Best Planned Cities from Around the World

1 Introduction

The cities covered in this lesson are considered some of the best-planned cities in the world. Their well-organized layout is what they have in common. With these distinct patterns come efficient, well-planned transport routes that pass directly through the city’s core, resulting in less traffic congestion, improved public transportation, and enhanced walking and cycling routes. Other elements of excellent design include the incorporation (and protection) of green spaces, effective waste management policies, and a focus on the social and cultural needs of the community. 


  1. Think about what it means to be a “well-designed” city



Key Takeaway:

  • The five well-known planned cities of the 20th century, Brasilia in Brazil, Singapore City in Singapore, Chandigarh in India, Seoul in South Korea, and Copenhagen in Denmark represent efficient urban planning and highlight the importance of incorporating culture and society in planning.
  • Efficient transportation systems and incorporation of green spaces are common elements in these planned cities which promote sustainability and quality of life for citizens.
  • The benefits of good urban design include reduction in traffic congestion, improvement in public transport and provision of better walking and cycling routes for commuters.

The Well-Known Cities of 20th Century Urban Planning

The 20th Century saw great development in urban planning around the world. 

  • Brasília, Brazil – Designed by urban planner Lúcio Costa and architect Oscar Niemeyer, Brasília was built to symbolize Brazil’s modernization and was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. Notably, Brasília’s unique design features an airplane-like shape that can only be seen from above, which was intentional to showcase the city’s ambition for modernity. (Source: CNN Travel)
  • Chandigarh, India – Created by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, Chandigarh is known for its modernist architecture and carefully planned sectors.
  • Canberra, Australia – Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin’s vision of the “bush capital” was realized in the creation of Canberra, which includes a central axis featuring many of the country’s national institutions.
  • Astana, Kazakhstan – The capital city of Kazakhstan was officially moved from Almaty to Astana in 1997, which led to an ambitious transformation plan with futuristic architecture and advanced infrastructure.
  • Songdo, South Korea – As one of the most advanced smart cities in the world, Songdo is built with sustainability in mind, including green spaces, advanced waste management systems, and high-tech transportation networks.

Notably, these cities have all faced challenges in achieving their goals.


This city was created as the capital of Brazil and envisioned as a modern utopia, designed by urban planner Lúcio Costa and architect Oscar Niemeyer. It is known for its unique modernist architecture and vast open spaces.

Brasilia is characterized by its functionalist architecture, wide streets, and geometric designs. It was built in only four years and inaugurated in 1960. Its design is organized around two axes that intersect at the Congress building, which symbolizes the heart of Brazilian democracy. Due to its unique layout, it has become a landmark of 20th-century urban planning.

Interestingly enough, Brasilia’s development had significant political implications as well. Its construction marked the transfer of power from Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro to Brasilia, which represented a conscious effort to decentralize power in Brazil.

The city houses several government buildings like the Presidential Palace, Foreign Ministry Building, Supreme Court Building and many more that showcases some classic examples of contemporary architectural styles fused with Brazilian flair. Despite being heavily criticized for lacking in street life or outdoor activities due to vast open public spaces, Brasilia still represents an iconic example of modernist city planning.


Singapore City

This city-state in Southeast Asia was transformed from a slum-ridden backwater to a modern metropolis with futuristic infrastructure. Singapore’s urban planning involved creating green spaces, walkways and cycle paths, and efficient transport systems including an extensive metro network.

The development of the Marina Bay area has become the symbol of Singapore’s remarkable transformation. The bay was dredged to create land for iconic skyscrapers like the Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino complex, the now-famous supertrees” at Gardens by the Bay and convention centers.

It is worth noting that Singapore has implemented strict laws for cleanliness, public behavior, and housing accessibility on top of their comprehensive infrastructure. These measures have contributed to Singapore being considered as one of the cleanest cities in the world.


Built with modern planning principles, this Indian city was nicknamed the “City Beautiful” for its aesthetic appearance and functionality. Adorned with large green spaces, it follows functional zoning and grid planning while containing notable Brutalist Architecture.

Le Corbusier designed Chandigarh in 1950 with a circular layout and kept various zones designated for commercial, residential and industrial use. It has massive roads and well-defined sectors to minimize disruption of transport flow, making it a model city in urban design. Additionally, aesthetic landscaping is evident throughout the city, including rock gardens and several sculptures.




