The 30 Best Cities in the World

I generally hate all those lists going around the Internet these days. The 17 best this and the 25 best that; written by someone who hasn’t even been to the places or someone who I would not consider an authority. Since I’ve been to just about every major city in the world, I think I have some idea of what’s good and what’s not and a bit of credibility. So just for fun, I came up with my 30 best cities in the world again!
New York skyline
I preface my 30 best cities in the world with the following 2 rules:
– They have to be major cities i.e. a city like Florence, Italy does not qualify.
– I have to have been to the city at least 3 times.

Shanghai skyline at night
Note – I have been to every city listed here more than 3 times except for Rio de Janeiro and Ho Chi Minh City. I have only been to each 3 times.
Hong Kong Skyline
That stated and without further ado, here are my 30 best cities in the world…what do you think?
Dubai skyline
30. Tokyo, Japan

29. St. Petersburg, Russia

28. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

27. Stockholm, Sweden

26. Miami, USA

25. Montreal, Canada

24. Singapore, Singapore

23. Chicago, USA

22. Vancouver, Canada

21. Los Angeles, USA

20. Dubai, UAE

19. Lisbon, Portugal

18. Mexico City, Mexico

17. Hong Kong, SAR China

16. Buenos Aires, Argentina

15. Prague, Czech Republic

14. Shanghai, China

13. Amsterdam, Holland

12. Berlin, Germany

11. Las Vegas, USA

10. Rome, Italy

9. Melbourne, Australia

8. Cape Town, South Africa

7. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

6. Bangkok, Thailand

5. London, England

4. Barcelona, Spain

3. Paris, France

2. Sydney, Australia

1. New York, USA

Comments

  1. I’ve only been to 21 on your list (I seem to be missing particularly a lot of Canada, oddly enough, as well as Australia, S. Africa, Argentina, UAE, Israel and Japan). I would have put Rome, Shanghai, Istanbul, HK and Chicago higher. I actually probably would have all of those in my top 10. I’d also put Miami and Stockholm higher. And I might put St. Petersburg on the list. And I would have put Barcelona, Bangkok, Vegas, Calgary, and LA much lower or off the list.

  2. Carina, I would have loved to have St. Petersburg on the list but I have only been there once. I almost made an exception for my rule of minimum 3 visits but I didn’t…I have been to Moscow 5-6 times but never even considered adding it to the list.

  3. I question putting Berlin before Rome, actually putting it on the list at all, but the rest of it looks terrific!

    • Berlin is a great town! I debated adding Munich on the list too but Berlin is way better and as for Rome, it’s a great city obviously…after the first 10 or so, the order could go in a lot of different ways!

  4. I ve only been to 17 cities from your list and probably won’t put Bangkok in the list that high or at least exchange it with Hongkong or Singapore 🙂

  5. No way NYC is #1! It totally sucks, Dude! 🙂

  6. R_Sellet says:

    Your list is much closer to reality than some of the others I’ve seen online! I’ve been to 13 of these cities (but 24 countries), and have only seen a few of them 3x or more. In your future travels, some of the 2x visited cities you can make them 3x, and then adjust your Top25 as you see fit. Good stuff, thanks!

  7. R_Sellet says:

    … make that “Top30”.

  8. No Toronto? 🙁

    • Toronto, like San Francisco, I really like and I teetered with but in the end it’s my 4th favorite Canadian city and I couldn’t justify having in on the list…kind of like Perth.

  9. Where’s Pyongyang?

  10. Adolfo says:

    What about Adelaide and Dallas ?

  11. Julie Sykes says:

    It’s incredible that you’ve been to all these at least three times. I’ve got some catching up to do – 13 down, 17 to go, with Istanbul and Buenos Aires high on my wish list. I’d agree with some of your top choices – Paris, Barca, Sydney, New York etc. But I’m surprised no Mexico City?

  12. Tom Frank says:

    A fine list. But Vegas? Is it really a city?

  13. It’s a shame Venice is too small to make this list, as it’s my favorite city in the world after my home town, NYC. I’ve been to 13 of the ones on your list – I still have some traveling to do!

  14. Brendon says:

    Wow, Sydney just after New York! We must have made a pretty good impression on you!

  15. like the list but NYC… really?? whats so great about it??? the traffic, pollution, crowds or god awful winters…give me miami anytime over nyc any day

    • I can’t disagree with any if what you mentioned but even still it’s the best city in the world for me! There’s a reason why we put up with all that crap!

  16. Great list and always fun to debate. Have to argue STRONGLY against Calgary. Lived there. Great location, but very little to recommend in the city. If you get to count going to the Rockies – 60-90 mins from Calgary… Maybe… I guess. But if you can’t count Florence!? How does Calgary make the list?? Simply not in the same class.

