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The UK city voted prettier than Venice by mathematicians

A team of mathematicians has named Chester in England to be the prettiest city in the world, beating Venice, Italy in second place.

The study used Google Street View to assess cities in both the UK and across the world, and ranked them based on which had the highest percentage of buildings adhering to the “golden ratio”.

The golden ratio, expressed as 1:1.618, represents a set of proportions that has captivated mathematicians since ancient times. This ratio is frequently observed in the natural world, including in flowers and shells. For reasons not entirely known to scientists, humans perceive objects exhibiting this ratio as inherently beautiful.

Chester is one of the most historically significant cities in England, featuring a 1,000-year-old cathedral, Britain’s largest Roman amphitheatre and the country’s oldest racecourse.

According to the study, Chester emerged as the most beautiful city globally, with as many as 83.7 per cent of building analysed adhering to the golden ratio. It surpassed Venice, which scored 83.3 per cent, while London closely followed in third place with a score of 82 per cent.

Chester rows, city centre shops and the Eastgate Clock, one of the city’s historical landmarks (Alamy Stock Photo)
Chester rows, city centre shops and the Eastgate Clock, one of the city’s historical landmarks (Alamy Stock Photo)
The Grosvenor Shopping Centre, Chester (Alamy Stock Photo)
The Grosvenor Shopping Centre, Chester (Alamy Stock Photo)

Online Mortgage Advisor, which published the study, said its experts analysed more than 2,400 buildings in the UK alone, with London placing second behind Chester among British cities, and third overall. The rest of the UK top five consisted of Belfast, Liverpool and Durham.

Venice attracts millions of tourists a year from around the world – so much so that the city has decided to levy an entry fee (AP)
Venice attracts millions of tourists a year from around the world – so much so that the city has decided to levy an entry fee (AP)

The study says that many artists have incorporated the “golden ratio” into their work, believing it to be the gold standard in “natural aesthetic perfection”. The study says that using the “golden ratio” to measure regular buildings and iconic landmarks, “we set out to discover which city in the UK and around the world can lay claim to having the most beautiful buildings”.

London was named the second-most beautiful city in the UK in the study, and the third overall (Getty Images)
London was named the second-most beautiful city in the UK in the study, and the third overall (Getty Images)
City Hall looks over the streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland (Getty Images)
City Hall looks over the streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland (Getty Images)

Dr Rebecca Andrew, professor of history at the University of Chester, wrote in a blog post on the university’s website: “Almost 100 years ago, Britain’s leading travel writer HV Morton, wrote about visiting the city, in his phenomenally popular travelogue ‘In Search of England’.

“He described the uniqueness of the city and its buildings: ‘There is nothing like it in any English town - the Chester Rows’. Morton was fascinated by these structures, their history, and how fortunate Cestrians were to live in such a place; so rich is Chester with beautiful, ancient buildings, he noted, that ‘no-one considered it strange’ to drink coffee in a medieval crypt.”

Liverpool’s Three Graces on the waterfront at night (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Liverpool’s Three Graces on the waterfront at night (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
People view the installations at Durham Cathedral during a photocall for Lumiere 2023 (PA)
People view the installations at Durham Cathedral during a photocall for Lumiere 2023 (PA)

Colin Potts, programme leader for international tourism management at the University of Chester’s Business School and Chester’s former tourism manager, said: “I think that sometimes its beauty is taken for granted here when really it is the main driver as to why people choose to visit, live and invest in the city - then discover more including its people, history and culture.”

He added: “We must make the most of our golden ratio.”