Capital cities boast important infrastructure, including airports and other large transportation hubs – and they also offer a lot for tourists in terms of sightseeing and activities, from stately government buildings and opulent architecture to eclectic eateries and other unique cultural offerings.
Not all capitals are created equally, however. Some stand out as worthy bucket list destinations more than others – so keep reading to discover the top 30 most beautiful capital cities in the world!
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1. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Famous for its picture-perfect canals and the pencil-thin brick buildings that line them, Amsterdam is a top contender for the most beautiful capital city in the world. This large city somehow manages to give off a sense of small-town charm, and it’s even easy to see most of it on foot (or bike, if you prefer to do like the locals).
Although it appears to be a tidy, congruous town, dig a little deeper and you’ll find that Amsterdam is a city not to be put in a box. The modern aspects blend perfectly with the historic, and the natural elements of water, verdant parks, and tree-lined streets really do make it feel like you’re wandering around a small town rather than a capital city.
Amsterdam is known for being one of the most laid-back cities in the world – and its relaxed laws and carefree attitude make it all the more beautiful. It’s the perfect gateway for day trips, and with these 14 Free Things To Do, you can’t go wrong!
Many capital cities around the world are known for their historic architecture and old-time charm, but Singapore is a unique, futuristic playground – with unmatched modern architecture and innovation. It also happens to be one of the best gambling cities in the world!
That’s not to say that the city is totally void of authentic charm, but in the past 50 years, Singapore has grown into a vibrant cultural hot spot that you have to see to believe.
From indoor waterfalls and massive greenhouses to a cloud forest and the oft-photographed “supertree” grove, one of the most spectacular areas in Singapore is the Gardens By the Bay. This breathtaking area is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to awe-inspiring attractions, and you’ll likely be just as amazed by the UNESCO World Heritage Botanical Gardens.
Other must-see spots in Singapore include the candy-colored houses of Koon Seng Road, the elaborate Sri Mariamman Temple, and the otherworldly architecture of the downtown area.
You could spend months in Singapore taking in these sights, but no matter how long you’re staying make sure you grab a bite to eat along the famous East Coast Road, spend a night clubbing on Clarke Quay, and take at least one ride on the immaculate subway system.
Check out our guide to the 10 Best Neighborhoods in Singapore to Stay when planning your trip.
3. Budapest, Hungary
Hungary boasts one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world. Although Budapest is often overlooked for some of the more famous European capitals, those who visit will find that the city has no bad angels.
Budapest is actually a convergence of the ancient cities Buda and Pest, separated by the scenic Danube River. Some of the best views can be found along the river, including those of the Hungarian Parliament, the Opera House, and the Szechenyi Chain Bridge.
Other spots that are not to be missed include the Castle Hill area, the imposing St. Stephen’s Basilica, and any one of the iconic thermal baths around the city.
4. Moscow, Russia
Famous for its splendid historic and architectural monuments, Moscow is one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world. Located on the banks of the Moskva River in western Russia, Moscow has been the country’s capital since the 13th century and is bursting with history.
The city’s historic core can be found at the Kremlin, the home of the President and the armory, which holds many national treasures. Outside of the Kremlin, you’ll find Red Square – and some of the country’s most iconic buildings, including Lenin’s Mausoleum and St. Basil’s Cathedral.
Today, Moscow is often considered one of the most important political, scientific, economic, and cultural hubs, and it has the modern skyline to prove it.
5. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen is one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world – and no matter how many times you visit you’ll likely find a new favorite spot amongst the many different neighborhoods that make up this vibrant town.
You’ve likely seen the pictures of the colorful houses and retired ships along Nyhavn, but Copenhagen has much more to offer than this one area. The city is also home to an 1800s-era theme park complete with beautiful gardens and tantalizing restaurants, an eclectic hippie village, Christiania, that follows its own rules, and countless architectural gems that can be found around every corner.
Copenhagen also happens to be one of the safest places in the world – so it should definitely make it to the top of any traveler’s bucket list.
6. Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and you’ll likely fall in love with South Africa’s capital city before your plane even touches the ground.