    • Calgary was a bit of a wild card but there’s about a million people or so in Calgary. It is a great city with a ton to do and a lot going on both in and close to the city. I have been here a dozen times and always had a great time!

  17. Jonatas from Boston says:

    Las Vegas? Come on Lee, I’ve been to vegas many times, love it, but it’s like going to disneyworld, I don’t even consider it a city, more like a giant resort.

    I’m thrilled that my birth city of RIO made it to the top 10, hopefully as they continue to improve the infrastructure and security it might one day crack your top 5!

    P.s. Yankees suck! (it would be unbecoming of me to break tradition)

    • Vegas is a great town if you accept it for what it is and just enjoy. Also it has a ton off the strip as I tell everyone. I barely even go to the hotels when I’m there and they also have the best restaurants in the US.

      Rio is a great town and yes they need some work for sure but re natural beauty of that city is infectious.

  18. I’d only have 3 of these on my top 30 list but that’s the joy of travel – we’re all different! (Hong Kong, London, Amsterdam). I’d definitely have to have Belfast, Montevideo, Harar, Chongqing, Kerman and Yerevan in there. I can’t believe how much you have travelled – 3 times to each – that’s some effort! Safe travels. Jonny

    • Thanks man! Ya those are all great towns as well and yes everyone’s list is different. I really live both Belfast and Yerevan but I have only been to Belfast twice and Yerevan once so they wouldn’t make the list by my definition anyway…plus not exactly major cities. I do love your choices and style though!

  19. Gareth says:

    Great list Lee, but I’m not quite sure how you have come to define your idea of a ‘major’ city? Florence and Venice for examples are major cities in Italy and two of Europe’s most defining cities, famous throughout the world! From what I gauge, population is a criteria you look at, but if we are going on that then Vancouver is only the 8th biggest in the whole of Canada! In comparison, Florence measures the same in Italy.

    • I don’t think Vancouver is the 8th largest city in Canada…how do you figure that?

      • Peter Han says:

        Vancouver is the 8th largest city by population in Canada, if you are only taking into account the legal City of Vancouver, however, that is silly, as the metro area of Vancouver, Vancouver by proxy, is 2.5+ million. Whereas the City of Florence is about 380,000, the metro is only 1.2 million.

  20. That’s only because you haven’t been to Baghdad 3 times!

  21. swati singh says:

    Not a single city from#India made the cut! Guess you’re going to have to make a Travelfinesse journey here before you update the list next!

  22. I’ve been to 16 of these. Was going to ask about why no St Petersburg, Russia but saw your response on that above. Agree about leaving out Moscow – not a fan of it at all. I kind of question your definition of a “major” city, i.e. leaving out Florence – I would consider Florence a major city and it is certainly one of the top cities people visit in Italy after Rome.

    Of course, I would rank Chicago higher. 🙂 I’d also move up Istanbul and Rome and add in Budapest, Kiev, Tbilisi and Yerevan (although I know they don’t meet your criteria).

  23. I agree with New York as #1, but I’m puzzled why San Francisco isn’t on the list unless you haven’t been there more than 3X. Miami & Los Angeles?? Really?

  24. Jonathan says:

    No NZ cities? Auckland should qualify as major – does it miss out because you haven’t been 3 times or you prefer these other cities? Wellington is better of course, but not “major” 🙂

    • I was back and forth on Auckland. I have been 5-6 times to Auckland and do consider it a major city. I just didn’t think I could out it ahead of the others…I do love that town though.

  25. Good list but I was hoping you’d include reasons for why you thought they were the best.

  26. Rui Guerra says:

    Hello

    Amazing your trips around the world. I am a traveller too, but to far away from you, of course I just visited 64 countries, and 24 of your best cities. But i am always sherching from new places to visit, the best restaurants, the best beaches etc etc.
    How about this lists.?The most dangerous cities (not in war) that you have been. ( cities where you felt less safe). The most beautiful beaches. And finaly, the most beautiful views. ( Landscapes)
    Rui Guerra – Portugal – Oporto

  27. I don’t know about TOP30, but my TOP3 is as follows:

    3) Hong Kong
    2) Taipei
    1) Seoul

  28. Phil Smart says:

    Great list! I’ve been to 20 of your cities. San Francisco is one of my favorites as is Guadalajara. Were the Swiss and Austrian cities too small or they just didn’t rank in your mind? I might also include an Indian city – not because they are that nice, but because they are so fascinating.