One of the urban planning marvels of 20th century is a bustling metropolis in East Asia that showcases technologically innovative advances. Its sustainable transportation network and integrated land development sets an enviable standard for urban planners across the world. This shining example has overcome numerous challenges to become one of the global centers for economy, culture, and politics.

The sprawling city boasts a mix of skyscrapers and older traditional buildings, including temples and palaces. Public transportation includes buses, taxis, trains, as well as a highly effective subway system. Seoul’s futuristic landscape sports stunning structures like the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Floating Islands at Sebitseom Island in Hangang Park, Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain Show, Lotte World Tower and so on.

Bike path along waterfront at Yeouido Hangang Park in South Korea.



This Danish city is renowned for blending traditional and modern architectural styles while maintaining a sustainable environment. Copenhagen’s urban plan prioritizes cycling infrastructure, car-free zones and ample public spaces to promote an active and healthy lifestyle.

Known as the “City of Cyclists,” Copenhagen has invested in bicycle lanes, parking facilities and repair shops to encourage residents to cycle instead of using cars. The city also hosts an extensive network of shared green spaces, waterfronts, canals and pedestrian streets that are accessible to all.



Common Elements of Well-Designed Cities

In analyzing the commonalities of major urban centers around the world, a pattern emerges that indicates well-planned cities have certain underlying elements in common. These elements include efficient infrastructure, ample green spaces, diverse cultural and social opportunities, and sound governance.

Please refer to the following table for a breakdown of these elements across five major cities:

City Infrastructure Green Spaces Culture Governance
Tokyo Well-connected public transport and reliable utilities Extensive parks and gardens Popular museums, festivals, and markets Strong bureaucratic system
Singapore Modern transportation and well-maintained facilities Lush parks and tree-lined streets Ethnically diverse neighborhoods and international cuisine Efficient and corruption-free government
Dubai State-of-the-art transportation and thriving business district Beautifully landscaped parks and beaches High-end shopping and entertainment destinations Authoritarian government with strict laws
Paris Vast public transport network connecting iconic landmarks Well-manicured parks and gardens Artistic heritage and cutting-edge fashion Stable democratic government with a rich history
Barcelona Advanced public transportation and well-equipped ports World-class beaches and public parks Vibrant music scene and architectural masterpieces Decentralized government with unique cultural identity

Furthermore, it is worth noting that while each city does share some commonalities, they also have their unique characteristics. For instance, Tokyo’s immaculate attention to detail can be seen in the immaculate cleanliness of public spaces, while Paris’ romantic ambiance and stunning architecture make it a top destination for tourism.

Well-structured Layouts

A common feature among successful cities worldwide is their well-planned layouts that maximize functionality and accessibility. Such arrangements enable social, economic, and environmental developments to flourish within the cityscapes. Prominent cities like Sydney, Tokyo, Paris, New York and Barcelona illustrate this phenomenon where streets are grid-like, public spaces are ample and accessible by foot or cycle.

Aerial view of Barcelona's street grid

Image: Barcelona’s street grid

The focus on creating well-structured layouts translates into a clear spatial hierarchy where prime locations for housing, businesses and institutions are meticulously designated. Furthermore, these cities also prioritize efficient mobility systems with balanced transportation modes – connecting important stops efficiently.

Planned cities often have subtle differences in their approach towards building efficient infrastructure such as control of construction process to maintain the consistency in aesthetics across buildings/departments. Integration of landmarks and tourist attractions with residential areas is another aspect we find commonly among planned cities – crafting memorable experiences for visitors while fostering connectivity within the community.


Efficient Transport Routes

A key element in the planning of great cities from all over the world lies in their well-managed transportation systems. The development of ‘Efficient Transit Corridors’ has been crucial to ensuring smooth and seamless transportation for its residents.

These cities have embraced NLP-based technological advancements in traffic management as a tool to seamlessly integrate their public and private transportation modes; providing better accessibility, connectivity, and convenience. They prioritize pedestrian-friendly design with intermodal connectivity across the city’s key commercial vanes are strategies that are prioritized by these cities.

Futuristic Smart Transportation Solutions such as dedicated Bus Rapid Transit Corridors, robust metro networks, electric mobility initiatives, highly efficient airport links and convenient bike-sharing services combine togetherly to provide a comprehensive transport network at an affordable price handle an almost infinite demand and provide sustainable solutions.

