The world’s greatest cities have shaped the world; influences through music, food, art, fashion, media, and tech stem from the most innovative and exciting urban landscapes exemplifying unyielding promise. The world’s most buzz-worthy metropolises encompass facets to send all your senses reeling, meeting even the loftiest expectations. If you can shake the immediate confusion and figure out the inner workings of the largest and most esteemed cities, the rewards can be endless, from hang gliding off the lofty peaks surrounding Rio de Janeiro to the hedonistic delights of Berlin’s revitalized districts.
10. New York, United States
New York City sets the bar for excitement—there is literally never a dull moment in the pulsing hub. As the biggest city in the United States, New York has grown into itself, and then some. It’s filled with architectural marvels, amazing restaurants, world-class shopping, and a nightlife scene so lively it rivals almost every cosmopolitan city out there. Performance arts include world-famous shows, an outstanding music scene, and different boroughs are each defined uniquely by residents, entrepreneurs, and other innovative souls. High fashion is as big a part of New York as vintage shops, food trucks as popular as upscale restaurants, and the population of people from all around the world, creating an unbeatable cultural fusion. Home to captivating Manhattan, ripe with world-famous attractions, visitors will get a taste of a city within the city and still feel like there’s a world of possibilities to explore.
9. London, England
London is a cultural leader, a creative powerhouse, and a trend-setter. The city thrives on diversity and complexity and is one of the most iconoclastic cities in the world. Market shopping and the street scene take precedent in London even though the city houses some of the most important art collections of our time. London holds its legendary history dear but also continuously renews itself. It has many subcultures and faces, which is what makes it so appealing. What another destination has such high prices and cringe-worthy weather yet draws back visitors time and time again? The pub scene was practically born in London, and with such varied residents from all around the world, it’s also one of the most interesting scenes today. All the music, fashion, and design coming out of London hit the international stage, making waves both east and west.
8. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai is a rare and ambitious city leading the charge in the Middle East. With a massive expat community intermingling with Emirates nationals, the landscape is filled with interesting faces and innovative places. Charming, distinct, and definitely exuding its very own character, Dubai is often compared to Paris for the allure and love of everything luxurious. Surrounded by majestic desserts that beckon with exciting activities and contrasted with state-of-the-art buildings, Dubai offers an interesting mix of backgrounds, making it a unique and compelling destination to explore. Despite Dubai’s urbane nature, Arabic culture, and a rich heritage is prominent. It also seems to be the antithesis of growing Western lifestyles, though the two distinctly different cultures seem to coexist harmoniously. Beautiful mosques and traditional souks blend in with contemporary skyscrapers and massive luxury shopping malls, creating a diverse background unlike any other big city in the world.
7. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is explicitly cool with an entirely layered scene. Gaudi’s masterpieces are magnificent, but the art scene goes far beyond them—artisans throughout the lively El Born district, Consell de Cent’s uptown galleries, and exhibitions throughout Eixample. Bohemian, carefree, and trendsetting, Barcelona’s diverse restaurants run the gamut from fashionable tapas bars to hole-in-the-wall food stalls and the bar scene is just as eclectic. Start on Las Ramblas, but move with the flow if you’re planning on seeing the sun come up—it’s the only way to keep up to locals. Wander the Gothic Quarter for hip and almost-hidden hotspots, get a taste sophistication in El Born, take in the edgier scene in Raval, or imbibe in the trendy barrio Poble Sec. And you’ve never witnessed a mob so pumped as when the city’s team has a match at home: total and utter exhilaration!
6. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Pair Rio de Janeiro’s happy-go-lucky locals with a coastal backdrop filled with the lilts of samba and you’ve got one incredibly appealing destination. Sharp granite pinnacles vault from the ocean amid long, sandy stretches; historic colonial buildings nestle in between modern skyscrapers, and dense emerald forests push their limits to the city’s edge—Rio seems to have it all. Central city adornments are overlooked by mountaintop Christ the Redeemer, an unmistakable and defining statue and skyline attribute. A large chunk of the coast, including the iconic statue, is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage designation. In Rio, there are three obsessions fueling Brazilians’ love for life: Carnival, the beach, and football, but if you’re looking to knock your heartbeat up, head to Rio’s Sao Conrado district, rent a hang glider, and dive from Pedra Bonita rock into stretches of sky featuring endless ocean below and lofty mountains around.
