italy is a foodie's dream and that the food in Rome is so good it'll make you want to cry. Is there any reason why anyone would not want to live or visit Rome? We can't think of a single one.
10. Madrid, Spain
Population: 6.006 million
Spain's gorgeous capital city is one you can go back to over and over again without ever getting tired of it. The grand boulevards that divide into small streets, the large shopping malls and the beautiful architecture make getting lost here a pleasure.
Like Rome, the food is also amazing. Tapas, churros with hot chocolate, paella and Serrano ham are just a few of the things you'll be constantly craving. It doesn't hurt that local wine is high quality yet extremely cheap.
Another thing we love about Madrid is how much the city invests in its cultural offerings. The UNESCO-listed Paseo del Prado connects the city's main museums, the Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum and the Reina Sofía Art Center. These three museums are amongst the best in the entire world. Right next door is the expansive Retiro Park, where you can spend hours walking amongst three-lined trails or rowing a boat in a gigantic fountain.
Be prepared for late nights that turn into mornings, as Spanish people are famous for their penchant for celebrating life and going out as much as possible.
9. Barcelona, Spain
As amazing as Madrid is, we have to say that Barcelona is better. The city wins out because of its amazing design, with a grid-like system, numerous pedestrian-only roads and amazing urban parks.
Add to this architecture you won't find anywhere else in the world, courtesy of Antoni Gaudi, who designed some of the city's most famous landmarks like Park Guell and the Sagrada Familia. Plus, Barcelona has one more thing on Madrid: beaches. It's very difficult to beat a beach town, especially one that also has nearby mountains. Plus, the Catalonian capital also ranks third in the world for nightlife, so if you love a good party, the city basically guarantees it.
8. Los Angeles, California
Population: 13.25 million
Los Angeles gets a bad rap thanks to its traffic, high air pollution and superficial culture. But this doesn't seem to be enough to keep people away.
The city is literally filled with stars and star-hopefuls, has amazing weather, great nightlife and a dining scene that's not afraid to break barriers and conventions. It also has beaches and a host of amusement parks, including the original Disneyland, Universal Studios and Six Flags. We deem L.A. a worthy tourist destination.
As for livability, that depends on the kind of lifestyle you want. It's definitely a great place to be young. Either that or extremely wealthy. If you want glitz and glamor by the beach more than comfort and affordability, we guarantee you'll never be bored in this city.
Population: 5.745 million
The city-state of Singapore is honestly mind-blowing in an unexpected way. The country is so small that it could easily be overlooked as a tourist destination. But, trust us, this is a city you definitely want to visit. And if you're lucky enough to have the opportunity, we'd tell you to go live there in a heartbeat.
To begin with, Singapore is the city of the future. Its design seamlessly integrates sustainability with aesthetics and technology. This is most obviously seen at the famous Gardens by the Bay, where giant metal trees collect rainwater and solar power for neighboring buildings. The airport is also the coolest in the world, boasting the largest indoor waterfall on the planet. Plus, the city is spotless, and public transportation is affordable and organized.
But lest you think Singapore is missing personality, the best part about it is that its neighborhoods are like small countries in themselves. One section of the city is a small version of China, where many of the famous gawker stalls are located. Another will take you to India, with colorful buildings and fragrant spice markets. Then there's Kampong Glam, where the Muslim population of the city congregates around white buildings and mosques with beautiful round minarets. Singapore really is its own self-contained universe, and we are absolutely fans of it.
6. Tokyo, Japan
Population: 39.105 million
To say that Tokyo is a busy city is an understatement. With about 39 million residents in its metro area, this is one of the most populated cities in the world.
As you walk around it, you'll certainly feel this, particularly in popular tourist areas where foot traffic is both thrilling and overwhelming. But just as easily as you can get lost in a sea of people, you can find places of solitude and quiet. The city is dotted with temples and beautiful residential neighborhoods that feel a world away from futuristic and overcrowded Shibuya.
