From Europe and the Middle East to the mighty Americas, the Earth is teeming with extremely varied environs that range from dramatic landscapes and remote natural wonders to gorgeous mountains, picture-perfect villages and spectacular cities that seem to be taken from outer space, from fairy-tales or perhaps from our boundless imagination.

Here are my picks for the world’s most spectacular cities:

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro overview

Photo by PedroKirilos

With its amazing carnival vibe, intriguing lifestyle and fabulous landscapes declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the mesmerizing Rio de Janeiro it’s truly one of a kind. The sun-drenched beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, the dramatic Sugarloaf Mountain rising from the water, the sensual rhythms of Samba, the eclectic locals, the football fever, the bohemian Santa Teresa neighborhood, the dazzling carnival and the mighty Christ the Redeemer watching over them all, are certainly crafting one of the most spectacular cities in the world, one that makes for an unforgettable experience full of flavor and life.

New York City, USA

New York skyline

Manhattan’s Skyline

New York is many things – The Big Apple, The Gotham, The Financial Hub, The Metropolis or The City of Dreams, but most of all, it is a downright spectacle. With more than 8.3 million people calling it home, more skyscrapers than any other city in the world, and an atmosphere that’s more vibrant and cosmopolitan than anywhere else, New York will always be there to capture and fascinate, to bewilder and to give hope.

Petra, Jordan

Al Dier Petra

Photo by Dennis Jarvis

We’re blessed with dozens of wonderful places, but Petra is like nowhere else on Earth. The stunning “rose-red city” hidden in the mountains of Jordan is an archaeological marvel and an awe-inspiring experience, although its glory days are now long gone. The peculiar decor here overflowing with amazing rock-cut architecture is able to leave extremely powerful impressions, to capture your heart and never let it go.

Rome, Italy

Brimming with art, history and romance, the Eternal City is something you’ll never forget. With its inestimable collection of art, friendly chaos and sweet dolce vita flair, Rome oozes history and grandeur as much as it oozes energy and youth. It is the largest archaeological site in the world and yet an amazingly modern metropolis.

Home to astonishing ruins, the Vatican and the world’s most beautiful Renaissance and Baroque landmarks, the bustling capital city of Italy, with its thrilling past and buoyant present, never stops to enthrall the visitors.

Dubai, UAE

Dubai skyline

Photo by brett jordan

Often described as the city of superlatives, Dubai is the place where the world’s tallest skyscrapers, trendiest shopping malls and most extravagant resorts come together in order to form the planet’s most surreal metropolis.

Cutting-age architecture that seems to defy the laws of gravity, mind-blowing artificial islands popping out of nowhere, and an up-scale vibe that exudes pure luxury, are the signature features of this opulent Arabian wonderland.

What’s your favorite city in the world?

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  • Desi Traveler

    Desi Traveler Desi Traveler

    Reply Author

    I have been there only a few times but San Francisco is my absolute favorite…both as a traveler and if I have to live there then also I would love her.

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  • Clark Norton

    Clark Norton Clark Norton

    Reply Author

    Hard to leave San Francisco, my former home, off any list like this, but I can’t argue with these selections. Of course, Petra is an ancient city, no longer inhabited (or at least the part everyone goes to see).

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  • Peter Watsoneter W

    I would add a couple and drop a couple off – I have never been to Rio so cannot comment and I am not a fan of Dubai at all. I would add in London a mix of history, culture and class with a little touch of royal magic as well, and Paris – just because it is Paris and it is special!

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  • Matthew Hirtes

    A lovely selection, Mira. On Gran Canaria, we have our own mini-me version of Rio’s Christ statue. Despite being located above the island’s highest village, Artenara, you don’t need an escalator to reach it.

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  • Matthew Hirtes

    Of course, I meant to type Miruna. My fingers must be as tired as my brain. Apologies for that.

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    • Miruna

      Miruna Miruna

      Reply Author

      Thanks, Matthew! No worries about the name, my mother calls me Mira:)

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  • Jennifer

    Nice collection! I’ve been to all but Rio and agree these are some of my favorite cities.

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  • Mapless Mike

    I’ve been to two of these and they truly are spectacular places. I’ll definitely be adding the other ones to my list of places I have to visit!

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  • David Smith

    Great choices and fabulous photo selection, As a world travel photographer I see a lot of cities (including your great selection) but my favorite is where I love to live – Vancouver, Canada. I just posted a city panorama scene of my favorite city here:

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  • Jan

    Jan Jan

    Reply Author

    What a fabulous planet we live on when even the cities vie for the title of ‘most spectacular’. For its compactness, history, beauty and style I think Venice, Italy is a strong contender too. Thanks for a great article.

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  • buildingmybento

    I’m in one of them, Jakarta, right now, and recently visited my other two favorites, Tokyo and Istanbul. They are all unabashedly cities, but I keep coming back for the food.

    I’m from NY, but these days I only recognize Queens and the Bronx as worthy of a visit.

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  • pinkchampagne

    pinkchampagne pinkchampagne

    Reply Author

    This is a good list, but I too am not a fan of Dubai. For a glitzy city in the desert with lots of night life, I’d take Vegas any day over Dubai. I’ll take the fun, “anything goes” vibe of Vegas over the shallow yet strict and oppressive environment in Dubai.

    Other cities I think would be great choices include, for sheer beauty: Prague, Vienna or Montreux for sheer beauty, or Miami, Vegas or New Orleans for sheer cultural pazzaz and/or cuisine. Thanks for the list.

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