The 500 Most Beautiful Cities in the World: #455–441
First published: Sunday September 12th, 2021
The 500 Most Beautiful Cities in the World 🌎
Quick reminder to please read the blurb for criteria and other important info! See the previous blogs for #500-456!
Ready to move on? Let’s do it!
#455 – Honolulu, Hawaii, United States 🇺🇸
The capital of Hawaii and the most well-known American city in the Pacific, Honolulu is brimming with everything both fun and exciting. From hiking to Waimea Waterfall to climbing the infamous dormant volcano Diamond Head to relaxing on the famed Waikiki Beach, Honolulu has much to offer to anyone who wants a taste of paradise dashed with a bit of adventure. Meaning “calm port” in the Hawaiian tongue, the city is the gateway to Hawaii’s other amazing islands and is a hub for Polynesian nightlife, shopping, and culture, with places such as the renowned Waikiki Neighborhood being an excellent place to spend a day or the night. Much of Honolulu’s paradise can be summed up in Hanauma Bay, an incredible, picturesque nature preserve with a ringing white-sand beach and turtles. The city’s cultural centers can be found at Iolani Palace, the old home of Hawaii’s last monarchs and the Bishop Museum, featuring Polynesian culture and natural history, is a great place to take the kids. The city is also famous for being the site of the Pearl Harbor attack during World War II, with the Pearl Harbor National Memorial and the iconic USS Arizona docked as a memorial dedicated to those who gave their lives. And the sunsets. Oh my God.
WHAT I LIKE THE MOST: THE SUNSETS 🌅
#454 – Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 🇦🇺
Population: 2.28 million
One of the oldest cities in Australia, Brisbane is a delightful Australian city that deserves a visit. The capital of Queensland and the largest city on the Brisbane River, Brisbane is famed for its South Bank cultural precinct, featuring spots such as the Sciencentre, containing interactive exhibits, the Queensland Museum, and the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, one of the nation’s premiere art museums. Brisbane is Australia’s most sustainable city as well, with most notably the fabulous City Botanic Gardens situated beneath the gorgeous Mount Coot-tha featuring lush rainforest glades, lily ponds, and bamboo groves being the perfect scenic place to have a picnic. The city is also home to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, a naturally landscaped sanctuary for the endangered Australian natives, and Sea World, a water-themed amusement park. Also a focal point of Brisbane is the Story Bridge, an iconic landmark and the best place for city scenery; plus, it’s the best viewing point for the Riverfire festival, so why miss it? Brisbane has so much to delight with and I would encourage you to visit.
WHAT I LIKE THE MOST: THE RIVERFIRE FESTIVAL 🎆
#453 – Florence, Italy 🇮🇹
Are you ready for some incredible art? Because if you are, Florence is the place for you. The capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, Florence has long been known for its Renaissance masterpieces, specifically the Duomo, a Brunelleschi and Giotto creation, Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of David, and Botticelli’s painting “The Birth of Venus.” Besides the gorgeous artworks strewn throughout the walkable city, the architecture is another flavor of Florence to marvel at. Impressive and beautiful buildings such as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Pitti Palace and stunning bridges such as the Ponte Vecchio, famed for its numerous jewelry shops, lend gravitas and splendor to the medieval city and make it a very compatible city for travelers. Speaking of compatible, every traveler’s got to eat, and where better than to find authentic Italian cuisine than in Florence? The city’s many plazas and winding streets are lined with excellent dining options, each of which ready to serve you only the finest of Italian wines, pasta, and pizza (personally, I recommend Pizzeria Stuzzicheria de Neri). The once Roman city of Florence is a treasure trove of masterpieces from another age just begging to be discovered by you, so why not answer its call?