  29. As a Stockholmer born and raised I’m happy it’s the sole representative of Scandinavia on your list, although Copenhagen is fantastic too. I’ve been to 17 of these cities but 61 countries last I counted – am much of a nature guy rather than city-goer 🙂 Would be neat if you’d make a list of your top 25/30 spots of natural beauty/natural landscapes. Would be fun to compare, given your wide travelling 🙂
    Cheers

  30. I’ve been to 25 of your 30. Love them all…but you’re missing San Francisco!

  31. Shocking that Copenhagen isn’t even in the list, far better than most of the cities that made it to the list.

  32. How can Calgary, Miami and Las Vegas are major cities and Florence no?

  33. Lee,

    As a well travelled Indian, I am proud of the fact that I have been to many of the cities on your list (which I think is quite a good representation along the commonly held parameters that define “good cities”), but I am also somewhat sad (yet not surprised) that no Indian city made the cut…hopefully, we will be able to leave a better impression on you the next time you come so that at least 1 or more of our cities feature on your future list.

  34. As a former New Orleans native who has also lived in D.C. & is currently living in Chicago, I’m surprised NOLA didn’t make the list. But then again, it may not fall under the “major city” category that you described. That being said, I look forward to your “30 Best Mid-Sized Cities” list! 🙂

  35. Csellina says:

    You should come back to visit Budapest 1-2 times. 😉

  36. Lisbon should have been on this list! It´s one of the most beautiful cities of the World

  37. As an Aussie or former Melbournian I could have to rate Melbourne higher than Sydney! I really don’t understand the fuss about New York… I’ll have to go back there for longer next time (I was only there three days) and give it another chance.

    • Annette Liney says:

      Ahh the great Sydney v Melbourne debate! As a Sydney resident I will add my biased opinion. Sorry Michelle, Melbourne is a great city and I enjoy visiting there, but the beauty of Sydney Harbour is outstanding and even though I have lived here all my life, it never fails to amaze me! Aesthetically speaking, Melbourne does not compare! And it seems that Lee agrees with me.

  38. Been to at least 13 some for a while, some for half a day. St. Petersburg is nice too but only been for half a day but it’s so beautiful and has white nights in summer. Im from Moscow originally so I wonder why you didn’t add it :/, but I do have to say that St. Pet was a looot more tourist friendly then Moscow, even as a native Russian. Also Panama City, Panama is one of my favs that you should add to the list and San Francisco ahead of Vegas cuz other then the strip in Vegas it gets pretty boring and SFs really beautiful (as a past local of both SF and Vegas) 🙂 Thanks for the list though love all your blogs!

  39. Jesus Sanchez says:

    I am really impressed about Stockholm…I haven`t travelled so much as you and I don´t even consider it as one of my favorites places. I´m even thinking I forgot to visit some part of the city…Why do you rank it so high? sock me that you prefer it rather than Copenhagen, for example.

  40. Tokyo needs to be higher. It is quite possibly the greatest food city in the world. How did Shanghai and Amsterdam make this list? Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles are better than San Francisco?! Noooo wayyyy

  41. Finding Far Away says:

    This is a great subjective list. Loving the fact that an Aussie destination is second but would have to agree with Michelle, Melbourne is much more livable 🙂 San Francisco would definitely be on my top 30 too Bonnie!

  42. U never been to Malaysia? Kuala Lumpur or Penang? Or to the Malaysian side of the Borneo?

    U’ll be amazed…

  43. Taipei really needs to be somewhere in the mix — have you been? The street markets, the KTV emporiums, the food, the temples, the spas, the hot springs, the food, the food, the food. Oh, and of course the people. It’s definitely one of the greatest cities in the world.

  44. richard barnak says:

    I’AM from chicago and i would of ranked it maybe #20 i think paris is the best city or most beautiful in europe i especially liked the latin quaters,metro subway. i liked munich or muchen better then berlin. you don’t have sao paulo on the list now come on. the food,nightlife,70 museums and the worst traffic in the world. oh forgot the many many cultures that live there like 500k japanese 6 million italian more then rome.no boues aries. miami u can have. i agree n.y. is up there. rome is good i didn’t like london that much. i say rio and paris my first 2 picks. how about vienna or saltzberg. i know each to there own’t some like chevy and some like ford. now between europe and usa as far as beauty the usa. now u would think more people visit usa then any other country but france is #1 then usa. i have been to 14 of your 30 oh amsterdam is good so is vancouver. how about bern the capital of switzerland.

  45. I’ve only been to 13 of those, 8 more than 3 times, by far NYC is #1 and the rest I’ve been to seem right to me but two of my 3 plus Calgary and Vancouver on the list?! Say it ain’t so Lee! that’s almost sad to hear. You’ve been everywhere surely there’s better places. San Fran for sure off the top of my head! No?

  46. I like the list. Personally, I would remove Calgary and Vegas though and I would add Dublin in a heartbeat.

  47. Montreal not on this list? Really? You are better that this!

  48. No Dublin? No Vienna?

  49. john_boy says:

    I’ve been to about 9 on your list … for some reason I didn’t care for Rome, like pretty much everyone does.