Views of Table Mountain and the waves that crash against the coastline below will greet you as you fly over the city, and the landscape is unlike any other place on earth.
The beauty continues once you’re on land, and you’ll find soft sand beaches frequented by penguins, glorious Victorian architecture, and deep and complicated history that makes itself known around the city.
Some of the most beautiful places in Cape Town include the colorful houses of Bo-Kaap, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, and the famous Cape of Good Hope.
7. Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo is one of the most futuristic capital cities in the world and is also one of the most beautiful. Mostly known for its punctual railways, eclectic street fashion, and mouth-watering cuisine, Tokyo beckons tourists from all around the world to explore its tantalizing offerings.
This massive metropolis seamlessly mixes the ultra-modern with the traditional aspects of Japan and the outcome is a truly unique capital city. Some of the most iconic fixtures here include the idyllic Imperial Palace and its surrounding public gardens, the opulent Meiji Shinto Shrine, and the renowned Shibuya Crossing – also known as the world’s busiest crosswalks.
8. Rome, Italy
Rome’s world-class architecture and ancient history often puts it at the top of the most beautiful capital cities in the world. If you’ve spent any time at all in Italy’s capital city, you’ll know that Rome is captivating in a way that few cities can match – and no matter how many times you visit, the awe-inspiring sites will likely take your breath away each time.
From the colossal Coliseum and the iconic Trevi Fountain to the Palatine Hill and the Baths of Caracalla, there’s no mistaking that Rome’s most famous spots revolve around ancient architecture.
While these spots are simply stunning, perhaps the best view in Rome comes from the Pincio Terrace in Villa Borghese Park – especially around sunset, when the city is draped in golden light.
Of course, this isn’t the only stunning view in Rome, and you could (and should!) spend days hunting down the best spot for a photo-op.
9. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world – and while it has a distinctly European flair, this South American city is in a league all its own.
On the surface, the neoclassical architecture, sprawling green parks, and the vast collection of museums make Buenos Aires seem like any other big city but look a little closer and you’ll find that there’s more to this big city than meets the eye.
One of the most fascinating areas in the city is the affluent Recoleta Neighborhood – specifically, the cemetery. It may seem odd that strolling through a cemetery is one of the best things to do in a city, but the stately pillars and lavish mausoleums make this place truly captivating.
Other must-see areas in Buenos Aires include its beaches, the colorful La Boca, the verdant Bosques del Palmero, and the lively Feria de San Telmo – a massive antique market with over 250 booths.
10. Paris, France
It stands to reason that one of the most famous capital cities in the world is also one of the most beautiful, and Paris ticks both boxes. This romantic city is nestled along the scenic Seine River and boasts an impressive collection of beautiful neighborhoods, countless iconic structures, and a lavish history that can be seen around almost every corner.
Some of the most famous Parisian structures include:
- The Eiffel Tower
- Notre Dame
- Arc de Triomphe
- The Musee du Louvre.
While there’s no denying that these iconic sites are beautiful, there are some lesser-known gems around the city that deserve some love too.
The Sacre-Coeur and the Sainte Chappelle are two more incredible holy sites in Paris, and the perfectly manicured Jardin des Tuileries is a lovely setting for a picnic of French pastries and wine. If it’s architecture you’re after, take a stroll down the colorful Rue Cremieux or the picturesque Saint-Germain neighborhood.
11. Washington D.C., USA
The historic city of Washington D.C. is one of the most beautiful in the world, and the political importance of the United States capital continues into present-day times.
There is an abundance of embassies, monuments, museums, and other important government buildings in Washington D.C., and the lively buzz of this city is palpable.
Some of the most beautiful areas in the capital city include the iconic White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and the stately neighborhoods that put on a great color show when the cherry blossoms bloom each spring.
No matter where you are in the capital, you’ll likely find something of political or historical importance, making this beautiful city a no-brainer for history buffs.
12. Athens, Greece
Often considered the birthplace of democracy, there’s no doubt that Athens is one of the most historic capital cities in the world. It’s also one of the most beautiful – with ancient hilltop ruins, endless archeological sites, and stunning views across the mountainous terrain.
