29 Top Cities in the World to Visit
The world is full of fabulous cities. You can spend a lifetime visiting the greatest cities in the world and still not see them all. But when it comes to international cities, not all were created equal. The world has an upper echelon of city environments that set the bar for the rest of the world.
The best cities to visit are often home to some of the world's most iconic sites and are found around the globe, from Asia and Europe to the Middle East and the Americas. For travelers hoping to find inspiration for their next trip, here is a list of some of the top cities in the world to visit.
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Paris, France
Paris, France remains one of the most loved cities to visit in the world because it is an iconic destination for grand life events, like milestone vacations, engagements, celebrations, and honeymoons. It is also an easy place to visit for quick getaways, with regular flight schedules and tours available.
Many travelers enjoy Paris for the art and go to see the galleries and museums, like the Louvre Museum and the Musee d'Orsay. Some travelers go to Paris because it is a bucket list destination for many people. They want to see the Eiffel Tower, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Arc de Triomphe in person.
Paris is notoriously a city of romance, so many marriage proposals happen frequently in Paris, and honeymooners enjoy vacationing with a romantic cruise down the Seine River.
The time of year you visit may determine some of your activties, but even in winter there are plenty of things to do in Paris.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Paris: Best Areas & Hotels
2. New York City, USA
There are so many elements that make New York City one of the best cities in the world. The city and the Statue of Liberty that travelers see as they arrive is symbolic of the culture and freedom that America stands for. The Big Apple is the financial hub of the United States, with Wall Street and international businesses.
Most people visit New York City just to be a part of the city scene. It is where people go to make dreams come true, with experiences like seeing a Broadway show, watching the famous ball drop on New Year's Eve in Times Square, and taking part as a spectator watching the elaborate floats go by in the Thanksgiving Day parade.
New York City is where things happen, and travelers enjoy having a taste of that excitement. It's another one of those great bucket list destinations that you can visit at any time of year, even winter in NYC is fun.
3. London, England
There is never a lack of intrigue or interest in London as a destination which is makes it one of the most touristic cities in the world. The Royal intrigue is one of its main draws, as thousands of tourists descend on Buckingham Palace to get a brush with the British monarchy.
Millions of tourists visit London each year and tour the top attractions, like the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul's Cathedral. Part of what makes London such a treat to visit is its public transport system, which makes it easy to get from one place to another without a car. With so much to see, it is easy to stay mobile in London to visit poplar landmarks in a single day, like the Tower Bridge and the Skydeck at The Shard 800 feet above the city .
London is also revered for its neighborhoods and famous markets, like the Borough Market, operating since the 13th century, and the Camden Market, with small vendor stalls selling food and local goods.
4. Bangkok, Thailand
The bustling city of Bangkok, Thailand is one of the top tourist cities in the world, with nearly 24.1 million visitors a year. The city is usually the first stopping point for anyone touring through Thailand. Bangkok has an exciting mix of packed subways, huge skyscrapers, temples, historic architecture, lavish gardens, palaces, and almost nightly sporting events, like kickboxing, that draw thousands of fans.
Bangkok has a lively atmosphere, even during the daylight hours. Travelers on a budget can find cheap entertainment, shopping bargains, and low-cost accommodations especially in the area of Khao San Road.
Travelers with unlimited budgets can find everything on the opposite end of the spectrum, from luxury hotels to extravagant shopping at high-end stores at the Siam Paragon Mall.
The city is also popular for more traditional experiences, like the floating markets and Thai massage parlors where you can get an hour of relaxation for less than $10 dollars.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Bangkok: Best Areas & Hotels
5. Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong is one of the most famous cities in the world. It has remained so for more than a decade and continues to attract travelers. With an estimated 29.2 million visitors a year, the city has a stronghold over other cities in the world when it comes to attracting travelers. Hong Kong is a convenient holiday destination, and its shopping, especially for bargains, is unmatched.
