Kyiv is a city of many faces. The Dnipro, one of Europe’s largest rivers, divides Ukraine’s capital into two different worlds: the right bank—with its historical center, administrative buildings, cafés and restaurants—and the residential left bank.
With its cheaper real estate, thanks in part to an undiminished stock of towering Soviet-era apartment buildings, the left bank is home to many of 2023 Honorary World’s Best City Kyiv’s families. But new, even larger residential towers have sprung up over the last decade. Big shopping malls provide plenty of opportunities for entertainment, and no geopolitical crisis, contentious election or looming threat of Russian invasion have stood in the way of new investments: construction cranes are everywhere.
Kyiv’s cheap and efficient subway makes it easy for left bank denizens to make their way across the river to the heart of their capital. On a hot day they might first get off at Hidropark, a metro station on an island, to relax at one of its beaches. The mighty Dnipro lapping at their feet connects over two dozen Ukrainian cities to the Black Sea, provides drinking water and hydroelectricity to many of their fellow citizens and forms an indelible part of the country’s heritage, glorified by national poet Taras Shevchenko as the symbol of Ukraine’s fate.
The nearby Trukhaniv Island offers more recreation, with bars, restaurants, beaches and concert venues — frequented by some of the country’s most cutting-edge performers—and showcases memorable views of the charming Podil neighborhood.
Once downtown, a visitor might cross the new “glass bridge” (targeted by Russian bombardment on Oct. 10 but still standing) toward the parliament building and Maryinskyy Park, popular for a stroll with dogs or children. On the other side, historic Podil is home to more parks, small squares and hidden murals and courtyards. In Kyiv, cafés with minimalist, modern interiors share the streets with centuries-old churches and monasteries.
One of these is the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, a beautiful complex of church buildings on a hill. Founded as a cave monastery in the 11th century, the complex is older than the city of Moscow.
Those after something more modern might try 100 Rokiv, an innovative restaurant that serves traditional Ukrainian borscht alongside more daring inventions, like a dish of “edible bees” with acacia honey, black pepper and berry sauce.
After dinner comes dancing, with electronic music particularly big here in recent years. Closer, an underground venue near the city’s Muslim cemetery, gets rave reviews. But Kyiv’s best bars and clubs have no signboards: they’re hidden away in secret courtyards that only the locals know about. Not to worry, though, Kyivans are friendly—and happy to take their foreign friends to their favorite places.
Because the foreigners are back. For the capital of a country under relentless attack, Kyiv now looks surprisingly normal. That is, until recently, when over a few days in October, a wave of self-destructing Iranian-made drones launched by Russia started terrorizing the city’s skies and killing citizens. Remarkably, cinemas, restaurants and theaters remain open; stylish young people drink their filter coffee with their dogs and laptops; during rush hour, traffic jams once again clog the city’s arteries. The city’s impressively deep subway—built at the height of the Cold War so it could serve as a bomb shelter—is once again doing what it does best: whisking people around for just eight hryvnia, or 20 cents, per ride.
How different things looked in February, when Russia launched its illegal war against Ukraine. Pundits around the world predicted the city’s imminent fall. Rockets rained on peaceful apartment blocks. Half of the city’s residents left. A column of Russian military vehicles stretched for kilometers on its murderous advance into the city.
Although the Russians intended to capture Ukraine’s capital in three days, they never came close. Facing determined resistance and crippled by their own incompetence, they soon abandoned their ambitious plans. A few months later, most Kyivans returned home. This isn’t the first time Kyiv has sprung back to life. The city’s history is full of wars and revolutions—after each of which it inevitably blooms again in a 1,500-year cycle of devastation and rebirth.
During the Second World War the city center suffered terrible damage at the hands of both the Soviet and German armies, and was then rebuilt by German prisoners. During the reconstruction, thousands of swiftly growing chestnut trees were planted around the city in a scheme to green it as fast as possible. Since then, chestnut leaves have become one of Kyiv’s most recognizable symbols: they’re on metro tokens and in the logos of independent coffee shops.
In 2014, the city’s center was again the site of brutal violence. People from all over Ukraine streamed to their capital to stand against the corrupt regime of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. A tent city in Independence Square remained through months of bitter cold and police brutality. In the end, more than 100 people were killed by the authorities right in the city’s heart. The protesters—chanting “Ukraine is Europe” all the while—celebrated their victory. Yanukovych fled to Russia and Ukraine embarked on a democratic political transformation with an ambitious program to root out corruption.
In the years since, the city’s infrastructure has shown notable improvement. Buses were replaced, parks and squares renovated and the once-chaotic parking situation has improved, leaving more space for biking and walking. Just before the war began, the European Investment Bank signed a €100-million loan agreement with Kyiv’s mayor to renew the city’s trolleybus and metro fleets.
Sometimes the development leads to conflict. Even before the Euromaidan revolution, locals in one of the city’s most picturesque areas fought to preserve it from destruction. Landscape Alley, a place featuring breathtaking views and many works of modern art and sculpture in the open air, was threatened by development plans to fill this historic area with expensive high-rise buildings. Activists united and asked artists to fill the street with their work instead, making it a destination. After a long confrontation, the activists won: the sculptures and murals will remain. Such conflicts between local residents and developers are a common story in the Ukrainian capital: in order to save their neighborhood from unwanted development, its residents must tap their creativity and resourcefulness. That spirit is something the Russians didn’t know about, or didn’t want to believe in. And that’s why they never had a chance.