Bus with dedicated bus lane moving past highway full of car congestion

Image: Bus rapid transit in Bogota, Colombia

An integrated transport system also includes walkways, bike lanes combined with cycle sharing stations in order to ensure high user engagement on footpaths which serve as vital econometric units for automated vehicles systems. To build a successful network it is important to build a strategic integration platform that caters to the heterogeneous mix of users without shying away from attaining timely feedback from citizens.


Incorporation of Green Spaces

Integrating Lush Greenery: A Common Feature Among the World’s Best Planned Cities

Cities with green landscapes promote a healthy environment and add to the aesthetic appeal of an urban space. Incorporating lush greenery is a common element among some of the world’s best-planned cities. These cities have implemented creative solutions like including pocket parks, rooftop gardens, and green facades in buildings to create sustainable surroundings.

Incorporation of green spaces elevates the quality of life in cities while reducing the carbon footprint. Examples include Singapore, a city-state renowned for its sparkling skyline amidst an ever-green landscape; Masdar City in Abu Dhabi known for its innovative approach towards preserving nature within an urban space; Curitiba in Brazil which has adopted comprehensive waste management systems while creating 28 square meters of green area per resident; and Freiburg in Germany which utilizes solar energy while adding nature conservation sites to their living standards.

Moreover, pleasing designs combining city life with luscious lawns have diversely evolved into creative embodiments such as community gardens being added to public parks, landscaped riverways complementing scenic walkways, and transforming underutilized areas into pocket forests. Adding natural features also increases property values, lowers noise levels resulting in serene surroundings for residents and reduces air pollution efficiently.

Sky bridge with people walking through Singapore's Gardens by the Bay

Image: Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay

To demonstrate this point further, Singapore’s Gardens by The Bay project champions sophisticated technology bringing together environmental sustainability with entertainment industry attractions featuring neon lit supertrees standing at more than one hundred feet high surrounded by glistening conservatories packed entirely with diverse flora. This remarkable effort showcases the integration of eco-architecture combined with entertainment at its best.

Good Waste-Management Policies

Effective Management of Wastes in Urban Areas

Proper waste management policies are crucial for the well-being and sustainability of cities. Effective waste management ensures that waste is properly disposed of or recycled to prevent environmental pollution, protect public health and enhance urban aesthetics. Cities such as Singapore, Curitiba, and Paris have implemented comprehensive measures to manage their solid and liquid wastes sustainably.

Remarkably, Singapore operates a state-of-the-art integrated waste management facility that treats all forms of urban waste. The facility uses cutting-edge technologies such as incineration, recycling, and landfilling to process over 7 million tons of waste annually. Furthermore, in Curitiba, the residents participate actively in segregating recyclable materials from regular garbage before collection by municipal garbage trucks. This has helped boost recycling rates significantly.


Focus on Society and Culture

Well-planned cities around the world have distinct elements that center around society and culture. These cities often prioritize communal spaces and social integration, fostering a sense of community among residents. Additionally, they incorporate unique cultural landmarks and events that celebrate diversity and heritage. The architectural design of these cities is also influenced by their cultural identity, as they often incorporate traditional elements into modern urban planning.

However, these well-planned cities also face challenges in balancing the preservation of cultural heritage with new developments as they continue to evolve. Many city planners are exploring innovative ways to integrate technology into their designs while preserving their cultural identity.

Moreover, well-planned cities view arts and culture as essential components for residents’ quality of life. They invest in promoting living urban art scenes, music festivals, and museums to bring about social cohesion.

In Japan, Kyoto serves as an excellent example of a planned city with a strong emphasis on society and culture. Established over 1,200 years ago, Kyoto’s cultural heritage is still prevalent today through its many temples, shrines, and traditional crafts.


Shrine in Kyoto surrounded by houses with mountains in the distance. Picture taken at sunset.

Image: Kyoto

Five Facts About Planned Cities from Around the World:

  • ✅ Canberra, Australia is one of the most well-known planned cities, designed by American architect Walter Burley Griffin and his wife in 1911. 
  • ✅ Brasília, the capital city of Brazil, was a planned city built in just four years, from 1956 to 1960. 
  • ✅ Chandigarh, India was planned by renowned architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s and is known for its modernist architecture and urban design. 
  • ✅ Songdo International Business District in South Korea is a cutting-edge planned city that is designed to be eco-friendly, featuring green spaces, electric cars, and smart technologies throughout the city. 
  • ✅ Auroville in India is a unique planned city that aims to be a universal town where people from all over the world can live in harmony, with a focus on sustainability and spiritual growth. 

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