When Travel + Leisure readers throw their collective weight behind an opinion, this tends to create a ripple effect – especially when it comes to the results of the World’s Best Awards. In declaring the best cities in the world, they consider hotels, Michelin-rated restaurants, rich cultural heritage, top attractions and, in recent years, the COVID-19 protocols. The votes were then counted, the numbers were crunched, and we came up with a score for each city – and, ultimately, the ranking of the best 25 in the world. When the WBA lists were announced, hundreds of thousands of people sifted through the findings. Travelers are planning trips based on these destinations, interest in lesser -known winners is rising, and cities around the world are feeling the impact.
Each year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the world – to share their opinions on top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated the cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value.
Comparing the best cities of 2022 to last year’s rankings yields some intriguing observations. Florence is back in the top five cities this year, rising from No. 6 to No. 4, while Udaipur, India dropped to No. 10 from No. 2. Last year’s winning city, San Miguel de Allende, earned No. 2 this year. spot and garnered many superlatives, with one respondent saying, “The weather is perfect, the music scene is excellent, and the food is outstanding.” Kyoto, Japan, also dropped from the list, dropping from No. 5 to No. 14, but Istanbul (No. 5) and Ubud, Indonesia (No. 3) remained in the top five.
T+L readers also showed renewed appreciation for some of the 2020 winners that weren’t there last year, including Mérida, Mexico (tied at No. 12), a hub in the Yucatán praised by a T+L reader as “one of the best cities to visit for music, dance, and cuisine.” Among the Spanish cities that will return this year is Seville (No. 11). One WBA voter called the Andalusian capital “a great city to lose,” while another described it as simply “attractive.”
But the real comeback kid of this list is Oaxaca, who rose from No. 8 spots last year to achieve this year’s top ranking. Read on to find out why Oaxaca was crowned the best city in the world – and what the other world hubs on the list did.
1. Oaxaca, Mexico
After losing the top spot in San Miguel de Allende last year, the southwestern city of Mexico once again went to the top of the readers list of favorite cities around the world. It is a dream gastronomic destination, especially for mole and mezcal lovers. The dominant Zapotec Indigenous culture influences the local cuisine, which is fully reflected in Oaxaca City. (In fact, one survey respondent specifically described “amazing local native food.”) Many readers were also excited about Oaxaca’s 17th-century architecture, enticing cocktail scene, and vibrant craft markets, with the friendliness of its residents. “People work their way up to make you feel special,” one voter muttered. The city’s “beautiful museums, streets, cafés, and restaurants,” according to another respondent, were also factors in the win.
2. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
3. Ubud, Indonesia
Honored with the WBA Hall of Fame. Score: 91.06
6. Mexico City, Mexico
7. Chiang Mai, Thailand
8. Jaipur, India
9. Osaka, Japan
10. Udaipur, India
11. Seville, Spain
12. (rope) Mérida, Mexico
12. (answer) Tokyo
14. Kyoto, Japan
Honored with the WBA Hall of Fame. Score: 89.77
15. Siem Reap, Cambodia
17. Bodrum, Turkey
Honored with the WBA Hall of Fame. Score: 89.29
19. Muscat, Oman
20. Hoi An, Vietnam
21. Cuzco, Peru
22. Cape Town
23. Charleston, South Carolina
Honored with the WBA Hall of Fame. Score: 88.70
25. Ljubljana, Slovenia