Urban Melting Pots: The Most Cosmopolitan Cities in the WorldAll photos from Unsplash Travel Lists Cities
“Get Out There” is a column for itchy footed humans written by Paste contributor Blake Snow. Although different now, travel is still worthwhile–especially to these destinations.
Despite what the namesake fashion magazine might have you believe, cosmopolitan is defined as “including or containing people from many different countries.” It is worldly in the literal sense and welcomes many nationalities into a single place.
Although cosmopolitan cities aren’t inherently better or more tourist-worthy than provincial towns or uniform municipalities, the former are a lot of fun to visit, often more sophisticated, and give visitors the chance to interact with gobs of foreigners (and potentially widen their worldview). Which is why people like to visit them.
So what are the five most cosmopolitan cities in the world? To find out, I did some internet sleuthing. One list ranked golden Dubai as the most cosmopolitan in the world, since 83% of its residents are foreign-born. Upon closer inspection, however, the vast majority of those foreigners come from the same continent (mostly Indian and Pakistani), which is totally cool, but not as diverse or intercontinental as others.
The same is true of Toronto, Sydney, and Istanbul. All are multicultural, noteworthy, and great in their own right, but not as iconic or cosmopolitan as the below. Finally, while many would consider Paris to be a cosmopolitan city, it’s predominantly loved by English-speaking visitors and is renowned for its Frenchness (or French assimilation) more than its cultural diversity. It’s undoubtedly the most romantic city in the world, one I adore, but arguably not as cosmopolitan as the following.
With those qualifiers out of the way, here are my slightly biased picks as an American travel columnist who did his best to objectively rank the most “cosmopolitan” cities in every sense of the word. If you want to visit a city with lots of different foreigners, consider one of these.
5. Brussels: The most cosmopolitan on mainland Europe
Next to Dubai, Brussels has more foreign-born residents than any other city on Earth (over 60%). Unlike Dubai, those living in Brussels come from several continents and 150 countries, with high concentrations of French, Romanian, Moroccan, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Greek, German, and Sub-Saharan Africans living there. Plus, many natives have at least one foreign grandparent, adding to its status as “the most cosmopolitan city on mainland Europe.”
In addition to being one of the most multilingual cities on the most multilingual continent, Brussels is often considered to be the geographic, economic, and cultural crossroads of Europe. It’s also a helluva place to get a waffle, french fries, or a beer.
4. Los Angeles: the most cosmopolitan on the Pacific
In a nation-wide melting pot that welcomes more annual immigrants than any other country, Los Angeles ensnares Pacific immigrants almost as much as New York entrances Atlantic ones. As the entertainment capital of the world, greater Hollywood is home to a population that is 40% foreign-born, the most of any major American city.
If you have your head in the clouds, LA is the ideal place to see the stars, witness their glamorous lifestyles, change who you are (because acting!), visit the birthplace of theme parks, surf at world-famous beaches, and enjoy the best weather on the planet. It’s also a helluva place to dream big and crash hard.
3. Hong Kong: the most cosmopolitan in Asia
Trendy Singaporians and Bangkokians might rightfully dispute this inclusion, but Hong Kong was and remains the most cosmopolitan city in Asia (for now). In addition to its iconic harbor skyline and vertical good looks, “Asia’s World City” has channeled both Western and Asian cultures for nearly a century.
Although other standouts are quickly gaining on the Chinese city-state, Honk Kong is a classic, cosmopolitan pick that still deserves your attention. Most people come for the food, skyscrapers (best seen from Victoria Peak), shopping, green gardens, colonial history, big business, and affordability.
2. London: the world’s oldest cosmopolitan city
Before America said “We’ll take it from here,” the British Empire ruled the world for nearly 400 years. During that reign, London was the capital of not only the empire itself, but the entire planet. In that time, the city attracted some of the world’s top minds and talent, and while importing ideas from its colonies around the world, created a rich culture of sophistication, class, and royalty.
To this day, London remains the most cosmopolitan city in the Eastern Hemisphere. Known for its history, art, politics, tabloids, museums, red coats, top hats, and shopping, it also welcomes millions of fans as the birthplace and capital of soccer. Righto!
1. New York: the most cosmopolitan in the world
You knew it was coming. Here it is: New York—the city of cities, capital of the world, and the only place on Earth where you can get almost anything you want from every major culture at any nearly any time of day… sometimes by walking just a few blocks up the road! Although other cities have a greater percentage of foreign-born residents, none of them compare to the heterogeneous magic, diverse energy, and individual identity of what locals simply call, “The City.” Land of the free, home of the brave, and where you need to be if you want to buy an “I ♥ NY” shirt.
Blake Snow contributes to fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies as a bodacious writer-for-hire and frequent travel columnist. He lives in Provo, Utah with his adolescent family and two dogs.