The Ultimate Traveler List: 20 Cities You Should Visit in Your 20s

Our 20s are a transitional time in our lives in which we tend to create ourselves.

We aim to become well-rounded adults through an education, a broader perspective, and a sense of culture. How can one gain these 3 in one shot?

Travel.

So why not take advantage of these short lived 10 years? Travel to cities that will have an overwhelming effect on us.

Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life. — Jack Kerouac, On The Road

Brace yourself … our list of 20 Cities You Should Visit in Your 20s:

North America

1. New York City

The capital of the world, New York City should top #1 of your must see cities in your 20s.

As of 2013 the population is estimated at over 8.4 million making it the most densely populated city in the US. Over 800 languages are spoken in NYC meaning it is the most linguistically diverse city in the world.

A true melting pot, it is normal to find diverse communities in each neighborhood around all the boroughs.

Why in your 20s: Don’t plan on getting any sleep, there are plenty of eateries, bars, museums, and activities going on at all hours that will cater to any interest imaginable and influenced by nationalities from around the world.

2. Montreal

A taste of Europe in North America, Montreal is in a class of its own. With over 50% of the population speaking Québécois French as their first language, Montreal has a very distinct culture.

There’s plenty of attractions to see in Montreal, amazing food, and very friendly locals.

Why in your 20s: Montreal is a hub for culture, explore the downtown area for lively events and Old Montreal for great food, drinks, and relaxation — oh and a taste of France on North American soil.

3. Mexico City

The oldest capital city in the Americas, Mexico City is a global city and financial center in the Western Hemisphere.

Very rich in history dating back before the Spanish conquests, this city is a destination for those who love the arts. Museums and architecture are rich in Aztec, Pre-Classical, and contemporary.

You’ll also be impressed to know Mexico City’s Museo Soumaya has the largest private collection of Rodin outside of Paris and largest collection of Dali sculptures.

Why in your 20s: Immerse yourself in art; broaden your perspective, broaden your mind, and broaden your life.

South America

4. Medellin

Rated the number one place to live in South America sharing the #1 spot with Santiago, Chile; this city has gone through an amazing change in social development, technology, and education which earned Medellin the most innovative city in the world by the Urban Land institute in 2013.

Medellin has been a hub for business, fashion, food, and cultural activities for quite some time and the world is finally catching on.

Why in your 20s: Rich, vibrant culture mixed with the famously hospitable locals adds to an experience you’ll never forget in Colombia.

5. Cusco

The capital of the Incan Empire, Cusco is located high up in the Andes at about 11,200 ft (3,400 m).

The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to many Pre-Columbian buildings, plazas, and churches. The Plaza de Armas also incorporates a unique late-Gothic, Baroque style as seen with Cathedral.

Why in your 20s: Experience a rich history and ancient culture by stepping foot in it instead of reading it on paper.

6. Rio de Janeiro

A destination city coveted by many — Rio de Janeiro is an energetic city with lively locals to match.

The glamor of the beaches, elegance of Sugar Loaf, and the alluring city, the Carioca spirit is alive and well. Rio de Janeiro is well worth your trip and one of the most energetic for cities in your 20s.

Why in your 20s: Rio is a party city, your 20s are the perfect time to completely enjoy it.

7. Buenos Aires

A slice of Europe in South America, Buenos Aires is often compared to Paris. This Latin American city is a hub for cultures brought from all over Europe and a city for the arts.

Buenos Aires also ranks #1 above New York City, Paris, and London for theater plays. The city is home to Teatro Colón, an internationally rated opera house, numerous museums featuring the fine arts, modern art, decorative arts, and is #1 in reading in South America; also boasting more bookstores than the entire country of Mexico, that has over 100 million inhabitants.

Why in your 20s: Develop a taste for literature and the arts while you browse through this amazing city with cultures from Spain, Italy, and Germany to name a few.

Europe

8. London

The world’s most visited city based on international arrivals, London is a majestically picturesque city.

Much like other great cities, London has a rich history and attractions to match as well as neighborhoods influenced my immigrants such as those from Bangladesh and China.

Why in your 20s: The New York City of the Eastern Hemisphere, London is an amazing blend of antiquity and modern culture.

9. Barcelona

Barcelona is a bustling city that although you’re knowingly in Spain, it feels very Catalan.

There is simply so much to do in Barcelona. One aspect many will agree is the culinary excellence the city embodies. Both José Andrés and Ferran Adrià have both expressed their love for Barcelona after all.