    I traveled there alone for about 4 days — but it seemed awfully touristy for me. I know, that’s all these cities … but a bit overpriced, pre-packaged … eh. How many marble statues can you see after a while?

    I have a feeling authentic Italian food, at much better prices, can be found outside the city center of Rome. But maybe that’s just me.

    I’ve definitely had much wilder trips in other parts of the world. Speaking of which, Rome’s “nightlife” is a bit lacking for the swinging bachelor …. there’s “America Town” in the tourist district, filled with drunk college kids, and the “actual scene” which is 20 minutes taxi from the city center (transit shuts down at midnight).

  50. Raimon Duran says:

    Surprised to see Tokyo only 30th … I’ve been in 50% of these cities myself and I rate Tokyo around 4th-5th … at least.

  51. Vienna: For the 6th time in a row, the world’s Most Livable City
    @ mercer.com

  52. Hussein Raiani says:

    Glad my favorites made your list
    New York
    Istanbul
    Vancouver
    Roma
    Take care & buona Fortuna

  53. David Kyle says:

    The fact that you have been to San Francisco many times and don’t have it highly ranked is the most shocking on the list for me. Does it not offer everything NYC has plus better weather??

  54. Hi Lee!

    Glad to see Calgary made it to the list. May I ask what you liked most about the city?

    Happy travels!

  55. Good list and I’ve been to 23 of the cities listed here! To me I think the biggest city missing is Athens (and I know some people don’t like it, but I know many travelers who love it). Great food, great nightlife, phenomenal history, some of the most famous ancient sites in the world and some great beaches that you can catch a tram to from the city center. It’s the best bang for buck major city in Europe – it has everything!

    Cheers and I enjoyed your talk at the 2016 NY Times Travel Show btw. Great stories and advice. Congrats on your accomplishment!

  56. I have been to ten of these and will visit a couple more this year. One glaring city missing – Boston! I am going to show you my town and make you fall in love with it, even if you don’t like our sports teams!
    Cheers, Priscilla

  57. beijing should be 2nd

  58. If you had choosed bangkok at number 7 then I think you should also choose Mumbai. Because Mumbai is better than Bangkok

  59. I mean maybe not in the top 10 … But Bridgeport, CT should be in the Top 30 at least!

  60. Any list that includes Dubai but skips Lisbon gives me pause.

  61. Charles Westrup says:

    I’ve been to 27 of the cities. If airports count I’ve been to 29 after changing planes in Sydney and flying out of Tel Aviv. My only complete miss is Berlin. I’d have liked to see Delhi, Chang Mai, Kathmandu, Hanoi, New Orleans, Boston, etc. on the list. Otherwise, a good listing.

  62. I don’t understand why you decided to exclude “smaller” cities such as Florence and Venice. It seems a terrible injustice to replace such magical incredible places with a bunch of Big Smoke cities, overpopulated, over commodified, and over polluted =(

  63. I’ve only been to 13 of these but of these, but of those they are largely overrated on this list, especially Las Vegas (not on my list), NYC (top 15 maybe) and London (top 20?). Makes me want to travel less, actually. Istanbul is quite underrated and I would have found room for NOLA, Budapest, Munich, Toronto and perhaps San Francisco would have displaced L.A. Berlin would easily make my top ten. And if we counted smaller cities there are any number that could make the list.

    Calgary is the only genuine surprise here to me but I’ve never been there so I can’t knock it.

  64. Nadine Coquelin says:

    I have been to 29 of your favourite 30 Cities (I have not been to Rio) . Vienna (Austria) and Capetown (RSA) make my list!

  65. Jonatas from Boston says:

    Awesome! Rio moved up a spot!

  66. HK is number one on my list.
    I have been to most of them. Some twice some once. Here is what makes a city better for me. Always show up with a town car waiting for you. Then a nice 5 star hotel to get the jet lag off your back. Little by little stick your nose into the craziness. Then after a few days rent a private room city center and spend a month there. If not that a cheap hotel off season for a month.
    After a month anywhere you get to really know the city.
    I guess the hotels would be a anouther list. Manybe the food the women unless you are a woman then the men.
    For the most part Americans don’t make good travelers they always look at thinks and compare it to the states. I have done that before myself. After a month anywhere you get it.
    New Orleans is to small for your list but it has what I need ATM. I am from the Napa Valley.

  67. I love your top 10 but I’d switch New York for Cape Town and since I’ve not been to Rio I’d put Hanoi on it’s place.

  68. What about Athens ?

  69. i want to go to Paris with my love because it is my most favorite destination.
    Thank you Lee Abbamonte for sharing this wonderful list…

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