Hospitality and helpfulness reign at the planet’s friendliest cities
Every year, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on their favorite cities around the globe in our annual World’s Best Awards survey. While some are wooed by famed landmarks and ancient relics, or the sheer number of prized artworks preserved within a city’s museums, others are won over by the people.
Friendliness, be it instinctual hospitality, or a warm smile at every storefront, does a lot to make a city more accessible to travelers. Like the U.S. cities that toped the charts in our annual America’s Favorite Places survey and appeared on our Friendliest Cities in America list, these destinations—both far flung and near to home—know how to charm.
People who are proud of their city, passionate about its culture, and invested in its future are eager to share that with visitors. Like voluntary tour guides, they’re the first to point you in the right direction, share a little-known cafe home to the most spectacular local delicacy, or defend its proverbial walls in times of crisis or controversy.
Key West is one of the most eccentric and seductive cities in the nation. Don your tropical linen shirts with pride and check out one of the colorful artist havens, such as Studios of Key West, newly relocated to Eaton Street. Or perhaps catch a show at the new resident theater company, On the Rock.
“Locals are sincerely friendly, and it’s safe,” said a World’s Best voter about Santa Fe. Artists and jewelers flock here in droves for handmade Native American crafts, silverwork, and turquoise.
Hilly Lisbon is best explored via historic trolley, though with a great pair of walking shoes, you can see the sights on foot. Portuguese food puts great emphasis on fresh fish and wine: order fish stew with lemongrass and ginger at Alma, or 1300’s Taberna’s grilled sea bass with crab rice. And the people? Readers applauded them for their helpfulness and grace.
Pushy peddlers notwithstanding, Puerto Vallarta received praise for being as ideal for couples as well as families on holiday. “There are plenty of things to do,” observed one reader, “yet it somehow retains its small-town feel.” With many a white-sand beach and tropical jungle, its archeological sites and bustling boardwalks, you’ll never be at a loss for a diversion.
There’s something inherently warm about Amsterdam, especially in the springtime when the parks are full of blooming tulips. It’s easiest to make friends if you’re mounted on a bike: in this city, cyclists come first, pedestrians second, and automobiles dead last.
Thanks to the Minnesota Institute of the Arts, the Sculpture Garden (now in its 20th year), and the stunning conservatory at the Como Zoo & Conservatory—among countless other free things—the city has a reputation for being welcoming and open to visitors and locals alike.
Copenhagen may be best known for its avant-garde cuisine and striking architecture, but it also registers as one of the friendliest cities in the world. The Danes are relentless in their friendliness, honesty, and hospitality. But yes, the food is in fact superb.
There’s more to Cuzco than Machu Picchu. “Cuzco is a tourist town,” noted one voter, “and for that, the people are quite outstanding. [They] really look out for their visitors.”
This modest city along the northern coast attracts a laidback, outdoorsy crowd. The people of Portland live up to their reputation for friendliness as easily as the lobster rolls and blueberry pies.
The heart of cowboy country beats with an enthusiastic and zealous group of locals hanging out at the Old Fort Worth Stockyards and enjoying the city’s much-loved barbecue. Many museums are free, and the residents take a certain pride in being less buttoned up than their neighbors in Dallas.
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