The World's Most Elegant Cities
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graceful and stylish in appearance or manner

The Most Elegant Cities in the World

At Zalando, we know that elegance cannot be bought. Rather, the quality pertains to something more subtle and difficult to define. While trends change, true elegance never goes out of style. But what is elegance, exactly? And which world cities best embody it?

From the grandeur of the Vienna Philharmonic, to the effortless sophistication of the French Riviera, elegance wears many masks. It’s not just the people, but the cities themselves, with their unique architecture and cultural landscapes, that make a destination elegant. Money can’t buy it, and yet billions of dollars flow through the fashion and tourism industries each year to evoke the quality. The secret is that elegance can be achieved with a simple flick of a €2 scarf, a picnic in a beautiful, clean park, and a glass of good quality red wine. Elegance is a question of taste, attitude, and always showing your best side.

As complex as the definition seems, a few world cities immediately spring to mind on hearing the word. When pressed, however, most people have a hard time explaining why — “It just is!” We put our preconceptions to the test, using data to define and evaluate where in the world the most elegant cities can be found.

We chose factors in three key categories to score our list of 80 cities: Fashion Factors, Urban Factors, and Accessibility. We studied thousands of cities to hand-pick 400 places widely considered to be elegant in either fashion or architecture. We then ranked them by relevant factors and selected the top 80 cities to compile the ultimate Elegant Cities Ranking, with every city included a world-class destination.
In order for a city to rank highly, we determined that it must have a thriving fashion scene, culturally and historically significant architecture, high tourism desirability, and an attractive point of entry for visitors, as first impressions matter! It must also rank highly in our expert surveys, which we sent to over 5,000 fashion and architecture experts around the world. Finally, we firmly believe that elegance has nothing to do with how much money a person has. The Accessibility Score ranks how affordable markers of an elegant lifestyle are according to cost of living and local purchasing power. The results reveal the definitive list of the most elegant world cities this 2017.

For further information about research and methodology, see below:

Download full Research document

View methodology breakdown

New York


First, a list of 400 cities known for their affiliation with either fashion or architecture were selected. We spoke with experts from both of these fields to whittle the list down to 80 key cities before we began our calculations.

All the categories in this study are very different, however, in order to create a comprehensive score, all the factors have been ranked between 0 and 5. This score is obtained directly from the raw data implementing a score of the form:

Score(i) = 5 ( ( (x(i) – x(min) ) / ( (x(max) – x(min) ) )


Rank from 1 to 80 based on the Final Score of each city

Final Score

The final score of the city is given by:

Final Score = 50% Fashion + 40% Urban + 10% Accessibility

Fashion Factors

Fashion Schools

Score indicates the amount of fashion schools and school-ateliers in the city, making a differentiation between Tier 1 and Tier 2 fashion schools. Score was calculated using the number of fashion schools from each city appearing on international rankings, as well as the geographical directory listings of all fashion schools in the metropolitan area, with double weight given to the “top” ranked fashion schools.

Fashion Capital

Score represents the number of main fashion ateliers, number of designers, fashion week’s, shows, expos and general events in the city, per year as well as how many world famous fashion designers have lived and worked in these cities.

Fashion Journalists’ Perception

We asked over two thousand fashion journalists to rank each city they are familiar with on a 5 point scale according to perceived elegance.

Urban Factors

Desirability by visitors

The city’s desirability was ranked according to the number of overnight visitors per year with the most recent data available. Data came from the UN WTO as well as from local tourism boards.

Point of Entry

Points of entry like airports and train stations are responsible for people’s first impressions of a new city. The score in this category was calculated using global rankings of transport hubs as well as online customer reviews.


The Architecture category was scored by ranking each city by the number of UNESCO cultural heritage sites, museums, opera houses, concert halls, and protected buildings per surface area of the city.


The Cleanliness score was calculated inversely based on the results of various surveys regarding the perception of pollution and cleanliness in each city, by its residents.

Architecture Journalists’ Perception

We asked over two thousand architecture journalists to rank each city on a 5 point scale according to perceived elegance of the city‘s architecture.


Accessibility Score

The Accessibility Score ranks how affordable each city is for its residents according to the Local Purchasing Power (PPP) as well as the costs of several items associated with an elegant lifestyle (theater tickets, upmarket table wine, high quality footwear, etc.). Here, the research team attempted to quantify which cities offer accessibility in culture and fashion.

This information was provided to us by the ABCD Agency in Berlin.