Whether you appreciate fine art, architecture and fine food and drinks or not, it is impossible not to fall in love with a city that has just that; beautiful sights and scenery that you can't help but admire.
As travelers, we find ourselves drawn to place that have something truly magnificent to offer when we have the opportunity to visit. Countries around the world have made a name for themselves as popular cultural destinations based on the fact that they are able to boast some of the finest art and architecture, among other things, and can draw people in based on their outside beauty.
Read on to see some of the best cities for those of us who appreciate fine art and culture, and see which city will be your next vacation destination.
1. Krakow, Poland, readers' rating: 96.2
UNESCO named Kraków the City of Literature in 2013, and they weren’t kidding. Poland’s second-largest metropolis was home to three Nobel-winning writers—Czeslaw Milosz, Wislawa Szymborska, and Ivo Andric—and the city still hosts around 30 book festivals every year. Here you’ll also find Jagiellonian University, one of the oldest colleges in the world, and a wealth of museums—including the Czartoryski (pictured), where you can see Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Lady with an Ermine.
2. Luxor, Egypt, readers' rating: 95.8
This 4,000-year-old settlement used to go by another name: Thebes, a.k.a. the birthplace of the Oedipus complex. The Luxor of today is two-sided: On the east bank of the Nile, there’s the modern town, and on the west bank, the Necropolis—the millennia-old city of the dead. It has been dubbed an “open-air museum” thanks to all the marvels of the ancient world—including the temples of Luxor and Karnak—jostling against the contemporary city. Across the river, the Valley of the Kings is the burial site for more than 60 pharaohs and other nobles from the New Kingdom era.
3. Santiago de Compostela, Spain, readers' rating: 95.2
For centuries, the Catholic faithful have been making the pilgrimage to this town, the capital of Galicia. Their destination: the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, which, according to legend, holds the remains of Saint James the Great, one of Jesus’s 12 apostles. But you don’t have to be religious to be awed by the towering Romanesque structure, or by the medieval town that surrounds it. The cutting-edge Galician Contemporary Art Centre provides a modern perspective on the region’s culture.
4. St. Petersburg, Russia, readers' rating: 94.3
Fyodor Dostoyevsky called his adopted metropolis “the most intentional and abstract city in the world.” Built in a short, fevered period of time based on one man’s—Peter the Great’s—vision, Russia’s second-largest city is a sort of work of art in and of itself. Despite its tumultuous history, St. Petersburg has proved fertile ground for giants both literary (Pushkin, Nabokov, Rand) and musical (Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky). Today, it’s home to hundreds of museums, concert halls, theaters, and arts festivals, plus the legendary Mariinsky Ballet.
5. Budapest, Hungary, readers' rating: 94.2
The Pearl of the Danube has a history stretching back 2,000 years, though the Celts who originally settled it called in Aquincum. Its cultural heyday was the 1800s, when the two cities of Buda and Pest fused into one. Though battered by centuries of wars and coups, Budapest remains a stunningly beautiful city, marked by Renaissance, Baroque, and Art Nouveau architectural marvels, plus the ruins of an Ancient Roman settlement. Museums abound, including the Hungarian National Gallery (pictured) and the Museum of Music History. Having incubated the careers of both Bartók and Liszt, it’s also a hotbed of music, theater, opera, and folk dance.
Read more about the world's best cities for arts and culture lovers.
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