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This year’s World’s Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.

When it comes to cities in this region, T+L readers have consistent favorites — even if the order shuffles around a bit. In some years, it’s cultural capitals that reign supreme. In others, voters seem to crave places that promise untrammeled nature and heart-pounding thrills at every turn. 

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value.

This year, New Zealand’s Queenstown moved up from No. 4 to No. 2, thanks to its mix of action-packed activities, trendy boutiques, and water-view restaurants. As one reader summed up, it’s “definitely for adventure junkies but also has lots of shopping, eateries, and other businesses along the beautiful waters.”

Aerial view of the harbor and skyline, Sydney, Australia

Credit: Courtesy of Tourism Australia

Hobart (No. 4) and Brisbane (No. 5) are both newcomers to the list, likely on the strength of their recently opened hotels, hip restaurants, and booming art scenes in the last few years. Queensland’s capital, Brisbane — with its year-round sunshine, beautiful beaches, and cheerful residents — is Australia’s fastest-growing city. “Always greeted with a smile,” wrote one voter. “A beautiful place to relax and take in the perfect climate in all their seasons.” Hobart, the most southerly of Australia’s capital cities, is known for its exploding and often edgy art scene. As one reader shared, it’s a “fabulous city for art and nature.” Another called it a “wonderful small city and gateway to interesting sights.”

Melbourne made the list at No. 3.  A perennial favorite with T+L readers, it continues to grow its fan base with its thriving culinary and café culture, always-bubbling theater and live-music venues, and hidden alleys. “Walking around during the day, we came across a Chinatown and some micro-breweries,” wrote one reader. “In the evening, there were street performers, and we enjoyed eating and barhopping along the river.” 

But it was Sydney that got crowned the returning champ. Find out why readers chose it as the best city in all of Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific.

1. Sydney

A woman walking in Sydney, Australia, near the Harbour Bridge

Credit: Courtesy of Tourism Australia

The Opera House and bridge will forever be iconic draws, as are Bondi and Manly beaches, but there’s so much more to the Australian city. Some people might prefer to stroll around the Rocks neighborhood, while others might spend hours exploring the Art Gallery of New South Wales (don’t miss the impressive works by Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander creators). As one T+L reader proclaimed, “its setting is incomparable and the activities are endless.” 

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 86.70

2. Queenstown, New Zealand

Stemer Whard, Queentown, New Zealand, at night

Credit: Courtesy of Destination Queenstown

Score: 84.76

3. Melbourne

The riverside Southgate area in Melbourne, Australia

Credit: Courtesy of Visit Victoria/Tourism Australia

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 83.71

4. Hobart, Australia

Boats docked at Constitution Harbour in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Credit: Courtesy of Tourism Australia

Score: 82.02

5. Brisbane, Australia

Aerial view of Brisbane, Australia

Credit: Courtesy of Brisbane Marketing/Tourism Australia

Score: 81.77

See all of our readers’ favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World’s Best Awards for 2021.

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