WHAT I LIKE THE MOST: MICHELANGELO’S SCULPTURE OF DAVID 🗿
#452 – Paris, France 🇫🇷
Population: 2.161 million
So…Paris. Where to even start? Well, why not start with what it’s arguably most famous for: the Eiffel Tower. 1,063 feet high and constructed in 1889, the Tower is quintessentially Paris, standing as the city’s (and possibly Europe’s) most iconic symbol. The Tower stands as a particular example of Paris’ world-class architecture; you just won’t find more engaging, historic, and French buildings, rues, and museums anywhere else. A global hub, Paris sits along the wide River Seine and is zig-zagged by numerous boulevards, selling some of the best pastries and artisan crafts in Europe. Known for its art, designer fashion, and unique cuisine, the city is the second most expensive in the world and is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Eiffel Tower isn’t Paris’ only iconic site, however, as beautiful buildings such as the Louvre, one of the greatest art museums in the world, the Notre Dame Cathedral, reconstructed after a terrible fire, the Arc de Triomphe, a massive arch located along the Champ-Élysées, and the Palais Garnier, a masterful opera house opened in 1875. Paris ranks as the second-most-visited travel destination in the world (after Bangkok), with 38 million visitors, and plays host to the ending of the Tour de France bicycle race. The City of Lights is world renowned for its cosmopolitan and welcoming feel––there’s so much to explore, so much to eat, and so much to buy. It is a must for any world traveler.
WHAT I LIKE THE MOST: THE LOUVRE 🖼 🎨
#451 – Liverpool, England, United Kingdom 🏴
Now I know what you’re thinking. Liverpool? Over Paris? What’s going on here? Let me just say that if you’ve ever been to the Port of Liverpool, where the River Mersey meets the Irish Sea, at sunset, you know why it beats out Paris for the #451 spot. It’s truly a beautiful experience. A maritime city, the old English town of Liverpool is surprisingly modern for such a storied city, contrasting heavyweight, mammoth churches with new-age architecture featured in the city’s universities. Alongside its old feel, Liverpool also hosts a contemporary one, featuring one of the best Premier League teams as well as being the home of The Beatles. Within the city, alongside the waterfront, ferries take people down the Mersey, where the city’s three iconic buildings strike imposing figures: the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building, and the Port of Liverpool Building. Adding to the Port’s resume is the fact that it was the port of registry for many famous ships, including the Titanic, Lusitania, and Queen Mary. While the Port is definitely worth a visit, Liverpool plays host to other delights, most notably music. With the aforementioned Beatles hailing from the city, it has become a hotspot for the music industry, with 56 No. 1 singles having come from the area, and has been ranked within the top five for Best Cities to Visit in terms of music, art, and culture. Also, Liverpool has the best gardens; at least, according to England’s Register of Historic Parks.
WHAT I LIKE THE BEST: THE SUNSET ON THE PORT OF LIVERPOOL 🌅
#450 – Grasmere, England, United Kingdom 🏴
Welcome to the Lake District! Famed for being the hometown of artistic duo William and Alfred Heaton Cooper, whose paintings would be many travelers’ inspiration for visiting the town. Lying next to Lake Grasmere (from which the town gets its name), Grasmere is a charming little village in the heart of the Lake District, featuring gorgeous sloping hills and spectacular waterfalls as well as friendly and engaging townsfolk. The incredible Lake Grasmere links with Lake Poets, another beautiful lake, and was the object of many of the Cooper paintings. The famous poet William Wordsworth himself lived in the town for 14 years and spoke these words about it: “the loveliest spot that man hath ever found.” And he’s not wrong (although, obviously, it’s not the most beautiful): Grasmere has many beautiful sights to visit, including Helm Crag, Rydal Mount and Gardens, and the Grasmere Church, as well as being the gateway to the stunning, world-class Lake District National Park. Accessible by the A591 road, Grasmere is also notable for its communal events, most notably the Rushbearing Ceremony, in which there is a procession through the village with rush and flower-made bearings that ends at St. Oswald’s Church. In all honesty, this small gem of a hamlet may just be the most beautiful city in the Lake District and, as such, is worthy of your attention.
