Research has shown that there are some 10,000 cities in the world, admittedly not all necessarily worth visiting, but to choose a favorite few is quite a challenge. But the well-traveled readers of TravelAwaits have cast their votes during the earlier months of 2022 and helped to at least narrow the field in this year’s Annual Best Of Travel Awards.
There are some surprises and some not-so-unexpected winners, but what the results do show is how popular Europe is with our readers, with 10 out of the top 12 being European cities, with only two non-European contenders included.
From northern Europe to western and central Europe, many winners are capital cities, not surprisingly, if only for ease of travel to larger international airports, and the history attached to most capital cities. But there is one country that has a whopping three cities in the top 12, can you guess which one? And no, it’s not France.
Here are the Top 12 as voted by you, the reader. Did your personal favorite make it?
1. Paris, France
It is probably not a huge surprise that Paris won the top spot as Favorite International City. According to a recent study, Paris is the second most visited city in the world after Bangkok, and the most visited in Europe. The City of Love and Light has an eternal appeal that made even Audrey Hepburn (as Sabrina) sigh that Paris is always a good idea. With honey-hued architecture, the world’s largest — and most visited — museum the Louvre, grand avenues, iconic landmarks, and superb shopping and eating, what’s not to love?
Whether you come to Paris for the romance, the croissants and wine, or the culture, it truly offers something for everyone, for all budgets, and for all seasons.
2. Florence, Italy
Italy is one of those countries that seemingly cannot do any wrong, with the world’s travelers loving the countryside, the cities, the people, the language, the food, and the wine. Maybe not the driving so much. Three Italian cities made it into the upper seven spots, with Florence the top-rated Italian city.
Florence’s beauty is undeniable, with the Duomo towering over the city, the covered Ponte Vecchio crossing the Arno River, and the Uffizi Museum holding art treasures that are truly breathtaking. And that is just the city, let’s not forget that the gorgeous Tuscan countryside is right on Florence’s doorstep, inviting visitors to explore further on a road trip or with easy day trips.
3. Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
The capital of Scotland since at least the 15th century, Edinburgh is full of history and grandeur but also a splash of quirkiness and fun. The sturdy castle towers over the city, with steep, cobbled streets leading up to it. Ancient traditions are still very much in evidence here, from bagpipe-playing, kilt-wearing men performing regularly to the firing of the cannon at 1 p.m. every day.
But there is no doubt that Edinburgh also loves a good excuse to celebrate. Edinburgh is the place to spend New Year’s Eve, period. Then there is the world-famous Fringe the world’s largest arts festival, mostly known for its plethora of comedians performing in venues across the city. As for strong men throwing incredibly heavy tree trunks, or cabers, the Highland Games is something you won’t ever experience anywhere else.
4. Rome, Italy
Italy’s capital, Rome, is like a time capsule in a pretty package. In some places it looks like the ancient Romans only left a few days ago rather than centuries, even millennia ago, the historic sites are so well preserved. Add to that the utter charm of the small lanes, the aroma of pasta dishes and freshly baked pizza, the dolce vita that is evident at every corner, be it people sitting outside a tiny little café or someone walking past with a giant gelato, or even the 24/7 thrill of having to leap out of the way of a Vespa driven by some beautifully styled Italians, and it’s a surprise that Rome didn’t come in at the top spot.
Even if it wasn’t for the history, Rome would be drawing in the visitors with its food markets, beautiful little delicatessen stores, and, of course, its traditional cooking classes that teach you skills that will enable you to conjure up your trip to Italy every day back home.
5. London, England, UK
London needs no introduction, as together with Paris, it is constantly vying for the position of most-visited city in Europe. London with its evident history, the great — and often free — museums, the great shopping, especially when it comes to bookstores and markets, and the amazing sights to see within easy day-trip distance, seems to have it all. Especially if you add the special little cherry on the top, the living royal history in evidence everywhere, and in particular in 2022, with the Platinum Jubilee year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II being celebrated with plenty of special events throughout the summer.
With London being an obvious gateway into Europe, there is no excuse really not to stay for a few days and enjoy all the buzz this exciting capital has on offer before heading onto the continent.
6. Athens, Greece
Athens is one of those capitals that is often overlooked when it comes to Europe, so this is a bit of a surprise placement. Normally, when people think of Greece, it is the fabulous Greek islands they contemplate visiting, with Athens functioning as a mere entry point. But Athens thoroughly deserves this spot in the top 12, because the ancient Greek history is evident everywhere, and not least at the Acropolis, which towers over the city.
