Head to head: The world's best cities
Whether you're enjoying local delicacies in Bangkok or dancing with the locals in Cuzco, the world is full of compelling and captivating cities. We asked our specialists what they think is the best city in the world, and they've gone head to head to defend their favorites. From Japan to Australia, find out what makes our specialists top picks worth a visit.
Kyoto tower in Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto vs. Tokyo
Kyoto, Japan by Elizabeth
Having been the capital of Japan for about 100 years, Kyoto still holds its place as the cultural center of the country. Many people say their favorite city has everything, but in Kyoto this statement actually holds true. There are thousands of years of history, incredible architecture, beautiful shrines and gardens full of tranquility and people who genuinely care about each other.
The people all across Japan are friendly, helpful and endlessly polite, and you can definitely see and feel that in Kyoto. For a feel of the unique culture, the geisha district is definitely worth a visit, and staying in a traditional ryokan is another fantastic way to soak in the culture. Cherry blossom season is seen at its best in Kyoto at the end of March and in April.
Tokyo, Japan by Allison
The first thing I always notice about Tokyo is that it’s the cleanest city I’ve ever visited in the world. This is especially remarkable considering how densely populated it is. In addition, it has a city culture like none other in the world.
The public transport in Tokyo is extremely efficient, with trains arriving at the exact minute predicted every day.
For those looking to explore the cuisine of the city, Tokyo is home to the most Michelin rated restaurants in the world. There is never a shortage of things to do either, from anime museums and world class shopping to eclectic dinner performances.
Tokyo is also home to a plethora of themed cafes for every interest, like the popular cat cafes where visitors can dine while being surrounded by cats and anime themed cafes for lovers of all things anime.
The skyline of Tokyo at night
Cartagena vs. Cuzco
Cartagena, Colombia by Kate
Recently named a top "destination on the rise," Cartagena is a fantastic city of romance, cobbled streets and beautiful architecture. The city is a well deserved cultural heritage site, home to streets that inspired Colombia's most famous writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez and packed full of history. Explore castles and forts from the Spanish Inquisition, swim in a mud volcano or simply relax in the Caribbean Sea. The positive attitude of the locals is addictive, and you'll find people salsa dancing in the streets from the early afternoon to the early hours of the morning. It's a beautiful city with so much to offer and sums up the variety and spirit of Colombia perfectly.
The brightly painted architecture of Cartagena’s streets
Cuzco, Peru by Kathryn
In my opinion, Cuzco is the best city in Peru, offering everything from sumptuous food and a vibrant culture to incredibly friendly people and stunning landscapes. Your taste buds explode with every new meal you try, whether it's the fresh fruit markets, the homemade ceviche, or the way they incorporate 3,500 different types of potatoes (no exaggeration!) into their dishes.
The people of Cuzco are eager to chat and get to know you, and truly want to help you make the most of your visit to their city. Everywhere you turn you'll find a representation of the powerful and vibrant Peruvian culture. The store fronts are patterned in bright textiles, the ancient Inca architecture peeks out of the base of modern buildings, and you'll find traditional music playing on every street corner. Every step you take in this city is a complete cultural immersion and the energy is truly contagious.
Lastly, located as it is in the Peruvian Andes, Cuzco offers a panoramic view of stunning scenery. It is the gateway to the Inca Trail, the Sacred Valley and the Lost City of the Incas. With such a melting pot of cultures passing through it, Cuzco offers history and the opportunity to discover some of the most beautiful and famous landmarks of the country.
Historic buildings and sweeping landscapes in Cuzco
Sydney vs. Melbourne
Sydney, Australia by Hannah
This cosmopolitan city has been voted the world’s friendliest city for tourists, and for good reason. From the iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House to the spectacular swimming at beautiful Bondi Beach, Sydney is never short on activities. You could spend a month in the city and do something completely different every day. There are superb restaurants, amazing nightlife and a bustling cultural scene packed with festivals, shows and events. The city also offers hundreds of outdoor activities including surfing, swimming, kayaking, bungee jumping and coastal walks. Sydney’s inhabitants understandably love their home – it’s been voted the most livable city in Australia and the 10th most livable city in the world.
Melbourne, Australia by Jess
The combination of old and new architecture alone makes Melbourne an amazing place. The entire city oozes elegance, from the public parks to the art found at the many museums. No two restaurants are the same, but no matter where you eat you’ll enjoy the best food in the country. The museums will attract every interest, whether you’re taking in contemporary art at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art or enjoying interactive displays and the evolution of media at the Australian Center For Moving Image.
There is always something going on in the city, and for those looking away to get away from the buzz of the crowds, there is ample opportunity to explore the outdoors here. Sydney may be home to the famed Opera House, but Melbourne is a gateway to one of the most incredible journeys in the world – the Great Ocean Road. This driving route travels along breathtaking winding roads that hug the rugged coastline leading to the famous Twelve Apostles limestone formations. Whether you navigate the road yourself or go with a guide, The Great Ocean Road will prove to be more spectacular than any photograph could capture.