Hong Kong is one of the most popular cities in the world, but it is also one of the most expensive places to travel if you plan to stay in the heart of the city. If you stay just beyond the main tourist areas in places like Jordan or Kowloon, you can find slightly less expensive accommodations.
Some of the other reasons travelers flock to Hong Kong include: an easy public transportation system, so there is no need to drive; massive theme parks; 24-hour dining; the world's largest skyscrapers; bargain shopping for high-end goods; and beaches and mountains that are quickly accessed just outside the city. You can even find beautiful hiking trails in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong also holds fascination for unusual finds that are just plain interesting, like a 24-karat solid gold toilet inside a Hong Kong jewelry company and a beautiful tunnel of pink flowers located inside the Un Chau Estate public housing complex.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Hong Kong: Best Areas & Hotels
- Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Hong Kong
6. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is synonymous with luxury lifestyles. While Dubai is a large global business center, people enjoy vacationing among the rich and the attractions that cater to them. Dubai is home to the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and it's where tourists find some other attractions that are among the largest in the world, like the shopping malls and aquarium.
Dubai's grandiose fantasy atmosphere is what travelers want to experience. From over-the-top luxury hotels and resorts to the urban green space like the Dubai Miracle Garden, the sights, sounds, colors and other sensory experiences in Dubai are unlike any other destination.
Dubai's nightlife and world-famous beaches are also draws for visitors, who come to enjoy kicking back among the natural and man-made beauty of this extravagant city.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Dubai: Best Areas & Hotels
The small Asian country of Singapore attracts travelers year-round, and its popularity is growing. The island of Singapore has a stunning blend of historic culture with old buildings nestled in among large skyscrapers. There is a charm between the old and the new in the way that small neighborhood shopping districts exist between the mega luxury shopping malls that Singapore is known for.
The beauty of Singapore is another reason people visit. The Supertrees in the vertical gardens and the artistic green displays in Gardens by the Bay have a wow factor as they light up the city. Singapore is known for its vast amount of green space, with urban gardens like the Singapore Botanic Gardens, National Orchid Garden, and the Cloud Forest.
Besides a visually beautiful location and so many things to do, Singapore is a clean and safe city, which gives it high appeal for travelers.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Singapore: Best Areas & Hotels
8. Rome, Italy
Rome is one of those destinations that sits on many travelers' must-see someday lists. The culture of Rome and its historic architecture are its main draws. The Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi fountain, and the Vatican usually top the list of things vacationers want to check off their list.
Besides the famous cultural sites, visitors head to Rome for its famous homemade Italian food, from fried artichokes to homemade pasta. Tourists like to try authentic Italian cuisine and feel like a local. The monuments and artwork throughout Rome are also a draw for visitors who want to step inside some of the oldest museums in the world.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Rome: Best Areas & Hotels
- Read More: Top-Rated Museums and Palaces in Rome
9. Macau, China
Macau in southern China has become one of the most visited cities in the world, especially among the rich. There are several reasons for this: First, because Macau has become a thriving investment metropolis, the people traveling for business are also spending time in the city, connecting with the locals and enjoying the more pleasure-filled side of things like shopping, sightseeing, and sports car racing.
The other reasons Macau is popular is because of its culture. Its small footprint of nearly 12 square miles is a multicultural mecca, with a blend of Asian natives and European influences in the people, shops, and local food. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Old Town is a prime example.
Macau is also famous for its beautiful beaches and urban gardens like Casa Garden and Sun Yat Sen Park.
10. Istanbul, Turkey
One of the most famous cities in the world is Istanbul, Turkey, so it makes sense that people want to visit. The city is filled with historic mosques and palaces surrounded by cafés, shops, and chic hotels. The relaxed vibe in Istanbul attracts a crowd that enjoys afternoons hanging out and sipping tea or uncovering a vintage find at a local thrift store.