The ancient areas like the Acropolis are the obvious stars of this historic city, but Athens is also home to a large metropolis area with sectors from many different industries coming together to breathe life and culture into the city.
If you’re planning a trip to Greece, make sure you spend a few days in the capital before hopping on a boat to explore the lovely islands that this country is also known for.
Greece is actually one of the top 8 destinations in Europe to visit after COVID-19, so now’s the time to check out the country’s capital!
13. Madrid, Spain
Known for its artistic pedigree, expansive parks, and nightlife that puts many other metropolises to shame, Madrid is one of the world’s most beautiful capitals.
This massive city may lack some of the iconic structures of cities like Paris and Rome, but Madrid has a vibe all its own that can be seen in the wide variety of beautiful architecture that the city is known for – including that of the Plaza Mayor.
Some of the most beautiful places in the city include the glorious Parque del Buen Retiro, the Plaza de Toros, and the Palacio Real. Madrid is also awash in famous museums, and art lovers will find the offerings particularly pleasing.
You can eat to your heart’s content in Madrid, as this is one of the culinary capitals in Europe. You’ll find traditional tapas around every corner, along with modern joints that seek to infuse the Spanish flavor in foods from around the world. You’ll also have your fair share of places to drink, as there are more bars here than in any other city on earth. Cheers!
14. Havana, Cuba
With a history of piracy and mobster rule, you might not think Havana would turn out to be one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world, but this audacious town is seriously spectacular.
Its seedy upbringing only adds to the charm, and the buzzing city is full of vivacious locals, a vibrant art scene, and some seriously cool cafes and bars. One of the most beautiful areas in Havana is the neighborhood of Habana Vieja, or “Old Town”. Here you’ll find colorful colonial houses, coastal fortifications, and plazas packed with museums.
The Malecon in central Havana is another fun place to explore, though you may get a bit wet from the ocean waves that are known to crash over the sea wall from time to time. This salty spray has caused many of the historic buildings in this area to erode into disrepair, though some of the dilapidated facades do manage to evoke their own kind of romantic charm.
15. Beirut, Lebanon
Often referred to as the Paris of the Middle East, Beirut is one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world, and this timeless town has a little something for everyone.
The exclusive beach clubs and rooftop bars rival the most glamorous rivieras in Europe, and the tantalizing culinary scene here makes Beirut a bucket list destination for any foodie.
History buffs can bask in the ancient mosques and souqs that dot the city, while those more interested in modern architecture will enjoy the posh high rises that jut out against the city’s mountainous backdrop.
16. Doha, Qatar
What was once a small fishing village is now one of the most beautiful capital cities in the entire world. If Doha, Qatar isn’t already on your travel list, you’ll definitely want to add it once you learn a little bit more about this stunning metropolis.
Poised to take Dubai’s spot as the Gulf’s most dynamic city, Doha is brimming with futuristic skyscrapers, modern shopping malls, and posh beach clubs that will leave you in awe. You can also discover some of Qatar’s more traditional aspects at the vivacious souqs, the Katara Cultural Village, or at one of the city’s museums.
17. Edinburgh, Scotland
The ancient city of Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful capitals in the world, and it’s not hard to see why tourists visiting Scotland make this town their first stop. From the verdant hills and gorgeous Gothic architecture, the stunning scenery of Edinburgh is endless.
Every nook and cranny of this lovely city begs to be explored, but one of the absolute best places to visit in Edinburgh is the castle, perched high on the hill above the city. Not only will you gain some knowledge about Scottish history, but you’ll also get splendid views of the city below.
Other must-see spots in Edinburgh include the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Princes Street Gardens, and Mary King’s Close.
18. Hanoi, Vietnam
Situated on the banks of the Red River in Southeast Asia, Hanoi is one of the world’s most beautiful capital cities. Although it was relatively closed off to tourists until the turn of the century, Vietnam’s capital city is making up for lost time with incredible offerings for travelers who make their way here.
