While some people crave relaxation and beach destinations, others yearn for eye-opening holidays filled with culture. But which cities are home to the world’s best cultural experiences?
Whether you dream of strolling through Andalucia's cobbled Spanish streets or wish to experience diverse culture in the heart of Kyoto, we will reveal the best holidays and tours worldwide that are home to the finest cultural experiences.
We will discover which major cities host the most “things to do,” from museums to art galleries, music tours, and tourist landmarks.
And, because sampling local food and wines is often at the top of every culture-lover’s bucket list, we will also explore which destinations are home to the most five-star restaurants and wine-tasting tours.
The top 10 culture capitals of the world
Granada is the cultural capital of the world.
1. Granada, Spain
Culture score: 9.27 out of 10
Granada, a city in southern Spain’s Andalucia region, sits in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Known for its grand examples of medieval architecture, it is the number one hotspot for tourists seeking out culture. Granada has among the highest number of five-star restaurants out of 60 researched destinations, with 94.7 restaurants per 100,000 (just behind Kyoto’s 97.83 restaurants per 100,000 people,. It scored high for its sights and landmarks, including the Alhambra, a breathtaking palace city with Renaissance-style architecture, which is the second most visited site in Europe, according to Tripadvisor.
2. Florence, Italy
Culture score: 9.25 out of 10
Florence, the Cradle of the Renaissance, is home to some of the world’s best in art, fashion, food, and architecture. Like the rest of Italy, the streets of Florence are brimming with culture. Although geographically small, Florence is a city like no other and offers some of the world's best wine tours (60.06 per 100,000 people), where you can also enjoy horseback riding through the vineyards before wine tasting. Florence is also a fabulous destination for those who enjoy music (57.95 per 100,000), and there’s even a Florence dinner and "Three Tenors" concert, where you can soak up Florentine food and culture during a traditional dinner and concert experience.
2. Prague, Czech Republic
Culture score: 9.17 out of 10
Prague has always represented cultural, economic, and political importance in Europe, thanks to its rich history and Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architectures.
With its historical city houses, countless museums, and art galleries where masterpieces are displayed. Prague also offers some of the best restaurants scattered throughout the capital and showcases the best of Czech fine dining (68.5 per 100,000 people).
There are plenty of wonderful sights to see in the city (63.4 per 100,000 people), and in the capital of Bohemia lies the banks of the Vltava River, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are various things to do and attractions, from beer tasting to visiting the Grand National Theatre. You’re spoilt for a choice of things to do (326 per 100,000 people).
4. San Francisco, United States
Culture score: 8.98 out of 10
San Francisco is instantly recognisable for its iconic landmarks and colourful murals exhibited along its steep streets. Its culture is centred on its unique population, cuisine, and year-round festivals, including its most famous Gay Pride Parade. San Francisco's art scene is vibrant with a rich history of artistic tradition, from murals to cutting-edge performing arts, and there are plenty of galleries to visit (10.34 per 100,000 people).
The California capital is also not short of sights to see (65.5 per 100,000), with some of the top attractions in San Francisco, including its magnificent Golden Gate Bridge, perhaps San Francisco's most famous landmark. There is also Alcatraz Island, which was once the most secure federal prison in the US and held notorious inmates like Al Capone.
5. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Culture score: 8.72 out of 10
Amsterdam is home to many world-famous museums (19.8 per 100,000 people), and no trip to the city is complete without stopping by the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, or Stedelijk Museum. The city has a multitude of quirky treasures, from museums about cats to stunning photography galleries and self-playing pianos.
There are many top attractions aside from museums in the unique Dutch city (278 per 100,000), including Vandelpark, the Red Light District, and the Amsterdam Royal Zoo, where you can observe animal sights in the city centre.
The culture capital with the most things to do
Cusco, Peru, has the most excursions, with 579.72 things to do per 100,000 people.
1. Cusco, Peru
Things to do: 579.72 per 100,000 people
Cusco, a city in the Peruvian Andes, once the capital of the Inca Empire, is now known for its archaeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture. There are more than 579 activities and excursions to enjoy (per 100,000 people), including full-day tours to Machu Picchu or a trip to the infamous Rainbow Mountain, which is possible to visit in just one day on a guided tour. You can even go on an Amazonian jungle tour and explore the beautiful greenery on the island or take a Peruvian cooking class at one of the local markets in the city of Cusco.