Visitors enjoy uncovering the historic and modern mix in local neighborhoods. The historic Sultanahmet District and the touristic Istiklal Caddesi area are two examples. Istanbul is also popular because of its elegant scenery. The artistic architecture of the homes along the Bosphorus Strait is one of the most picturesque sites in Turkey.
Accommodation: Top-Rated Places to Stay in Istanbul
11. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur welcomes about 13 million visitors a year. It is a city with museums and ties to its culture in places like the Old Market Square, yet it is balanced by the edgy architecture of the Petronas Twin Towers and mega shopping malls. The city is always "on," so you can find a nightlife scene anytime of the day as you take in meeting the locals, dining, and watching sporting events.
The appeal of Kuala Lumpur is in part because of its ultra-modern city but also for the natural beauty that surrounds it. There are popular attractions that highlight the wildlife of the region, from the Aquaria aquarium and the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park to the KL Butterfly Park. There are also many elaborate urban parks throughout the city and around the River of Life waterfront.
12. Delhi, India
India is such a big country and is so popular with tourists that several of its main cities are among the most visited cities in the world, including Delhi. One of the reasons Delhi is popular is because it is close to a number of other top experiences in India, so it is a convenient base.
Delhi has many religious landmarks that attract tourists, like the Swaminarayan Akshardham and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib. Delhi is known for its markets, selling inexpensive wares and street food, where tourists enjoy finding nice bargains.
Delhi is only a few hours from Agra, where vacationers can take a day trip so see the Taj Mahal.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Delhi: Best Areas & Hotels
13. Tokyo, Japan
The metropolis of Tokyo in Japan is one of the most exciting cities in the world, which is why millions of tourists go there every year. What makes Japan so popular is the whirlwind of eye-popping attractions, from ancient temples and Anime to the Tokyo Skytree broadcast tower.
Tokyo has the world's most famous and biggest fish markets, and exquisite and artful sushi. Japanese culture is colorful and playful, and that is reflected in Tokyo's parks, museums, and malls. Tourists are attracted to the opportunity to learn more about traditional Japanese culture with experiences like trying on kimonos.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Tokyo: Best Areas & Hotels
- Read More: Best Time to Visit Tokyo
14. Antalya, Turkey
The Mediterranean Sea sitting against the backdrop of beautiful Antalya, Turkey makes it a desired vacation spot for travelers. From the beautiful sand beaches and warm weather to the waterfalls, cliffs, and sunsets, it is a perfect vacation.
Lara and Konyaalti beaches are the most popular and are easily identified by the many luxury resorts that line the coast. History buffs visit Antalya to explore the ruins of the Aspendos, an ancient city dating back to AD 16. The town is a mix of mosques, ruins, cafés and an old town square where locals congregate.
Accommodation: Best All-Inclusive Resorts in Antalya
15. Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City has risen in the ranks over the years to be recognized as one of the greatest cosmopolitan capitals in the world. If you want culture, cuisine, the arts, architecture, history, and glamorous hotels, Mexico City checks every single box.
Mexico's capital has been the political and cultural center of its universe since the pre-Columbian days, back when it was called Tenochtitlan and was the main city of the Aztec Empire. Today Mexico City is built upon the strata of time, showcasing everything from archaeological ruins to ornate Spanish architecture, and the glamorous design of the 21st century.
From the incredible time capsule that is the Centro Historico to the cultural institutions, like Palacio de Bellas Artes, to the hip, bohemian streets of the Condesa and Roma neighborhoods, Mexico City has something to offer everyone.
Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Mexico City
16. Moscow, Russia
Moscow, Russia is a juxtaposition of grand, ornate imperial culture, set against frenetic, modern urban energy. This is where the heart of Russia beats, from the Kremlin and Red Square to the bubble-topped domes of St. Basil's Cathedral, the Art Muzeon, and the glamorous Bolshoi Theatre.
So much of Russia's history is woven into the fabric of Moscow's design. The city has more than 600 Orthodox churches in its streets. Museums tell the stories of the tzars, the Soviet days, and the present.
