11 Most Educational and Cultural Cities in the World
Getaways can be about connecting with nature, relaxing on a beach or riding fun amusements. It can also be a chance to learn about new places, brush up on history and surround yourself in culture.
A recent study conducted by U.K.-based Luggage Hero reviewed the 20 top-visited cities based on the number of things to do, city size and number of visitors to come up with those that are best for cultural and educational visits. Using their top 10 lists for culture, education, most culture per kilometer and most culture per international visitor, we created a list of the 11 most educational and cultural cities in the world and included the top must-sees in each one, based on TripAdvisor reviewers' favorites.
Whether you want to spend your days exploring UNESCO World Heritage Sites, attending a show at an opera house or exploring a city's street art scene, these are the smartest cities you can find to indulge both your intellectual and creative sides.
With 239 museums, art galleries and architectural buildings, Singapore is considered one of the world's most educational cities.
Luggage Hero gave the city a high score for offering the most culture per international visitor. Singapore's food scene is largely to thank for earning it recognition in this top 10 list, along with its natural features and parks.
Top Museums in Singapore
You'll definitely be educated at the National Museum of Singapore, which is the nation's oldest museum showcasing history and culture.
The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum (shown) is one of the holiest in Singapore and features a collection of ancient artifacts.
When visiting Singapore, visit Battlebox, the World War II Malaya Command Headquarters where Singapore surrendered to the Japanese.
Top Sites and Landmarks in Singapore
Stroll through the Gardens by the Bay (shown), where you can walk around the Flower Dome, the Supertree Grove and the Cloud Forest Dome to discover amazing indoor waterfalls and plant diversity.
You can catch the city's amazing views from atop the Marina Bay Sands' Skypark Observation Desk, which is 56 stories high.
Or take a ride around the Singapore Flyer observation wheel for a longer-lasting look at the city.
Seoul found itself on several of the Luggage Hero lists. That's because it's one of the most cultural cities in the world with a number of sights and landmarks, museums, nature and parks, art galleries, and sacred and religious sites. The city has 518 attractions that educate as well.
Seoul also offers more culture per kilometer than most cities, with 1.91 culture markers available for every km² in the city. It also ranked No. 10 for offering the most culture per international visitor.
Top Museums in Seoul
You'll want to spend hours walking about the grounds of Gyeongbokgung Palace (shown), which is a chance to explore Korea's history and culture through its ancient architecture.
The Korean War has a place in the hearts of its citizens and Americans alike, who can learn more about this great conflict at the War Memorial of Korea.
Then, examine the artifacts of the country in the National Museum of Korea, which is free to all visitors.
Top Sites and Landmarks in Seoul
While the Gyeongbokgung Palace is also the top landmark to visit in Seoul, its Myeondong Shopping Street is an exhilarating jolt of modern-day culture.
Then a stroll through Insadong brings you to a quieter shopping area with art galleries, boutiques and restaurants.
Shopping is important to the culture of South Korea, so add one more stop to your list: the Lotte World Tower & Mall.
Although it does not make the educational top 10, the island of Bali in Indonesia beats out Seoul for culture. It received its high score because it is filled with sights and landmarks, museums, nature and parks, art galleries and sacred and religious sites.
As you may guess, Bali is renowned for its outdoor space. It is the second top international city for stunning scenery and options.
Top Museums in Bali
Bali is more than beautiful beaches — although it does have them. There are more than 137 museums in Bali, the most popular of which is the Nyaman Gallery, which displays contemporary art.
A visit to the DMZ Bali 3D Art Museum (shown) will give you some amazing photos that are definitely Instagram-worthy. The pictures practically come to life, and you are welcome to touch them!
And, for a look at historical collections of art, visit the Museum PASIFIKA, featuring paintings and wooden sculptures.
Top Sites and Landmarks in Bali
It's the sacred and religious sites that most attract visitors to Bali, with the Uluwatu Temple and its cliffside views being the top-visited.
Jatiluwih Green Land showcases Bali's amazing green valleys at the foot of Mount Batukaru, where rice fields stretch for miles.
And visit the water gardens of Tirta Gangga (shown), where ponds, pools and fountains adorned with statues are surrounded by gardens.
Barcelona is both cultural and educational, landing at No. 8 on both lists. But it is also the second-best city for offering the most culture per kilometer.
The capital of Catalonia is filled with parks and natural features, also earning it a spot in the top 10 for nature lovers.
It does the same in terms of providing loads of entertainment and foodie options.
Top Museums in Barcelona
There's a common thought from visitors who visit Barcelona: so many museums and so little time! Begin with the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (shown), the city's largest museum dedicated to 1,000 years of Catalan art.
Move on to Parc de Montjuic, the national museum and castle that not only houses more European art, but also affords fantastic mountaintop views of the city.
Then explore the science museum, CosmoCaixa, which takes you back as far as prehistoric times.
