10 Beautiful Cities You Should Visit Once in Your Life
“Beauty is in the eyes that look” – british painter, Francis Bacon, said. We seek beauty in many forms through art and architecture, water views and mountain vistas, history and culture and some places make that search extremely easy. Have you ever visited a city and simply fallen in love? We’re sure you have – but which one?
This is a list of absolutely stunning cities and towns, around the world, that made us fall in love at first sight with their futuristic skylines, tree-lined canals, and colorful colonial buildings (among many other things).
Here are some more places to add, if you are working on your travel bucket list.
10. St. Petersburg, Russia
Before there was St. Petersburg—Russia’s own “Paris of the East”—there was an area of uninhabited swampland. From these humble foundations, Peter the Great, tsar until 1728, raised a Russian city to rival the Baroque and Renaissance fortresses of Europe’s West, drawing heavily on the regality of Paris. It is remarkable for its many discreet islands, for the pulsing artery of Nevsky Prospekt, and for the gilded, imperial towers of the Hermitage, a museum containing so many works of art you could spend a life walking its halls and still never glimpse all of them.
9. Cape Town, South Africa
For those who live in London and New York, it is easy to become accustomed to the idea of a ‘city’ as a place of sprawling development, where nature can seem very far away. Cape Town tells a different story: shadowed by the magnificent beauty of Table Mountain and its penguin-thronged beaches, the great outdoors are a vital part of daily life in this buzzing, energetic city. From the green lungs of the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens to the electrifying nightlife along the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town is one of the most dramatic and exciting urban locations in the world. And in 2014, it was tapped as a World Design Capital, demonstrating its conscientious blend of natural beauty and human creativity.
8. Jaipur, India
A trip to India wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the grandeur of Old City, a near cinematic journey through the colors of the vast City Palace complex, the pink-hued Palace of Winds, and the gigantically geometric sculptural instruments of Jantar Mantar. These were built by King Sawai Jai Singh II in 1734, and today are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Alongside the city’s rich and deep history, you should also stop by the Jewelry District, including its stunning Gem Palace (known to have been frequented by Princess Diana and Elizabeth Taylor both), and pick up a talisman of your own.
7. Kyoto, Japan
A sense of the past permeates this legendary Japanese metropolis. One of the most well-preserved ancient cities in the country, a trip to Kyoto will introduce you to hundreds of years of Japanese history and landscape. From the natural splendor of its Arashiyama District (through which the tranquil Honzu River flows), thick with cherry blossom in March and April, to the 1,000 red torii gates of the recognizable Fushimi Inari Shrine, the beauty in Kyoto is mesmerizing. Travelers will undoubtedly find serenity and beauty at the tiered, red castle of Nijo and the city’s artfully sculpted dry landscape gardens, or karesansui.
6. Halstatt, Austria
The history of Hallstatt, a stupefying settlement located on the slopes of the Hallstatter See and the Dachstein massif, goes back to the prehistoric period, where ancient settlers produced salt on these very same shores. And while it is not technically a ‘city,’ this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the definition of picture-postcard Alpine beauty—where bristling, snow-capped mountains (sharp like knives) overlook a perfectly pristine lake of snow-fed water.
Singapore is a big city. It is also an exceptionally modern city. But its size and its modernity has not seen it sacrifice beauty to development. Unlike so many other mega cities, Singapore has found innovative ways to reject the wholesale creation of emptily banal non-places. Instead, it retains a huge sense of personality, character, and a strong appreciation for the natural world. From the world’s first safari park for nocturnal animals to Jewel Changi (perhaps the most beautiful airport in the world), Singapore is a city where the natural and the modern have found a curious way of getting along together. And it really works.
4. Seville, Spain
Much is spoken about Barcelona and Madrid (and with good reason), but when it comes to glamorous urban beauty, Seville holds the crown. Historically, its message has been: Keep the flame of tradition alive. But traditions can become stultifying. In recent years, however, this placid city has found a way to pair its jumbled, spire-thick skyline and darling courtyards with modern twists on the classics. Elegant, grand hotels—those of the gilded golden age—and moody tabernas hold sway alongside chic cocktail bars and modern music venues. Sun-soaked, small, and steeped in atmosphere, Seville’s Gothic and Renaissance charm has made it one of Spain’s hottest new urban destinations.
3. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Across its pretty alleyways, broadly beautiful canals, and Hanseatic streets, there is ample evidence why Van Gogh found such inspiration from his homeland’s charming capital. This is a world of civility, confidence and culture—from the trendily handsome Nine Streets neighborhood to the artful drama of the Rijksmuseum—where you can have close encounters with the works of Rembrandt and Vermeer. A city made famous (and powerful) by European trade during its 17th century Golden Age, Amsterdam is a true treasure box of gilded canal-side buildings, ornamental facades, and beautifully detailed churches. Its exquisite canal houses and hotels also offer much to those who have a taste for more modern design.
2. Cartagena, Colombia
A compact, bright and charmingly beautiful city, Cartagena—a former Spanish colony adjoining both the Caribbean and Pacific—trades muscular city planning for European details and history. Rambling lemon-yellow houses with Andalusian-style wooden balustrades sit alongside cobbled pavements and vine-thick courtyards. Its vibrancy stems from its people and its emphasis on its littleness; where food stalls and cafes spill into one another, and where exotic fruits and colors charm every plate, item of clothing, and window display. This, ultimately, is a city of boutique beauty.
1. Chefchaouen, Morocco
Soaring high among the rarified peaks of the Atlas Mountains, Chefchaouen is a labyrinthine, historic city whose houses are famously painted in shades of striking blue. Various theories have emerged as to the origins of this tradition, from their religious symbolism to Jewish residents who settled in the city during the 1930s and 40s, to the color’s function as a cooling agent and a natural insect repellent. Regardless, it’s captivating. In contrast to the bustle and energy of Marrakech, this mountainous city offers an opportunity to enjoy a slower and more contemplative way of life— and a notable spot to enjoy some of the most incredible scenery in North Africa.