It's all about sensory overload in Moscow, and it's the perfect introduction to discovering what makes Russia the country that it is today.
Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Moscow
17. Porto, Portugal
Sliced by the winding Douro River, Porto, Portugal is one of the most beautiful European cities. Colorful buildings and red-tiled roofs rise up over the hills from the river's edge. Porto is as charming as it is historic, seeming to spring from the pages of a fairy tale.
The gorgeous jewel of a city is just as cosmopolitan as it is historic. It is known for its decadent food; cobblestone back alleys; and the gritty river shipping culture, which has been part of Porto's history for centuries.
Street art is one of the biggest draws to Porto, from the hand-painted tiles to the murals splashed across the ancient walls. You can see how art has made its way into Porto's 21st century, as well, with a visit to the Museu de Arte Contemporanea.
Porto is also characterized by its lavish churches, clanging bell towers, and beautiful vantage points all over the city.
Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Porto
18. San Francisco, USA
Always eclectic, offbeat, and drenched in culture, San Francisco, California never disappoints. Steeped in history, from Wild West gold rushes to counter culture revolutions and the tech industry, San Francisco has always been a hotbed of activity since its inception.
It's also a haven for foodies. Some of the best restaurants in California can be found right here in the capital of the Bay Area, including a good selection of vegan and vegetarian restaurants. It's also a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, surrounded by the bay, the Pacific Ocean, and redwood forests. Enjoy San Francisco's beaches and nearby hiking trails. The city itself is an adventure, with its 48 hills that are accessible via historic cable cars.
Peppered with parks and green space and always blanketed in fog, and lined with pastel-colored Victorian buildings, San Francisco is one of the most unique cities in the United States, if not the world.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in San Francisco: Best Areas & Hotels
19. Beijing, China
For nearly 1,000 years, Beijing has been the capital city of China and has seen the rise and fall of three of China's dynasties. It is a city that is packed with centuries of history, yet is still one of the most fast-paced and modern cities in the entire world.
Step back in time inside The Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, learn the sad truths in Tiananmen Square, and wander the zigzagging alleys of the historic Hutong neighborhoods. These historic sites sit alongside luxury shopping malls, thriving night markets, world-class museums, theater, and music venues.
You'll also find some of Asia's finest hotels within Beijing, from five-star international brands to boutique, design-forward hotels. If you are looking to get to Shanghai, just hop the bullet train and take off at warp speed for another one of China's cultural capitals.
Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Beijing
20. Los Angeles, USA
What makes Los Angeles one of the best cities in the world to visit is that you are getting so many different experiences in one. Los Angeles is big. It's very, very big, actually, and its many neighborhoods are as diverse as the people who live in and visit Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is about natural beauty, with massive mountains that roll down to the Pacific Ocean. It is also about creative beauty, with world-class performing arts, the film industry, museums, street art, culinary arts, design, and culture. A stroll down any street in Los Angeles reveals a veritable Tower of Babel for language, from Spanish and Korean to Armenian and Arabic.
This is a city where you can eat $2 tacos on one corner and a Michelin-starred meal on the next. It has some of the sleekest modern homes in America, a movie theater shaped like a Chinese palace, and a concert hall designed by Frank Gehry.
Go rollerblading in Venice Beach, hiking in Runyon Canyon, or practice Pilates at one of the dozens of high-end studios all around town. Los Angeles is a playground for the rich, the famous, and literally everyone else.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Los Angeles: Best Areas & Hotels
21. Chicago, USA
One of the largest cities in America, Chicago can often be overlooked for the flashier, glitzier cities like New York or Los Angeles. But this midwestern capital packs a punch all on its own, from trendy restaurants and live music to museums, glamorous hotels, and lakefront living.
The Windy City will, quite literally, blow you away. High-rise skyscrapers on the shores of Lake Michigan make for some robust gusts of wind throughout the year. But figuratively speaking, your mind will be blown in Chicago, from the world-renowned Art Institute to the sky-high Willis Tower.
