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The 20 Most Visited Cities in the World

If you’re looking for a list of the most visited cities in the world, you’ve come to the right place. I love this kind of stuff. I spent 11 years visiting every country in the world. All 197 of them. I spent a lot of time and money navigating all that, so after writing about the most visited countries in the world, and the least visited countries in the world, I thought I should also write an article bout the most visited cities in the world too. So here we are.

You probably can guess a few of them to be honest, right? But I BET you can’t guess number 1. If you follow me on instagram.com/onestep4ward, I’ll give you a hint. It’s my former adopted home. Before I moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand and built my dream house there. And God forbid Chiang Mai ends up on this list. It’s perfect, we don’t need more people like me there to ruin it, ok?!

But where else enters into the world’s most visited cities? Let’s check it out. I’ll give a little info about the city, and then you may have to indulge me if I add a personal story to each place. I’ve been to 18 of the 20 most visited cities on this list, so if I can dig out a photo from each one, I will. Sorry in advance!

most visited cities in the world
The 20 most visited cities in the world

Right, let’s get to it: The 20 most visited cities in the world, coming right up!

20. Hong Kong

Total International Visitors per year: 8.23 million

One of my favourite places in the world, and perhaps no surprise that it makes the list. Why? Because China is next door!

Hong Kong is visited by a huge amount of South Koreans, Americans and Japanese. But with business such a big part of lifestyle there, lots of ‘tourism’ can be wrongly calculated. Many of the visitors are there on business. Especially from/for neighborouing China, and with the huge factories in nearby Shenzen, all the more reason too.

But still, Hong Kong as a tourist destination? Unreal! From the cheapest Michelin Star restaurant in the world (Dim Sum for about $10!), to perhaps the world’s greatest skyline, Hong Kong is a dream for a city break.

And it’s not all city life you know? They have gorgeous mountains and hikes. Ancient culture, street food, and even great beaches. But it doesn’t come cheap. Being such a financial hotspot means there is a lot of money flying around. And hotels are crazy prices. But stay on the ground level, eat your street food and ride the public transport, and you can get by without breaking the bank.

For me, I’d happily live in Hong Kong. But no way could I afford a house there. You’re talking $1mUSD for a 1 bed in the city. No thanks! I’ll stick to my weekend breaks. Hikes for me, shopping for the mrs. I love you Hong Kong!

most visited cities in the world
most visited city in the world
My backpacking days in Hong Kong

19. Bali*

Total International Visitors per year: 8.26 million

We all know the answer to the question ‘Is Bali a country?’ (Spoiler, no). But alas, Bali has been included in the list despite not being a city, but it’s an island with only one international airport so it gets wedged in. And therefore (perhaps wrongly!) takes up 19th spot on the most visited cities in the world.

So what about Bali? Well, it’s both cliche and beautiful at the same time. You may not be able to open Instagram without seeing another 21 year old life coach living in Canggu, Bali. But there’s a reason they all go there. Because it’s so damn beautiful. And it’s cheap. The cheapest place on this list by a distance!

So yes, while Bali (like Dubai) maybe cliche. I would recommend it highly. There aren’t too many islands on the planet with so many vast expanses of rice paddies that are just 10 minutes from pristine beaches or epic waterfalls. And with the new money there, there are great bars, restaurants and hotels now too. Just try to avoid the instagrammers and you may make it out alive!

worlds most visited cities
worlds most visited city

18. Palma de Mallorca

Total International Visitors per year: 8.96 million

This one you can avoid my cringe photo because I’ve never been here! But it’s a HUGELY popular tourist destination for Western Europeans (especially Germans, Brits and Italians) to escape the weather and soak up the sun. Both in winter and summer.

Mallorca is an island belonging to Spain. Found in the Meditteranean, between Spain and Algeria. It’s hot, almost all year round. Which is the main draw for the tourist numbers.

Cheap, cheerful and plenty of hotel options with full packages. Mallorca can accommodate ANY budget. You can find a week here, from Europe, WITH FLIGHTS, for about $250. Now that’s cheap. Equally you can find James Bond-esque villas on AirBnB for $2k+ a night. So whatever you’re looking for, you’re covered.

Aside from the parasols and beaches though, Mallorca has a rich history. The Christian influences of the 13th century, mixing with both the Moors and Romans has left beautiful architecture all throughout the island. And there’s nothing better than sipping a Sangria in one of the picturesque squares.

most visited city in the world

17. Barcelona

Total International Visitors per year: 9.09 million

Ahhh beautiful Barcelona. Streets lined with gorgeous buildings, set off famously by Gaudi’s eclectic take on post-modernism. The whole city is like a museum.

And there’s the Camp Nou! As a huge football fan, I visited with Leo Messi was still at his peak, and watching him score twice in the 90,000+ stadium was a real bucket list item.

