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These Are The Top 5 Cities In The World With The Best Culture According To New Study

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While there’s no denying the ever-lasting allure of tropical beaches and snow-laced peaks, there’s something about immersing yourself in another country’s history and culture that brings a whole other layer of growth and genuine enjoyment to travel.

That’s why more and more travelers are flocking to some of the world’s biggest cultural centers, especially now that the weather is no longer warm enough for sunbathing sessions but not quite snowy enough for a ski getaway, either.

Young woman in yellow walking with smart phone on the old town square in Prague city

However, since the world is filled with vibrant, fascinating cultures, each enticing in its own unique way, where do you head off for your next city break?

TimeOut recently conducted a study among 21,000 participants across the globe, asking them to rate their city’s cultural scene – these were the destinations that came out in the top 5: 

5. Athens

Any list of the world’s most culture-rich destinations wouldn’t be complete without Athens, a city that breathes history and is considered by many the birthplace of not only democracy but Western civilization itself.

view of Athens, Greece

Of the many iconic cultural sights you’ll come across in the Greek capital, the Acropolis and its postcard-famous Parthenon are arguably the most fascinating. 

With that said, Athens' cultural richness extends far beyond its ancient ruins; it permeates its lively neighborhoods, where traditional tavernas and local shops with hand-made goods coexist in perfect harmony with modern cafes and lively bars. 

The Plaka district, famously nestled in the shadow of the Acropolis, is a remarkable maze of narrow streets lined with everything from souvenir vendors to gorgeous little boutiques, creating an atmosphere that truly captures the essence of Greek hospitality.

street in Plaka, Athens

Other must-visit cultural landmarks in the city include (but aren’t limited to) the National Archaeological Museum, the Acropolis Museum, and the Municipal Market of Kypseli, which buzzes with life right from the heart of Athens.

4. Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires, the vibrant capital of Argentina, is a city that pulsates with the rhythm of tango.

While many lovingly refer to Buenos Aires as the “Paris of South America” thanks to its sophisticated feel and timeless charm, I’d argue that the warm, fascinating culture of this South American hotspot is truly incomparable.

Aerial view of Buenos Aires at night

The city's neighborhoods, from the colorful La Boca to the trendy Palermo, showcase the type of diversity that can only reflect Argentina's complex cultural heritage. 

If you ever get the opportunity to experience Buenos Aires yourself, one of your first stops should be Plaza de Mayo, the city’s famous square lined with meticulously adorned 19th-century buildings, including the stunning Casa Rosada. 

The Casa Rosada Seen From The Adjacent Public Square In Buenos Aires, Argentina, South America

Prepare for a long itinerary to follow your trip to Plaza de Mayo, though, since the likes of Teatro Colón, Malba Museum, and Palacio Barolo are not to be missed.

As it happens, the Argentinian capital is also a literary haven.

Thanks to a rich history that includes iconic figures like Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar, the city's bookstores are not just places to purchase books but cultural landmarks that celebrate the written word.

3. Cape Town

Africa’s sole representative on today’s list is one of those places that should be part of every traveler’s itinerary at one point or another.

Set against the backdrop of Table Mountain, Cape Town is a city that seamlessly blends a rich, multicultural history with awe-inspiring natural scenery.

Young male hiker sitting on a rock at Kasteelspoort Hiking Trail in Table Mountain National Park, Cape Town, South Africa

Robben Island, a symbol of South Africa's struggle against apartheid, stands as a testament to the city's commitment to preserving and sharing its storied past, while the District Six Museum is now one of the most authentic representations of the South African identity.

2. Prague

When you think of a European cultural hotspot, chances are your mind immediately goes to Prague (or at least a similarly attraction-filled city).

Panoramic view above at Charles Bridge Prague Castle

The Czech Capital is a place that seems to have stepped out of a fairytale, adorned with Gothic spires, baroque palaces, cobblestone streets, and a plethora of jaw-dropping cultural landmarks, including:

  • Prague Castle 
  • Charles Bridge
  • The National Gallery
  • Prague National Theatre
  • Old Town Square
  • Prague Astronomical Clock
  • St. Vitus Cathedral

1. Mexico City

Steeped in ancient Aztec heritage and adorned with colonial-era architecture, the sprawling metropolis of Mexico City is one of the most culturally immersive destinations you’ll ever come across in your travels, and the top pick in today’s list.

palace of fine art mexico city

The historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, showcases the grandeur of the Zócalo, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the National Palace; however, these architectural wonders can be much better appreciated after a tour of the city’s world-class museums.

Mexican Flag Flying In Zocalo, With The Metropolitan Cathedral In The Background, Mexico, Latin America

The Frida Kahlo Museum and the National Museum of Anthropology, for example, both house treasures that narrate the nation's complex past – while the region’s unwavering commitment to the arts is evident in Mexico City’s street murals, contemporary galleries, and thriving music scene that ranges from traditional mariachi to cutting-edge electronic beats.

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