When Travel + Leisure readers throw their collective weight behind an opinion, it 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, COVID-19 protocols. The votes are then counted, numbers crunched, and we arrive at a score for each city — and, ultimately, the ranking of the best 25 across the globe. Once the WBA lists are revealed, hundreds of thousands of people sift through the findings. Travelers plan trips based on these destinations, interest in the lesser-known winners increases, and cities around the world feel the impact.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated 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 returned to 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, took this year’s No. 2 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 slid down the list, slipping 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 a few 2020 winners that had been absent last year, including Mérida, Mexico (tied for No. 12), a hub in the Yucatán that a T+L reader praised as “one of the best cities to visit for music, dance, and cuisine.” Among the Spanish cities to make a return this year is Seville (No. 11). One WBA voter called the Andalusian capital “a great city to get lost in,” while another described it as simply “enchanting.”
But the true comeback kid of this list was Oaxaca, which shot up from No. 8 spot last year to attain this year’s top ranking. Read on to learn why Oaxaca was crowned the best city in the world — and what other world hubs made the list.
1. Oaxaca, Mexico
After losing the top spot to San Miguel de Allende last year, this southwestern Mexican city has once again landed at the top of readers’ list of favorite cities around the world. It’s a dream gastronomic destination, especially for mole and mezcal enthusiasts. The dominant Indigenous Zapotec culture influences the local cuisine, which is on full display in Oaxaca City. (In fact, one survey respondent specifically touted the “amazing local Indigenous food.”) Numerous readers also raved about Oaxaca’s 17th-century architecture, enticing cocktail scene, and lively craft markets, along with the kindness of its residents. “People go out of their way to make you feel special,” one voter gushed. 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
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 91.06
6. Mexico City, Mexico
7. Chiang Mai, Thailand
8. Jaipur, India
9. Osaka, Japan
10. Udaipur, India
11. Seville, Spain
12. (tie) Mérida, Mexico
12. (tie) Tokyo
14. Kyoto, Japan
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 89.77
15. Siem Reap, Cambodia
17. Bodrum, Turkey
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 89.29
19. Muscat, Oman
20. Hoi An, Vietnam
21. Cuzco, Peru
22. Cape Town
23. Charleston, South Carolina
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 88.70
25. Ljubljana, Slovenia