Dining is dizzying in Chicago, whether it is down home hot dogs or five-star cuts of steak. Festivals are rocking year-round in Chicago, from blues music to the world-famous Market Days. And, of course, let's not forget about the stunning hotels and landmarks that line the Magnificent Mile.
22. Barcelona, Spain
Beaches, buildings, and boats. That's what Barcelona is all about. From the stunning Mediterranean beaches to the architectural marvels of Antoni Gaudi, to the yacht culture, Barcelona lives and breathes by the sea. Add to that fantastic gastronomy, art, history, and hotels and it's easy to see why Barcelona is one of the best cities in the world to visit.
Did you know that Barcelona's history dates back more than 2,000 years? That means you'll find Roman-style architecture alongside Gothic structures, Renaissance cathedrals, all the way up to the world-famous architecture designed by Antoni Gaudi. In fact, Gaudi's Sagrada Familia is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Barcelona.
Barcelona is one of the main cities of Spain's Catalonia region and, as such, is a capital of Catalan cuisine. But you can find all of Spain's regional delicacies here, from Basque and Galician to Andalusian and beyond.
23. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi is the counterpart to the towering skyscrapers and glitzy lifestyle of Dubai. Sure, it has its own Louvre, but the focus in Abu Dhabi is to embrace the local lifestyle and culture and put a spotlight on the unique heritage of the United Arab Emirates.
Abu Dhabi is where Islamic architecture reigns supreme, from the Sheikh Zaed Grand Mosque to the museum Qasr Al Hosn. Of course, the 21st century comes through loud and clear in Abu Dhabi architecture, as well, in the forms of Etihad Towers and the Yai Viceroy, among others.
Much like Dubai, no expense is spared in Abu Dhabi. Just look at the luxury hotels on Saadiyat Island or the Formula One track at the Yai Marina Circuit. There is even a Ferrari World and a Warner Bros World for the kids. But nature is also a big part of life in Abu Dhabi, fro the Mangrove National Park to the gorgeous beaches on Hudayriat Island.
Accommodation: Best Hotels in Abu Dhabi
24. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is one of the most easily accessible cities in the world, with flights from most of the major gateways in North America and Europe. But far beyond easy access, it is what Amsterdam has to offer travelers that makes it one of the best cities in the world to visit.
Amsterdam is simply stunning, with a maze of canals, bike-friendly streets, and cobblestone alleys, world-renowned museums, historic architecture, shops, cafés, and great restaurants.
Amsterdam is color. Come spring, the city explodes with every shade of the rainbow from the many flower stalls selling the iconic bouquets of Dutch tulips. Even the once-dreary industrial shipping and dock areas have transformed into boutique shops, hotels, and galleries.
And then there is Amsterdam's cultural scene. The museums in this city are next level, from The Van Gogh Museum to the iconic Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum, and more. Locals and visitors alike get by in Amsterdam on two wheels, or on the water, whether it's a bike path or a canal cruise.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Amsterdam: Best Areas & Hotels
25. Madrid, Spain
Spain has so many fantastic cities to explore, but none is quite as compelling as the capital, Madrid. A combination of history and culture, art and design, cuisine and entertainment, Madrid is the embodiment of everything people love about a fantastic European city.
Centuries of history came together to make the Madrid we know today. From its royal roots to the Moorish influence, the years of the revolution, and the cosmopolitan and technological advances of the 21st century, the layers of Madrid are varied and deep.
It's no wonder this is a city that inspired the great works of Goya and Picasso, Balenciaga, Almodovar, and beyond. Visit the world-renowned Museo del Prado or marvel at the fantastic Baroque and Belle Epoque architecture all over the city.
When it comes to hotels, dining, and entertainment, Madrid is beyond elegant, refined, and impeccably designed. Wander through the centuries down its historic streets and step right into the modern day restaurants and cafés for an experience that withstands the test of time.
