“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” wrote an Irish romance novelist, creating a phrase still used today. Although she was not talking about cities, the concept is relevant because everyone has an opinion.
Many lists of beautiful cities in the United States focus on weather, but this alone does not qualify a city as lovely. Many cities in the north have incredible skylines and architecture. Some towns in the Rocky Mountains have equally impressive views and parks. The most beautiful cities each have distinctive characteristics.
To make our list, we require the city to have a minimum population of around 50,000. As a result, some popular but small towns are excluded. Below are Savoteur’s 25 of the most beautiful cities in the U.S.
1. Boston, Massachusetts
This state capital on the Charles River is known for its skyline along Boston Harbor. The city dates back to early Puritan settlements in 1630. It is also the birthplace of the American Revolution. Because of its age, Boston is the home of many firsts, like Boston Common, the nation’s oldest public park.
Explore the Freedom Trail and see some of Boston’s most important historical sites. The city is also home to excellent museums, like the Museum of Fine Arts. Across the river, you can visit Cambridge, Mass., and spend time at the many sites around Harvard and MIT.
Two exciting times to visit the city are during the Head of the Charles Regatta and the Boston Marathon.
2. New York City, New York
There is no city like New York City in the United States. Its distinctive skyline contains some of the country’s most iconic buildings and well-known landmarks. The list includes the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, Hudson Yards, Rockefeller Center, the Statute of Liberty, and many more.
Besides the beauty of the skyline, go to some of the top museums in the world. New York City’s best museums can take days to visit. Institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Brooklyn Museum have world-class collections. Also, a visit is incomplete without seeing a Broadway musical and visiting Central Park, Times Square, and Grand Central Station.
Remember to try the food. The cultural melting pot has food from around the world. Places like Little Italy and Chinatown are great for lunch, and then try some of the trendier places at night in the city that never sleeps.
3. Seattle, Washington
From the east coast, we head west to another port city, Seattle, known as the Emerald City. The Space Needle and many skyscrapers punctuate the skyline. Seattle is on Puget Sound, and Mt. Rainer hovers over it in the background, creating pretty and scenic views.
Seattle is known for its coffee, festivals, and music scene. The city is the home of Starbucks, founded in Pike Place Market. It is also the birthplace of grunge music.
A must-do is to watch the sunset from the Space Needle. You can also visit the Olympic Sculpture Park, Discovery Park, Pike Place Market, and the Seattle Center.
4. Charleston, South Carolina
The city of Charleston is on many beautiful city lists. The southern city’s charm with pastel houses, 19th-century architecture, tall trees, and cobblestone streets lined with lanterns give Charleston its beauty.
The city is small and walkable, making it ideal for a long weekend vacation. Spend time in the French Quarter, Battery District, and Waterfront Park.
Moreover, the restaurant scene is excellent, especially the seafood.
5. Savannah, Georgia
Not far from Charleston is Savannah, Georgia, another beautiful southern city. Savannah is Georgia’s oldest city, and much of the architecture dates back to before the Civil War. It includes Federal, Georgian, and Gothic styles, giving the city a distinctive feel.
Besides the architecture, Savannah is known for its cobblestone streets and majestic oak trees with Spanish moss draped from them, adding to the city’s loveliness. Forsyth Park, with its fountain and surrounding greenery, is the most photographed place in Savannah.
The small city is famous for its art scene, including the Savannah Art Walk and the Savannah College of Art and Design.
6. Anchorage, Alaska
From the south, we head to the northernmost state of Alaska. Anchorage is the largest city in the state, located on Cook Inlet. The pristine mountain and ocean views surrounding the town make Anchorage a favorite on many beautiful city lists.
Anchorage is an outdoor lover’s paradise. The area is full of wildlife, lakes, streams, mountains, and trails, making it ideal for hiking, fishing, biking, kayaking, etc. Besides the outdoors, the city is known for its art and music culture.
Visitors can reach many National Parks from Anchorage. Ensure you visit Glen Alps Trail, Earthquake Park, Chugach State Park, and Portage Glacier.