– Words by Anna Babinets
About the Author
Anna Babinets is the editor-in-chief of Slidstvo.Info, an investigative outlet based in Kyiv, and a regional editor of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. She specializes in covering high-scale corruption, money laundering and other crimes. Anna is part of the Panama Papers team, the author of several investigations into offshore companies belonging to former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and among the authors of the award-winning documentary “Killing Pavel,” about the murder of a well-known journalist in Kyiv. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Anna and her team have focused on covering war crimes, reporting from the field and identifying Russian service members in Ukraine.
London is back! But, given the past few months, have citizens even noticed?
This has been the busiest start to summer London has seen in more than a decade—with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Royal Ascot, RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Wimbledon, Boris’s resignation and, in the worst kind of end to summer, the Queen’s death and weeks of mourning.
Of course the eyes of the world were fixed on London throughout all the tumult more than any other city—save for maybe Kyiv—reminding everyone that London is spectacular and it’s been a really long while since they visited. Not that the city’s promotion engine was waning. The city still tops our Promotions category, coming out in front for Insta hashtags, Facebook (or is it Meta) check-ins and TripAdvisor reviews.
Fortunately the city is almost back to pre-pandemic capacity, if the tube is any indication. The London Underground Night Tube reopened over the summer while certain lines are slowly restoring all service, with the Piccadilly line the last to have come online in August.
Despite much-warranted hand-wringing about the flight of talent and capital due to the pall of Brexit (and the follow-up specter of an airborne pandemic), London is hanging in just fine, relying on a dipping currency to attract investment and, of course, previously priced-out tourists. And new residents. New wealthy residents who can now afford to check off a big item on the multi-millionaire bucket list: property in the best city on the planet.
An astonishing 61 luxury London properties—each worth $11.5 million or more—were sold in the first six months of 2022, which was the highest number in a decade.
The highest-profile new residents include Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri, who may have come for the most #1 rankings of any city in our Top 100—from Culture to Nightlife, but stayed for another of London’s assets: the best-educated citizenry on the planet. And available at a relative discount to Silicon Valley and New York. As much is confirmed by salary site Glassdoor, which estimates an average Meta software engineer in London can expect to earn just over $102,000 versus $169,000 in San Francisco. The tech giant is in the process of building its largest global engineering base in two offices in London’s King’s Cross neighborhood. The first, at 11-21 Canal Reach, opened in early 2022 after a three-year build designed by Bennetts Associates with interiors by TP Bennett based on a concept design by Gehry Partners. A second building opened a few months later to bring the new office space to 425,000 square feet. Plus, of course, a 42,000-square-foot rooftop park for what will likely be almost 10,000 employees in a few years.
Another reason for Meta’s entrenchment? Mortal enemy TikTok has prioritized London for years and just started a 15-year lease on an entire office block at Farringdon Crossrail station.
These seismic moves have dislodged the pandemic blockage for the global investment torrent into London. According to fDi Markets, the Financial Times’ foreign investment tracker, London has pulled in the most foreign direct investments into tech from international companies since 2018, ahead of New York, Singapore and Dubai.
Of course none of this happens without the sustained facilitation of London & Partners, London’s official publicity arm, and the economic development organization that works to offer financial perks for all that relocation.
Recent tax incentives have included the lowest corporation tax rate among G7 countries and a cornucopia of research and development tax credits.
A recent report from real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield illustrated the run on London: of the 398 central London leasing transactions over 5,000 square feet in 2021, 59 were new businesses setting up for the first time or those relocating from outside London—the highest number ever recorded since tracking began in 2013. Another, more disturbing metric of tech and foreign investment into the city?
An electricity shortage, specifically pressure on the grid in West London, made worse by energy-sucking data centers being built along the M4 corridor in the past few years. According to the Financial Times, “major new applicants to the distribution network … including housing developments, commercial premises and industrial activities will have to wait several years to receive new electricity connections.”
If all those newcomers can’t cook at home, they came to the right place, especially these days, when the culinary industry is being reborn after dozens of the city’s most iconic restaurants shuttered over the pandemic. The city with the fourth-best restaurants on the planet is buzzing again with big-name openings like Dubai-based izakaya-style restaurant Kinoya in Harrods. There are hundreds of other rooms soon joining this increasingly daring culinary destination serving—and welcoming the world once more.
For all the talk of learning from the pandemic, one city appears to be going all-in on the hard lessons it gave and their application to molecular urban change.
While the face of Paris’s pandemic evolution is Mayor Anne Hidalgo and her aggressive empowerment of self-propelled mobility—from a city-wide speed limit of 30 km/h introduced last year to the obsessive addition of bike paths, with the promise of 745 miles by 2026 across most arrondissements—it’s the citizenry’s embrace of this boldness that is changing the city’s fabric for good.
While the city has been wracked by unemployment and economic calamity since 2020 (Paris, while much improved from 2021, ranks #183 globally in our Employment subcategory this year), the walkable city ambition has aligned with the need for natural therapy and outdoor social distancing. Of course, being able to enjoy a city ranked best in the world in our Sights & Landmarks subcategory, as well as in the top three for Museums (the city has well over 100), has a tendency to distract one from the modern world’s perils.
Almost as soon as the pandemic started, Parisians poured out of their close quarters onto the iconic Rue de Rivoli, the famed artery that intersects the heart of the capital, when it became off-limits to cars. Cars were also banned from the banks of the Seine and pretty much every other one of the world’s favorite spots where, surreally, flâneurs found themselves able to take a deep breath of air without a hint of exhaust while actually hearing birdsong in what many say felt like a walk back in time.
Especially the fact that there was nary a selfie stick or sudden-stopping tourist to run into.
All of that has changed, of course, with France’s removal of health measures earlier this year and tourism rushing back into the de-motorized streets, injecting much-needed revenues and, in some cases, exceeding pre-pandemic levels, according to government estimates. Almost three years without Paris certainly drove the voraciousness, but so did the euro being on par with the U.S. dollar for most of 2022.