Why in your 20s: Dine on some of the best cuisine Spain has to offer. It comes to no surprise the amount of gastronomically innovative Michelin chefs that choose Barcelona as their home base.

10. Paris

Paris, simply put, is just Paris. A memorizing city that attracts almost 30 million tourists a year.

A romantic vibe resonates throughout the city, magnificent art, captivating architecture, some of the best cuisine in the world, what is not to love?

Why in your 20s: Live the cliché of gawking at some of the world’s most beautiful art, architecture, and landscapes.

11. Rome

This ancient city was once known as the capital of the world, caput mundi.

Rome itself is like walking through an interactive museum, you can physically touch and walk into history. From the Pantheon, Colosseum, the Foro, and Palatine Hill; time travel won’t seem that far-fetched.

Why in your 20s: Experience over 2500 years of history where antiquity and contemporary life mix into one picturesque city.

12. Berlin

The capital of Germany and 2nd most populous city in the European Union.

Berlin has become well-known for festivals, architecture, nightlife, and a high quality of life. Entrepreneurs have been flocking to enjoy this very environment.

Why in your 20s: One of the best cities in your 20s for those full of life and looking to take part in a slew of activities and experiences.

13. Copenhagen

A city transformed into a destination locale over the past 20 years.

Copenhagen has become THE city in Scandinavia; investments in infrastructure such as architecture, museums, and events such as the Copenhagen Fashion Week being the biggest in Northern Europe.

Designers, musicians, and chefs have recognized the potential of this Nordic city. The Danish National Symphony Orchestra ties #1 in most expensive concert hall ever built. Noma, a 3-Michelin starred restaurant has also been named #1 in the world for the 4th time in 2014.

Why in your 20s: Copenhagen is reaching its absolute potential, discover this culturally expanding city now while all the scenes are being developed.

14. Budapest

All the amenities of Western Europe in Eastern Europe.

Budapest ranks high in the most desired cities to live in Europe. The city has been establishing its own identity and it has begun to show.

Why in your 20s: While most of the attention in Europe typically goes to Western European cities, this Eastern European capital is considered one of the best for living and the reason it’s on our list of best cities in your 20s.

15. Prague

Prague is the staple Eastern European city.

The city encompasses everything a traveler can want from architecture, historic sites, and plenty of good old-fashioned fun.

It is the 5th most visited European city and sports some of the most diverse architecture in Europe: Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Renaissance, Art Nouveau, Cubist, Neo-Classical, and Ultra Modern.

Why in your 20s: Architecture. Just architecture.

Asia

16. Hong Kong

Where East meets West.

Hong Kong is where Chinese and British culture meshed to form a city that carries Chinese traditions under a British system of Common Law.

Dim sum, fast food, and haute cuisine run rampant in the city, a balance, much like the underlying tones of feng shuiin the city. You most likely won’t encounter much of the number 4 because it is similar to the Cantonese word for “die”.

Why in your 20s: Explore two contrasting themes much like Yin and Yang. Chinese and British, fast food and haute cuisine, a business capital and entertainment capital.

17. Tokyo

The most populous metropolitan area in the world. Tokyo is home to over 13 million.

Tokyo’s aim for perfection sets it apart from other capital cities around the world. The perfectionism embedded in Tokyo and Japanese Tokyo shines through their architecture, cuisine (Tokyo has more Michelin stars than Paris), and aesthetics.

Why in your 20s: Admire wabi-sabi, the philosophical aesthetics of the Eastern world that Tokyo incorporates within its culture.

18. Bangkok

The main doorway to Thailand.

Bangkok is a vivacious city known for many attractions, street food is one such attraction. While for most, the idea of street food is a hot dog or kebab, Bangkok takes it to an entirely new level.

For many locals, this is their main source of sustenance during the day so ornate, complex dishes with the works is what you’ll get.

Why in your 20s: Explore a street food culture regulated by the common people. Dishes with pork stir fries, rice with curry, sea foods, and a variation of greens is on the menu.

19. Istanbul

Connecting Europe and Asia, Istanbul has seen its fair share of history.

History buffs will be left dumbfounded by just how much the of the past can be seen in modern day Istanbul.

Why in your 20s: Explore a city that’s older than some countries; mixing Europe and the Middle East in one.

20. Dubai

One of the best places to live in the Middle East and one of the most opulent.

Dubai has become a destination city for entertainment, food, fashion, and plenty of shopping.

Why in your 20s: Experience the lavish lifestyle that is Dubai at least once.

BONUS

See which city we’d add to this list here.

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