British painter Francis Bacon said that “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”. The writer Émile Zola added that beauty depended on the state of mind and the moment of life in which it is contemplated. It is somewhat subjective to define which cities are beautiful and which are not. To avoid controversy, most travellers, in addition to their experience, take into account other factors such as the size of the city, its architecture, green areas, the heritage, the historical-artistic set and if they have a rich gastronomy of their own.
Following those criteria, these would be the 10 most beautiful cities in the world for us.
1.- Kyoto, Japan
Time seems to have frozen in Kyoto. This ancient capital of Japan mixes the charm of a classic city, where its inhabitants still wear kimono, with more modern neighbourhoods. It is one of the few Japanese cities that was not bombed during the Second World War, so its architecture and heritage remain virtually intact.
Located on the island of Honshu, Kyoto is considered the cultural and film centre of Japan. Here, we can find more than 1,600 Buddhist temples, 400 Shinto shrines, ancient imperial villas, film studios and more than 200 gardens considered the most beautiful in the country due to the diversity of its flora. His university is also one of the most important in Japan, so the environment is not lacking.
It was one of the cities that suffered the most with the Balkan War, causing it to be heavily bombed. Despite the wounds, this European city has managed to recover the ancient beauty that characterizes it. Considered as “The pearl of the Adriatic”, this old city that stood out for its importance in the arts and sciences lies behind a wall.
Inside it, we find an ocher-coloured city with a special atmosphere, which mixes tradition with art. Its streets were once trodden by knights, fishermen, looters, kings or merchants. Today, many of the houses of the ancient craftsmen have been converted into galleries, workshops or small shops. The beauty of this city has served as inspiration for series such as Game of Thrones, which has used it as a stage during its different seasons. But even without the cinema interfering, this is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
3.-St. Petersburg, Russia
Russia is the home of the so-called Venice of the North due to its canals and more than 300 bridges, pampers the exuberant palaces inherited from the Tsars’ Empire. Architecture makes St. Petersburg one of the most beautiful cities ever. But there is much more to it. This former capital of Russia, whose streets and squares lived some of the most bloody pages of its history, is an open-air museum that is hidden in the winter months by snow. The vivid colours of its cathedrals, palaces and buildings shine on their own.
The Hermitage Museum houses some of the best works of art in the world, as well as offering visitors the chance to visit some of the halls of the Romanov dynasty. The most lively area of the city, where life is anything but static, is Nevsky: the universal communication channel of St. Petersburg that concentrates its most modern premises.
4.-Prague, Czech Republic
This fairytale place is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and not only for its architecture but for its special sensitivity to art. It has produced extraordinary musicians, writers and filmmakers responsible for giving the city that bohemian touch that characterizes it. In this aspect, it has been compared on numerous occasions with Paris.
Its medieval atmosphere is able to transport us to another time. Its old town, the Charles Bridge or its Astronomical Clock, are some of the treasures with which the city delights the growing numbers of travellers who visit it every year.
5.-Cape Town, South Africa
An essential destination on your trip to South Africa, Cape Town is possibly one of the most multicultural cities in Africa. And has best integrated its European heritage with its African character. Its main attraction is the explosion of color of its picturesque houses. Like its surroundings, composed of almost virgin nature. We can find large hills and abundant vegetation, and also crystal clear water beaches with penguin colonies (Simon’s Town), or a seal island (Hout Bay). Very close to the city you can also find some of the best vineyards in the country.
Its history still recalls that Cape Town was the birthplace of many leaders of the anti-apartheid movement. In fact, in this city was where Nelson Mandela recited the speech that marked the beginning of a new era for the country.
It is one of the most photographed cities in Norway and, of course, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Its old quarter, Bryggen, once occupied by the Hanséatica League, is the postcard of colourful houses that we take from the city. It is located between seven hills, some of them known to be the place where their popular trolls live. It is also the gateway to the Norwegian fjords. So it is not surprising that it is one of the essential stops to contemplate this wonder of nature.
The KODE Museum exhibits some of the best works of its most illustrious painter: Edvard Munch. We will find its better taste at the port, where the different street vendors sell some of the gastronomic delights of the country. Salmon and dried cod are their hallmarks.
Halfway between Europe and Asia, Istanbul is an example of coexistence between the ancient traditions with the Western modernity. It was called Byzantium first, and, later, Constantinople. Its history still beats in the oldest part of the city. There we find some of its most significant buildings, such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Cisterna Basilica, the Topkapi Palace or the Grand Bazaar, capable of taking us back in time.
Its most cosmopolitan area is located on the other side of the Bosphorus, where culture and life have been much more westernized. Istanbul has opened itself to the world without losing its Turkish essence. It is also the only city where, just by crossing a bridge, we can change continents.
8.-San Francisco, United States
The city of the slopes is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. Its large garden areas, the parks where you can disconnect from the big city and the beaches that surround its coast make it one of the favourite places for travellers. The Golden Gate is one of the most recognized icons of America. So is Álamo Square, where you can find the popular Painted Ladies.
The international character of the cities gets its proper reflections in its neighbourhoods. All of them multicultural and full of life. It is also a city where entertainment, performing arts, music and its great variety of museums prevail.
The city of the channels is made up of more than 100 small islands joined together by more than 400 bridges. Its main charm lies in the fact that it is a pedestrian city since the only traffic allowed is that of the boats that cross its channels. This is why Venice owns the title of the most romantic and special cities in Europe. Many artists have left their mark on it. A Venetian School of painting actually exists and examples of it can be seen in many museums worldwide.
Its Renaissance architecture is one of its main hallmarks, as is the Plaza de San Marcos. There you will find some of the Italian cafés and restaurants most frequented by tourists. It was also an important nucleus for Italian music. Not only Vivaldi was born here, but it also has one of the most famous Opera Coliseums in the world.
10.-San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Located in the state of Guanajuato, this Mexican city is one of the quietest in the centre of the country. And also one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Its colonial past, visible in many of its buildings, coexists with its Mexican essence. This is evident in the large number of canteens scattered around its streets, markets, gastronomy or in many of its museums. It also played an important role in the Mexican War of Independence, which is why the city is part of Miguel Hidalgo’s route today.
San Miguel de Allende has an intense cultural and artistic life, as well as large green and forested areas in its surroundings. A few minutes from the historic centre is El Charco, a nature reserve that includes a botanical garden and a water system from the colonial era.
Do you want to learn about more beautiful places? Keep reading Exoticca’s blog!