According to French government estimates, tourists actually spent 10 percent more in France this summer than they did in 2019, which itself was one of the highest tourism-spending years on record. Not surprisingly, the single biggest beneficiary was the City of Light.
What returning visitors find is a city that has codified pedestrianism and alfresco living.
To ensure cars didn’t take back control of Paris streets as pandemic urban pilot projects waned—as was the case in many other cities—Mayor Hidalgo legislated that the 60,000 parking spots loaned to restaurants for outdoor seating simply remained. The same went for closing off lesser-driven streets entirely for public walking and seating for local businesses in need of additional outdoor space.
Nowhere is the transformation more dramatic than along the River Seine in the heart of Paris’s tourist district, near Notre Dame Cathedral and city hall itself. With the reduced car traffic, this is now Paris’s town square (in a city with dozens of historic spots worthy of the honor). The riverside promenade hosted thousands night after night, even after Paris’s Right Bank summer event wrapped up. The Paris Plages urban beach initiative welcomes picnicking and other low-cost access to a city long criticized as pricey and exclusive.
And speaking of Notre Dame, its reopening in 2024 aligns with what will be a vital year for the city, when it also hosts the 2024 Olympic Summer Games, with many events integrated right into the revered urban fabric. And nothing would go further to demonstrate the city’s efficacy in achieving a cleaner, healthier Paris than being able to host swimming events for athletes and the general public post-Games. After wild Atlantic salmon first returned to the Seine 13 years ago, it is today home to more than 30 species of fish, like trout, perch and eel. Considering Paris’s plan to hold the 2024 opening ceremonies not in a stadium but by floating down its sacred river, nursing it back to health would be incredibly poetic, even in a town that invented poetic gestures. Those Paris heatwaves would certainly become more tolerable.
The Champs-Élysées is next on the city leadership’s list, set to be transformed for the Games into a massive garden, with vehicle access cut in half and millions of euros invested in pedestrian-focused amenities.
The torrent of new and renoed hotels in the city is also doubling down on outdoor spaces. The year-old Kimpton St Honoré is topped by a bucolic 3,200-square-foot terrace called Sequoia that serves up panoramic views of the iconic skyline. The Hôtel Rochechouart, which opened in late 2020 in the 9th arrondissement, also has a little-publicized 1,000-square-foot perch from which to admire Sacré-Cœur and the Eiffel Tower in air scented by the wild lavender and berry bushes planted all around. A bientôt mes amis.
The greatest city in America—lauded and crowned in our rankings for the past seven years and in countless others for many more—was a ghastly reminder during the pandemic of the vulnerability of even the colossal and seemingly all-powerful; we saw here what awaited the rest of the country. And the world. As early cases spiked, Gotham became the nation’s nightmarish coronavirus core.
It was this city-scale tragedy that first landed in the crosshairs of the sniping haters declaring that the big, vibrant, cheek-by-jowl city experiment was finally over. But for resilient New Yorkers, those attacks of course merely steeled their resolve for better days amid the death, protest and malaise.
Those better days are here. And the city is doing everything in its power to bring back not only apprehensive New Yorkers whose hunger for regular bites of the Big Apple has for two years been sated instead by takeout or delivery and a scrolling thumb tic, but also the nearly 70 million people who visited in 2019 and invested $46 billion across its expansive quilt of Sights & Landmarks (ranked #13 globally).
“Fortunately, we’re anticipating being back to 85 percent of 2019 levels within the year,” said Chris Heywood, former executive vice president, global communications at NYC & Company, the destination marketing organization of the five boroughs. “We have benchmarked 2024 to be back to previous record-setting numbers.”
First order of business: getting those not already here to town. Fortunately, the suspension of travel for more than a year expedited the long-planned transformations of New York’s international gateways. LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport all have new terminals, with the new Terminal B at LaGuardia alone boasting 35 gates (to say nothing of the FAO Schwarz on site). And, yes, a new Terminal C should be open by the time you read this. Newark Liberty International’s updated Terminal A has opened with 33 new gates and construction will start later this year on a new, congestion-easing 2.5-mile elevated guideway train system. The infra- structure year ends with JFK’s Terminal 8 unveiling 130,000 square feet of new and renovated space. The New Terminal One at JFK opens later this decade.
Back on the ground, Moynihan Train Hall is a new 17-track expansion of Penn Station that, if you squint, can pass for a northern European transit hub from the future.
With so many expected arrivals, NYC is certainly making sure everyone has a place to stay. More than 9,000 new hotel rooms have either opened or will be coming online this year, including the already opened (and headline grabbing) Aman New York, an “urban sanctuary” on Fifth Avenue. Also open is the Ritz-Carlton, NoMad, a temple dedicated to the nearby and recently opened Madison Square Park, as well as The Thompson Central Park, a renovated property in Midtown. The build-out stretches across the city, with new Renaissance Hotels properties in Harlem and Flushing opening in late 2022. Moxy Hotels is also opening multiple locations in the Lower East Side and Williamsburg.
At street level the city’s firehose turns cultural, with massive museums (#5 globally) going all in on expansions and new openings.
The Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens, is undergoing a physical and programmatic expansion for a new cultural center, expected to debut later this year, that includes an interactive exhibit, archival collections, a 68-seat jazz club and store. And the Bronx Children’s Museum is also opening this year after moving to a new home in Mill Pond Park. Dia Chelsea is a new contemporary installation space, and the Frick Madison (the temporary home of the Frick Collection) has opened in the Breuer on Madison Avenue in a building formerly used by the Met. Speaking of the Met, just last year New York’s 152-year-old cultural institution (housing 1.5 million objects and hosting seven million visitors in a non-pandemic year) announced a $500-million reno of its modern and contemporary wing. Not as storied but equally New York is the new Museum of Broadway, the first permanent museum dedicated to the famed heartland of the stage, just opened in Times Square with a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of major theater productions.
