The Best Capital Cities in the World to Visit

By Dana Perkiss

Capital cities are an exemplary representation of their country, filled with a unique history and integral landmarks that make the destinations so travel-worthy. From charming beach towns to bustling metropolises, here are our travel experts’ top picks for the best capitals around the world to visit.

Rome, Italy

“The Eternal City” of Rome is by far the most popular place to visit in Italy and typically the starting point for anyone’s first trip to Italy. From the famous Colosseum to the lucky Trevi Fountain, vast Vatican City, and Sistine Chapel, Rome is filled with unique historical monuments at every corner – with as many cafés and restaurants to match. Indulge in authentic Italian pizza, pasta, gelato, and wine to your heart’s content in this foodie heaven.

Lisbon, Portugal

Unique history, colorful architecture, traditional Fado music, mouthwatering cuisine, sandy beaches… what is Lisbon not known for? Portugal’s sunny capital city is beaming with places to explore and landmarks to admire, from the charming hills of Alfama to the seaside Belém Tower, there’s no shortage of amazing activities in Lisbon. Portugal is also one of the oldest wine-growing regions in the world, so wine connoisseurs will surely love the vino during any Lisbon vacation.

Athens, Greece

World-famous for being the birthplace of democracy and the “cradle of Western civilization” is Athens, an ancient yet timeless city. Marvel at centuries-old monuments like the Acropolis and Parthenon then experience the dichotomy of bustling shopping streets and restaurants right next door. Stroll around in comfort while enjoying the year-round Mediterranean climate, take easy day trips to popular Greek Islands like Santorini and Mykonos, and feast on authentic Greek cuisine from gyros to moussaka.

Berlin, Germany

Berlin’s the perfect place for a city break in Europe. This wondrous metropolis features an electric nightlife scene, world-famous beer, and cuisine, plus remarkable historical landmarks – meaning it’s got something for everyone! Historians will enjoy visiting Museumsinsel (Museum Island) which is home to five unique museums and gardens, nature enthusiasts will love escaping the city noise by walking through Tiergarten, and party lovers will simply thrive in Berlin’s nightlife with raving clubs and beer gardens.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Haven’t you always wanted to travel to Hawaii? Honolulu, the tropical capital city of Oahu, will have you falling in love with the spirit of aloha over and over again with its spectacular natural beauty and friendly locals. Soak up the sun while beach-hopping around the coast, indulge in authentic Hawaiian cuisines like poke and kalua dishes, and visit the only royal palace in the US: Iolani Palace. Other incredible things to do in Honolulu include hiking the vast Diamond Head and attending a luau.

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, the capital city of Austria, stands out as one of the best destinations in the world for those seeking a perfect blend of history, culture, and modernity. This scenic city is nestled along the banks of the Danube River and is iconic for its stunning architecture. With opulent palaces like Schönbrunn and a UNESCO-listed historic center, the city is a living canvas of European history. Vienna is also renowned for its classical music legacy, and resonates with the spirits of Mozart and Beethoven.

Bangkok, Thailand

Filled with marvelous skyscrapers, fascinating museums, and high-end cuisine, the capital of Bangkok is a wonderful blend of past and present. No matter how many times you’ve visited, Thailand never gets old. From sandy beaches to ancient temples, bustling markets, and grand palaces, there are so many things to do in Thailand. Be sure to visit one of the city’s floating markets (like the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market), treat yourself to an authentic Thai Massage, and feast on plenty of savory street foods like Pad Thai.

Madrid, Spain

As a predominantly sunny and walkable city, Madrid is a charming destination perfect for first-time travelers to Spain. Boasting world-famous museums, art galleries, and food, Madrid is a vibrant city ideal for any type of traveler in any age group. The major metro station is also in Madrid, making it incredibly easy to make day trips and explore other Spanish cities. Inside the capital, you can wander around the iconic Puerta del Sol, marvel at the Royal Palace of Madrid, and relax in the scenic Parque del Retiro.

Cairo, Egypt

Have you ever wanted to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World? Home to the iconic Giza Pyramids Complex, Cairo is a bucket list destination filled with ancient history and enthralling culture. Travel back in time as you stare in awe at the Pyramids of Giza and the intimidating Sphinx, marvel at important religious sites like Al-Azhar Mosque, and shop for antiques around the bustling Khan el-Khalili souq (bazaar). One of the absolute best things to do in Cairo is to take a Nile River Cruise, which generally brings you to all the top sights!

Paris, France

Consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful places in Europe, of course, the City of Love and Lights is also considered one of the best capital cities in Europe. Marvel at bucket list landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Arc de Triomphe while soaking up the romance of Parisian culture. Indulge in delicious breads, cheeses, and wines in this foodie paradise, or shop to your heart’s content at world-class fashion boutiques. France’s capital is truly like none other, and just one Paris vacation will have you falling in love with this city!