Top Sites and Landmarks in Barcelona
But, of course, when you spend time in the artist Gaudi's world, you simply must visit his architectural works. The world-renowned Basilica of the Sagrada Familia tops the list of places to visit in Barcelona. This cathedral has become the symbol of the city and offers jaw-dropping architecture on both the exterior and interior.
A short stroll away is the Barri Gotic, or Gothic Quarter, with is one of the oldest districts of the city filled with shops and restaurants and surrounded by wonderful architecture.
On your architectural tour, make your way to Casa Batllo (shown). Here, Gaudi's vision is showcased throughout this unique building's structure.
The fashion capital of Italy narrowly beats out Barcelona with more culture per kilometer and more museums, art galleries and architectural buildings.
It also have received a higher score for culture from Luggage Hero.
Top Museums in Milan
Italian art from across the ages is displayed at Pinacoteca di Brera (shown), where you'll find works by the Masters of the Renaissance.
For ancient history, the Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio offers a look at Italian frescoes and mosaics and the tomb of Stiletto — not a shoe but the Roman general who saved the city.
You can also view the Duomo di Milano's Grand Museum, with sculptures and artifacts from the cathedral's history.
Top Sites and Landmarks in Milan
A trip to Milan isn't complete without visiting its Duomo. The stunning architecture of one of the largest cathedrals in the world is the city's most-visited site. You can climb to the rooftop and see views as far as the Italian Alps.
Across the street is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (shown). Known as the oldest shopping mall in Italy, its shops are housed in ancient buildings connected by a glassed roof that turns the former outdoor space indoors.
Finally, visit the Castello Sfozesco, an ancient art museum housed inside a castle.
Japan's culture and education are so pronounced that it's the only country to have two cities on this list. The first is Osaka, with more than 330 museums, galleries and architectural buildings, helping to score the city big points on the Luggage Hero list.
The city has plenty of culture per kilometer to boot, not to mention some of the world's best entertainment attractions.
Top Museums in Osaka
To see what Japan was like in earlier times, a visit to the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living (shown) is a must. You can dress in a kimono, enjoy a traditional tea ceremony and explore the ancient shopping streets of this living history center.
More history can be examined at the Osaka Museum of History, within a more modern building that also affords views of Osaka Castle.
And did you know there is a museum dedicated to mint? Yes, the Mint Museum, which is free, provides a lovely and fragrant walk through mint of various colors, sizes and shapes.
Top Sites and Landmarks in Osaka
The first site you should visit in Osaka is its Osaka Castle (shown). With eight levels, you'll uncover the history and artifacts that tell the city's story.
Then, explore the city's Times Square, Minami, where neon lights and people flood the space.
It will quiet down when you stroll through Kuromon Market, where the street sellers offer up practically anything under the sun for purchase.
Landing in the top five for both culture and education, Istanbul not only appears in the top 10 for both lists, but it reigns in other areas, too.
With nearly 200 foodie attractions, it's in the top five cities for foodies. And, if you really want to be entertained, Istanbul is considered the fourth most-entertaining city.
Green space is important to the city that rests on both European and Asian continents, which is why it's also on the top 10 for its natural attractions.
Top Museums in Istanbul
Istanbul's Hagia Sophia (shown) is an iconic mosque built during the Ottoman Empire. Becoming a museum in 1935, Hagia Sophia is the first attraction visitors typically make their way to when visiting this exotic city. Built in 57 A.D., it served as a cathedral under the Byzantines, Romans and Greeks before it became a mosque.
Another Ottoman Empire remnant is Topkapi Palace, which is rich in Islamic history. The palace's architecture and gardens can be explored as a serene environment in the bustling city.
Then, Chora Museum, another church, can give you an off-the-beaten-path museum for another look into Istanbul's past.
Top Sites and Landmarks in Istanbul
The Hagia Sophia is also the top landmark in Istanbul, but you'll be in Sultanahmet District, where not only the mosque and Topkapi Palace rest, but the Blue Mosque, the Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar continue your immersion into Turkey's culture.
You can immerse yourself further into the Historic Areas of Istanbul along the Bosphorous Sea, where just behind the Grand Bazaar are streets lined with restaurants and shops.
Then explore Dolmabahce Palace's (shown) preserved space filled with artifacts from the ornate palace's heyday.
4. New York
The city that never sleeps bests Istanbul by landing in the top four for culture and education. It also jam-packs the most culture into its tiny space.
Of course, New York offers much more than this — it is ranked the No. 1 foodie destination in the world, beating out cities like London and Paris.
It appears in the top 10 for nature and entertainment as well.
Top Museums in New York
There are no shortage of museums in New York City, but we suggest you begin in Lower Manhattan at the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum. Paying respect to the thousands who died here, it's a somber experience featuring photographs, stories of survival and items from the World Trade Centers.
Head up to Central Park, where the Metropolitan Museum of Art houses large collections of Impressionist pieces, an armory and an amazing Egyptian wing.
Nearby, the Met Cloisters' (shown) gardens and chapels resemble that of ancient Europe rather than the cosmopolitan feel of the Big Apple.