And the big shows are back, too (with the odd COVID-related cancellation this past spring): Hugh Jackman returns for The Music Man; Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick star in a revival of Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite… even Daniel Craig in Macbeth.
For those who prefer their urban exploration outdoors, classics like the High Line and Central Park are joined by the city’s newest green space, Little Island—2.4 acres floating on the Hudson near the Meatpacking District on the site of an old pier. Like most things here, you have to see it to believe it.
When it’s your turn to return to America’s best city, do yourself a favor and make time to see the phoenix rise from above: there are the classics, like the Empire State Building and the Top of the Rock, but there are also new spectacular perches, like SUMMIT One Vanderbilt and its all-glass exterior elevators, called Ascent. Go up, look down and breathe out.
Despite earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons, Tokyo has long held on to its top spot as one of the safest metropolises on the planet. After dipping amid last year’s scramble to host the 2021 Summer Olympic Games, the city remains incredibly safe, ranking #4 in our Safety subcategory.
Young kids playing and walking to school unattended—a pre-pandemic mind- bender for visitors to the world’s largest city—is a common sight once more after almost three years of lockdowns and intermittent school closures.
Those delayed Olympics went on, of course, despite a tourism ban and local crowds not allowed to watch the live events. Tens of billions spent on infra- structure to welcome the world sat mostly empty and the 2,000 hotels, inns and guest houses opened around the city will be underwater financially for years, to say nothing of the shopping complexes and other tourist infrastructure.
Despite the pandemic and subsequent derailment of Japan’s plans—or perhaps because of them—the Japanese government remains steadfast, keeping its target of 60 million visitors and $136 billion in tourism revenue by 2030. It’s not as delusional as it sounds: the country enjoyed record tourism for seven straight years and can now accommodate even more visitors to Tokyo, with the expansion of the international terminal at Haneda, the city’s main airport (ranked #65 globally).
The global reverence for the city has returned with international travel.
It earned the #1 spot in Shopping for its world-class experiences, like Ginza’s luxury department stores, newly enhanced with the art-bedecked and sharply designed Ginza Six shopping center.
The newly renovated Miyashita Park boasts 90 boutique shops and restaurants, plus a new hotel with a view of the famed Shibuya district, complete with volleyball courts and a skatepark sprawling over 2.5 acres. Last year the city unveiled the planet’s first Netflix store. Earlier this year, two pop-up stores dedicated to the Netflix show Stranger Things added to the fun.
New openings will ensure retail domination for the foreseeable future, like Kameido Clock near Kameido Station, home to 139 commercial tenants, including Tsutaya Books and Uniqlo, as well as green spaces for families. Mikan Shimokita in the Shimokitazawa neighborhood is a just-opened shopping and restaurant complex where shopping is upstaged by cuisine spanning Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Italian and fusion.
Appropriately, Tokyo boasts the second-highest number of restaurants of any city—topping our Restaurant category—and is moving far beyond its internationally beloved food traditions. The metropolis is home to approximately 100,000 restaurants, so visitors and residents alike could never hope to experience a fraction of them. But should you wish to, there are plenty of places to stay.
Dubai is a city of superlatives: you can ride the elevator to the top of the world’s tallest building for a bird’s-eye view, and bet on the ponies at the world’s richest horse race. And, as of a few months ago, dive into the world’s deepest swimming pool (for diving), as certified by Guinness World Records (which, if it hasn’t already, should really just relocate permanently to this place solely dedicated to rewriting it). All this happens in one of the planet’s safest cities.
Dubai’s firehose of only-here experiences is not by accident: the city reinvented itself yet again throughout the 2010s, growing from a sterile playground for a handful of ultra-rich Emiratis to an international tourism and business destination. That has helped attract global talent that today ranks #27 for Educational Attainment worldwide while enjoying top-10 Income Equality.
Dubai’s next challenge will be not blowing its pandemic reopening by doing too much too fast. The city is hoping to bring back the tourists (16.7 million in 2019) who have become critical to its economy, and has spent its downtime building and recalibrating at a velocity unprecedented even for this Energizer Bunny of a metropolis.
The most visited mall on the planet is already here, and helps Dubai climb to #28 in our Shopping subcategory. It would be a mistake to focus on the “mall” part of the name, however; like the city itself, the Dubai Mall is more of an attempt to capture every human experience and repackage it for consumption. It has the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, and one of the largest aquarium tanks anywhere. The city’s reinvention goes on through Cityland Mall, the world’s first “nature-inspired” shopping mall, which should be fully open by the time you read this.
Likewise, the Burj Khalifa’s time in the sun may be nearing an end: Santiago Calatrava’s Tower at Dubai Creek will eclipse the skyscraper as the tallest building in the world when completed in the next few years.
Speaking of the future, the city’s sensory overload of a Museum of the Future just opened to instant landmark status. It’s difficult to argue with National Geographic’s declaration that this massive, singular steel-and-glass-clad torus is one of the most beautiful museums in the world.
There are, of course, a dozen other massive openings that would top most cities’ 2022 announcements, from the new Mohammed Bin Rashid Library on Dubai Creek to the unprecedented engineering of geography at The Palm, Ain Dubai and the Dubai Islands and the new, towering perches from which to see it all. Our pick? The AURA Skypool, which is (of course) the world’s first and highest 360-degree infinity pool.
A new standard of luxury arrived in October 2022 with the 795-room Atlantis Royal, with restaurants from celebrity chefs Ariana Bundy and José Andrés.
