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Kyoto voted world's best city to visit by Travel + Leisure magazine

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For the second year in a row, Kyoto -- a city that could be described as the antithesis to the bustling energy of Tokyo -- has been voted the world’s best city to visit by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine.

After compiling the scores from its affluent and well-traveled 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 enamored by the Galapagos Islands in the category of best islands, followed by Bali and the Maldives, while Disney Cruise Line emerged the favorite 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 travelers 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
© (c) 2015 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

25 Comments
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conspicuously absent on the list are a few of the top tourist destinations in the world, notably Paris, New York and London

Don't worry. A quick search for other top ten destinations reveals the three lists below. If you want to be number one, you just need to search a little harder.

(1) Johannesburg, Malaga, New Orleans, Hamburg, Nizwa, Wellington, Belgrade, Salta, Birmingham (England), Yangon

(2) Marrakech, Siem Reap, Istanbul, Hanoi, Prague, London, Rome, Buenos Aires,Paris, Cape Town

(3) Bagan, Luang Prabang, Hoi An, Venice, San Francisco, Cusco, New York, Edinburgh, Cape Town, South Africa, Tallinn

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Ihave been in New orleans. There was nothing special about it. Ihave been in Paris. There wasnt anything special about it. But i used to live in Kyoto. It was great

-11 ( +3 / -14 )

kiyoshiMukai

Ihave been in New orleans. There was nothing special about it. Ihave been in Paris. There wasnt anything special about it. But i used to live in Kyoto. It was great

I'm pretty sure people who lives in Paris think Paris is special.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I recommend Noryo Yuka in Kyoto summer seasons.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The best city to visit is the city that you like to visit.

If you like Paris, then its top of your list. If @kiyoshimukai doesn't, it's not the top of his.

Go where you wanna go and ignore lists.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Don't tell me, the magazine has been bought by a Japanese company. Like Monocle magazine (and a certain other website I can't mention).

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Any visitor can take the Japan Rail Pass and travel everywhere in Japan for 30 days. What does one see/ Japan. To know Japan, the traveler must visit Kyoto.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Just ignore the last 60 years of unbelievably bad urban planning and drab, generic architecture in most of the centre and you will be fine. Perhaps Kyoto should have been maintained by those allied Japan specialists who dissuaded America from bombing it. For me Kyoto is wasted potential. Everyone should go just to see how Japan turns so many things to junk.

9 ( +13 / -4 )

The number of touriats I saw in Kyoto was staggering. Many times more than you would ever see here in Tokyo because, let's face it, Tokyo is - for the most part - an absolute nightmare & definitely not a place to relax on a holiday!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Kyoto would be a great place if it weren't for all the tourists.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@kiyoshiMukai. LoL, you missed Mardi Gras I reckon.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

What Moonraker said. Alex Kerr nailed this years ago. I've been going to Kyoto for more than 15 years now and as sighclops said, the tourist numbers are growing almost exponentially. Ten years ago you could go during the "offseason" and find little oases of calm beauty. Now it's wall to wall Chinese tourists playing dress up, awash in a sea of selfie sticks.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

For me, Kyoto is an easy place to stroll about. For example, one walking route is from Kyomizu Temple all the way through the center of the city and on to the Golden Pavilian. Along the way you can see all kinds of interesting things. Another route is from Kyomizu to the Silver Pavilion on the other corner of the city. While the throngs of tourists are seeing the main sights, you are seeing all things in between that mostly the locals experience in every day life.

As for Numbers 2 & 3 on the list, wonder why Charleston & Siem Reap rate so high in comparison with some of the places listed below them ... and those places that must be below the top 10 mark?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Kyoto is one of my favorite places, although it has gotten very commercialized lately, especially at the historical sites.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

jcapan: edojin makes a good point. It's really just the 'main' sites (Kiyomizu, Kinkakuji, Fushimi Inari, etc.) that get thronged with tourists (and school groups). As soon as you break away from those places it's extremely easy to find 'little oases of calm beauty'. I was literally just there being a tourist a few days ago and apart from those main sites, everywhere else was very calm and relaxing. I literally had the main deck at Shogunzuka all to myself for a couple minutes. Yeah, there were many tourists in the city, but 'wall to wall' is a massive exaggeration.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Kyoto is an ugly modern city with attractive sites. It is the best that Japan has to offer, but that is starting from a low base.

