Cuba’s capital is home to over two million souls and the romantic image of vintage cars and peeling, pastel-painted buildings doesn’t ring true all over town. Still, the faded Art Deco elegance of the old city – or Habana Vieja, a UNESCO World Heritage site – attracts millions of visitors each year.
No other city has a relationship with an artist quite like Barcelona does with Antoni Gaudí. From the Sagrada Família – still decades away from completion – to Parc Güell, his influence can be felt all over Catalunya’s capital. He’s best known for his modernist mosaics, which strike an interesting contrast to modern buildings like the waterfront W Hotel.
New York City, USA
New York is awash with impressive vistas, from the lofty heights of the Empire State and Flatiron buildings to street-level scenes on the Brooklyn Bridge and in Central Park. We’d hazard a guess that this is one of the most photographed cityscapes ever, immortalised in black-and-white posters the world over.
There’s a reason Venice attracts over fifteen million visitors annually: Italy’s most romantic city boasts over four hundred palaces, one hundred and fifty canals and nearly five hundred bridges. On any given day, there are reportedly more tourists than locals packed into its streets, traghettos and trattorias.
Sydney somewhat unfairly steals the spotlight down under. While the Harbour Bridge and Opera House have become iconic Australian images, the riverside vistas of Queensland’s capital are often overlooked. Head to Kangaroo Point at sunset to catch the twinkling lights of the skyscrapers reflected in the Brisbane River.
Djenné’s UNESCO-listed Great Mosque is the world’s largest mud-brick structure and the centre of a unique and spectacular settlement. The mosque holds over three thousand people and is lovingly re-plastered by the community with a fresh coat of mud each year. Nearly 2,000 traditional houses in the surrounding streets are also recognized on the World Heritage List.
Pyongyang, North Korea
Pyongyang’s gloomy apartment blocks and eerily grandiose monuments could be straight out of Orwell’s 1984. Crowning off the skyline is the hulking, pyramid-like structure of the Ryugyong Hotel – under construction since the late 1980s yet still not complete – a much-publicised embarrassment to the regime that’s now been dubbed the “Hotel of Doom”.
Rapid development is a challenge for town planners, and the mayhem of India’s cities is world-renowned. Delhi and Mumbai, in particular, can be a wonderful but exhausting assault on the senses. Jodhpur in Rajasthan is a different experience entirely, a jumble of romantic blue buildings perched beneath a cliff-top fort.
The city of lights has inspired artists, authors and playwrights for centuries. Whether gazing over rooftops from the Sacré Cœur, strolling along the Seine or picnicking with bobos in the Parc de Bellevile, it’s impossible not to be captivated by France’s capital. No wonder it’s the most popular tourism destination in the world.
Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with over 50,000 people per square kilometre. There’s no more land to build on here, so the only way to go is up: skyscrapers take up much of the 1100 square kilometre metropolis. The most iconic view is of Hong Kong Island from Kowloon.
Thanks to the 2003 film Lost in Translation, Tokyo has made it onto travel bucket lists around the world. The world’s largest metropolis, it’s also one of the most fascinating, home to capsule hotels, Harajuku girls, cat cafés, karaoke bars and more. Explore after dark to see the city’s famous neon illuminations at their best.
The pace of construction in Dubai is unparalleled. The city is reportedly home to over 15 per cent of the world’s cranes and new skyscrapers seemingly spring up overnight. The tallest building in on Earth, the Burj Khalifa, might be the most impressive development, but the Palm Islands are perhaps the most characteristic of the city’s excesses.
New Orleans, USA
With buildings dating back to the 1700s, New Orleans has an atmosphere unlike any other city in the USA. Bourbon Street might have been overtaken by neon signs and drunken revellers, but beneath the flower-draped balconies of the French Quarter’s backstreets, it’s hard not to be seduced by the city’s charm.
Cape Town, South Africa
Few cities have as spectacular a setting as Cape Town, which sprawls from the lower slopes of Table Mountain down to the shores of the Southern Ocean. This metropolis is better known for the splendour of its natural setting than its architecture, but sights like the bold colours of Bo-Kaap’s Georgian terraces are still worth seeking out.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
From Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado to its carnival-packed streets and samba beats, Rio’s scale, sights and stunning natural setting justify its moniker of Cidade Maravilhosa – the “Marvellous City”. It might not be Brazil’s capital, but we reckon it boasts the best cityscape in the country.