5. Paris, France
Paris is just as exciting as cities like Tokyo or Bangkok in an entirely different way. Legendary architecture, endless artistic wealth, and iconic historical landmarks offer unforgettable experiences. As if it couldn’t get any better, the dining, nightlife, and shopping scene are phenomenal too, with plenty going on to suit most aspirations for fun. With so many recognizable landmarks around, Paris can seem authentically familiar to anyone visiting for the first time, lending it a very amiable quality. There are scores of scenes to check out, like the lively backdrop around Rue de Charonne and Rue de la Roquette in the center of Bastille—the short stretch is brimming with restaurants and bars filled with students, locals, and expats creating a dynamic and cool social setting. Here, the streets are void of velvety-roped lines, perfect for barhopping, and the food goes far beyond French, with Italian, Thai, Cuban, and much more to offer.
4. Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok sends your senses reeling. You could use almost any description to cover the city and there’s always a place to match. Each city district offers something different—there’s definitely no lack of entertainment so make the most of it and dive in headfirst. Some of the biggest thrills include watching a live Muay Thai match surrounded by passionate Thais. By day go surfing at Flow House in Sukhumvit, dive with sharks at Ocean World, or head to Peppermint Bike Park for extreme cycling. Eat your way through an incredible array of family restaurants, food stalls, and cutting-edge dining spots on a heady food journey—by night, experience one of the world’s most intense party scenes. You can find scores of relaxing bars or pubs and take it easy, but the real kicks come after sunset in Sukhumvit, the city’s most adventurous nightlife district.
3. Berlin, Germany
Berlin is one of the most transformative cities in the world, changing its step slowly and continuously since reuniting its split heart after thirty years of separation. The reunion of East and West Berlin has created a brand new identity and one that’s far more exciting than when it was undone. Germany’s newly established capital has moved on to become a modern metropolis and a leading destination for the arts, architecture, shopping, and entertainment. Still, with this newfound character, Berlin’s people have maintained an anything-goes attitude, exemplified in their fiery underground scene and hedonistic lifestyle after hours—Berlin has carved out a reputation for having the most provocative nightlife in Europe. But nightlife is not the only thing to get excited about: explore newly gentrified districts, peruse evocative artwork, and find your inner rock star amid the incredible and iconic music scene, and all for a bargain.
2. Tokyo, Japan
Hitting the streets of Tokyo for the first time is like stepping into a weird and wonderful dream or a fast-paced sci-fi video game filled with neon lights. The city is ripe with tradition but also charges forward with edgy trends, exhibiting a culture that, as a whole, happily embraces both ancient heritage and contemporary cultivation. Tokyo is so engulfing you could stand and stare for hours at the constant action. “The Scramble” at Shibuya Station is the best example of Tokyo’s undeniably fast-pace: it’s the busiest intersection in the world where the ceaseless mill of people is a remarkable spectacle. If you’re looking for something out-of-the-ordinary, Tokyo’s where you’ll find it, and in spades. Some of the most curious restaurants (think ninja and video game themes), most varied and thrilling nightlife and tallest buildings are found in Tokyo, so there’s always something to get your adrenaline pumping.
1. Hamburg, Germany
Hamburg might not be an obvious choice as one of the world’s most exciting cities but upon closer inspection, it definitely fits the bill for thrills. As Germany’s largest port and second biggest city, the thriving commercial center is refreshingly bold in its moves—as much can be said about almost every scene in Hamburg, from art to food and especially after-hours. Maritime spirit throughout Hamburg transcends through squawking gulls, restaurant menus, and architecture; the influence of the water is palpable. Multiculturalism is exemplified right through diverse neighborhoods exhibiting a wealth of ethnic hotspots. Even the magnificently shabby red light district of Reeperbahn is popular for racier nightlife options while boho-chic Schanzenviertel and Grossneumarkt Square throw out more possibilities. Waterfront venues pump out the best of electronic and live music—after all, the Beatles have history here and Hamburg has shown unparalleled promise on the music front ever since.