WHAT I LIKE THE MOST: LAKE GRASMERE 🌊
#449 – Shah Alam, Malaysia 🇲🇾
Welcome to Malaysia! It’s a beautiful, beautiful country and where better to start than the vibrant city of Shah Alam! The capital of the state of Selangor, Shah Alam was the first planned city in Malaysia following independence from Great Britain in 1957 and the meticulous planning shows, as the city’s layout favors both bikers and pedestrians and encourages them to explore the local treats the city has to offer. What kind of treats, you ask? Well, let’s start with the SSAA (abbreviated; see above picture for full name) Mosque, which dominates the city’s skyline. Furnished with blue and silver finishings, the Mosque is Shah Alam’s holiest site, attracting many of the Islamic faith located in the area to its doors. From there, check to see if your bank account is full because we are heading to two of the premiere malls in all of Malaysia: the Setia City Mall and the AEON Mall. After shopping to your heart’s content, take a walk around the city and eat up Shah Alam’s beauty with your eyes, taking special care to visit the Taman Botari Negara Gardens, which features some of Malaysia’s most beautiful scenery. After that, work your way over to the Wet World Water Park for some family fun and then wrap up your day with a nighttime visit to the SnoWalk, a 50,000 square foot area kept at a consistent -8˚C where you can have the Arctic in the tropics; magnificent! So, as you can see, Shah Alam has a lot to offer, and whether you pack it all in to one day or spread it out over a few is your choice, just make sure the city is on your radar.
WHAT I LIKE THE MOST: THE SNOWALK 🧊 ❄️
#448 – Ica, Peru 🇵🇪
Welcome to one of driest cities in the world! On the border of the Atacama Desert, the city of Ica is a unique entry among desert cities. Rebuilt following a devastating earthquake in 2007, Ica’s average yearly rainfalls numbers around 1 inch. 1 inch, can you believe that? The city has a rich history, being inhabited by indigenous peoples for generations before Spanish conquistador Jeronimo Luis de Cabrera claimed to found it in 1563. That Spanish influence shows in many of the city’s buildings, most notably the Temple of the Sir of Luren, a white-washed temple damaged and partially reconstructed after the quake. Along with that, the city sits along a section of the Pan-American Highway built over ancient Incan roads and is the only town until Nazca, famous for its lines in the desert. While Ica is adjacent to the desert, it’s also adjacent to the Ica River, which provides a steady source of fresh water. Also providing that source is the city’s defining image: the Huacachina Oasis, a beautiful, picturesque oasis in the middle of the Atacama, framed by sweeping sand dunes. Need more nature? Well, the Paracas National Reserve has you covered, a gorgeous stretch of coast that is best explored by bike. For such a secluded and sparsely-visited city, Peru’s “agricultural miracle” packs a serious punch and should definitely not be overlooked.
WHAT I LIKE THE MOST: THE HUACACHINA OASIS 🏝
#447 – Hanga Roa, Chile 🇨🇱
You see those statues over there? Yeah, the ones that look like heads. You know what that means? You’re on Easter Island, one of the most well-known islands in the world. Lesser known than the Moai statues is the town of Hanga Roa, the capital of the island, meaning “wide bay” in the Rapa Nui language. Shoved in between the extinct volcanoes of Rano Kau and Terevaka, Hanga Roa is located in the southwest corner of Easter Island and boasts many other interesting places to visit besides the Moai. The city features stunning beaches such as Playa Ovahe, ancient ruins such as Puna Pau, Ahu Akahanga, and Ahu Vaihu, and amazing gardens such as Jardin Tau Kiani, a sprawling, lush landscape full of unique flora endemic to the area. The city also has a decent nightlife, as 43% of the whole island’s population lives there, featuring a great selection of clubs and bars (which I honestly didn’t expect, but probably shouldn’t have underestimated) that give a new breath of life to the ancient air. Hanga Roa is a very interesting city and a must if you are to venture out to Easter Island.
WHAT I LIKE THE MOST: THE MOAI STATUES 🗿
#446 – Pisté, Mexico 🇲🇽
Two things put Pisté in the spot that it is: Cenote Ik Kil and the Chichen Itza (both featured in the pictures). Both of these places have a certain WOW! factor that is just too irresistible. For Ik Kil, that shows in its majestic beauty. An 85 foot hole in the ground, the cenote is famous for its hanging vines and its sparkling, turquoise waters; taking a dip in it is a subliminal experience of its own, as the water is cool and refreshing and you are overcome with an otherworldly feeling of awe. Now, on to Chichen Itza. One of the most famous Mayan complexes in the world, this large, Pre-Columbian city on the Yucatán Peninsula is home to arguably the best step pyramid in the world, El Castillo. Also in the complex are historic stone carvings at various preserved places such as the ball court, the Wall of Skulls (which sounds awesome), and the Temple of the Warriors. Outside of these two destinations, there’s not much else to see, as Pisté essentially exists as a waypoint to ferry tourists to them, however the locals will point you in the direction of Yaxuna, another complex chock-full of ancient Mayan ruins, and Casa Museo Arte Maya (“Museum of Mayan Art”), a museum and art gallery showcasing ancient items and ruins from the various complexes as well as precious gemstones and rocks around the area. Pisté may be small in terms of places to visit, but what it lacks in destinations it makes up for in incredible history and authentic Mexican charm.
