The world is a big and fascinating place full of many great wonders to behold and new people to meet. Undoubtedly, however, some places receive more visitors than others due to their history, culture and entertainment value. Travelers and tourists love to flock to these cities to enrich themselves and to learn more about the world but who is getting the most outsiders in? Here we look at some of the most visited cities in the world and tell you why.
20. Prague, Czech Republic – 5.81 million International Visitors
The capital of the Czech Republic where the old Moravian and Bohemian empires meet, unlike much of the rest of Europe, Prague’s infrastructure and architecture remained relatively untouched from the ravages of WWII so the glorious buildings that date right back to the 14th century remain largely in place.
Also seen as a gateway between the East and West, the country has a history that is peppered with invasion, occupation and revolution that, although tragic, makes it a place of interest. With a proud brewing tradition of cheap and flavorful beer, it is also a popular destination for lager enthusiasts and stag and hen parties from around Europe.
19. Shanghai, China – 6.12 million International Visitors
The most populous city in China, Shanghai is a global financial center and thus attracts a lot of business travelers to its reaches. Outside of this, though, it blends ancient tradition with ultra modern technology and design as it grew from a shipping and trade center in the 19th century due to its advantageous position on the Yangtze river delta.
With a grand imperial history, it is now a showcase city of China’s booming economy that receives large swathes of investment to maintain it at the peak of global trade.
18. Vienna, Austria – 6.69 million International Visitors
The capital of Vienna with a regal history that saw it become one of the most beautiful and highly decorated cities in the 18th and 19th centuries with medieval and baroque design littering the facades of the buildings. With a spectacular musical legacy as well of many of the great thinkers of the 20th century coming from the city, it attracts a wide array of visitors.
With a globally renowned high-quality of life, the city has become popular for those seeking to find the finer things or for an escape from their regular lives.
17. Osaka, Japan – 7.02 million International Visitors
A major economic hub for Japan, Osaka’s historic buildings and imperial history make it an attraction as its walled castle, vibrant cuisine and stunning pagodas draw in those wanting to see the sites. Historically a merchant city, it sits on the mouth of the Yodo river at Osaka bay and when the peach blossoms are in bloom it is a sight to behold.
Modernity has a place in the city as well with the centers for many major banks and film studios being positioned there with a network of urban canals often used to get around.
16. Rome, Italy – 7.12 million International Visitors
Italy’s capital is known for its history spanning right back to the origins of the Roman Empire and before hand with many of the ruins and buildings of bygone ages still in place. Also, a capital for culture and cuisine, the arts and theater crowds are matched by foodies and coffee drinkers looking for the best of the best.
The Italian renaissance had a heavy influence on Rome’s style and the baroque architecture it inspired is still largely in place. Galleries and museums are a massive draw as is its proximity to the Vatican, the center of the Holy Roman empire.
15. Taipei, Taiwan – 7.5 million International Visitors
The capital of Taiwan, Taipei has a level of authenticity about many of its ancient sites and artefacts that the Republic of China does not. Separating from mainland China during the civil war, Taiwan kept its imperial history and architecture in place, whereas Mao’s cultural revolution on the communist mainland saw much of this destroyed.
As such, many looking for a taste of ancient China head to Taipei where the National Palace still stands and in excellent condition. Also, at one time, being controlled by Japan means the island nation mixes two of these eastern cultures into its own unique one making it a big draw for tourists.
14. Milan, Italy – 7.65 million International Visitors
One of the fashion capitals of the world, Milan sees the chic, sleek and classy embark upon a journey to see what is coming from the city’s artistic and aesthetic culture but it is also its aging cathedrals and grand centers of commerce and education that bring people to enter its limits,it is also credited as being the center of the Italian economic miracle.
A massive sporting city, its two big soccer teams are international draws often being recognized worldwide for their prowess and ability to attract the best football players in the world.
13. Amsterdam, The Netherlands – 8 million International Visitors
The liberal attitudes of Amsterdam are well known and so drug and sex tourism to the relaxed capital of The Netherlands make up a portion of its visitors but its reputation for being an artistic haven has also fostered the likes of Van Gough and Rembrandt and its miles and miles of canals make it a stunning city of water.
Its occupation periods of both the French Empire and Nazi Germany left an indelible mark on the city with palaces in homage to Napoleon and the house of diarist Ann Frank attracting the curious and learned.
12. Barcelona, Spain – 8.2 million International Visitors
The autonomous capital of Catalonia is also one of Spain’s busiest and most popular cities as it sits on the beach filled with architecture from the famed Antoni Gaudi its fraught history makes it a place of great cultural interest. A favored place of artist Salvador Dali, it has many museums, galleries and institutions of education.
In fact, Barcelona welcomes a large number of Erasmus students each year as many within its limits wish to learn English whilst people choosing to further their Spanish skills see it as an ideal destination.
