For the second year in a row, Kyoto, Japan – a city that could be described as the antithesis to the bustling energy of Tokyo – has been voted the world’s best city by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine.
After compiling the scores from its affluent and well-travelled readers, the American travel magazine released the results of its annual World’s Best Awards, which break down the top-scoring cities, hotels, airlines and cruises into tidy rankings.
And with an A+ approval rating of 91, Kyoto was given the top spot on the world’s best cities list, narrowly beating out Charleston, South Carolina and Siem Reap in Cambodia for the title.
While Tokyo is best known for being a portal of modern city life – bustling energy, skyscrapers, flashing neon lights – Kyoto offers a different kind of rhythm that includes more than 1,000 ancient Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, Zen gardens, traditional ryokan inns and a district dedicated to working geishas. Kyoto is considered the birthplace of geisha culture.
It was also the imperial capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years.
Interestingly, conspicuously absent on the list are a few of the top tourist destinations in the world, notably Paris, New York and London, as well as representation from Latin countries and South America.
The only North American city to crack the list is Charleston, which also topped the best cities list for the US and Canada.
Travel + Leisure readers were most enamoured by the Galapagos Islands in the category of best islands, followed by Bali and the Maldives, while Disney Cruise Line emerged the favourite mega-ship cruise line.
In the category of top hotels, the luxurious Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur on Lake Lake Pichola in India, was named the best in show, scoring a near-perfect mark of 99 for its unrestrained opulence.
And travellers seem to be happiest with Singapore Airlines, which was named the world’s best airline over Emirates and Qatar Airways.
Here are the top 10 cities as voted by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine:
1. Kyoto, Japan
2. Charleston, South Carolina
3. Siem Reap, Cambodia
4. Florence, Italy
5. Rome, Italy
6. Bangkok, Thailand
7. Krakow, Poland
8. Barcelona, Spain
9. Cape Town, South Africa
10. Jerusalem, Israel.