Top Sites and Landmarks in New York
Central Park (shown) remains an iconic setting for both visitors and residents of New York, providing land untouched from the skyscrapers and traffic that surround it. Inside, you'll feel miles away. Gardens, biking trails, ball fields, skating, boating and even a zoo are just perfect for sunny days.
Of course, New York's iconic Empire State Building is a place everyone must visit at least once in their lifetime. Take the ride up the elevators to the top for 360-degree views of the city.
Last, and definitely not least, visiting the symbol of the city, the Statue of Liberty, allows you to arrive via boat, just as thousands of immigrants did when America was growing. A museum and climbs for views are available here.
Often ranked one of the top cities in the world, London is on multiple lists in terms of education and culture. It's No. 3 on Luggage Hero's list for culture and No. 7 for having the most culture per kilometer.
Education is top-notch as well. The city is the second-best in terms of teaching through its attractions. And it's also great for nature seekers, ranking No. 3 for parks and natural features.
But, perhaps, it shines the brightest in terms of entertainment and food, with 425 foodie attractions and topping all the cities in the world for entertainment.
Top Museums in London
England's place in World War history is fascinating, and no where more so than deep underground in the Churchill War Rooms. This underground bunker is well-preserved and shows what life was like during the Second World War, with Winston Churchill leading as prime minister.
The free museums of London are some of the world's biggest. The British Museum (shown), for example, has one of the largest collections of relics from the Middle East, Europe and the rest of the world.
The artwork of London is on display at the National Gallery, where Impressionist, Flemish, Renaissance and other periods are well represented.
Top Sites and Landmarks in London
Oh-so-many landmarks make London a joy to visit — each with a storied background. Possibly one of the most storied is the Tower of London (shown), where Henry VIII beheaded his wives and imprisoned anyone who dared to conspire against him. It also houses the Crown Jewels as well as museums that explore the royal family history over the centuries.
The Tower overlooks the Tower Bridge, which is the adorable blue and white bridge crossing the River Thames. You can ride to the top of this landmark or just walk across its lower level to take in views of the water.
Westminster Abbey welcomed kings and queens through its doors, and inside this still-active church lie the tombs of some of England's most famous people in history. That includes 17 British monarchs as well as Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens and Sir Isaac Newton, among several others.
Paris dukes it out again with London, this time winning for having more culture in a tiny space and a higher culture score overall, according to Luggage Hero.
It does fall behind London on the educational front but still lands in the top 10 list.
Paris falls just shy of London in terms of its museum offerings, nature-loving amenities and food destinations, yet Luggage Hero claims the city is the better of the two, especially when it comes to landmarks and nightlife.
Top Museums in Paris
Housed in a former train station is the Musée d'Orsay, considered the best art museum in all of Paris. This is where the once-shunned Impressionist painters displayed their works, with the skylights creating a space filled with light.
Although the Louvre is the largest museum in the city, showcasing thousands of both artistic and historic works, visitors to the City of Light will also want to check out the smaller Musée de l'Orangerie, a less-crowded alternative with even more works by French painters on display.
Top Sites and Landmarks in Paris
Before Notre-Dame Cathedral was destroyed by fire in 2019, it was the most popular landmark in Paris. Visitors still take a stroll to see the facade that remains standing, looking forward to the day when the church is rebuilt and reopened.
However, within steps of Notre-Dame is the Sainte-Chapelle (shown), a hidden gem beginning to get more attention. This ancient chapel's colorful ceilings and towering stained-glass ceilings are a sight to behold.
And, of course, Paris' symbol, the Eiffel Tower, beckons all to the towering landmark, illuminated at night to ensure she is still visible from all areas of the city.
The best city for culture and education by far is Tokyo, which ranks No. 1 for both, and even beats cities like New York and London for squeezing more in per kilometer.
The city also earned top ranks for having the most natural features and parks as well as ranked No. 7 for foodie attractions.
And entertainment? Tokyo has that in spades, getting a spot as the third most-entertaining city in the world.
Top Museums in Tokyo
There are hundreds of museums across Tokyo, so be selective to ensure you squeeze in as much as you can during your visit to Japan. The most popular is Edo-Tokyo Museum (shown). The large museum of Japanese history and culture includes Shogun culture and replicas of famous Japanese architecture.
Tokyo National Museum offers you a little bit of everything, including indoor and outdoor spaces for its historical artwork.
And then learn more about ancient Japanese Samurai at the museum of the same name dedicated to the protectors of the royal family.
Top Sites and Landmarks in Tokyo
The city is also home to numerous shrines and temples, including the Senso-ji Temple. The complex is made up of numerous buildings with shopping streets surrounding it in the Asakusa area.
More modern shopping can be found in Ginza, where high-end boutiques and sellers are packed day and night. Seeing both gives you a glimpse of old and new Tokyo.
Then, you can take in the view of the entire city from atop Tokyo Skytree. You'll see across the city all the way to Mount Fuji.