Hanoi (and Vietnam as a whole) is incredibly inexpensive, and you can live like a king on a relatively tight budget. The city is relatively compact and easy to meander, and you’ll find traditional temples, elegant French Quarter villas, and lively markets with vendors hawking their wares.
The food here is almost as beautiful as the scenery, so be sure to dive into the street food scene while you’re in Hanoi.
19. Jerusalem, Israel
Whether you’re a religious person or not, a pilgrimage to the holy city of Jerusalem is a must if you’re searching for the most beautiful capital city in the world. Israel’s capital dates back to the fourth millennium B.C., and although it has been destroyed and rebuilt countless times over its long history, Jerusalem has always retained its spiritual magnetism.
The Old City is without a doubt the most beautiful area in Jerusalem, and people from many different religions flood to this walled city to pay homage to their faiths. You’ll find Muslim, Armenian, Christian, and Jewish quarters in this area, each with its own flair.
Even the modern areas of Jerusalem have been built in the same materials to match the old, and no matter where you wander you’ll find that your surroundings are interlaced with beauty.
20. Ljubljana, Slovenia
One of the quietest cities in Europe also happens to be one of the most beautiful capital cities in the entire world. Ljubljana, Slovenia is a real-life fairy tale, and it’s one of the most livable cities in Europe thanks to its clean air.
Breathe deeply as you take in the incredible surroundings, including the mountainous backdrop, emerald green Ljubljana River, and the lovely Ljubljana Castle that overlooks the city from its seat high up on the hill.
If you visit in the summer you’ll find endless cafes with alfresco dining options along the river – and in the winter, the town takes on a whole different type of charm with gleaming Christmas lights and a light dusting of snow.
21. Muscat, Oman
Tucked between the craggy Al Hajar Mountains and the lovely waters of the Gulf of Oman, Muscat is one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world.
This port town is full of beautiful beaches, excellent museums, beautiful architecture, and flower-filled parks. Muscat is extremely laid back, offering a stark contrast to some of the other capital cities in this region.
Some of the most beautiful places in Muscat include the Grand Mosque, the Al Jalali Fort, the Sultan’s Palace, and the relatively new Royal Opera House of Muscat.
22. Lisbon, Portugal
With stunning sea views, impressive hillside architecture, and a colorful flavor that is all its own, Lisbon is one of the world’s most beautiful capital cities and one of the largest in Portugal. The cityscape is spread across seven different hills around Lisbon, and the panoramic views of the city and ocean from the Miradouros (the city’s viewpoints) are unmatched.
See the view for yourself at Castelo de São Jorge, the city’s hilltop fort, or take one of the iconic trams down to the beach and dip your toes in the water.
You could always just wander the streets of Lisbon too, as the narrow cobblestone alleyways are where some of the most impressive architecture is to be found. Of course, you’ll likely find plenty of wine bars and lively restaurants along the way, too.
23. Seoul, South Korea
Seoul is a modern city with traditional roots, and it’s one of the most beautiful capitals in the world. Infused with a tantalizing food scene, a rich historic background, and stunning hiking trails right inside the city center, South Korea’s capital is the perfect spot for travelers looking for variety – and it’s also one of the safest cities to visit.
No matter the time of day, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy. From early morning temple visits and late-night markets, it’s virtually impossible to be bored in Seoul.
Those interested in seeing the traditional side of Seoul should head to the Bukchon Hanok Village neighborhood and admire the old architecture as you wander the labyrinth of idyllic streets. The Changdeokgung, or “Palace of Illustrious Virtue”, is another ancient monument worth exploring.
Those looking for more modern sites can head to the Gwangjang Market, the N Seoul Tower, or the Cheong-gye-Cheon.
Old and new are often mixed seamlessly together in Seoul, and you’ll be able to see the best of both worlds as you explore this beautiful city.
24. Prague, Czech Republic
The old architecture here is stunning, and unlike many other European capitals, much of it was spared during the bombings of World War II. The UNESCO-listed Old Town is home to some of the most stunning structures, including:
- The Charles Bridge
- The medieval Astronomical Clock
- The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn.