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague stands as one of the world's best destinations that captivates visitors with its fairy-tale charm and rich history. The city's picturesque skyline, adorned with medieval spires and Gothic architecture, creates an enchanting atmosphere. Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle complex globally, and the iconic Charles Bridge exude a timeless allure. Renowned for its cultural heritage, the city hosts an array of museums, theaters, and music festivals.

New Delhi, India

Located in the historic center of Delhi is New Delhi, the capital of India. It’s home to all three branches of the Indian government and as such is a location of great significance. Historical monuments, bustling marketplaces, and incomparable North Indian cuisine fill this grand city with a delicious mix of old-world and new. There are endless incredible things to do in New Delhi from marveling at the Taj Mahal and India Gate to shopping at the Chandni Chowk bazaar, visiting the Lotus Temple, and more.

Valletta, Malta

As an entire UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Valletta is by far worth visiting. It feels like exploring a sunny open-air museum in a scenic yet timeless atmosphere instead of simply being a city. Marvel at golden baroque architecture outlined by the bright blue Mediterranean Sea, wander around its breaking harbor and shop for handmade crafts or local foods on Valletta’s vibrant shopping streets.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Get your much-deserved fill of Vitamin D in the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi, where the sun shines all year round! Made up of 200 islands, this city is the largest in the seven Emirates and has a vast range of geodiversity from beautiful beaches to scenic islands, historic landmarks, and untouched deserts. Visiting Abu Dhabi is like traveling to a fantasy world where there are virtually endless activities like taking a thrilling Desert Safari, visiting the unique Ferrari World, or paying respects at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin is known as being an extra welcoming and warm city, which isn’t surprising as Ireland is one of the friendliest countries. The capital itself is a creator’s heaven, being one of six UNESCO Cities of Literature thanks to its four Nobel prize winners (Yeats, Beckett, Shaw, and Heaney). There’s also the iconic Book of Kells at Trinity College, while history lovers will be enthralled by EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. Of course, there’s also Dublin’s vibrant pub and beer culture, with a visit to the Guinness Storehouse a must for the best things to do in Dublin.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Did you know Buenos Aires is dubbed the “Paris of the South” for its unique blend of South American energy with European style? This unique cosmopolitan city features a creative mix of rich history, vibrant nightlife, wondrous art, and a thriving culinary scene. On a Buenos Aires vacation, you’ll want to be sure to catch a tango show, indulge in endless empanadas, and have drinks around the popular Plaza Serrano.

Budapest, Hungary

The capital of Hungary is one of the most beautiful cities in central Europe. Known for its vibrant culture, stunning architecture, and being the Spa Capital of the World, Budapest is a bustling city that has a little something for everyone. There are multiple lavish spas with open-air pools and saunas available, one of the most popular being the Gellert Bath and Spa center. Visitors can enjoy leisurely strolls along the Danube Promenade, explore Margaret Island in the middle of Danube, and indulge in the city’s bustling nightlife at a “ruin pub”.

Toronto, Canada

A perfect getaway for those living in the Northeast is Toronto, with it just an hour’s flight from NYC. This Canadian metropolis is iconic for its towering skyscrapers, ethnic and cultural diversity, and world-famous sports. Catch a Raptor’s basketball game and try to spot Drake in the stands, marvel at city views from atop the CN Tower, or even enjoy a beach day on the Toronto Islands.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Enjoy a Caribbean vacation (with no passport needed!) in the Puerto Rican capital of San Juan. Discover where old-world magic meets new-age modernization in this historic, diverse city. You can lounge under the sun on any of the gorgeous white sand beaches, wander the scenic tropical foliage around the city, and marvel at century-old landmarks in Old San Juan. The combination of perfect weather, rich history, and friendly locals make San Juan one of the best capital cities in the Caribbean.

Bogotá, Colombia

Founded in 1538, Bogotá is a charming historical city filled with mouthwatering cuisine, endless museums, and a wild nightlife perfect for anyone who likes to dance. History buffs will enjoy walking around La Candelaria and visiting the Gold Museum, nature enthusiasts will love climbing (or taking the funicular) to Monserrate with sweeping city views, while foodies will delight in feasting on savory arepas and steamy ajiaco.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is one of the three capital cities in South Africa, famous for its spectacular weather and otherworldly scenery. It’s consistently one of the top tourist destinations and high on people’s travel bucket lists. Marvel at panoramic city views from atop Table Mountain (one of the New 7 Wonders of the World), walk around the lively V&A Waterfront, and lounge on sandy beaches along the coast. Bonus: go to Boulders Beach to see cute penguins!

Austin, Texas

One of the most unique US capital cities is Austin, Texas. Its unofficial city slogan is “Keep Austin Weird” and boasts the nickname of the “Live Music Capital of the World” since, unsurprisingly, it’s filled with live music venues and festivals. There’s tons more to Austin than music, though; visitors can enjoy some of the best food in the US, soak up the warm weather at one of Austin’s numerous green parks, and watch in awe as millions of bats take flight over Congress Avenue Bridge.


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