7. Madison, Wisconsin
Madison, Wisconsin’s distinctive skyline leads to its inclusion on this list. The city is recognizable by the white-domed state capital building. Completed in 1917, the building is the tallest in Madison at 187 feet. It houses the Wisconsin legislature, the Supreme Court, and the Governor’s Office. The area around the capital building is filled with trendy restaurants.
The city is positioned between Lakes Monona and Mendota with many trails, ideal for biking and hiking. You can also boat and kayak in the lake. Madison is also home to a vibrant arts, music, and festival scene.
Make sure you visit the State Capital building, the Botanical Gardens, and State Street. Madison is also home to the University of Wisconsin, so watch a football game too in the Fall.
8. Washington, DC
For people who like architecture, monuments, and museums, Washington, DC, is one of the best places to visit. The city operates under Congress’s jurisdiction and is America’s political center. Consequently, it is home to many impressive historic buildings and tourist attractions, giving the town its splendor.
The list of must-see places is lengthy and includes the Washington Monument, Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, the United States Congress, the White House, and many more. After, visit one of the 21 museums in the Smithsonian.
Washington, DC, is home to many restaurants and trendy nightlife. The best time to visit is the Spring when the cherry blossom trees are in full bloom.
9. San Diego, California
San Diego is the first city from California on our list of most beautiful cities in the U.S. People love living and visiting this coastal city because of the perennial 70-degree temperatures, low humidity, and sun. In addition, this seaside city has miles of coastline and many beaches.
Almost anytime is perfect for visiting the city. But when in San Diego, spend time in Balboa Park, Pacific Beach, Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, and the renowned San Diego Zoo. For a day trip, spend a day in La Jolla.
Besides the weather and sites, the seafood and Mexican fare are worth the visit.
10. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago’s beauty is from its skyline, architecture, and location on Lake Michigan. Many buildings date back decades and are easily recognizable, like the Willis Tower (aka the Sears Tower), John Hancock Building, Water Tower, Soldier Field, etc.
When visiting Chicago, spend time in Millennium Park and see the Cloud Gate, Crown Fountain, and the Lurie Garden. In Winter, you can skate on the ice rink. Head a little south to Grant Park and stop by the landmark Buckingham Fountain, one of the largest in the world.
Chicago is second to none for museums. The Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum are among the world’s best. The Shedd Aquarium and the Museum of Science and Industry are also worth visiting.
If you need a break from taking in the sights, bike or stroll along the Lakefront Trail and relax on one of the beaches.
11. Rochester, New York
Rochester, New York, is an unexpected entry on this list. But upstate New York is underrated for its scenery. The city is located on the shores of Lake Ontario and the Genesee River, giving it two 100-foot waterfalls, the High Falls and Lower Falls, plus many parks and trails.
While many people may not know the city, it is the home of Kodak, Wegmans, Monro Muffler, and Paychex. In addition, Xerox, Bausch + Lomb, and Western Union all started here. Besides world-class companies, Rochester boasts two research universities and a healthy number of startups.
The city has a vibrant craft brewery scene with many local restaurants. It’s also close to the Finger Lakes, another scenic area.
If you are in Rochester, NY, visit the Falls, the Susan B. Anthony House, the George Eastman Museum, and the Museum & Science Center.
12. Asheville, North Carolina
From upstate New York, we head to Asheville, North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Mountains surround the city, with many waterfalls and parks, making for a picturesque metro area. Moreover, Asheville is known as an outdoor sports mecca.
The Biltmore Estate, the largest private home owned by descendants of the Vanderbilt family, is in Asheville. The 250-room castle is inside 8,000 acres. It also contains a popular winery.
Asheville, NC, has become famous for outdoor sports because of its trails and rivers. You can bike or hike in Pisgah National Forest or kayak on the Nantahala River.
13. Portland, Maine
Portland is the largest city in Maine, which still makes it fairly small compared to the largest cities in other states. But the beautiful waterfront scenery makes it worth a visit. The earliest part of the city is the Old Port district, lined with cobblestone streets. The red brick warehouses are now home to craft breweries, restaurants, and shopping.