The Great Ocean Road
View of the Melbourne skyline
Mexico City vs. Buenos Aires
Mexico City, Mexico by Victoria
Mexico's densely populated capital Mexico City offers a wealth of world class museums, colonial architecture, ancient ruins, an exploding culinary scene, a fascinating art scene and incredible music and nightlife. Mexico City is not only home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites; it also has three of the top 50 restaurants in the world according to numerous critics. The capital also has more museums than any other city in the world, with 141 in the city itself. Affordability of the city puts it ahead of many other major cities around the world, especially when combined with the lively atmosphere and beautiful weather.
Buenos Aires, Argentina by Patrick
Often referred to as the Paris of South America, Buenos Aires is one of the most cosmopolitan and unique cities in the world. A hybrid of New York City, Paris and Rome, it has a unique Latin flare and European influenced architecture. This capital of Argentina is home to wide boulevards with an abundance of green space, spectacular street art and bustling artesian markets. You'll often see the friendly and passionate people dancing tango on in the streets, and the museums are some of the best in the world.
The ecological reserve is a must visit for any bird lover, and the city also offers some great bird watching. For those interested in nightlife, there is plenty going on from dusk till dawn as well as world class restaurants. If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, a short thirty minute drive takes you to the delta where you can kayak or row. You can also connect from Buenos Aires to one of the most unspoiled places on earth – Patagonia.
Mexico City, Mexico
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Hong Kong vs. Bangkok
Bangkok, Thailand by Lauren
As the only regional capital that hasn't been colonized, Bangkok has a feel to it that is all its own. The fast moving culture is a great example of Southeast Asia's incredible development in the last twenty years following the Asian Financial Crisis of the late nineties. While Bangkok is a city that's growing and changing, it still maintains its Thai identity, which is evident in the frequent sightings of monks walking down the streets in their saffron robes. Scattered throughout the city are amazing temples, as well as Thai culture museums and modern art museums. You'll find high end ultra-modern shopping malls, small local markets and of course the famous floating markets.
Bangkok boasts amazing food, whether you're at a restaurant or buying noodle soup for one dollar from a street stall. The city's elevated rail system combined with the water taxis on the Chao Phraya river allow you to bypass Bangkok's notorious traffic. Life along the river is fascinating and completely accessible by longtail boat or water taxi and the views from the many riverside hotels are absolutely beautiful.
Bangkok is also a great jumping off point for further exploration of Thailand. It's an easy train ride or drive to Kanchanaburi, where you can hike at the national park and see the Erawan Falls after a stop at the Bridge on the River Kwai. The ancient capital of Ayuthaya is also an easy day trip. Bangkok is a hub that allows you access to the rest of Southeast Asia, no matter where you may desire to go next.
Longtail boat in Bangkok
Hong Kong, China by Jack
As Asia's commercial and cultural hub, Hong Kong is one of the most spectacular and thrilling cities in the world. Home to numerous skyscrapers surrounding Victoria Harbour creating its iconic skyline, the city is visually unique and vibrant both day and night. Hong Kong is renowned around the world for its cuisine, and with influences from both the East and West, there are options for every palette.
Aside from the world class dining and entertainment, you'll find a plethora of museums, unrivaled shopping, and plenty of options for island and boat day trips. Perhaps lesser known but equally worth visiting are the national parks in Hong Kong, perfect for hiking. It's also quite easy to take a day trip from Hong Kong to neighboring Macau or mainland China.
London vs. Paris
London, UK by Andea
‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’ So said Samuel Johnson in 1777 and I can’t help but agree, more than two centuries later. I could spend a lifetime exploring this ancient and dynamic city and never get bored.
London contains multitudes, mixing disparate elements with careless abandon. Sleek-suited financiers cut deals in glittering glass skyscrapers before ducking down a stone-lined alley for a pint at a Victorian-era pub. Actors and playwrights still come to the city of Shakespeare’s Globe to make their names. Museums pack the city’s streets, alongside fish-and-chip shops and Michelin-starred restaurants. Saint Bride’s Church, dating back to the 6th century, still stands not far from the sleek steel Millennium Bridge.
Driving in the sprawling metropolis is notoriously difficult, but the excellent public transport system and pedestrian-friendly streets make London a great walking city. It’s also a major air hub: you can catch a flight to almost anywhere in the world from here.
Eiffel Tower, Paris
Paris, France by Jesse
Even if you have never been to Paris, many of the city’s elements are instantly familiar: the elegant spire of the Eiffel Tower, the buttery scent of a croissant, the ineffable gaze of The Mona Lisa.
That’s because Paris has been the byword of continental sophistication for centuries. The city hosts some of the world’s most important museums, from the stone halls of the Louvre to the airy galleries of the Musée d’Orsay. Its wide, tree-lined boulevards and narrow backstreets are home to dozens of Michelin-starred restaurants, temples of gastronomy that bring visitors from around the world. And, of course, the city’s monuments include not only the Eiffel Tower but also the Arc de Triomphe, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and the looming Gothic towers of Notre-Dame.
But there’s more to the city than the well-known sights. I love to sit at a round-topped table on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, sipping a café au lait and watching people stroll by.