But there is more to see than “just” the Acropolis, and what makes this such a superb place to base yourself at on the mainland are the many easy day trips from Athens, such as Mycenae, Cape Sounion for the best sunsets, Delphi, Epidaurus, and the Canal of Corinth. The old town, the Plaka, is a haven for shopping and enjoying the Greek cuisine, and once you’ve soaked up everything Athens has to offer, it’s a short hop to Piraeus and onward to the Greek Islands.
7. Venice, Italy
Venice is a little like Paris when it comes to instant associations. Venice makes you sigh with longing, conjuring up romantic images, making you wish you could transport yourself straight onto one of those sleek water taxis or into a gondola.
This perfectly preserved city where canals replace streets, and every turn of a lane brings a new surprise, is pure time travel and romance. Just think of the Palazzo Ducale, the Plaza San Marco, the Biennale with its superb art on display, and, of course, the mystical, magical Carnevale. You can do Venice in utter luxury, staying in former palazzi or on a budget. It really does not matter, because wherever you are staying, Venice weaves its magic and draws you under its spell.
But beware, TravelAwaits readers are not the only ones who love this watery city, and it pays to research the best time to visit.
8. Seville, Spain
This capital of the region of Andalucía is a perfect base for exploring the city as well as the surroundings famous for its white-washed villages. Seville has plenty to keep a visitor busy, and it is one of those cities that many overlook, making it even more special.
Visit the cathedral and the Alcazar, the oldest palace in Europe, but also look out for the hidden gems THAT bring the city to life. And while the one item of food that will spring to mind first and foremost when thinking of Seville is oranges, which are ever-present, especially in late February and early March, during the intoxicating orange blossom season, the city is also renowned for its fabulous tapas restaurants.
9. Sydney, Australia
Here — finally! — is one of the two non-European inclusions in the top 12 favorite international cities: Sydney, Australia. And what a fabulous city it is. Sydney is one of those rare cities where you are torn as to preferring the natural setting over the actual city, but what really makes this a superb destination is that one without the other would not have half as much of an impact.
It is the combination of the man-made and nature that makes Sydney as spectacular as it is. The natural harbor is enhanced by the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, the skyline really pings against the shimmering water, and there are not many cities in the world where world-class beaches are right there for you to enjoy.
Sydney and Bondi Beach just go hand in hand. From superb restaurants to even more spectacular events, such as the outdoor opera on the harbor, the annual Vivid Sydney light show, and the fabulous Sculpture by the Sea, you won’t ever get bored in Sydney.
10. Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Hot on the heels of the only Australasian entry comes the only American winner, Quebec City in Canada. The relatively small, half-million-person-strong city on the Saint Lawrence River is full of history, dating back to 1608, set in scenic surroundings, and is French-speaking, enhancing the feeling of an international city even more.
Quebec City’s old defenses make it the only walled city in North America, with Vieux Quebec brimming with charm, narrow cobbled streets, picturesque old buildings, four imposing city gates, and plenty of great cafes and restaurants. It truly is a perfect long weekend personified. You can walk along the Saint Lawrence River, look up at, or stay at, the superbly historic Chateau Frontenac, a Fairmont property, and enjoy the European atmosphere all around in Quebec City.
And, while this city is great in all seasons, it is triply charming in winter with even a chance to spend a night in North America’s only Ice Hotel.
11. Munich, Germany
The only German city to make the cut is lovely Munich, the capital of the southern state of Bavaria, close to the Alps. Munich is famous for so many things that you really ought to spend more than just one day there, taking in the city itself, the markets, the many superb museums, and different neighborhoods. Did you know you can even go surfing in the middle of the city? And then there is of course, the famous Oktoberfest, an indulgence like no other attracting some six million visitors every year to its tents filled with song, laughter, beer, and pretzels.
Munich is not only worth a city break, but also perfect as a base to explore the surroundings, from a selection of stunning castles, which inspired Walt Disney to lakes, mountains, and other quaint cities nearby. And before you head back, make sure you spend some extra time at the great international airport.
12. Prague, Czechia (Czech Republic)
Prague is one of Central Europe’s greatest cities, with plenty to see and do. Straddling the river Vltava, the city is split in two and offers history on both sides. Hop into a classic car for an initial look at the city, and then explore on foot. The Gothic architecture, the superb astronomical clock, and the eerie Jewish cemetery all appeal to history buffs, but there is also a quirky side to Prague, with art installations by local artist David Cerny being the most bizarre ones, and fun to discover across the city together with other hidden gems.
And when in Prague, you cannot not try the beer, after all, the Czech Republic is one of the most famous beer-producing nations with many atmospheric pubs throughout the old town.
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