Barcelona is an almost ideal European city, one with near-perfect weather year-round, three miles of beaches within city limits, iconic parks, striking architecture and colorful neighborhoods that march to their own beat—artistic, sophisticated, bohemian. No wonder it ranks #6 in our Place category, which measures both the natural and built environments of a city. And no wonder the city was dealing with 12 million tourists annually, almost double its entire regional population.
Barcelona responded with some of the strictest vacation rental restrictions anywhere, aimed at controlling the effects of runaway tourism—like real estate investors who snatch up apartments only to rent them on Airbnb, depleting an already limited supply. The city also elected mayor Ada Colau on a Barcelona-for-citizens platform. Ultimately the pandemic took care of “the tourist problem,” with devastating results. Infection flare-ups meant that tourist founts like France banned all citizen travel to the Barcelona region for most of last year and local sources estimate that almost 40 percent of the shuttered bars and restaurants may never reopen. For a city with the #3 ranking for global Nightlife, this has been catastrophic.
Fortunately, tourism is returning—slowly after 2021 saw three times the visitors from 2020, but if early numbers from 2022 are an indication, accelerating fast. What they’ll find is more non-vehicular access to the city. Mayor Colau has delivered on her promise to reach 125 miles of bike lanes, with another 20 to be completed by 2023. The city has also moved forward with aggressive car traffic restrictions as part of the mayor’s superblock initiative, replacing parking and roads with playgrounds and public seating. See the future for yourself at Passeig de Sant Joan, recently named one of the world’s best streets by Time Out. Sant Joan is one of Spain’s first green corridors, designed for self- propelled mobility and exploration with its bicycle lanes, expansive sidewalks, greenery and sprawling outdoor seating. Extra bonus: it’s also home to the city’s beloved food market, Mercat de l’Abaceria (at least until it moves into more permanent digs later this decade).
The city’s top 10 Outdoors ranking should improve after its renewal. And getting to the city’s #10-ranked Sights & Landmarks by bike or foot will also help visitors discover more of its streets. And those are reopening, too. The city’s iconic La Rambla boulevard is also in the midst of ambitious renos to make it more walkable with fewer cars, while elevating the area’s architecture and art heritage, culminating with the reopening of the area’s stunning 17th-century Teatre Principal in 2024.
Few cities serve up the ability to walk Western history like Roma. Heck, Palatine Hill alone invites you into two millennia’s worth if you’ve got an hour. Mix in a safe (#23), accessible modern city and its thousands of portals back in time (Sights & Landmarks are in the global top five) and it’s easy to see how Rome cracked the Best Cities Top 10 again this year (after just missing out in 2021).
Declarations of love for the city have multiplied with social media channels, of course, and while Facebook check-ins #23) and Instagram hashtags (#33) have slipped due to lower tourism numbers, Rome still ranks #10 for Google Trends and TripAdvisor reviews. How can it not when so many sing its praises? Take the immortal Anthony Bourdain: “If I’m in Rome for only 48 hours, I would consider it a sin against God to not eat cacio e pepe, the most uniquely Roman of pastas, in some crummy little joint where Romans eat.”
So let’s dig into some of the highlights of the dozens of rising phoenixes of the city’s culinary scene after so many restaurants shuttered over the past two years.
Pulejo, named after native son Chef Davide Puleio, was one of the city’s most anticipated openings this spring. Puleio’s international experience, from Noma in Copenhagen to Milan’s L’Alchimia, will make this Prati room a fast destination.
A coin-throw from Trevi Fountain is Don Pasquale, housed in the former residence of Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti, making this restaurant and cocktail bar a destination not just for Italian cuisine lovers, but for interior design buffs as well. Chef Domenico Boschi riffs on classics of the Roman culinary empire (think artichoke and cod).
And believe the buzz about Romanè, opened recently by celebrity chef and restaurateur Stefano Callegari and devoutly dedicated to the approachability of Italian cuisine.
Appropriately, Roma has also just opened the Garum museum (named after the fish sauce that ancient Romans got their umami hit from). Its documentation of Italian cuisine—recipes, ancient utensils and methods and much more—is housed in a 16th-century palazzo that’s worth a visit on its own.
A dozen other museums and cultural landmarks have also just reopened or have been unveiled for the first time, even in a city where you can’t walk a block without running into a millennia-old something. Rome’s #7 Museums ranking will rise as a result. Don’t miss the reopened Mausoleum of Augustus as well as the Casa Romana, a 4th-century residence underneath the Museo di Scultura Antica Giovanni Barracco. Newcomers include the Museo Ninfeo, which chronicles the ruins of a… let’s call it “vacation property”… for Roman emperors.
Madrid suffered greatly early on in the pandemic, when it was one of the planet’s hardest-hit capitals. But the city has bounced back on its feet deftly, continuing a much-needed investment in its bounteous (but long-dormant) infrastructure and public assets that is fueling the Spanish capital’s city-building legacy like few eras before.
In Madrid, it starts with focusing on existing assets and the conviction that everything old can be new again. Many of the 20 recently opened and coming- soon high-end hotels are committed to reuse—from the Madrid Edition by Marriott International, housed in the old Monte de Piedad de Madrid building, to the stunning Metrópolis building’s new life as a boutique hotel, spa, private club and multiple restaurants. Speaking of restaurants, more than 50 have opened in 2022, with almost that many slated for 2023.
Madrid’s city leaders are also doubling down on modern reinvention focused on its citizenry. The Buen Retiro (“pleasant retreat”) park in the city center joined Madrid’s tree-lined Paseo del Prado boulevard on UNESCO’s World Heritage list two years ago. It occupies 1.3 square miles in the center of the city, and Paseo del Prado, which includes a promenade for pedestrians, runs parallel to it, connecting the heart of the nation’s art world, flanked by the Prado Museum, with the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum and the Reina Sofía art center.
