What makes a city rise above the rest in the hearts of travelers: the iconic landmarks, the distinctive culture, or just the dizzying array of dinner options?

“The food in Kyoto is truly exceptional,” says Katherine Christenson, a Travel + Leisure reader who voted in the magazine’s World’s Best Awards survey. “A kaiseki meal is one of the highlights of all food experiences.” Even so, her favorite part of the Japanese city is intangible. “The city is the essence of peace,” she says. “Kyoto has it all.”

Plenty of other Travel + Leisure readers felt the same way about Kyoto, scoring it highly among global cities for its landmarks, cuisine (like the multi-course, meticulously presented kaiseki), and even its friendly locals. As part of the magazine’s survey, readers also ranked the most popular cities, just within Asia, for such qualities as their arts scenes, bars, shopping, good value, and romantic potential.

And while Kyoto may have garnered favor for its Zen ambience, other winners among Asia’s top 10 cities charmed readers for being the opposite of peaceful. One winner makes the most of its sometimes-notorious past. Another is a business hub that dazzles readers with its extremes.

And reader Camaran Pipes loves another top 10 winner, Bangkok, for being a little bit of both. “Bangkok is fast and delicious, dirty and hot, relaxing and slow—whatever you want it to be,” she says. “It’s the chameleon of Asia, and it owns my heart.”

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