Perhaps most importantly, the Resonance Consultancy ranks Tokyo No. 1 for restaurants, to the surprise of absolutely nobody. There are an impressive 226 Michelin-star restaurants in the Japanese capital, the most in any city in the world. But even if you want to do casual dining, you'll have a hard time finding bad food here.
5. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Population: 6.595 million
In the past decade, Dubai has gone from a mostly overlooked city to a global symbol of luxury and glamor. The city was developed with an affluent crowd in mind, as is reflected by the high number of attractions that boast a superlative title.
The most famous of these attractions is, of course, the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. This is also one of the most popular tourist attractions, as it provides unbeatable views of the city. There's also the richest horse race and the tallest choreographed fountains, as the "2021 Best Cities" report states. Soon, a new building in the city will have the title of the tallest, and the tallest Ferris wheel will also open.
Dubai is also the safest city on the whole list, which certainly makes it appealing. Though, if we're honest, this isn't a city we'd recommend to live, given it's emphasis on looks and ostentatious displays of wealth. But if you want a high-end vacation that makes you feel like royalty, few places can compete with it.
4. Moscow, Russia
Population: 17.693 million
The report ranked the Russian capital No. 1 in terms of museums. That's because its museums include a variety of art collections, historical exhibitions and landmarks. Amongst them, the Kremlin, the State Tretyakov Gallery and the Tsaritsyno Palace stand out.
English speakers may not get around as easily, but this minor inconvenience is worth it to be able to take in all that Moscow has to offer. Besides having a ton of landmarks and attractions, the city is also rich in nightlife activities. Go see the Russian ballet for a classical experience, or greet the morning at an underground dance club. If you visit during cold months (basically every month), do as the locals do and warm up at a small bar.
If you want to take a break while touring around, we recommend resting at Zaryadye, the city's newest major park. It is located next to the Kremlin and brings a much-needed splash of green to this white-and-red city.
3. New York, New York
Population: 19.294 million
There's no way around it: New York is messy. The city is loud, dirty and constantly busy. But just like your neighborhood bar, somehow the griminess only adds to its charm. The truth of the matter is that there is no city in the U.S. like New York.
The Big Apple is a place where things happen. Art collectives, documentary filmmakers and people doing jobs you didn't know existed congregate here to form a chaotically cool collective. The city has numerous green spaces and fairly decent beaches within its vicinity. It is also incredibly diverse, with any neighborhood bringing together people from all over the world.
We won't say that New York is perfect but rather that its imperfections give it character. Simply put, we love this city, both to visit and to live in.
2. Paris, France
Population: 11.027 million
Paris is undoubtedly an incredible city to visit. There are endless options of landmarks to see, museums to visit, parks to read in and pastries to eat. It doesn't hurt that the city's aesthetic is absolutely unique, with a charming architectural style and an unmistakable skyline.
But we'll let you in on a little-known secret: Paris is an even better city to live in. Sure, the metros are busy and rent is too high, but residents also have easy access to green spaces and a literally infinite number of events and exhibitions to attend. The city is walkable, the food is great, and it's practically impossible not to take Sundays as a rest day when much of the city shuts down.
Paris also ranked as No. 2 on this list because of the positive changes the local government has been implementing. Namely, the city is becoming more walkable and decidedly greener. Rooftop gardens are soon to be complemented by ground gardens managed by different collectives. More than 30 miles of bike paths have been added, and renting a bike anywhere in the city is easy and cheap. At the rate it's going, the city will only get more beautiful.
1. London, England
Population: 11.12 million
London is expensive, yes. But besides this one fault, it's difficult to find anything else to dislike about the city. Even its notorious foggy weather somehow works with its character, which is somewhat mysterious, always escaping definition.
The city is both ultra modern and deeply traditional. You'll find restaurants that have existed for hundreds of years, museums that enjoy world fame and, of course, the royal palaces. But right next to these places, you'll also find the independent art galleries leading new artistic movements, Michelin restaurants experimenting with the definition of fine dining and stores that are basically shrines to rock and punk music.
These factors, combined with the city's universities, diversity and a never-ending array of things to do earns it the title of "best city in the world" for the sixth year in a row.