A great city is more than individual sites, but the whole place.

I am rather suspect of the list - I suspect that it reveals the readers' aspirations and pretentions as much as anything. For example, Krakow is a nice place, but it will not keep a traveller busy for long.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Kyoto's great, but anyone who thinks Paris isn't special hasn't got a soul....

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Well that gave me a laugh!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Well, Kyoto would definitely make my top 10 list, and would be number 1 on my Japan list. Well done Kyoto.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

if your not into temples, then Kyoto will bore you to tears

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I love Kyoto ... but it really is full of foreign/local tourists. You'd be surprised. One day a young Japanese man approached me and asked me in English to take a photo of him and his friends in front of Golden Pavilion. You see, there weren't any Japanese people around to ask the favour!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Weird list, though no worse, I suppose, than the silly one put together by Monocle every year.

A Japanese friend who works for the UN in Bangkok recently lamented that Siem Reap has been ruined by over-development in the last decade or so and the steady draining of Tonle Sap is ruining the fishing that supported so many people in the area.

Jerusalem? No interest in the ME in general and the apartheid state of Israel in particular.

For the second year in a row, Kyoto—a city that could be described as the antithesis to the bustling energy of Tokyo—has been voted the world’s best city to visit by readers of Travel + Leisure magazine.

Yes. Sleepy Kyoto. C'mon. It's a city of 1.5 million. It bustles just as much as Tokyo, just doesn't cover the same amount of real estate and the most popular shrines, temples and parks are overrun by tourists, too many being school children who couldn't care less.

Ah_soJUL. 09, 2015 - 02:45PM JST Kyoto is an ugly modern city with attractive sites. It is the best that Japan has to offer, but that is starting from a low base.

True of some much of Japan. That being said, Kyoto had no excuse for still having whole sections of the city dominated by bad architecture. Spared of bombing during the war, there was no necessity to throw up block after block of ugly concrete structures as was necessary for Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. It certainly has the best concentration of historic Japan. Nara is as lovely, but fewer Western tourists get there. Ditto of Kanazawa and Takayama.

MoonrakerJUL. 09, 2015 - 10:34AM JST Just ignore the last 60 years of unbelievably bad urban planning and drab, generic architecture in most of the centre and you will be fine. Perhaps Kyoto should have been maintained by those allied Japan specialists who dissuaded America from bombing it. For me Kyoto is wasted potential. Everyone should go just to see how Japan turns so many things to junk.

I'm okay with Tokyo's aggressive modernity. Many areas of redevelopment have been positive and there was precious little to preserve after WWII anyway. However, I agree that Kyoto has made bad step after bad step since the 1980s, beginning with the godawful mess they made of the train station, allowed by a change in city regulations that had existed since the Taisho era.

That being said, no one would have to ask me twice if offered a place along the Kamo-gawa.

http://www.kyotojournal.org/kyoto-notebook/urban-renewal-in-kyoto/

wtfjapanJUL. 09, 2015 - 10:33PM JST if your not into temples, then Kyoto will bore you to tears

If you're not interested in history and historic architecture, why come to Japan at all? Tokyo is New York is London. Do you come to Japan to see urban landscapes common to all large cities in the industrialized world or is it for the Maid Cafes and the Robot Restaurant? Good Japanese food can be had in NYC, LA, SF or Seattle. And if you're a tourist, you won't know if it's bad anyway. Subways? Not unique. Museums? NYC, London and Paris win hands down. The great outdoors? Silly. Kamikochi is stunning as are certain parts of Hokkaido. Fuji-san? Vending machines at the summit of a UNESCO World Heritage site. There's more wild in Wyoming or British Columbia than all of Asia.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Avoid visiting in August when Kyoto is like a cauldron.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

ScroteJUL. 10, 2015 - 10:44AM JST Avoid visiting in August when Kyoto is like a cauldron.

Actually, avoid all of Japan except northern Tohoku and Hokkaido from late May until October. Last time we were in Kyoto was at Christmas at couple years ago. There was no one anywhere. Had entire temple complexes almost entirely to ourselves.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Kyoto a beautiful full. It deserves no.1. I ❤️ Kyoto and Kyoto people. Love from India.

Kyoto Kyoto.????????????????????..

Looking forward to visit u again.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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