The culture capital with the best five-star restaurants
Kyoto, Japan has the most five-star restaurants in the world, with 97.83 restaurants per 100,000 people.
1. Kyoto, Japan
Five-star restaurants: 97.83 per 100,000 people
Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, is a city on the island of Honshu. It is known for formal traditions such as Kaiseki dining, consisting of multiple courses of precise dishes, and is home to the most five-star restaurants out of 30 other cities. There are plenty of steak restaurants to choose from, with dishes like Kobe beef and sirloin katsu. Kyoto serves some of the best tempura seafood dishes in the world, and although it is originally from Portugal, tempura is one of the most beloved dishes in Japanese food.
The culture capital with the most sights and landmarks
Kyoto, Japan, is home to the most sights and landmarks, with 110.03 per 100,000 people.
1. Kyoto, Japan
Sights and landmarks: 110.03 per 100,000 people
Kyoto embodies the heart of traditional Japanese culture, with many incredible things to do, like visiting golden temples and vermilion shrines, strolling through Zen rock gardens, and swaying bamboo forests. It is also one of the only places in the world where you can spot geisha in extravagant kimono and white makeup. Monks still live and work in the city’s 2,000 temples and shrines.
Kyoto's most popular attractions include the Kinkakuji Temple and Nijo Castle, which were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1994. There are also many scenic walks like Arashiyama and Philosopher’s Walk, where you can enjoy picturesque views lined with cherry blossoms and sacred temples.
The culture capital with the most art galleries
Charleston, South Carolina, offers the most art galleries in the world, with 28.75 per 100,000 people.
1. Charleston, United States
Art galleries: 28.75 per 100,000 people
Charleston, a South Carolina port city founded in 1670, is defined by its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, pastel antebellum houses, and its bursting art scene as galleries open continuously. Most galleries are within walking distance of each other in the “gallery district,” which is the unofficial neighbourhood spanning blocks within the French Quarter. From traditional to contemporary art, there's something for everyone to explore and appreciate.
The culture capital with the most museums
Charleston, South Carolina, offers the most museums in the world, with 47.05 per 100,000 people.
1. Charleston, United States
Museums: 47.05 per 100,000 people
Charleston isn’t just about the art galleries; the city’s museums contain everything from portraits to sculpture to decorative arts. The Gibbes Museum of Art recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation, returning it to its original Beaux-Arts architecture. There are also plenty of historical museums to explore, like the Hunley Civil War Museum and the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon.
Charleston even has its own Museum Mile, where you can find six museums, five nationally renowned historic houses, four scenic parks, and a Revolutionary War powder magazine along a one-mile street.
The culture capital with the most literary, art and music tours
Florence, Italy, has the best arts and music tours, with 57.95 per 100,000 people.
1. Florence, Italy
Literary, art, and music tours: 57.95 per 100,000 people
Florence offers a huge variety of rich history in both arts and music, including opera concerts, classical music, and baptistery and opera museums. Florence’s Musart is a totally Florentine festival hosted annually, with a fusion of music, art, dance, and culture. Musart sees the participation of famous artists from the Italian and international music scene.
The culture capital with the most wine tours and tastings
Florence, Italy, has the most wine tours, with 60.06 per 100,000 people.
1. Florence, Italy
Wine tours and tastings: 60.06 per 100,000 people
Florence also offers the most wine tours and tastings (60.06 per 100,000 people), with plenty of options to choose from, including tasting experiences in the Tuscan countryside, or in the enchanting Chianti region. If you wish for a more adventurous experience, you can even go on a Chianti safari with vineyards, cheese, wine, and lunch.
We began by taking a seed list of 60 of the most cultured cities in the world, using sources like The Culture Trip and Time Out. You can view the full list of sources used here. Using World Population Review data, we gathered the population for every destination.We used TripAdvisor for all our cultural factors. We collected every destination’s score for every factor and normalised them against each other to achieve a final score out of 10.
Ting has a serious case of wanderlust. Having travelled to over 40 countries, it’s her mission in life to make her way through her ever-growing list. Her two young sons have also caught the travel bug, and recent trips have seen them making snow angels in Iceland while watching the Northern Lights, as well as walking alongside elephants in South Africa.
Ting | About the author
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