Throughout history, pillagers have enjoyed the spoils after battle, people have gorged themselves at feasts, and engaged in other fancy-free hedonism. From over-the-top festivities to throwing away money just for fun in gambling, there are many ways in which humanity has learned to indulge itself. Today, many cities have arisen as playgrounds for the rich to delight in the excess. Here are the top 15 most extravagant cities in the world.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Merely three decades ago, Dubai was nothing more than a desert. Today, it is a city designed and developed by the rich for the rich. In particular, this extravagant destination got its wealth from the oil industry. Currently, popular activities usually involve spending vast sums of money. From shopping at designer boutiques to taking day trips on luxury yachts, this is no place for the budget traveler. The skyline of the city aptly represents its overall grandeur, with its many skyscrapers including the Burj Al Arab, sometimes called a 7-star hotel (although the management does not endorse this officially), and which will cost you $20,000 a night. There’s also the striking Burj Khalifa. At 160 stories, it’s the tallest man-made structure on earth.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Las Vegas, also known as ‘Sin City,’ is a resort city located in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Gambling is legal here, and it is generally associated with fancy-free indulgence of all kinds. Walking along The Strip, your eyes will shine with the bright lights of 24-hour casinos, nightclubs, and lavish hotels. Stay at the pyramidal Luxor or the grandiose Venetian, which has its own Grand Canal. Take a look at the famed dancing fountains outside the enormous Bellagio resort. It is certainly one of the most iconic cities in the United States.
Zürich makes our list of the world’s most extravagant cities not as a place of remarkable indulgence and excess, but simply because it is one of the most expensive places to live on the planet. A hub for banking and finance, basic items like a carton of eggs or a bottle of cough medicine cost almost $7 and $18 respectively. If spending so much on simple grocery items like it’s no big deal isn’t extravagant, we don’t know what is! The wealth comes largely from the notorious Swiss Banks whose headquarters are located here. Replete with expensive shops, Zürich is certainly a beautiful city worth visiting as well. Its quaint buildings and picturesque promenades are a sight to behold, as long as long as you don’t expect to stay here long-term.
Riddled with French bohemian influences and surrounded by the Swiss Alps and Lake Geneva, Geneva is another irresistible European destination. Its prominence also comes from its banking prowess, and it houses both the United Nations and Red Cross headquarters. We should note that the reason Swiss cities may seem so expensive and extravagant to the rest of us is because the Swiss Franc is immensely stronger than most other currencies. Still, try paying almost $30 for a simple club sandwich! In their recent poll, Hotels.com measured Geneva as the most expensive city in the world based on the cost of the club sandwiches there. The result for those lucky enough to actually live here is a high salary and an even higher quality of life.
Hong Kong is the premier financial capital of the East. Therefore, there’s a lot of money in this bustling urban hub. This city has one of the highest concentrations of billionaires in the world. As we have seen, where there’s wealth, there tends to be extravagance of some form. The city itself is certainly a modern spectacle to behold. Rows upon rows of skyscrapers rise against the jutting backdrop of green mountains. Some homes sell for over $100 million, and the number of Hong Kong’s super rich is on the rise. At Hong Kong’s private clubs, it’s not uncommon to witness women casually enjoying their meals while dressed in millions of dollars worth of jewelry, and designer shops typically have lines stretching out the door on a daily basis.
New York, New York
New York City is known for being a place fit for a lot of different people, and one group of them are the world’s wealthiest. Through real estate development and Wall Street, the Upper East Side in particular is home to some of the richest Americans. Additionally, it’s not uncommon to have encounters with famous celebrities who live here. People living here pay tens of thousands to send their children to pre-school, and upwards of $4,000 a year on gym memberships. From Brooke Shields to Lena Dunham and Louis CK, to Beyoncé and Jay-Z, this is one of the world’s most star-studded cities. The richest of the rich attend exclusive and extravagant soirées and peruse this expensive city, designer bags in toe, in black Cadillac escalades.
As a city, Paris has long since been associated with luxury and sophistication. It is certainly one of the major purveyors of cultural zeitgeist for the West, and perhaps for the whole world. The wines, cheeses, and caviars we might find decadent and extravagant in other parts of the world, are the norm to many Parisians. It is one of the most important fashion capitals in the world, given that it is the headquarters for companies like Chanel, Dior, and Lacoste. Paris also harbors some of the most expensive real-estate costs across the board, and it’s the center of this city where we can find the highest concentration of wealth. There is no doubt that Paris still stands as one of the most refined of extravagant cities.
