Many philosophers and psychologists have made claims about the feelings in an experience of beauty. Here, we test how well these claims match the feelings that people report while looking at an image or listening to music that is beautiful to them, or recalling a personal experience of beauty. We conducted ten experiments (total n = 851) spanning three nations (US, UK, and India). Across nations and modalities, we find that top-rated beauty experiences are strongly characterized by six dimensions: intense pleasure, an impression of universality, the wish to continue the experience, perceived harmony in variety, exceeding expectation, and meaningfulness. Other frequently proposed beauty characteristics — like surprise, desire to understand, and mind wandering — are uncorrelated with feeling beauty. When explicitly asked, participants in all countries report that beauty is closely related to pleasure, found in nature rather than art, influenced by mood, and a form of communication. A remembered beautiful experience was typically active and social, like a family holiday, quite unlike the passive solitary appraisal of art emphasized in aesthetics. Our data align well with Kant (r = 0.74) and psychological theories that emphasize pleasure, and reject theories that emphasize information seeking. These six dimensions characterizing how individuals feel beauty emerge from the reports of hundreds of people seeing, hearing, or remembering something beautiful to them.