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Updated: Jan 18, 2021 announces the results of statistical comparisons of the rankings of several major opinion surveys on the most beautiful cities in the world. The surveys encompass thousands of survey respondents opining on 47 cities on six continents.

December 10th, 2020 - Millions of tourists annually visit cities considered to be the most beautiful in the world. Beautiful cities matter, yet little research has focused on two overarching questions on travel preferences:

1. Do statistically consistent rankings of beautiful cities emerge when multiple opinion surveys are compared?

2. Do the rankings differ to a statistically significant degree when disaggregated by often-researched demographic characteristics, such as gender, age, education, nationality, and personality?

To answer the two questions, analyzed several worldwide opinion surveys that ask for rankings of the world’s most beautiful cities. The surveys had in common 47 cities on six continents. Per the first question, the analyses revealed a remarkably high degree of statistical consistency in the rankings of beautiful cities. Per the second question, almost no significant differences were found in 26 tests of demographic variables.

In all the surveys the most often cited beautiful city was ranked #1, the second most often cited city was ranked #2, and so on. The attached table shows the average ranking of the first half of the 47 cities analyzed in the surveys. Note that Paris had the highest average ranking among the surveys, Venice had the second highest average ranking, followed by Rome, then Barcelona, and so on.

The highly significant statistical findings mean that in all probability future opinion surveys will exhibit rankings similar to the attached table. Paris, Venice, Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam and Prague will all likely be among the top-ranking cities in future surveys; further down in those future surveys will be London, Lisbon, Vancouver, and so on.

Moreover, in all probability the rankings will be similar to the attached table regardless of the demographic characteristics of the survey respondents. The rankings will not differ significantly for female respondents in comparison to male respondents, older respondents versus younger respondents, etc. (Again, 26 variables were tested encompassing gender, age, education, nationality, and personality.)

What is it about Paris, Venice, Barcelona, etc. that will almost always place them in the top ranks of surveys of the world’s most beautiful cities?

Possible explanations are superlative architecture, unique landmarks (e.g., the Parthenon, Hagia Sofia, Eiffel Tower), deep historical traditions, compelling cultural amenities, “famous for being famous” self-perpetuating reputations, and so on. In future research, it will be valuable to explore exactly which aspects of these urban environments are most strongly associated with the perception of beauty.

Among the benefits of such future research would be directly translating statistically significant findings into tourism marketing campaigns, e.g., “join our tour of the stunning architecture of these cities”. Such findings could also be utilized by the tourism development agencies in cities worldwide, by identifying and marketing their qualifying assets – in this example, whatever local “stunning architecture” a given city can promote.

The details of the research – including the rankings of all 47 cities – are available in both a general public version and an academic journal version at the Blog tab of the website.

About The Author

Karen Lake - Senior Contributor

Karen is a senior contributor at and brings with her a wealth of knowledge about the travel industry. Karen is a native of the USA and has held various media and PR positions over the last 10 years. Karen is a graduate of Washington State University.

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