Appropriately, both have been extensively expanded during the pandemic and this UNESCO honor will only add much-needed magnetism to Madrid’s #15-ranked Sights & Landmarks. It’s an essential piece of infrastructure for a city that needs plentiful outdoor space, now more than ever. Madrid’s #13 ranking in our Place category is well-earned and will only improve in the future, given long overdue big-budget projects, like making the central Gran Vía boulevard far more pedestrian friendly.
Perhaps the biggest news is Madrid’s beautiful measures to combat climate change and pollution, by way of a 47-mile urban forest network with nearly half-a-million new trees that will connect the city’s existing forest masses and reuse derelict sites between roads and buildings. Upon completion, this “green wall” is projected to help absorb 175,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year, and mitigate heat generated by urban human activity. The investment in the city’s outdoor realm will improve Madrid’s middling #60 ranking in our Outdoors subcategory, especially combined with how safe the city has become (ranking #23 globally).
Madrid suffered greatly early on in the pandemic, when it was one of the planet’s hardest-hit capitals. But the city has bounced back on its feet deftly, continuing a much-needed investment in its bounteous (but long-dormant) infrastructure and public assets that is fueling the Spanish capital’s city-building legacy like few eras before. In Madrid, it starts with focusing on existing assets and the conviction that everything old can be new again. Many of the 20 recently opened and coming-soon high-end hotels are committed to reuse—from the Madrid Edition by Marriott International, housed in the old Monte de Piedad de Madrid building, to the stunning Metrópolis building’s new life as a boutique hotel, spa, private club and multiple restaurants. Speaking of restaurants, more than 50 have opened in 2022, with almost that many slated for 2023.
adrid’s city leaders are also doubling down on modern reinvention focused on its citizenry. The Buen Retiro (“pleasant retreat”) park in the city center joined Madrid’s tree-lined Paseo del Prado boulevard on UNESCO’s World Heritage list two years ago. It occupies 1.3 square miles in the center of the city, and Paseo del Prado, which includes a promenade for pedestrians, runs parallel to it, connecting the heart of the nation’s art world, flanked by the Prado Museum, with the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum and the Reina Sofía art center.
The city is also investing in social housing and equitable development with the Madrid Nuevo Norte Project, currently Europe’s largest urban redevelopment initiative, which will transform the industrial wasteland of railway lands and brownfields north of the city into social housing, a transit hub and new office spaces, with a focus on meeting UN Sustainable Development Goals. That bodes well for its current middle-of-the-pack score (#56) for Income Equality.
Singapore’s 50-year rise from politically unstable, resource-poor and unskilled ex-colony to talent- and capital-hungry shipping hub (the world’s busiest) and, subsequently, Asia’s wealth management capital, is place-brand engineering at its most ambitious. Small wonder, then, that the city has never finished out of the Top 10 in our seven years of this ranking.
Singapore’s reinvestment in research, talent and corporate headquarters recruitment ensures it will be home to a sustainably wealthy citizenry for decades to come. It’s why the city-state continues its ascent among the planet’s most prosperous cities, with a growing cluster of Global 500 companies (placing it #24 globally). The government has already committed $16 billion to establish Singapore as a global research and development hub. Its 2020 Research, Innovation and Enterprise Plan aimed to duplicate Nordic and Israeli innovation and R&D, much of which will strengthen local universities. This focus on research, medicine and tech is designed to open another front for Singapore—one that complements its financial dominance. It builds on the human capital of the citizenry, already in the top five in our GDP per Capita subcategory.
Today, manifestations of this wealth and confident swagger are everywhere. From construction cranes to the gilded facades of Orchard Road—Singapore’s version of Fifth Avenue for high-end fashion, now more coveted with the imminent opening of the 350-room sustainability-obsessed luxury Pan Pacific Orchard as well as the new (and massive) Hilton Singapore Orchard—the city knows its affluent global audience: moneyed wanderers who seek efficiency, security and exoticism.
Singapore delivers it all post-pandemic, ranking #4 for Safety and within the top 25 for Outdoors, set to ascend with the 10th-anniversary additions to the city’s Gardens by the Bay, starting with the Active Garden, a new 2.5-acre purpose-built green space for people of all generations to connect with one another through physical, social and learning activities. That demonstrable care for its aging population, to say nothing of 80 percent of citizens living in public housing, further differentiates this fascinating city from any other urban center on earth.
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 is aiming for 800-plus miles of bike lanes and the recently reopened nine-mile Rail Corridor makes for a quick self-propelled break from the city and journey back in time.
Of course the city’s Safdie Architects-designed $1.7-billion Jewel Changi Airport, opened in 2019 a few months before lockdowns, is also worthy of a few hours of exploration. It’s already helped the city get into our top 50 Airport Connectivity ranking.
The smallest city in our Top 50 is a tiny but mighty dynamo to keep an eye on, led by visionary mayor Femke Halsema (literally: she’s also a filmmaker), the first non-interim female mayor in the city’s history.
Her administration’s practical stewardship of a place (and citizens) often abandoned to the tourist euro is co-authoring a future of accountability by everyone who calls the magnetic Dutch capital home. Take the recent approach to a refugee accommodation crisis that led to hundreds of unhoused migrants, many fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, sleeping outside the city’s overflowing resource centers: accommodate more than 1,000 on a moored cruise ship for six months, buying vital time to find other arrangements. Not surprisingly, this care for others and willingness for locals to do the work is represented by the city’s top three ranking for Income Equality, and top five for Labor Force Participation.