26. Sydney, Australia
With its spectacular harborside perch, stunning beaches, and cosmopolitan (yet decidedly laid-back) flair, Sydney is truly one of the greatest cities in the world. Residents and visitors alike take pleasure as much in a fine meal as they do in a beachfront hike.
Locals here live and die by the water, whether it's a sunset cruise or a casual waterfront lunch. Culture and design are excellent here. Just look at the iconic Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Sydney is about electricity and excitement, but also about being best equipped to ride the perfect wave.
From the shores of Bondi Beach to the glamor of George Street, you can fit in just about anywhere in Sydney. It's also one of the jumping-off points from which to explore the tropical, beachy Gold Coast all the way up to Brisbane.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Sydney: Best Areas & Hotels
27. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
There's a reason that San Miguel de Allende is voted the best city in the world by top international travel magazines. It is a veritable outdoor museum, splashed with bright colors and veined with cobblestone streets. Add to that some of the best boutique hotels in Mexico, fabulous restaurants, museums, outdoor entertainment, and so many things to see and do in the surrounding region, that it will be difficult to deny San Miguel de Allende's inherent beauty and charm.
At the center of the city is the glimmering pink Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel – the Neo-Gothic church that serves as a beacon at the center of the city. This is the heart of the action, where you'll find a wide plaza with small shops, and streets that branch off in every direction flanked with cafés, boutique stores, and small galleries.
San Miguel de Allende is an artist's paradise, saturated with gorgeous vistas, and spectacular architecture.
28. Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon is truly a masterpiece – and a hidden one, at that. One of the most under-the-radar Western European capitals, Lisbon is laid out like a painting, complete with red-tiled roofs, brightly colored waterfront buildings, cable cars, and medieval architecture.
But Lisbon is very much a 21st-century city, as well, with trendy cafés and restaurants, boutique hotels, museums, and entertainment. Built on seven hillsides, Lisbon overlooks the cityscape, as well as the Rio Tejo where it feeds out to the Atlantic Ocean. Picture cobblestone streets, ancient structures, and the peaks of cathedrals snooping out over the clouds.
One of the most popular neighborhoods, the Bairro Alto, is where the heart of Lisbon pulses. We're talking about cozy restaurants, boutiques, hot spots, and waterfront promenades.
Lisbon calls as much to the appreciators of European antiquities as it does to the fierce-hearted night owls and the effervescent youth. It is a city for all ages, and one that has managed to bubble beneath the surface for so long.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Lisbon: Best Areas & Hotels
Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Lisbon
29. Vienna, Austria
If you like Paris, you'll love Vienna. Though the cities are decidedly different, their elegance, history, glamor, and charm are remarkably simpatico. They both live with remnants of an opulent past, decadent architecture, bejeweled fabrics, and imperial lavishness. Today Vienna is known for its art, coffeehouses, dining, and design.
For centuries, Vienna was the seat of the Habsburg monarchy. Six hundred hears of imperial richness was set at the heart of Hofburg Palace. Today the architecture of Vienna still tells the story of its opulent past. Remnants of the past centuries are still present today, from the Spanish Riding School to the Vienna Boys' Choir.
Still, Vienna is a city that has embraced the 21st century. Boutique hotels, fine dining, live music, outdoor festivals, and more all tell the story of a creative and energetic youthful generation that is setting the nation firmly in the present.
Vienna is the city to appreciate the Old Masters of art, and walk in the footsteps of Beethoven and Mahler, all the while sampling cutting-edge gastronomy and dancing the night away until the sun comes up.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Vienna: Best Areas & Hotels
More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com
More Places to Visit around the World: If you are interested in some of the other top experiences in destinations around the world review our articles on the top World Heritage Sites and the best tropical vacations around the globe. If you are planning a special getaway, you will want to read about the most romantic places in the world or the best places to get married and have an unforgettable honeymoon.