A royal principality on the French Riviera, Monaco is an utterly gorgeous travel destination. Not only is it extravagant in terms of average lifestyle and cost of living, but it is certainly as glamorous as they say. It’s largely the vivid blue sea, dazzling architecture and tropical vegetation that draw some of the world’s wealthiest to this two-square-kilometer city. But more than this, it’s the ability to avoid paying income taxes in their home countries. One in every three people living here is a millionaire. You can expect your jaw to drop as some of the world’s most expensive little sports cars whiz by you. Like other cities on our list, gambling is another popular pastime in Monaco.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro has a high degree of wealth inequality, but boy are the wealthy areas extravagant! Interestingly, the high-end spots are highly residential, rather than the other business-heavy areas in the cities on our list. The iconic beachfront neighborhood of Copacabana in particular is known for its flamboyant cultural events like the Carnival, which is characterized by music, drinking, and dancing. The most upscale neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro is Leblon. It is a highly exclusive area featuring astoundingly beautiful real estate, beaches, and high-end shopping. Much of its draw comes from its proximity to all of the best of the best in the city, from doctors to theaters and restaurants to schools.
London is one of the most expensive cities to live in, and it is home to a very wealthy class of people. While many of its residents might be struggling to hold down multiple jobs in order to pay rent for a tiny apartment, the exclusive neighborhoods and their well-to-do residents certainly live extravagantly when they want to. In relatively gated communities with the highest concentrations of wealth like Chelsea, West End and Kensington, real estate is some of the most expensive in the world. Intermixed in these areas are designer boutiques like Prada and Gucci, as well as world-famous shopping malls like Harrod’s and Harvey Nichols, where the elites do their shopping. Those living here can also frequent many famous restaurants.
Located near Hong Kong, Macau is one of the most densely populated regions in the world. Macau has many cultural influences from Portugal, and it is also one of the world’s richest cities. It gained notoriety in 2006 when it became the largest gambling center in the world, causing places like Las Vegas to shrink in comparison. Its economy is therefore highly intertwined with tourism. It holds the Macau Grand Prix, when its streets are converted into a racetrack, along with many other festivals and events. The island of Coloane, where much of Macau is located, is home to several luxurious villas.
There is no city quite like Tokyo. In Tokyo, color and light are not something to be stingy with, in both pop culture and the city’s aesthetic, which is why we feel it fits the bill in extravagancy. The enormous city with an even larger population has it all — great food, nightlife, luxury shopping, and the people to enjoy it. Its urban character and neon cityscapes are truly something to be marveled by. It is a center for culture and fashion, with those in the Shibuya District donning flashy Harajuku styles. From kabuki to sumo to contemporary Japanese entertainment, the city is teeming with breathtaking cultural expression. The food is made with outstanding craftsmanship and attention to detail, no matter how mundane the dish.
Milan has always been a hub for manufacturing luxury goods, and today it is the financial capital of Italy. In fact, Milan harbors one of the highest GDPs in Europe, and it is among the fashion capitals of the world. Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Valentino, Armani and many other world-famous designers are headquartered here. It is at the forefront not only of fashion but also of furniture and industrial design. Its business district, Basiglio is the wealthiest area in all of Italy. Its neo-classical, gilded architecture is sumptuous and elegant. Many luxury apartments are located in the Brera District. Come to Naviglia to revel in some of Milan’s famed nightlife scene.
Cancún is another city on our list that was developed largely for its potential as a major tourist destination, and today it is exactly that. Today, Cancún’s numerous luxury resorts, immaculate beaches, and exhilarating nightlife attractions make it the site of much extravagance. You can stay at hotels like the Ritz-Carlton, and spend your days being pampered in a tropical paradise. The city is also famed for its electrifying discos and nightclubs with excellent DJs. There are a multitude of other shows and acclaimed restaurants here as well. Really, the premise around this entire city is to unwind and enjoy yourself to no end!
Known for its many skyscrapers, hotels and beautiful beaches, Benidorm is located near the city of Valencia on the Mediterranean coast. What was once a small fishing village in Spain has been remarkably transformed into a major tourist hub, all within the past five decades. Today, it is much like the Cancún of Western Europe, popular with patrons from this part of the world. Interestingly, there are many free cabaret acts existing as part of the city’s booming nightlife scene, which add to its overall extravagance. Benidorm is also a favorite destination of many Spanish celebrities.