The sometimes out-of-control nightlife (ranked #10 globally) and human trafficking that the city was known for (and, often, marketed as) was another opportunity to educate frustrated but powerless citizens, who were given copies of a free book exploring the city’s role in the organization and management of the global slave trade from a local perspective and what they could do to help the fight. And the city is fighting, going so far as to move the red-light district out of the famed De Wallen neighborhood to the outskirts of the city while banning non-residents from cannabis cafés and ditching tours that glorify the city’s baser side. Stepping in are tours focusing on the city’s enviable livability and Dutch history. And getting tourists (who numbered 22 million in 2019) away from the city center, to places like Amsterdam-Noord, accessible via a free five-minute ferry from Central Station, the city’s main transport hub.
Noord has become a sort of second downtown, with factories that once produced cargo ships today housing daring kitchens, some of Europe’s coolest galleries and hungry tech start-ups eager to draw talent with a buzzy address. The proximity to a smoldering nightlife that doesn’t infringe on sleeping families helps, too. Not like the district has nowhere to sleep: the new Sir Adam Hotel, occupying the first eight floors of the landmark A’dam Tower, has access to the city’s highest observation deck to really wake up groggy guests.
The city is also embracing corporate Brexit refugees, who are setting up shop after leaving London, drawn by new overnight rail connections, for which Amsterdam is a growing hub, and air connectivity (#7).
All this is creating a looming housing crisis, which is why Mayor Halsema and other city leaders are aiming to get out ahead of it with the Haven-Stad (Port City) residential neighborhood that will eventually see up to 70,000 homes imagined as “a metropolitan mixed-use area.”
Unsurprisingly, incumbent pillars of industry already using the area don’t share the vision.
Demand for new rules of engagement came at a time when, during the first three months of 2021, Prague recorded an almost 94 percent decrease in tourism compared to 2019. As it returns, the city is making deliberate and long-lasting decisions to ensure its #4-ranked Museums (ahead of places like New York) and #3-ranked Attractions (trailing only London and Tokyo) remain accessible to the citizens who kept them going when tourism didn’t. Places like the Čapadlo embankment on the Vltava River have become open-air stages and galleries reminiscent of Paris. Náplavka, with its former ice-storage spaces ensconced in the river’s retaining walls, was reborn during the pandemic as a vibrant urban market and series of pop-up bars. Prague’s compact, walkable fairy-tale spirit is still found in century-old cobbled streets and (publicly accessible) hilltop Prague Castle, which has also emerged from lockdown with Salm Palace, which houses National Gallery exhibition spaces, fully renovated. Other classics like the Baroque Clam-Gallas Palace in Old Town, are also newly reopened and eager to be admired.
The City of Angels is cooking again. “L.A. is the best food town in America because it’s also among the most diverse,” says L.A. Tourism and Convention Board president and CEO Adam Burke. “We have Angelenos from 140 countries living here, speaking 220 languages.” All around L.A.’s 100+ municipalities, people are back, enjoying the #11-ranked restaurants on the planet. The city’s ascendant infrastructure is hot, too. The new SoFi Stadium, the largest in the National Football League, officially opened last fall to host the NFL’s Rams and Chargers home games. In February 2022, the hometown Rams ended the inaugural season by winning it all in Hollywood fashion. An equally big story is about how all nine of LAX’s terminals are in the midst of a combined $14.3-billion modernization that includes the Automated People Mover train, scheduled to open next year. Adding to L.A.’s #21 Museums ranking is the opening of the visually stunning Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, with its ongoing three-floor Stories of Cinema exhibit exploring the histories of moviemakers and their works. No wonder it ranks #2 globally for Google searches.
The hardships of 2020 and 2021 only meant that the Windy City was spring-loaded for a breakout 2022, powered by a fully operational O’Hare International, the #5 airport in the world as measured by the number of direct destinations served. Meetings and conventions of all sizes are back and the city’s quiet productivity is humming again with the 19th-most Global 500 headquarters on the planet and renewed investment in America’s long-reigning Midwest economic powerhouse. On the streets of Chicago’s #24-ranked Sights & Landmarks, the pandemic looks to be in the rearview mirror. The planet’s 11th-best Nightlife has had plenty of patrons looking to keep the party going this year. Lucky for them, there are many new spots to grab dinner in a city that ranks #28 globally in our Restaurants subcategory. Chef José Andrés debuted Bazaar Meat and Bar Mar in December 2021 inside Bank of America’s new Chicago headquarters, and this spring the city’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, Donald Young, debuted Venteux, a French brasserie in the new Pendry Chicago hotel that is just one of more than a dozen bold hotel openings in 2022.
San Francisco doesn’t just welcome differences, it celebrates them, ranking it #34 in our People category, including #9 for Educational Attainment among its citizenry. Its #16 Prosperity ranking includes #9 finishes in our Employment and GDP per Capita subcategories. The promise of high salaries draws global workers who fuel the city’s ambition and ideas and drive its #31 ranking for Global 500 companies. Still, the city has been deeply wounded economically—by the pandemic, the lack of affordable housing and what many see as regulatory overreach. Companies are leaving for Austin and Florida as a result. But life goes on. The city is rolling out the most daring bike and pedestrian infrastructure in America and the protected bike network now boasts 464 miles of bikeways, including 50 miles of new car-free/car-light streets in the past year alone. Aggressive pursuit of out-door public spaces—from downtown’s new Salesforce Park, 70 feet above street level atop the roof of the Salesforce Transit Center, to the half-dozen parks, tunnels and spaces opening this year in the Presidio alone—was a clinic in opportunism. The city’s #31 Outdoors ranking will only improve.