The area around Portland is gorgeous. Several lighthouses line the coast near the city. A short distance away is the oldest and probably the most picturesque lighthouse in Maine, the Portland Head Light.
Portland, Maine, is worth a visit for its breweries, lobster, and lighthouses.
14. San Francisco, California
San Francisco is the second Californian city on this list. The city’s architecture is stunning, with the Transamerica Pyramid and the Golden Gate Bridge accenting the skyline. Other impressive buildings include the Coit Tower, San Francisco City Hall, the Opera House, and the many Victorian homes.
Remember to spend time in Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Haight Ashbury. Lastly, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge and riding the world’s oldest street cars are a must-do for everyone. If you are tired of the city, visiting Alcatraz or a winery in Napa Valley is an excellent day trip.
San Francisco is on the bay, and the weather can be mild even in the Summer, so pack a sweater.
15. Salt Lake City, Utah
A short flight away is Salt Lake City, Utah. Most cities thrive in the Summer, but Salt Lake City is popular in the Summer and the Winter as an outdoor destination. Breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains surround the town. It is the gateway to multiple National Parks, like Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef. In addition, people come to ski at one of the many resorts during the Winter.
Although Salt Lake City is positioned as an outdoor adventure city, it has many sights to see, like Liberty Park, the location of both the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Salt Lake Temple. Other places to visit include the Utah State Capital, Natural History Museum, and Clark Planetarium.
For a day trip, the Great Salt Lake and Bonneville Salt Flats are a short drive away.
16. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Another unexpected entry on this list is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Also known as “The Steel City” because of its many steel mills, the city has been reinvented. Today, no steel mills exist in the city limits of Pittsburgh, but several still operate within the metro area. The multiple universities focusing on finance, healthcare, and tech have let the city thrive.
Go to the top of Mt. Washington to appreciate Pittsburgh’s beauty. The city is situated at the junction of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers, which combine to create the Ohio River. The panoramic view of the rivers with the skyline and many bridges is scenic.
Pittsburgh’s industrial and immigrant history has left it with many sights, like the Carnegie Music Hall, the Andy Warhol Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Duquesne Incline, several Carnegie museums, etc. In addition, many parks and trails exist along the rivers.
17. San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas, is one of the most historic cities in the country, starting as a Spanish outpost in 1718. The long history of Spanish and Mexican culture is apparent in the buildings, food, art, and music. San Antonio is pretty and walkable. The heart of the old city is the Riverwalk, along the San Antonio River. You can take a boat ride and stop to eat at one of the many restaurants.
The Alamo is the most famous site in San Antonio, where a couple hundred men held off a much larger Mexican Army force. Other places to visit include the Japanese Tea Garden, the Art Museum, and the Natural Bridge Caverns.
18. Honolulu, Hawaii
We next head to Hawaii for one of the most stunning cities, tropical Honolulu. Vacationers come from around the world to spend time here because of the weather, skyline, clear ocean, sunrises, sunsets, Waikiki Beach, and views of Diamond Head crater soaring in the distance.
Spend a few days relaxing on the beach, learning to surf and snorkel. After, visit the rest of the island; Oahu has many other places to see. Spend time driving around the island to the Museum of Art, Iolani Palace, and the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden. A more secluded beach is Hanauma Bay State Park. You must book ahead because the number of visitors per day is limited.
Lastly, remember to hike up to the top of Diamond Head; the views are amazing.
19. Colorado Springs, Colorado
The natural beauty of Colorado Springs comes from the mountain range hovering in the background. The rapidly growing city is another outdoor mecca with trails, rock formations, and sunsets. The highlight is the unique Garden of the Gods, a public park. Visitors drive through the park or stop and hike the 21 miles of trails. You will often see technical rock climbers challenging themselves on the rock formations.
The other famous site near Colorado Springs is Pike’s Peak, soaring 14,000+ feet above sea level. The two most interesting ways up the mountain are the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway or the Pike’s Jeep tour. Or you can drive your car or hike the Barr Trail.
