An international port city with a beautiful waterfront, Kobe ranks high on our list for its class and elegance. Since the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1992 that killed thousands and devastated the city, Kobe has bounced back better than ever. Habatan the Phoenix is the city’s mascot, a symbol of its ability to rise from the ashes of disaster.

Visit the hills of Kitano and its collection of old European-style mansions, and explore the streets of Sannomiya for a diverse collection of shops and eateries. Wander around Nankinmachi, Kobe’s quiet Chinatown, then head to the waterfront take in the views of Akashi Bridge and Kobe Port Tower. If you want luxury, try a Kobe beef steak and take a soak at Arima Onsen, one of Western Japan’s top hot spring destinations. During the holidays, visit the Luminarie festival, a spectacular display of lights commemorating the Great Hanshin Earthquake.