WHAT I LIKE THE MOST: CENOTE IK KIL ⛰🍃💧
#445 – La Paz, Bolivia 🇧🇴
Arguably one of the most colorful cities in the world, La Paz is a perfect example of what makes Bolivia an underrated country. It’s blend of contemporary society and old remnants of ancient civilizations lend a certain respectably to the world’s highest capital. La Paz earns that “world’s highest” title by being over 3,500 meters above sea level, resting on top of the Altiplano, the largest plateau in the Andes Mountain range. The city stretches out to its neighbor, El Alto, and is backdropped by the mammoth Mount Illimani, a snow-capped behemoth at 6,438 meters looking down upon the city. Want to see this amazing sight from up high? Take Mi Teleferico, La Paz’s premier aerial cable car system. Besides Mount Illimani, the city is home to many other beautiful places, including the Valley of the Moon, a state park full of eerie geologic formations caused by wind erosion, WMDR Yungas Road, one of the most spectacular scenic drives in the world, Urban Rush Bolivia, a unique experience in which you can rappel up an actual skyscraper, and, if you’re feeling frisky and have absolutely zero fear, Death Road, a bike route said to be the most dangerous in the world (although, granted, it’s not as beautiful when you’re trying to not die). Interestingly, La Paz, while being on the Altiplano, is actually set in a canyon formed by the Choqueyapu River and, as such, has a subtropical highland climate, a very unusual distinction that few places in the world have.
WHAT I LIKE THE MOST: THE VALLEY OF THE MOON 🌙 🪨
#444 – Thimphu, Bhutan 🇧🇹
One of the most closeted cities in the world, Thimphu is one of Asia’s largest hubs for Buddhism. Nestled in a valley among the Himalayas, the city is the nation’s government seat and its economics account for a whopping 45% of the country’s GNP. Known for its seclusion, Thimphu has a reputation for being an expensive to visit (as many of its areas are held close to hand), but the expense is worth it, as the city has some of the most beautiful temples in all of Asia, including ones such as the enormous Tashichho Dzong complex, a fortified monastery and palace, and the Memorial Chorten, a whitewashed temple with a gold spire. Adding to its factor of seclusion is the fact that Thimphu does not have its own airport, instead using the international airport located in Paro, about 32 miles away. The city is a staging ground for a number of festivals, most notably Tshechu, in which mask dances, called “Cham dances,” are performed in the Tashichho Dzong courtyards. Thimphu was not always Bhutan’s capital, as it was named to that title in only 1961, replacing the ancient capital of Punakha. Thimphu is a very interesting Himalayan city, defined by culture and religion, and a beautiful place to visit if you have the opportunity.
WHHAT I LIKE THE MOST: THE TASHICHHO DZONG COMPLEX 🏯
#443 – Lisse, The Netherlands 🇳🇱
Welcome to the heart of the flower-bulb region! Southwest of Amsterdam, the town is known for its sprawling fields of tulip flowers, including the world-famous Keukenhof Garden, containing millions (yes, millions) of flower-bulbs, and Hoeve Wassergeest, known for its rolling fields of red bulbs. Lisse is a bike-friendly town, so if you don’t want to walk, grab a bike and peddle around the tulip fields; I promise no one will judge (this is The Netherlands after all). Can’t get enough flowers? The Museum de Zwarte Tulp has you covered, providing information of the region’s history and the development and cultivation of the area’s tulip farms. If you’re not a fan of flowers, fear not! Lisse is home to many other things to do and places to see. The city features sites such as the 17th century Keukenhof Castle, the LAM art museum, the Sint Agathakerk church, and the ‘t Huys Dever, an old tower belonging to a Dutch noble family. Lisse is also one of the oldest cities in Holland (which is a region not a substitute for The Netherlands as a whole), being over 800 years old, and its founding and history closely resembles that of other Dutch towns, most notably Hillegom and Sassenheim. The city used to be completely split into different estates; however, by the end of the 20th century, all of these estates save for Keukenhof had been removed to make room for the flower-bulb fields. A worthy endeavor if I do say so myself. The floriculture center of Lisse is a wonderful, charming town to visit and should definitely be on your radar.
