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The Best Planned Cities Around the World

posted in: World  |  posted by: Ian Harrison on May 25, 2009  |  6 Comments

When you read, research and write about places around the world, certain terms pop up with persistent regularity. Of these, the words “planned city” have stuck with me and elicited a certain amount of curiosity. After all, aren’t all cities planned in some way? Isn’t it redundant to declare a city as expressly planned?

Well as it turns out, not exactly. Whether a “new town”, “purpose-built city” or “planned community”, some urban centers and world capitals were built with a great deal of intention and ostensibly, without any history of settlement. As a result, urban planners, engineers and architects like Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer can “go to town”, as it were.

Some of the most ambitious projects in human history certainly fall into the planned city category, namely Navi Mumbai in India, with over two million people, and the multi-billion dollar New Songdo City in South Korea.

Here are some of the best planned cities around the world for sheer tourist enjoyment.


The second city of Sweden, behind the capital Stockholm, has a metropolitan population just over 900,000 and a design that is almost completely Dutch in nature. Built by Dutch city architects in the 17th century in the mold of Amsterdam, Gothenburg’s location between Denmark and Norway was entirely strategic. The old canal city is a wonderful place to explore, although many of the historic landmarks in the Haga district have been rebuilt over time.

Gothenburg, Sweden

Washington, D.C.

Though the capital of the United States of America is not without social problems, the heart of the city is without a doubt, a marvel. The neat urban plan of D.C., from tony Georgetown to the Smithsonian museums that line the National Mall, the White House and cherry blossoms on the Potomac, is great fun to explore.

Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.


Another world capital built with pinpoint precision is Canberra, Australia. The location of the capital was a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne in the early 20th century, with the subsequent blueprint the result of a global competition won by American architect Walter Burley Griffin. Less than a century later, Canberra shines as one of the most aesthetically refined capitals in the world.

Canberra, Australia

La Plata

Planned cities abound in South America, the direct result of colonial expansion in centuries past. La Plata is a notable exception however and came to be after Spain’s hegemony over Argentina had expired. Purposely constructed to replace Buenos Aires as provincial capital, La Plata was designed by rationalist urban planner Pedro Benoit. Known from 1952 to 1955 as Eva PerĂ³n City, La Plata has the largest cathedral in the country and the second-most important opera house in the grand Teatro Argentino.

La Plata Cathedral, Argentina

Belo Horizonte

With a metropolitan population over 6 million people, Belo Horizonte ranks behind only Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil. The capital of the state of Minas Gerais is a beauty, with an urban plan inspired by Washington, D.C. and promenades lined with some of the most arresting architecture in South America.

Belo Horizonte, Brazil


The historic city of Meknes is not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but the former capital of Morocco as well. A purpose-built, late-18th century Imperial city, Meknes was the result of impeccable and ambitious designs. Laid-out in Spanish-Moorish style, the city of 950,000 people is remarkable.

Meknes medina, Morocco


The capital of Rajasthan, known around the world as the “Pink City”, is home to over 3 million people. One of the most popular tourist destinations in India, for points of interest like Hawa Mahal, Amber Fort and Naharghar Fort, Jaipur was built at the behest of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in the early 18th century. The plan and construction of the city was in adherence to Vastu Shastra, a sustainable design system that dates back more than ten millenia.

Jaipur, India


The capital of Brazil is the ultimate example of the modern, intentional city. The result of a brilliant, contentious and controversial collaboration between Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer, Brasilia is the foremost guinea pig from which all other grand urban development plans draw inspiration and perhaps learn what not to do. Not without flaws and critics, Brasilia is nonetheless a UNESCO World Heritage city.

Discover the best hotel rates for destinations in Brazil.

Brasilia, Brazil

Photo credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Responses to this Article

6 Responses to “The Best Planned Cities Around the World”

  1. Spot Cool Travel says on

    I’m with you on several of your selections, especially Gothenburg, Jaipur and DC. But Canberra and Brasilia?? Even people who live there pretty much deride those cities. I haven’t been to Brasilia but Canberra might be one of the worst travel cities in Australia. Just my two cents, of course. Thanks for publishing your list.

  2. M Imran Hussain Nissoana says on

    Ok ,you wrote better as per your’s own opnion but we think Islamabad is also beautiful city in world. Islamabad is one of the greenest and most well-planned cities of Asia.According to a survey, Islamabad is considered the cleanest city in South Asia.The city is well-organized, being divided into different sectors and zones. Islamabad was ranked as a Gamma world city in 2008.The city is home to Faisal Mosque,the sixth largest mosque in the world. Islamabad has the highest literacy rate in Pakistan.

  3. Master-Planner-to-be says on

    I have actually been to Brasilia and it is no gem. It is an “old” city in that the people who live there are all middle aged or older and it is a town for retired well-off. The people who love there complain that it’s too small and Lucio Costa, the urban designer responsible for its inception, did not plan for growth when he presented the Pilot Plan. All in all, Brasilia does not belong on this list.

  4. Pulak Ranchal says on

    You have mentioned the name of Le Corbusier yet the list does not contain the name of the city Chandigarh. I am from chandigarh so u can say that i am biased but then again you can look for yourselves.

  5. Vicky says on

    Yep.. I would include Chandigarh in top 5 planned cities around the world. Its a small yet happening place.
    I just love chandigarh.

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