The Cave of the Winds, the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, and the Broadmoor Seven Falls are three more must-see locations. Lastly, Colorado Springs has many small museums worth a trip.
20. Burlington, Vermont
Burlington, Vermont, is a college town and the largest city in Vermont. However, it is one of the smallest on the list of most beautiful cities in America. That said, Burlington punches above its weight for scenery because of its location on the shores of Lake Champlain in the Adirondacks.
Lake Champlain is great for boating or kayaking. Next, the 8-mile Burlington Greenway Path is an excellent place to bike or run. It connects many of the city’s waterfront parks. If you come in the Winter, go skiing or snowshoeing at the nearby mountain resorts.
Burlington is known for its farmer’s market, craft breweries, restaurants, and the Church Street Marketplace. Remember to visit Ben & Jerry’s; the ice cream shop started in Burlington.
21. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is often overshadowed by many other cities. But the “City of Brotherly Love” is where America started. It is where the founding fathers met, the Declaration of Independence was signed, the American flag was created, and the first U.S. President lived.
For these reasons alone, Philly is worth visiting. The city’s beauty comes from its well-preserved historical sites, many parks, and thousands of murals. Philadelphia’s most recognizable historical site is Independence Hall, a UNESCO World Heritage site. In addition, the Liberty Bell and the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art should be on your itinerary. The museum is also one of the best art museums in the United States, with an immense collection.
Remember to take a picture of the 72 steps, recognizable from the 1976 movie Rocky. The statue from the movie is near the steps and a great spot for a photo.
22. Tucson, Arizona
Tucson, Arizona, is overshadowed by Phoenix, but it is smaller, less crowded, and underrated. The city is sunny most of the year, with an average of 286 days per year, and almost anytime is suitable for a visit.
Because of the beautiful weather, Tucson is an outdoor city. You can drive or hike in the nearby Saguaro National Forest, home to the tallest cactus species. Other places to visit are the San Xavier del Bac Mission, the Colossal Cave Mountain Park, the Pima Air and Space Museum, the El Presidio Historic District, and Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
Remember to try the Mexican food. Tucson is about 70 miles from the border and home to some of the best restaurants in the U.S.
23. Boise, Idaho
From the southwest edge of the United States, we head up north to Boise, Idaho. This fast-growing city in the Pacific Northwest has mild weather. The Summers are not too hot, and the Winters are not too cold and free of heavy snow. Also, Boise is surrounded by mountains, making for idyllic views year-round.
Boise is known for its outdoor activities. The city is full of trails and parks, like the Boise River Greenbelt. The Oregon Trail Historic Preserve, Camel’s Back Park, and Barber Park are nearby too. The Julia Davis Park is a must-see with the Boise Art Museum, the zoo, and the Idaho State Museum.
24. Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara, California, has sunny weather, a waterfront, beaches, and beautiful Spanish mission-style architecture, with the Santa Ynez mountains in the background. Because of its Mediterranean climate, the city is home to many celebrities, like Oprah Winfrey, George Lucas, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, and many more.
If you visit this seaside town, spend time at Stearns Wharf, the Zoo, and the Old Mission. You can also shop at high-end boutiques or art galleries and eat at excellent restaurants.
The waters off Santa Barbera are an excellent place for whale-watching tours.
25. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Last but not least on this list of the 25 most beautiful cities in the U.S. is Santa Fe, New Mexico. The small town was founded as a Spanish colony in the early-1600s, making it full of history. The architecture is unique with its many brown or white stucco buildings, a style known as Pueblo Revival. In the background are the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Santa Fe is acclaimed for its art scene. The most famous artist to have resided near here is Georgia O’Keefe. A museum with an extensive collection of her work is worth visiting.
Don’t forget to spend time at the Cathedral Basilica of St Francis of Assisi, strolling along Canyon Road and the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens.
The Most Beautiful Cities in America
This list of the most beautiful cities in the U.S. is great as a bucket list for vacation destinations. Some towns have gorgeous weather, while others have scenic skylines or lovely vistas. Spend time in each one to truly see America.
This article originally appeared on Savoteur.