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Five of seven continents are represented on this year’s list of best cities in the world, according to T+L readers. And the rankings prove that, this past year, our resilient readers got back to Asia and Africa, and traveled to cities well worth the long-haul flight, like Marrakesh (No. 14) and Singapore (No. 18). Based on reader comments, it seems the travelers who voted in this year’s World’s Best Awards survey were most interested in welcoming locals, great food, safety, reasonable prices, and aesthetics (be it picturesque nature or Renaissance architecture).
How Voting Works
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Nearly 165,000 T+L readers completed the 2023 survey, an increase of nearly 25 percent over pre-pandemic voting levels. A total of more than 685,000 votes were cast across over 8,500 unique properties (hotels, cities, cruise lines, etc.).
Cities were specifically rated on the criteria below:
For each characteristic, respondents could choose a rating of excellent, above average, average, below average, or poor. The final scores are averages of these responses.
What Readers Loved
It looks, from this list, like Mexico is T+L readers’ favorite country in the world. No fewer than five Mexican cities ranked as the best in the world this year. Japan had three winners, and Thailand, Italy, and Portugal each had two. There was some movement in the top five, compared to last year’s rankings, with two European cities slipping to make room for No. 2 Udaipur, India, and No. 3 Kyoto, Japan. It’s typical to see at least one European city in the top five — often Istanbul (No. 8 this year, also winning the title of best city in Europe) or Florence, Italy (No. 12). Those spots, this year, went to Asian cities instead, indicative of the shift back to travel to Japan (Tokyo came in at No. 7, four spots behind Kyoto) and India (which also had Mumbai at No. 10, trailing Udaipur by eight).
Read on to learn how Oaxaca, Mexico, claimed the coveted top spot for the second year in a row, and why travelers chose these 25 cities as the best in the world.
The Full List
1. Oaxaca, Mexico
For the second year in a row, Oaxaca took the No. 1 spot on our best cities around the world list. The mole and mezcal capital has long been a favorite among T+L readers, but must-visit restaurants and cocktail bars (Selva, Sabina Sabe, to name a few), plus new-and-improved hotel talent, like the stunning, six-room Casa Silencio, really gave the city the edge it needed to return to the top of the podium. As one reader said, Oaxaca is “hands down one of the coolest cities in the whole world.” The coolest, you might say.
Reader Score: 93.53
Hands down one of the coolest cities in the whole world.
— T+L Reader
2. Udaipur, India
Udaipur is vying for that top spot. It was at No. 2 in 2021, before slipping into 10th place last year. Now? It’s two-tenths of a vote from perfection. As international travelers return to India — and finally see the long-awaited Raffles Udaipur, which opened during the pandemic — it’s no surprise that Udaipur is once again climbing the ranks. One reader sums up Udaipur’s appeal — in all caps, no less, saying, “VERY VERY BEAUTIFUL CITY.”
Reader Score: 93.33
3. Kyoto, Japan
In Tokyo, attractions are sprawled out in the open, for tourists to find easily. In Kyoto, those attractions are hidden in plain sight. It is a city of remarkable shops and restaurants and tucked into narrow, enticing alleyways. You have to look closely, but you’ll be rewarded with, as one reader said, “the best food in the world.” Another Kyoto stan noted the city’s “incredible sights and cultural landmarks with so much history that is so different from the cultures of Europe and the U.S.” That same traveler continued, “One small example was sitting around with locals soaking our bare feet together in a giant, very hot foot bath one evening at a spa situated on a train platform.”
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader Score: 92.06
4. Ubud, Indonesia
A fixture in the top five at this point, Ubud is an inland Balinese city surrounded by jungle. One reader described their vacation highlights: “swinging over rice terraces, riding elephants, chasing waterfalls, taking pictures with monkeys, shopping at both market stalls and high-end stores, beautiful restaurants (Cafe Lotus at night is special), cheap massages, and hotels with stunning scenery.” Sounds like a perfect itinerary.
Reader Score: 91.73
5. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Last year’s runner-up and 2021’s winner, San Miguel de Allende is a longtime favorite among T+L readers. This “visually stunning” city, per one reader, is brimming with “art galleries and boutique shops,” another fan said. And as one T+L reader observed, “[It’s a] magical city that feels more like Spain than Mexico.”
Reader Score: 91.19
6. Mexico City, Mexico
The capital of Mexico, and its largest city, was founded by Aztec Indigenous communities and is a regular in this category’s top 10. Every year brings more exciting hotel openings (this year it’s the beautifully designed Soho House Mexico City, opening in the fall), restaurant debuts, and perhaps most importantly, food tours of the city’s best tacos.
Reader Score: 90.55
7. Tokyo, Japan
It’s not in Tokyo’s nature to sit blithely by as Kyoto places in the top five. Japan’s energetic capital, with Michelin-starred ramen joints, phenomenal new hotels (see: Bulgari Tokyo and the forthcoming Edition in Ginza), and a never-ending list of neighborhoods to explore, draws travelers in just like Cyndi Lauper, time after time.
Reader Score: 90.30
8. Istanbul, Turkey
Also named the best city in Europe this year, Turkey’s culture and style capital celebrates “the intermingling of cultures and religion and people,” one reader said. “The rest of the world should take this city as an example.” They continued, “the food is exceptional, and people are ridiculously welcoming to tourists.”