Berlin is a city where remnants of a fragile history mingle with a present in which being whatever you want just comes with residency. These days, the city is welcoming waves of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion, just like it did for decades—with mixed success—for new-comers seeking a new life from all over the world. The result: raw, unabashed urbanity and self-expression that atrophied under pandemic restrictions for the past 30 months. But as public health measures ease (and the sun comes out), the entire city is back gathering outdoors, in the parks, the beer gardens and, increasingly, in street parties and parades. Berlin also ranks #6 for Museums, a ranking that is set to ascend with the cascade of new openings and renovations this year. Two major museums have moved into the new Humboldt Forum in the heart of the city: the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art. A dozen other museums are set to open, with collections ranging from the world of the samurai to video games. In 2026, the anticipated Museum of the 20th Century will be one of Europe’s finest.
The colonial spirits that still haunt the place, the forest of skyscrapers seen on a hike to Pok Fu Lam Reservoir, the sounds, smells and tastes from the dai pai dong (open-air food stalls) of Temple Street Night Market and the city’s electric pulse all captivate visitors and locals alike. The sublime embrace of the city was shattered in April 2019 when Hong Kong citizens opposing a law to extradite criminal cases to China first took to the streets. The demands quickly spread to broader human rights reforms targeting China’s encroachment on the region—and, now, new security laws imposed by Beijing briefly cast a pall on Hong Kong’s Safety ranking. (It’s back to #4 globally, a high point of its #7 ranking in our overall Place category.) Still, Beijing today insists students are taught President Xi speeches and continues to persecute dissent. The political upheaval, combined with crushing pandemic public health measures, means the sharpest annual drop in population in 2022, down 1.6 percent according to a September 2022 Census and Statistics Department report—the steepest decline since the government began tracking figures in 1961. No wonder it’s been trending so highly on Google.
The ubiquity of D.C. in dramas on screens small and large, combined with the shocking events of recent years, means we’re all thinking about Washington. Want proof? It topped all cities for the number of references on Google in the past year. Given its omni-presence, there are few cities so poised to build on its exposure. “Investment continues in the city with $10.3 billion in development, 29 hotels in the pipeline, eight of which are opening this year, and the near completion of phase two of the Wharf,” says Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC. Those 2022 openings include the AC Hotel Washington DC Capitol Hill Navy Yard, and the Pendry DC – The Wharf. And speaking of The Wharf, phase two of the massive Southwest Waterfront development is scheduled to open any month now. Food and dining are also helping D.C. pursue equity with Market 7, a sprawling food hall touting Black- owned businesses. The jewel in the city’s culinary crown is the $250-million RiverPoint, two blocks from Audi Field. With all of this culinary investment, the city’s middling global #105 Restaurants ranking will surely improve.
If the 21st century belongs to China (Narrator: It does), Beijing will be the place to watch its rise. The capital city ranks #2 for Prosperity (losing the top spot to Doha this year), and performed well in two separate features within that category: the highest number of Global 500 headquarters and a #26 Employment Rate ranking worldwide, which has tumbled in the past year. The site of the grand Ming Dynasty Forbidden City has endured more lock-downs than most cities in our ranking, with the Chinese government keeping any return to “normalcy” elusive. At least the world got to see a bit of Beijing’s splendor during the curtailed 2022 Winter Olympic Games, with the brand-new airport getting its due globally. The spectacular, $12-billion Zaha Hadid- designed Daxing International Airport opened its doors in late 2019, just in time to slam them shut as the pandemic hit. Airport officials promise high-speed rail, inter-city services and downtown-to-airport express trains all stopping right beneath the terminal, making for quick connections to Beijing’s roiling downtown. The city is already in the top 10 in our Airport Connectivity subcategory.
Safe, gregarious and increasingly wealthy, the Celtic Tiger has never been fiercer, ranking #16 in GDP per Capita while simultaneously #27 for Income Equality. The magnetism is obvious in places like its Docklands area, known as Silicon Docks, home to big tech and digital players including Google, Facebook, Amazon, eBay, Apple and Airbnb. They come for some of the world’s lowest corporate taxes and stay for the home- grown economic development initiatives like Ireland’s Local Enterprise Office, which supports international companies with mentoring, training and financial grants. And it’s not just household names setting up shop in the Irish capital. The site of several internationally ranked universities (Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, and Dublin City University), the city continues to attract smaller start-ups that choose it over traditional head office cities like London and New York. It helps to be able to offer eager young employees something to do outside of work, which Dublin’s famous—though increasingly costly—pub-centric nightlife (ranked #15 globally) handily takes care of, along with an abundance of concerts, shows and events (Culture ranks #19). Of course, being among the safest cities on the planet helps, too.
The ancient gateway between Europe and Asia, the conservatism and liberalism that Istanbul’s history built on radiates in every atom of Türkiye’s kinetic capital. It’s why the city always ranks high in our Sights & Landmarks subcategory (#11 this year, just behind Barcelona). Minarets and church spires dot the bright skyline, while down at street level vendors plying their wares share the street with harried bankers and diplomats. But on both sides of the Bosporus Strait, everyone is talking about Galataport, Istanbul’s reinvigorated historic city harbor. Extending almost a mile along the Bosporus near the city’s long-coveted Karaköy district, the $1.7-billion project boasts the planet’s first-ever underground cruise terminal—essentially a mini tourist city where those coming and going can shop and eat. But it’s not all logistical: the luxury Peninsula Istanbul opens nearby early next year, capping a torrid year for hotel openings that includes the seafront luxury resort JW Marriott Marmara Sea and a dozen others. The city’s #10 Museum ranking will also get a boost from the Galataport investment, with the Istanbul Modern, the city’s first contemporary art museum (designed by Renzo Piano), returning to its Karaköy roots.