The world's coolest cities – as voted by you

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 10.06.2024

10. Berlin, Germany

Germany’s thriving capital has been voted the tenth coolest city in the world thanks to its cutting-edge art scene, wild nightlife, multiculturalism, incredible museums and rebirth into the dynamic cosmopolitan powerhouse it is today. And as each day goes by, Berlin seems to only get cooler.

Museum Island in Berlin © canadastock/Shutterstock

Museum Island in Berlin © canadastock/Shutterstock

9. Barcelona, Spain

Some of the world’s best food, drink, architecture and beaches all combine in the idyllic Catalan capital. Whether you’re surfing, skateboarding, spray-painting or simply devouring tapas, Barcelona is an amazing place to lounge with friendly locals by day and stay out late after the Mediterranean sun has set.


© Evgeniy Zhukov/Shutterstock

8. Hong Kong, China

It’s tough to beat the contrasting combination of tranquil green mountains and dazzling seaside skyscrapers. But add dim sum, the best shopping on Earth, a wealth of culture and a highly addictive dose of urban bustle into the mix – it’s no wonder Hong Kong came in at a strong eighth place with our readers.

Hong Kong skyline view from the train

© Ekaphon maneechot/Shutterstock

7. Reykjavík, Iceland

With laidback days and long, hedonistic summer nights the world’s most northerly capital is undeniably awesome. For such a tiny population Iceland’s creative output is off the charts, breeding artists such as Bjork and Sigur Ros to name a few. But how many other cool cities can also boast the aurora borealis or an easy escape from city life to primordial looking wilderness when you need it? Only Reykjavík.

Planning a trip to Iceland? Follow the journey of our content manager and find out what to expect and how to prepare.


© Supreecha Samansukumal/Shutterstock

6. Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Always a strong contender, we weren’t surprised to see Amsterdam come in a strong fifth place on the cool list. The marriage of calming canals and crooked brick buildings with alternative lifestyles, bike culture and avant-garde art scenes make the Dutch capital an easy city to love, but a much tougher one to leave.

Start planning your trip by choosing your accommodation with our guide to the best places to stay in Amsterdam.


© Shutterstock

5. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

For its favela funk parties, un-paralleled beach life, ever-tempting churrasco, grit and glorious style, our readers were insistent about Rio’s inclusion in the coolest cities list. Rio’s landmarks and landscapes never grow dull, and its vibrant atmosphere energizes and inspires residents and visitors alike.


Playing altinho futebol beach football at Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro © lazyllama/Shutterstock

4. Tokyo, Japan

Though life in its multiple city centres is a true sensory overload – satisfying barrages of crowds, flashing lights, anime, J-pop and futuristic tech – deep in the suburbs and backstreets our readers found a host of fashionable pop-ups, hip bars, slick art galleries and little ramen restaurants with flavours to blow your mind. From hangouts in Yoyogi Park to great hospitality and general politeness towards travellers, Tokyo definitely deserves its spot in the top four.

In the Tokyo metro

In the Tokyo metro train © oneinchpunch/Shutterstock

3. Istanbul, Turkey

Balancing on the brink of Europe and Asia, one could easily spend a week beaching and sightseeing in historic Istanbul and never get bored. But to get a taste of contemporary cool you’ll have to leave the oldest neighbourhoods behind. It won’t be long before you stumble upon one of the many edgier districts bursting with hip cafés, independent boutiques, experimental galleries, wild nightclubs and a creative buzz that has the whole world talking Turkey.


At the Grand Bazaar Istanbul © Breslavtsev Oleg/Shutterstock

2. New York City, USA

Our readers knew this top ten list wouldn’t be complete without NYC. But it’s no longer just Manhattan that keeps New York at the top. Brooklyn is ultimately responsible for clenching a strong second place. Its distinct cultural neighbourhoods have birthed much of the world’s most exciting music, art and design. Though gentrification threatens areas like Williamsburg, residents would argue that New York City is still the cultural capital of the world.


Orthodox Jews Wearing Special Clothes on Shabbat, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

© Alfredo Garcia Saz/Shutterstock

1. London, England

London is truly a world unto itself. From fantastic museums to back-alley speakeasies, hip gourmet restaurants to nameless holes-in-the-wall serving the best in far-off cuisines – London’s appeal is impossible to resist. For its dynamism, diversity, creative abundance and cultural wealth our readers were passionate about naming it the world’s coolest. While rampant rises in price endanger everything that has made this city the incredible place it is, Londoners remain hopeful. For now, London still has it all.

Mannequin at a fashion stall in Camden Market, London

Mannequin at a fashion stall in Camden Market, London © Patrick Shutterstock/Shutterstock

Top image: In the Tokyo metro train © oneinchpunch/Shutterstock

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 10.06.2024

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