Spain is indeed one of the most visited countries in the world, and Barcelona is the most visited place in Spain. So that says something. In a country blessed with culture, beaches, food, beautiful people, great wine, for Barcelona to stand atop of it all means it’s worth a visit for everyone. Enjoy.

most popular cities
Beautiful Barcelona
barcelona
Not the best photo, but watching Lionel Messi play was a privilege!

16. Milan

Total International Visitors per year: 9.10 million

The capital of Italy’s north, Milan, has been made famous by the historic art and fashion scene. So it draws Europeans in by their thousands for that alone. And rightly so.

But in terms of sheer beauty, Milan lags behind Italy’s other, less visited, cities.

Whilst I enjoyed my time here of course, I wouldn’t have it in any ‘must-see’ list of Italy. But the numbers speak for themselves, perhaps I’m missing something? But I’d recommend Venice, Florence, Amalfi Coast, Lake Como, and Sicily all way above the industrial Milan. Sorry to say!

MILAN

15. Pattaya

Total International Visitors per year: 9.44 million

Hmmm, what to say about Pattaya. Does it ‘deserve’ to be in the most visited cities list? This is a tough one.

First of all, I live in Thailand. I moved to Thailand way back as a fresh-faced 22 year old. I taught Engish in Thailand, I studied Thai, and I fell in love with the country. Chiang Mai, Bangkok, places from Koh Phayam to Ko Yao Noi and Khao Lak. All amazing. One place that isn’t amazing? Pattaya.

To break it down, Pattaya became famous during the Vietnam war. American soldiers would look for a little R&R in Vietnam and neighboring thailand. Except their R&R wasn’t beaches and Pad Thai. It was women. And so the sex tourism industry flourished in Pattaya.

Today, some Russian and Chinese families do use Pattaya as a resort town, in the north. However, pretty much every other nationality, it’s older men coming to Pattaya and pretending they come for the beaches. They aren’t here for the beaches. And the fact that Pattaya is 15th on the most visited cities in the world is quite frankly a little depressing. But the stats are the stats. So here we are. Should you go? In a word, or two. F*ck no. It’s grim, grimey and full of scumbags. If you want a nice Thai beach, go to the south.

most visited cities
Pattaya

14. Phuket

Total International Visitors per year: 9.89 million

Moving on from Pattaya above, Phuket is different. Admittedly it too has a seedy side, but that’s just a few streets in the whole island. Phuket has beautiful beaches, amazing hotels and lots of things to keep solo travelers, couples and families entertained for weeks on end. It’s a traditional holiday destination.

As someone living in Thailand for more than 10 years, personally, I don’t love Phuket. It’s overpriced and and over-developed. But I understand if it’s someone’s first time to Thailand, it will be a positive experience. I’d recommend Krabi, or the Thai islands on the other side though – Samui, Phangan, Tao.

That being said, I have brought my mum to Phuket and had a great time. And my wife and I have spent many a long weekend here. You can get great luxury hotels at a cheap price, so in that respect, it’s a nice escape from crazy city life in Bangkok for us.

phuket
most visited city
Jaa and me in Sri Panwa hotel, Phuket

13. Mecca

Total International Visitors per year: 8.26 million

12. Osaka

Total International Visitors per year: 8.26 million

11. Seoul

Total International Visitors per year: 8.26 million

10. Antalya

Total International Visitors per year: 8.26 million

9. Tokyo

Total International Visitors per year: 8.26 million

8. Istanbul

Total International Visitors per year: 8.26 million

7. New York

Total International Visitors per year: 8.26 million

6. Kuala Lumpur

Total International Visitors per year: 8.26 million

5. Singapore

Total International Visitors per year: 8.26 million

4. Dubai

Total International Visitors per year: 8.26 million

3. London

Total International Visitors per year: 8.26 million

2. Paris

Total International Visitors per year: 8.26 million

1. Bangkok

Total International Visitors per year: 8.26 million

Who is visiting these cities?

I’ve touched on who the tourists are in each of the cities listed. But generally speaking, it’s the Chinese! That might sound reductive, but it’s not. It’s accurate. In fact, In just 10 years, China has hopped from 6th to 2nd in the ‘origin country for travelers’. Behind only the USA. Wowzer. Covid has obviously put a dampener on that, but not for much longer. Germany, UK and France make up the 3rd, 4th and 5th spots accordingly. With South Kora, Japan, Canada, Russia and Australia making up the rest of the top 10 countries from which travelers travel from.

How are the results judged?

The source is available here. But basically, its a global destination cities index, where the statistics are derived from total international overnight visitor arrivals and cross-border spending by credit cards. Pretty cool. I’ve used their graphics to help show which cities are indeed the world’s most visited cities too 🙂

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