For the 21st Annual Wanderlust Travel Awards, we asked our readers to vote for the places around the world that have captured their imagination and inspired their wanderlust. From futuristic, action-packed hubs to UNESCO-listed old towns, these are the top ten cities voted as the most desirable outside of Europe.
Making it into the top ten is Morocco’s best-known Imperial city. Marrakech sits in Western Morocco, loved by travellers for its mosques, palaces and souks. Its medina in the heart of the city is encompassed by historic walls and filled with narrow alleys leading to its enormous main square, Jemaa el-Fnaa. Want to escape the frenzy? Enjoy a hammam or book your stay in a traditional riad for some calm away from the noise.
One of three capitals in South Africa, Cape Town has many travellers fall for its charms. The city sits on the southwestern coastline, beneath the magnificent Table Mountain (a must-climb for views of the city) and fronted by the South Atlantic Ocean. Culture lovers should head to the Bo-Kaap for colourful streets, history, music and cuisine – after all, Cape Town is known as the culinary capital of South Africa. And let's not forget its beautiful beaches: head to Boulders Bay to spot the famous African penguins.
Canada’s largest speaking French city is thriving in the 21st century. Step back in time by wandering the 18th-century streets of Old Montreal, or explore its many museums, with favourites being the Museum of Fine Art and the historic Château Ramezay. Don’t miss a visit to Mount Royal (where the city got its name) to escape into nature and take in the most spectacular views of the Montreal's skyline.
The party capital of world has made it into the top ten. But as good as Carnival is, there's plenty more thrills to excite travellers throughout the year in Rio Di Janeiro. Take its famous beaches, enormous green spaces and world-class museums, for example. Plus, its former neglected districts are now culture-filled neighbourhoods with samba and choro bars keeping the party going.
As the cultural capital of Australia, Melbourne attracts visitors for its good food, great coffee and spectacular art scene. For the latter, head to Southbank for the Arts Centre and National Gallery of Victoria, or the Central Business Districts’ Laneways are a canvas for street artists with the inner suburbs hosting a fantastic music scene. Sport is adored here too, so be sure to catch a game of cricket at the MCG.
Making it into our readers’ top five is the highest constitutional capital in the world. Quito is nestled in the Andean mountains, perched slightly south of the equator. Its picturesque old town is one of the best-preserved historic centres in the Americas, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1970s. We suggest spending time exploring the spectacular architecture of its churches, and also wander La Ronda, the cobbled, artistic hub of the city.
Singapore is so spectacular, even its airport is considered a star attraction. Many people are lucky enough to change for connecting flights at world-famous Changi Airport, and will have the chance to see its waterfall and UNESCO-listed botanic garden. But for those who step outside of the airport, the magic of the city only gets better. Don’t miss the Gardens of the Bay (‘super trees’), the many eclectic neighbourhoods and the MacRitchie Nature Trail and Reservoir Park.
As one of South America’s most beautiful cities, Cartagena is guaranteed to enchant any visitor, which is why we think it’s made it into bronze position. It’s walled city centre is UNESCO-listed and offers insight into the city's beguiling history, with plenty of palaces, mansions and churches to roam. The Getsemaní neighbourhood is also unmissable for cool restaurants and bars to fuel your city exploring.
With Japan finally reopen to international travellers after having one of the world’s toughest coronavirus restrictions, our readers are desperate to return to its exciting, fast-face, futuristic capital. Draped in neon, Tokyo slows down for no one, so prepare to be dazzled by this powerhouse of fashion, finance, and food. The latter proves its superiority as the city has the most Michelin stars in the world, with a total of 263 awarded to Tokyo’s restaurants for 2023.
Louisiana's largest city has a distinctive vibrancy, which is why it has deservedly won this year's Wanderlust award for Most Desirable City (Rest of World). Music is its beating heart, with jazz, blues, reggae and rock filling the streets of the Marigny neighbourhood. Mardi Gras is one of the biggest carnivals outside Rio and unique to the 'Big Easy'. And don't get us started on the cuisine: gumbo, jambalaya and deep fried southern chicken are main hitters on the menus that reflect the city's melting pot of cultures. We predict New Orleans joining many travel bucket lists in years to come.
Get the very best of Wanderlust by signing up to our newsletters, full of travel inspiration, fun quizzes, exciting competitions and exclusive offers.