WHAT I LIKE THE MOST: THE KEUKENHOF GARDEN 🌸 🌺 🌹
#442 – Nassau, The Bahamas 🇧🇸
It’s better in The Bahamas! The quintessential “Paradise,” the city of Nassau is the party central of the islands, with excellent beaches, excellent locales, and excellent nightlife. Lying on the island of New Providence, with its neighbor Paradise Island accessible by Nassau Harbor’s various bridges, the city is a popular cruise ship stop and boasts one of the most tourist-friendly layouts in the Caribbean. Nassau’s geography is curious, having a hilly landscape that transitions on a dime to flat sand beaches to mountains. But its geography is nothing if not spectacular, showcasing the beauty of the city and providing one with a number of engaging hikes, car rides, and surfing spots. The city’s location also puts it close to a myriad of coral reefs encircling the island; I hear the snorkeling, swimming, and diving is pretty fantastic! There’s really only two things that Nassau is known for: its incredible beaches and its ubiquitous, pastel-colored British colonial buildings. The city sports some of the greatest beaches in the world, featuring ones such as Balmoral Beach, Cabbage Beach, Cable Beach, and Saunders Beach. All of these are top-rated, with glorious white sand and luxury resorts pressed up to the beachfront, and are definitely worth a look. Within the city itself, you will find almost all the buildings have been constructed in the same colonial-style architecture. But what really makes them stand out are the bright, vibrant colors they have been painted—so vibrant, in fact, that they may even rival La Paz for the title of “Most Colorful City.” Still not sold on Nassau? I can give you two more reasons. First, the city has a blue lagoon (funnily enough, it’s located on Blue Lagoon Island, or Salt Cay if you want to be geographically sound). Second, it is home to arguably the best water park resort in the world: Atlantis. Enough said.
WHAT I LIKE THE MOST: THE PASTEL-COLORED BUILDINGS 🎨 🌈 🏢🏠
#441 – Svolvaer, Norway 🇳🇴
Want to see the Northern Lights? Well, there’s hardly a better place to do it than the seaside town of Svolvaer. The largest town in the Lofoten Archipelago, Svolvaer is located on the island of Austvågøya and straddles the Vestfjorden open sea. First inhabited in 1567, the town got its roots as an important fishing village for Atlantic Cod, and slowly grew into a larger municipality able to now sustain a decent level of tourism, a huge economic boost to the region. Often referred to as some of Norway’s best scenery, Svolvaer is home to many beautiful rock formations, including the oft-visited Goat Rock, Fløyfjellet, a mountain topped with ragged pinnacles, and Svolvaergeita, a massive granite pillar known for its premier rock climbing. The town also has a number of museums, most notably the Lofoten War Memorial Museum, containing collections of World War II memorabilia, and the Gallery Dagfinn Bakke AS, a digital art museum complete with detailed sketches and renderings of the town’s surrounding landscape. Svolvaer is also home to one of the world’s greatest ice sculpture galleries, Magic Ice Lofoten, featuring many meticulously handcrafted pieces that can be viewed while sipping a classic Norwegian ale. If you’re looking for fun for the whole family, look no further than this Svolvaer staple: a sea eagle safari from the Svolvaer to the neighboring Trollfjorden. The amount of amazing scenery one is able to see is absolutely unreal; the fjords are unmatched. If you’re one of those people who seeks out isolation and is a huge fan of seaside fishing villages, Svolvaer is for you.
WHAT I LIKE THE MOST: GOAT ROACK 🐐 🪨