10 Cities That Should Be on Everyone’s Bucket List

Top 10 Cities in the World

Creating a bucket list of the top 10 cities in the world to visit is tricky! The world is full of amazing cities. It would be easy to put together a list of unique cities that are off the beaten path, or a list of the coolest small towns, or up-and-coming destinations. But for this list I returned to the basics: what are the top ten cities that everyone should see in their lifetimes, even if the destinations are already heavily touristed? Here are my ten, based on travel to over 500 cities in 101 countries. Discussions are welcome! And I’m well aware that there are no South American cities on my list. A few cities barely missed the cut.

And yes, this list is different from my list of the best cities in the world. That list was based on family voting, and our kids had different experiences everywhere. This list is more objective!

Florentine, Italy

Florence with kids: Florence is empty at sunrise!
Florence at sunrise

Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and has the art and architecture to prove it, but beyond that it maintains a large European city feel on a small walkable scale. Don’t judge the city by the daytime crowds of tour groups and cruise ship passengers. Stay in the city center for a few days, walk around early in the morning and late in the evening, and you’ll feel the history.

Start with these posts: Florence: What to Do and Where to Stay in our Favorite City; Where to Eat in Florence; A Week in Florence without Kids

Istanbul, Turkeyye

Istanbul with Kids - Heading to our painting workshop
Exploring Istanbul

There are countless reasons to visit Istanbul: the hills; the Bosphorus; the Blue Mosque; Hagia Sophia; the Grand Bazaar; its amazing history and importance on the Silk Road. It’s Asian and European, secular and devout. And everything comes together magnificently. The rest of Türkiye is amazing as well, but always start with Istanbul.

Start with this post: Istanbul with Kids

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo with Kids - A torii gate near Meiji Shrine
A torii gate near Meiji Shrine

Visit Tokyo for the skyscrapers, the arcades, the anime, the iconic Park Hyatt Tokyo, and the amazingly hectic pace of the city, but head to the gardens, temples and parks as well to see Tokyo’s more relaxed side.

Start with these posts: 10 Places Not to Miss in Tokyo; Tokyo with Kids Made Easy

Paris, France

Things to do in Paris: The Eiffel Tower at sunrise
The Eiffel Tower at sunrise

Paris is the second most visited city in the world, after Bangkok and ahead of London and Dubai. Some go for the food. Some for the museums. Some simply want to take a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower. We love it for the neighborhoods, the parks, and the frequent picnics. Go and explore!

Start with these posts: The Best Things to Do in Paris with Kids; Tips for Visiting Paris on a Budget

Venice, Italy

Best cities: Dead ends in Venice are magical!  Follow every alleyway!
Dead ends in Venice are magical! Follow every alleyway!

Venice is still magical – even with a lot of tourists. jump in Get lost. Think about everyone who has walked the same paths and sailed the same canals for more than 1,500 years. And don’t wait too long – sea levels are continuing to rise.

Start with this post: Venice with Kids

Cape Town, South Africa

The first time I made a list of the top 10 cities in the world, Hong Kong held this spot. Hong Kong used to be one of my favorite places anywhere, but every visit since 1997 has been less magical. The city continues to lose what made it special, which is incredibly sad. So I’m replacing it with my favorite city in Africa. Cape Town is spectacular, and culturally amazing. Visit Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Hike to the top of Table Mountain (which I did from Kirstenbosch) or Lion’s Head. Head to Boulders Beach (penguins!) and the Cape of Good Hope for a day. And make a pilgrimage to Robben Island.

Varanasi, India

Sunrise in Varanasi, India
Sunrise in Varanasi, India

There are several Indian cities I could have included on this list, and everyone should visit the Taj Mahal at least once, but I chose sacred Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges, where life and death coexist. Visit slowly.

Start with this post: Ten Incredible Places to Visit in India

Sydney, Australia

Best Places to Travel with Kids - Sydney

Australia is consistently the number one dream destination for Americans. Stop dreaming and book a flight! Sydney has iconic landmarks, spectacular beaches, a world-class zoo, and one of the highest quality of life rankings on the planet.

Start with this post: A California Getaway to Australia to Cuddle Koalas

Jerusalem, Israel

Best cities: Walking through Jerusalem's Old City
Walking through Jerusalem’s Old City

One of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem is key to Islam, Judaism and Christianity. In entering the Old City, you leave behind the 21st century, and when you go from the Jewish quarter to the Muslim quarter, it’s like traveling to another country. Utterly fascinating to visit and experience, regardless of your religious beliefs. I discover new (old) things every time.

New York, New York

Extended family vacation: Who's hoping for New York?
New York is amazing anytime!

New York City has an energy unlike anywhere else on the planet, from early morning until late at night. Stroll through Central Park, head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, eat a hot dog from a street cart, dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant, watch skaters at Rockefeller Center, look out over the Statue of Liberty, and see a Broadway show … all in the same day.

Start with this post: A Wonderful New York Weekend Getaway

The Top 10 Cities in the World: Your Turn

What cities would you add, or exclude, from your top-10 bucket list? It would be easy to include so many – Budapest, Nairobi, London, Bangkok, Rome, Dubrovnik, Beijing, Copenhagen, Vienna to name a few – but then you need to cut something off your list.

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