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The World’s 25 Most Beautiful Cities, According to Science

Ellen Gutoskey
Sunset on Venice's Grand Canal is tough to beat.
Sunset on Venice's Grand Canal is tough to beat. / Istvan Kadar Photography/Moment/Getty Images
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If there’s anything in this world that truly defies quantification, it’s beauty. But that hasn’t stopped people from trying to quantify it. 

These days, one of the most popular means of doing so is by comparing a bunch of length and width measurements of a visual image to determine how close its proportions come to the Golden Ratio: one to roughly 1.618. It’s often been claimed that humans are especially partial to things—dogs, cats, plants, people—that most closely reflect this ratio.

Taking measurements of a single flower or face to find out how “beautiful” it is seems manageable. Trying to slap an aesthetic value on an entire city is slightly more complicated. So analysts at Online Mortgage Advisor focused their study on architecture. They first mined Google Street View footage in cities around the world for images of hundreds of residential streets and some 2400 iconic buildings. Then, they calculated the proportions of all those edifices to find out how closely each adhered to the Golden Ratio. “The higher the score, the closer a city’s buildings is on average to matching the Golden Ratio,” the researchers wrote.

If you prioritize mathematical perfection above all else when planning a sightseeing jaunt, your best bet is Italy: Venice took the top spot, with a score of 83.3 percent, and Rome was runner-up with an 82. Florence landed in 13th place. France also boasted three cities in the top 25: Bordeaux, Paris, and Strasbourg. Sticking closer to home is a viable option, too—four U.S. cities made the list, from New York City in fifth place to Miami in 22nd.

Peruse the full list below, and find out other takeaways from the study here.

1. Venice, Italy // 83.3 percent
2. Rome, Italy // 82 percent
3. Barcelona, Spain // 81.9 percent
4. Prague, Czech Republic // 78.7 percent
5. New York City, United States // 77.7 percent
6. Athens, Greece // 77.5 percent
7. Budapest, Hungary // 75.9 percent
8. Vienna, Austria // 75.8 percent
9. Bordeaux, France // 75.3 percent
10. Milan, Italy // 75.1 percent
11. Stockholm, Sweden // 74.8 percent
12. Paris, France // 74.7 percent
13. Florence, Italy // 73.6 percent
13. Tel Aviv, Israel // 73.6 percent
14. Copenhagen, Denmark // 73.2 percent
15. Marrakech, Morocco // 72.7 percent
16. Chicago, United States // 71.7 percent
16. Amsterdam, Netherlands // 71.7 percent
17. Berlin, Germany // 71.3 percent
18. Istanbul, Turkey // 70.2 percent
19. St. Petersburg, Russia // 69.2 percent
20. Strasbourg, France // 69.1 percent
21. Dubai, United Arab Emirates // 67.6 percent
22. Miami, United States // 63 percent
23. Beijing, China // 55.6 percent

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