Reader Score: 90.23
9. Bangkok, Thailand
It’s rare that Thailand’s bustling capital would rank higher than Chiang Mai. Case in point: last year, Bangkok came in at No. 24, while Chiang Mai landed at No. 7. Climbing 14 spots as travelers flock back to Asia, Bangkok has new hotels (see The Standard, Bangkok Mahanakhon) and an absolutely delectable display of Michelin-starred restaurants to thank for its rising stock.
Reader Score: 89.99
10. Mumbai, India
Our readers love to look beneath the surface of Mumbai — venturing past classic tourist haunts, like Leopold Cafe, and sites like the Gateway of India arch to the “art galleries and the fish market in the Colaba area,” as one T+L reader detailed.
Reader Score: 89.79
11. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Despite slipping slightly in rank this year — after making the top 10 in 2021 and 2022 — Chiang Mai remains many T+L readers’ “favorite city in Thailand,” as one said.
Reader Score: 89.49
12. Florence, Italy
Come for the mesmerizing Botticellis hanging in the Uffizi Gallery and the detailed look at the Medici family tree, stay for the alfresco sculptures in lesser-known piazzas. “Every time we come here, we fall a little more in love with this place and its amazing antiquities,” one fan gushed.
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader Score: 89.48
13. Luang Prabang, Laos
After not making the list last year, the Laotian city returns at No. 13 for 2023. In the mountains of north Laos, Luang Prabang is scenically sandwiched between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers.
Reader Score: 89.44
14. Marrakesh, Morocco
Marrakesh was the only African city to rank this year, exciting T+L readers with its restaurants and hotels tucked into the bustling Medina and iconic sites like the Majorelle Gardens and Bahia Palace.
Reader Score: 89.24
15. Rome, Italy
The 2,500-year-old city, which is older than Italy itself, is getting a lot of attention this year. An influx of new luxury hotels — an Edition, a Bulgari, and a Six Senses — might even push Italy’s capital city into the top 10 next year. Time will tell.
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader Score: 88.91
16. Mérida, Mexico
“Mérida is an undiscovered gem in Mexico,” one T+L reader said. “The food was excellent and inexpensive.” In addition to praising the food (Mérida is known, especially among Mexicans, as a foodie town), travelers remarked on how safe the city is, with multiple readers calling it a “very safe city.”
Reader Score: 88.81
17. Siem Reap, Cambodia
Cambodia reopened to American travelers in November 2021, and since then, international travelers have been wading back into the wonders of Siem Reap. One reader, who visited right as the country reopened, said, “Our hotel in Siem Reap did not have the restaurant back yet, but we found ‘Brown,’ a coffee shop. The second day we went, we were recognized, and by the third day, he knew our orders. At our hotel, the person at the desk would walk us out to our vehicles to say goodbye and greet us at the end of the day upon our return. I felt like royalty here.”
Reader Score: 88.80
The land of hawker centers, the Marina Bay Sands infinity pool, the merlion, and the legendary Singapore sling came in at No. 18 this year, after not placing on the world’s best cities list for the past two years. The Lion City reopened in 2021 and continues to become less of a stopover and more of a final destination. (Though, with Changi Airport taking the No. 1 spot for world’s best airport, it’s not hard to see why a Singapore stopover is so appealing.)
Reader Score: 88.78
19. Charleston, United States
Charleston, South Carolina, was named the best city in the U.S., by T+L readers, for the 11th year in a row. Travelers can’t get enough of this coastal Southern city’s pastel-colored row homes, lowcountry cooking, and phenomenal hospitality.
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Reader Score: 88.63
20. Lisbon, Portugal
A treasure trove of mosaic tile, coastal scenery, and really, really good tinned fish, Lisboa is back on the world’s best cities list for the first time since 2020.
Reader Score: 88.62
21. Santa Fe, United States
Santa Fe is one of just two American hubs to make the 2023 list. Though it hasn’t ranked among the best cities in the world since 2019, its vibrant art scene, Pueblo-style architecture, spa-forward hotels, and one-of-a-kind cuisine, blending Hispanic and Native American influence, drew T+L readers back this year.
Reader Score: 88.47
22. Hobart, Australia
The capital of Tasmania is a newcomer to this list — it hasn’t placed in at least the last five years. But it’s certainly a welcome addition to our readers’ selection of their favorite cities in the world, as a fantastic city destination on an island off Australia, a counterpart to Auckland, if you will.
Reader Score: 88.44
23. Guadalajara, Mexico
The largest city in the Mexican state of Jalisco, Guadalajara pulls T+L readers in with incredible street food, including torta ahogada (a sauce-drenched sandwich) and tacos brimming with birria.
Reader Score: 88.13
24. Porto, Portugal
The gateway to Portuguese wine country, Porto is praised by T+L readers for “not [being] overrun with American tourists” and, of course, for its grilled sardines. “So colorful, so friendly, and most everything you want to see is within walking distance if you are staying in town,” one reader summarized.
Reader Score: 88.09
25. Osaka, Japan
Last but certainly not least, Osaka is the third Japanese city on the list this year. Located south of No. 3 Kyoto, readers were drawn to Osaka for the excellent public transportation and the wonderfully welcoming (and primarily non-English-speaking) people. Of the people they encountered in Osaka, one reader said, “We have a lot to learn from them.”
Reader Score: 88.05