11. Hong Kong, China – 8.37 million International Visitors
One of the world’s most significant financial trade centers, Hong Kong became a British Colony after it was claimed from China in the first of the opium wars. After a brief period of Japanese control occupation in WWII before being returned to British rule, in 1997 it was ceded back to China in a pact that saw it gain a high level of autonomy meaning that its history and culture is of a different variety to that of mainland China’s.
Business travelers often arrive on the islands shores but it also attracts wealthy shoppers to its many high-end boutiques and luxurious playgrounds for the rich.
10. Seoul, South Korea – 10.2 million International Visitors
The world’s most wired city is South Korea’s capital as it pushes forward as an ultra-modern city growing up around its ancient, dynastic origins with several UNESCO world heritage sites within the city limits. With an incredibly high quality of life, the city is often praised for the way it prizes both the old and new as it keeps moving forward whilst treasuring its history.
Manufacturing, finance and commercial giants also have headquarters in Seoul and as much business travelers and financial investors are also brought into the city in the search of greater fortune.
9. Tokyo, Japan – 11.7 million International Visitors
The capital of Japan arose from a period when the country was divided between warlords and so when it was united, Tokyo rose to prominence and this history can be seen throughout the prefecture with its temples, shrines and monuments. Also with a passion for modernity, technology is infused with buildings throughout the city to make it a forward thinking city.
Not only does its architecture and culture draw global explorers but also its unique geography that sees the city rolling from the coast up into the mountains with dotted islands coming under its jurisdiction as well.
8. Istanbul, Turkey – 11.95 International Visitors
A transcontinental city that straddles the Bosphorus strait, Istanbul is seen as the bridge between Europe and Asia and has long been used by military empires to further their grip on two different worlds. As such, its history is vast and vibrant and has long been a stop on the historic trade route known as the Silk Road.
Trade through Istanbul remains today making it a city of may faces, from its markets and bazaars to its towering minarets and mosques, its wonder and majesty are awe inspiring.
7. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 12.02 million International Visitors
Both Malaysia’s capital and its largest city, Kuala Lumpur has seen massive growth since the 1990s due to an oil boom as well as other factors. An emerging retail and tourism destination, it used its wealth of ancient temples and divisive history of being occupied by Japan and fighting communist insurgencies, to lure tourists to the city.
Now an intriguing mix of high-end shopping, local markets and historical sites are what make up Kuala Lumpur which bring a vast array of people in their millions to the city.
6. Singapore – 12.11 million International Visitors
The tiny city-state has built its economy around stopovers to other destinations. Making sure its airport has all the up to date, high-tech equipment and is profitable and desirable for airlines to route through, Singapore encourages visitors to leave the airport for a few days whilst on their journeys from one side of the globe to the other.
Tax-free, high-end shopping is the usual attraction but with luxury hotels, theme parks and experiences all on offer, it also attracts finance and commerce travelers into its midst.
5. New York City, USA – 12.75 Million International Visitors
The most populous city in the United States of America, New York is renowned for its entertainment and financial focus and thus is a cultural hub of America and is one of the most important financial centers in the world. Home to many international organizations such as the United Nations it also is known for its many skyscrapers in various styles such as the art deco Chrysler building.
An icon of Americana, New York has long been one of the cities that is projected to the rest of the world as the idyll of American life and thus is a major attraction to global visitors for its theater, arts, entertainment and food.
4. Dubai, UAE – 15.27 million International Visitors
The oil boom was king to the United Arab Emirates and Dubai benefitted massively from being a small desert town to then becoming a booming city of luxury and expense. With oil companies and money funding the building of infrastructure, the Emirates government were wise in investing an economic shift towards tourism.
This has meant that the vast sums of oil money that came into the country funded luxury developments in hotels, office buildings, marinas and golf clubs to turn what was a sandy desert into a lush, green paradise if you can afford it.
3. Paris, France – 18.03 million International Visitors
The city of romance has long been a place of many people’s dreams due to its high-end culture and cuisine, fashion and art and sites of historic importance. Known for their love of luxury, Parisiennes are surrounded by the finest things in life such as fine, wine, fine music and fine arts and travelers all swan in to try and get a piece of the action.
With the world’s most visited museum in The Louvre art gallery, culture is clearly high on the list of reasons why many want to see Paris.
2. London, England – 19.88 million International Visitors
The capital of Great Britain and the once center of the British Empire, the vast cultural influx of objects and people into London from across the globe makes it one of the most cosmopolitan metropolises in the world with fine art, culture, cuisine and sights to die for as well as being, arguably, the most important financial center of the world.
Millions of people put London on their list of places to go due to its wide array of things to see and do as it mixes old with new in architectural styles as well as forward thinking ideas to push the city forward.
1. Bangkok, Thailand – 21.47 million International Visitors
The backpacker’s destination of choice, Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and is known for catering to party people looking to not spend too much money whilst still trying to dive head first into a different culture. Being close to Australia and other Asian countries, its price and focus on tourism bring in big crowds from across the globe.
Ancient temples and stunning natural scenery are juxtaposed with a wild nightlife scene and cheap and cheerful street vendors that make Bangkok the top destination in the world!