Visit Old Town early in the morning to get the best views of the area before they are inundated with tourists.
25. London, England
Not only is London one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world, but it’s also one of the most lively. There are plenty of reasons to visit England’s capital (and many do each year), from the mix of modern and historic architecture to the diverse cultural and culinary offerings.
Many of London’s main attractions are nestled along the Thames River, including the historic houses of parliament, Big Ben, and the iconic London Eye. Other recognizable monuments around town include the Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Tate Modern.
There are also tons of beautiful parks around London, the most famous being Hyde Park, in addition to lots of outdoor markets, collections of food stalls, and lots of museums.
Check out our guide to the best Free Things To Do In London to help you get started on your trip!
26. Beijing, China
Bedecked in layers of history from the dynasties that have ruled China for centuries, Beijing is one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world. Everything about this metropolis seems supersized, from its population and street sizes to the incredible history and world-famous wall.
There’s no denying that Beijing is a big place, but once you get over the initial shock of it, you’ll likely find it hard to leave. The city offers tons of cultural experiences, historical relics, modern glamour, and endless amounts of delicious food.
27. Berlin, Germany
The dignified capital of Germany is one of the most beautiful in the world, and also makes it on the list of the Top 16 Best Cities to Visit in Germany, According to Lonely Planet. Although it’s a gorgeous city any time of year, it’s truly stunning in the winter.
It’s almost a miracle that the city still exists. Berlin has a fascinating history to match its beauty, and in the last century alone the city has played host to a revolution, an infamous dictator, and devastating bombings. The city was even divided between two countries for 30 years – with the world-famous Berlin Wall between the two halves.
Despite its chaotic past, Berlin has grown into a vibrant international city with cutting-edge architecture, a vast art scene, and a collection of eclectic clubs that are unlike anywhere else on earth.
Berlin chooses to celebrate its history and learn from it rather than bury it – and some of the most beautiful structures around this city have their roots in the past. Parts of the Berlin Wall still exist, and the best place to see this relic is the East Side Gallery.
Other must-see sites in Berlin include the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, and the incredible views from the Fernsehturm. There are also hundreds of museums around the city for those who want to take a deep dive into Germany’s captivating history.
28. Ottawa, Canada
Canada’s capital city is one of the most beautiful in the world, in part thanks to its stately government buildings and lovely views across the Ottawa River.
Although Ottawa is not Canada’s biggest or most populated city, it is home to some gorgeous and important architecture, much of which can be found on Parliament Hill.
The best views of the whole city can be found by ascending the Peace Tower, boasting encompassing views of the river, much of Ottawa, the nearby city of Gatineau, and the rolling hills in the distance.
More pleasing views can be found by strolling along the Rideau Canal, peeking into the opulent Notre-Dame Cathedra Basilica, or admiring the thousands of spring tulips at Major’s Hill Park.
29. Tallinn, Estonia
The colorful buildings, medieval streetscapes, and stunning views out over the Baltic all make Tallinn one of the most beautiful capital cities in the world. This city is oozing with storybook charm, and although it has been under the rule of other major powers of the course of its history, today Tallinn is a city with its own charm.
Teeming with ancient churches and UNESCO-protected merchant houses, Tallinn has one of the most complete and well-preserved Old Towns in all of Europe. The views from the hilltop Toompea Castle are some of the best in the city, though wandering around the lovely streets is still recommended so you can see the sites up close.
30. Islamabad, Pakistan
Many capitals are known for their important buildings and large skyscrapers, but Islamabad is all about nature. This capital city is not the biggest or the most populous, but it is one of the most beautiful in the world.
Surrounded by the stunning Himalayan foothills, Islamabad is bedecked in natural beauty. It’s everything a modern city should be, with buildings organized in tidy structures and plenty of green space in between.
One of the most beautiful areas in Islamabad is the massive Faisal Mosque, which is best experienced at sunset.
If you’re looking for a view over the whole city, head up to the Daman-E-Koh viewpoint or book a table at Monal restaurant, located a bit further up the hill.