While we tend to head to bigger destinations on city breaks or even to live in, there are many smaller cities with a lot to offer. Monocle magazine has compiled its choice of the world’s best small cities, which it says provide the right balance between opportunities for rich cultural experiences and that all-important space to breathe. Here are the top five destinations on its list.

1. Lausanne

Vibrant colours light up the archways under the Grand Pont Bridge in Lausanne at night
Lausanne came in first position thanks to its diversity, sustainability and relaxed manner © Westend61/Getty Images

Lausanne is Switzerland’s fourth-largest city and it came in first position thanks to its diversity, sustainability and relaxed manner. It won praise for its charming streets and stone buildings with shutters that give it an elegant, almost-Mediterranean vibe. It has a reputation for international excellence that belies its size, and it's a hugely international city. The lake and mountains are within easy reach of Lausanne and there are direct rail connections to Milan and Paris.

Read more: Top things to do in Lausanne

2. Boulder

A view of the Boulder valley in Colorado
Boulder enjoys sunshine on about 300 days per year © Marina Poushkina/Shutterstock

Boulder came in second place. Nestled in a valley near the Rocky Mountains, it enjoys sunshine on about 300 days per year, which is good for outdoor living. It won praise for its restaurants and sense of community and for its perfection of the work-life balance. The college-town atmosphere means that Boulder has plenty of arts, culture and live music, and there is a lovely grouping of small retail enclaves, walking paths, parks and Victorian houses dating back a hundred years. On the edge of town you have one of the best open-space park systems in the US, where great outdoor adventures await.

Read more: Top things to do in Boulder

3. Bergen

Bergen street at night with boats in Norway
Bergen is surrounded by picturesque mountains © Samot/Shutterstock

Bergen in Norway came in third position and this is partly due to its suitability for outdoor life. The city is surrounded by picturesque mountains and is a gateway to the fjords of Norway’s western coast. Recreation options, besides hiking, include summer dives into seawater pools, winter train journeys and ski resorts in Voss and Geilo. Bergenfest is a world-leading summer music festival, while Kode and the recently renovated Natural History Museum don’t disappoint on the cultural venue front.

Read more: Top things to do in Bergen

4. Hobart

A close up view of fishing vessels at Victoria Dock in the Tasmanian capital city of Hobart
Hobart was chosen for its laidback feel © crbellette/Shutterstock

The petite city of Hobart in Tasmania came in fourth position. The judges chose it for its laid-back feel, while also being the second-best performing state economy in Australia. It has a mild climate and its views include the peak of Mount Wellington, modernist suburbia and salty seafarers hauling the latest catch into port. Hobart is a harbour town where old pubs thrive alongside new craft-beer bars, cafés, museums, festivals and a floating pier upholding fine restaurants.

Read more: Top things to do in Hobart

5. Chigasaki

Red-colored Kamakura, Chigasaki and Hiratsuka cities by rising sun in Kanagawa prefecture
Chigasaki has a mild climate and safe streets © Taro Hama @ e-kamakura/Getty Images

Surrounded by mountains and ocean, and just an hour’s train-ride south of Tokyo, Chigasaki in Japan feels like a rural refuge. Coming in fifth position, the judges said that its good cycling infrastructure means two wheels are the the best way to get around and to visit beach communities nearby. International cuisine options aren’t limited to the centre as the whole city is dotted with good restaurants. It has a mild climate and safe streets and Chigasaki is also famous for surfing.

To see the full list, please see Monocle magazine here.

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