I am biased of course but nothing can be compared with Athens during its glory days (only Rome maybe). This was the city where the foundations for all sciences were set ( philosophy , politics ,mathematics ,physics) and Democracy was invented. It was also artistically magnificent. To prove my point
"The period from the end of the Persian Wars to the Macedonian conquest marked the zenith of Athens as a center of literature, philosophy (Greek philosophy) and the arts (Greek theatre). In Athens at this time, the political satire of the Comic poets at the theatres had a remarkable influence on public opinion. Some of the most important figures of Western cultural and intellectual history lived in Athens during this period: the dramatists Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides and Sophocles, the philosophers Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, the historians Herodotus, Thucydides and Xenophon, the poet Simonides and the sculptor Phidias, The leading statesman of this period was Pericles, who used the tribute paid by the members of the Delian League to build the Parthenon and other great monuments of classical Athens. The city became, in Pericles's words, "the school of Hellas [Greece]
This much overrated Athens always gets whitewashed
by history. Athens was deeply hated
by most of the other Hellenic city-states, Sparta in particular, who were forced to keep Athenian ambitious schemes under control. In reality, the much ballyhooed 'democratic' Athens(95% of it's population were slaves, BTW) was an imperialist warmongering capital of an empire of exploited/servile states that were bleed-white in order to finance it's foolish wars. History shows democratic states are always
the most warlike. Thucydides pointed out that Athens was a democracy in-name-only and was in reality
a monarchy with Pericles as it's 'king'. Even their great philosophers Sokrates and Plato were secret admirers of Sparta, and saw Athenian democracy as a disaster-in-the-making. I'm glad Sparta put Athens out of business, as their fecklessness and provocations would have invariably triggered another Persian invasion, which might have succeeded this time, thus stranging The West
at it's inception.
And at the time, the Persian Empire was much more wealthy than the Greeks who were poor and regarded as part of the ancient Third World
(the Persians called them: 'The disheveled ones'). And venerable Egypt was still seen as the repositoty of spiritual/religious traditions and as the cultural leader of the known World.